Monday, April 21, 2003

Took the weekend off

Sorry I didn't leave a warning that I'd be off for the weekend...I'm working again, and between that and Easter, I didn't spend much time thinking about world events.

Not that I have much to post now. I should have something later tonight, though. In the mean time, go read Josh Marshal...he's got some interesting poitns about the current state of the Bush plans for Iraq.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Answering a question

Kevin Drum asks what the difference between left wing and right wing dictatorships are.

Up until recently, I'd have wondered the same. But I have recently found a good discussion on Fascism, which is the reaction to Communism.

Communism is what left wing dictatorship means. Everyone knows what it is. Fascism is what a right wing dictatorship is. It's a word that's thrown around a lot, especially by liberals who aren't happy with the way the government treats them. Most people don't know what it is, and with good reason. Communism has a philosophical bloodline...Karl Marx to Lenin to Stalin. Fascism was a reaction to Communism, and therefore doesn't have a philosophical origin. It just sprang up in a hurry, and sorta worked itself out. Both have much in common. And the differences are explained fairly well by David Neiwert, in his blog, Ornicus, specifically his 13 part discussion entitled "Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism". He revisited it in this post, and you can find links to all 13 posts at the bottom of that long post. It took me two days to digest it all, but it's a very well written post. Also, it's pretty freaking frightening. You should check it out. I'll sum up his description of Fascism, though:

Fascism is distinguished from Communism in that it is very pro-business, to the point of willingly screwing the working class, where as Communism is built on socialism, which is more about the government providing for the common good. Fascism is built on super-patriotism, Communism generally involves open revolt. Communism points to businesses and the wealthy as enemies of the people, Fascism requires an enemy to point to, and eventually attempt to destroy (in WWII Germany, it was Jews, and other smaller groups, in the US it is likely to be liberals). Fascism is also different in every nation it springs up in, which reflects it's lack of a standard philosophy, while Communism tends to be fairly standardized.

Edit: Cleaned up a point or two. Sometimes I wish I had a better editor...

Thursday, April 17, 2003

"We lay the continuance of our democracy on your desks and count on your pens to be mightier."

Tim Robbins can give a freaking speech.

That above qoute is his statement to the press. The speech was given at the National Press Club. That link goes to the transcript on Salon. You can find the audio on National Public Radio.

If only our leadership made speeches like this. My favorite part:

For all the ugliness and tragedy of 9/11 there was a brief period afterwards where I held a great hope. In the midst of the tears and shocked faces of New Yorkers, in the midst of the lethal air we breathed as we worked at ground zero, in the midst of my children's terror at being so close to this crime against humanity, in the midst of all of this I held onto a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that something good could come out of all this. I imagined our leaders seizing upon this moment of unity in America, this moment when no one wanted to talk about Democrat vs. Republican, white vs. black or any of the other ridiculous divisions that dominate our public discourse. I imagined our leaders going on television, telling the citizens that although we all want to be at Ground Zero we can't. But there is work that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at community centers, to tutor children, to teach them to read, our work is needed at old age homes to visit the lonely and infirm, in gutted neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert abandoned lots into baseball fields. I imagined leadership that would take this incredible energy, this generosity of spirit, and create a new unity in America born out of the chaos and tragedy of 9/11. A new unity that would send a message to terrorists everywhere: If you attack us we will become stronger, cleaner, better educated, more unified. You will strengthen our commitment to justice and democracy by your inhumane attacks on us. Like a phoenix, out of the fire we will be reborn.


Remember, though. Bush told us to shop, travel, and go on with our lives like nothing happened.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Ugh.

This is what I get for watching Fox News.

Sean Hannity just suggested that Democrats were on the wrong side of history, not just with this war, but with the Cold War, specifically in the 80s, with Reagan's policies. Because Democrats were big time commie-lovers. Guys like LBJ and JFK were all about appeasing communists, and the democrats have gone with that strategy since.

I do have to say, Colmes is being better than normal, but he's still letting the republicans dictate things to him.

Reagan, and others in power at the time, saw the Cold War end on their watch, because they got lucky. The USSR was ready to collapse anyway, the US had overstated Soviet military might several times in that decade...that's been documented. And Reagan's economic policy didn't do anything good for the people of the US. The republican party has lifted Reagan up as some sort of saint, and that's hardly the case.

And just because Democrats thought there was a different way to oppose communism, and it wasn't tried, doesn't make it wrong. It was twisted logic with that war, and it's twisted logic with this war, and the differing views on how to oppose Saddam. Especially since the situation in Iraq is far from under control.
Dang

Syria is calling the US's bluff, sort of.

The Syrian Foreign Minister has just requested on CNN that the US help them work to making the Middle East a WMD-free region.

This is playing a big trump card. Why? Israel's got nukes.

It's a big play. We'll see if the press covers it. I dunno how this will play, but if it can get called out enough, it could screw up Bush, big time.

We'll see how it goes.

Update: CNN has a story online. Fox News is currently ignoring it, or hasn't noticed it. At least, there's no info on the web site right now, and nothing on the air.

It'll be worth keeping up on this to see how it goes. The US Ambasador stated that the US supported the goal of a region free of WMD, but that the timing wasn't quite right. Then he reiterated that Syria has ongoing WMD programs.
A good read

Read this. Trust me.

That pretty much mirrors my feelings about current US policy in the Middle East. Now if only the people in power would read this sort of thing.
That didn't take long...

So..remember that great story about the daring rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch?
Doctor claims that soldiers terrorised unarmed staff.

It wasn't quite as perfect as it sounded. Now, don't get me wrong. The military did the right thing with this, mostly. A few questionable acts, but for the most part they behaved fine. My problems lie with the reporting of it.
Sorry...

My appologies for the lack of posts. Been a rough couple of days. I'll have some sort of rant later today, I'm sure.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Et tu, Dennis Miller?

Wow. At what point did Dennis Miller start letting Karl Rove and Richard Pearl write his material? He called out "the left" or "liberals" for a whole bunch of things, some of which didn't even make much sense. Like suggesting that "liberals" don't think grades matter. While some liberals have argued against standardized testing, the reasoning isn't because "a D is just a B that lost it's belt". And saying that Bush has made the Presidency repsectable again after that awful Bill Clinton is interesting. I guess Miller really did mis-underestimate Bush's foreign policy strategery.

Also, telling someone to shut up while using your position to tell everyone how right and smart you are is either very subtle irony, or really stupid. Since subtle irony has never been Miller's style, I'm going to guess that he doesn't see how stupid he sounds.

He suggested that we'd get into Iraq and find all the dirt on oil and weapon sales with France. Sadly, he didn't mention the Haliburton conracts Hussein signed after 91, or the biological and chemical weapons we sold Hussein back in the 80s.

Going for an hour, mentioning "the left" or "liberals" at least 4 times and not mentioning conservatives or the right once, and miscategorizing liberals on several issues...at least Miller was funny. Oh wait, he wasn't. Most of his jokes were fairly weak. And he'd used up his best material on The Daily Show and Leno the day before, always a smart thing to do before your big HBO special comes on.

Another issue he got completely wrong was the pledge of allegiance. He suggested the whole thing was outlawed, which isn't true at all. Just the part about "under god", since many Americans don't believe in that god, or any god, or just one god.

Anyway, that's enough on Miller. To sum up, he's a right wing hack, and he's not as funny as he used to be.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Scoreboard time

Okay, As of right now, Sept 11th started just about 19 months and 23 hours ago. Let's look at how we're doing since then:

Osama Bin Laden? Missing, believed to be alive.

Al Qaeda? A few higher ups killed or captured, no new attacks, yet.

Israel/Palestine? Nothing new to report here, other than the death of an American trying to protect innocent Palestinians' homes from Israeli bulldozers.

The Anthrax Mailer? Not a damn thing. No one seems to care. The odds are that he's an american who gained access to an Army medical lab to get his weaponized anthrax, and also that he's a right winger, since the primary targets were all liberals of one stripe or another.

Afghanistan? Salon has an article that describes a nation we've basically abandoned. In some places, the Taliban is making a come back, as people who hated them for their brutality would rather have brutality and peace than brutality and warlords.

Iraq? No proof of involvment, no proof of WMD, but hey, we got their asses. But Fox News and George Pataki are pushing this war as a continuation of 9/11. Remember, folks. The hijackers were largely Saudis and Egyptians. You know, our allies.

Oil use? Well, as one Republican in the House, Mike Rogers of Mich., tried to tell us, mandating a tougher fuel standard would be comparable to "treating obesity by mandating smaller pant sizes." (thanks to CalPundit for pointing this out. He also had a perfect response, so I'm going to borrow it, with an appropriate link)
"No, Mike, it would be like treating obesity by getting people to eat less, a proven strategy. Giving people tax breaks to eat less, on the other hand, would rightfully be considered a rather dubious plan, wouldn't it?"


The economy? 2 million jobs lost and counting!

Civil Liberties? The Patriot Act not being good enough, we've got the sequel coming. Sure can't wait to live in a country where your citizenship can be revoked on the basis of what you say or what groups you identify with or support.

The Sept 11th investigative committee? Not even up and running yet, and with less funding than the committee investigating the Columbia disaster.

All in all, not so good. Remember, tho. If you questoin the government, the terrorists win!

Friday, April 11, 2003

North Korea

Frontline had an excelent episode tonight on the path the US took to get to where we are with North Korea today.

Some background: The US made a deal with North Korea in the mid 90s, where Clinton promissed 2 things - 2 light water nuclear reactors (which are more or less unable to produce weapons grade uranium or plutonium), and 500k tons of fuel oil yearly until the reactors were built. In exchange, N. Korea would start shutting down their current nuclear program, which was on the path of making weapons grade material. The UN and IAEA were used to monitor compliance. N Korea's compliance record, according to the IAEA, was spotless. The US record wasn't so solid. Partly because the republicans attacked the agreement as "appeasment".

The agreement WAS appeasement. But it was appeasement that worked. The Bushes came in, and basically tore the whole policy up. The US Ambassador to S Korea durring the first Bush presidency stated "This administration abandoned the Clinton policy towards North Korea." When asked what the Bush policy was, his response was a bit scary: "They don't have a policy, they have an attitude." And what is that attitude? "Hostiliy."

Richard Pearl was one of the people interviewed. He had no solution for the situation, other than saying that Clinton was wrong. The only person who argued with Clinton's policy was John McCain, who said that we should go in and handle it similarly to how we handled Iraq, other than the early decision to go to war. Tell them what's acceptable, and if they don't live up to it, use military strikes to make them.

Pearl actually said something which along the lines of "Yes, South Korea wants us to appease N. Korea. I don't blame them...Seoul is in range of N Korean artilery tubes. But President Bush isn't focusing on South Korean security...he's concerned with American security." Basically "If we piss off North Korea, and they attack South Korea, that's South Korea's problem". Brilliant.

Yes, it was appeasement. But it worked. And appeasement is better than the road we're on now, which is pushing us to a place where North Korea can hit Los Angeles with a nuke, and we're going to try to tell them to change things. If they get a nuke, or more than one, why would they listen? They win, at that point...we can't touch them unless we're in a position to take the whole arsenal out at once, and good luck with that. Our on the ground surveilance in N Korea isn't something one would call good.
Meanwhile, North Korea asks for bilateral talks, we're saying we want the other important regional governments involved, and the other governments in the region are, in the words of a US Senator, telling us "multilatteral is good, but don't wait for us to get invited".

My advice? Get the hell out of LA, at least until this is settled. Tool described LA best, anyway. "One great big festering neon distraction." Sounds about right.

(Tool lyrics available here. The song in question is Ænima, track 13.)

Edit: Completely forgot: The Frontline episode can be checked out here.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Down by the boondocks



Aaron McGruder is pretty much my favoirte cartoonist going. His strips are clever, witty, and actually deals with current events. Gotta love it.
Ashes in the Fall

A mass of hands press on the market window
Ghosts of progress
Dressed in slow death
Feeding on hunger
And glaring through the promise
Upon the food that rots slowly in the aisle
A mass of nameless at the oasis
That hides the graves beneath the masters hill
Are buried for drinking
The river's water
While shackled to the line
At the empty well

This is the new sound
Just like the old sound
Just like the noose wound
Over the new ground

Listen to the fascist sing
"Take hope here
War is elsewhere
You were chosen
This is god's land
Soon we'll be free
Of blot and mixture
Seeds planted by our
Forefather's hand"

A mass of promises
Begin to rupture
Like the pockets
Of the new world kings
Like swollen stomachs
In Appalachia
Like the priests that fuck you
As they whisper holy things
A mass of tears have transformed to stones now
Sharpened on suffering
And woven into slings
Hope lies in the rubble of this rich fortress
Taking today what tomorrow never brings

This is the new sound
Just like the old sound
Just like the noose wound
Over new ground

Aint it funny how the factorys doors close
Round the time that the school doors close
Round the time that the doors of the jail cells
Open up to greet you like the reaper
Aint it funny how the factorys doors close
Round the time that the school doors close
Round the time that a hundred thousand jail cells
Open up to greet you like the reaper

This is the new sound
Just like the old sound
Just like the noose wound
Over the new ground

Like ashes in the fall


I used to joke that if things were as bad as Rage Against the Machine made them look, Rage wouldn't be allowed to write what they do. Of course, I was young and fairly stupid back then, at least to the world beyond my small corner of it. They were one of my favorite bands then because they had brilliant music, and clever lyrics. It took me a few years to realize how true so many of them could be. This song was penned in 1999, but it could have easily been about the last year. "Take hope here/war is elsewhere/you were chosen/this is God's land"? Sounds like something Bush might say, except I doubt he could get it out that elegantly.

The whole part about the priests matches up pretty well with the issues the Catholic church had last year. Then there's the part about factory and school doors closing as jail doors open. In the last year, we've lost a dizzying number of jobs, state and federal budgets are so hosed that Oregon is going to have to cancel a month of school because it can't afford it, and we saw the number of Americans in prison top 2 million for the first time ever.

I always have music playing. I prefer stuff that goes with my generation for the most part, so I don't listen much to music from the 60s or 70s (please note that I do like music from those decades...it just isn't relevant to me the way Rage, Pearl Jam, or Public Enemy are). Music, right now, sucks. It's at an all time low. In the first half of the 90s, it was better than it had been in at least a decade...Nirvana lead the vangaurd of a whole host of bands doing new things and not trying to fit a sound. That's pretty much ended. The number of bands doing great music today is tiny. Especially in hip-hop. I can't stand bling-bling hip hop. Great rap tells a story, it isn't a 3 minute brag about how good your life is. When Tupac and Biggie were gunned down, I hoped that the lessons they (especially Pac) were pushing, that there was more to life than being a thug, would be seen by a majority in the hip hop world. Sadly, that isn't the case. They backed away from the gang thing, for a bit, but it all became about money and respect anyway. Eminem doesn't play that game most of the time, but he doesn't quite come from that world, either. And no one else current seems to care to write stuff like PE or Run DMC wrote back in the day..really good songs that were either lots of fun, or incredibly thoughtful. A few older groups are still keeping up on the fun songs part (Wu Tang is one of the best about this), and a few artists are putting out jams with thoughtful lyrics (see: DMX's Who We Be), but most of the rap you hear on the radio is more about Crystal and thug life than the thoughtfulness or good story telling that was the basis for so much of hip hop back in the day. Snoop can still bring it, but he's been around for over a decade. Wu Tang, as I said. Nas had one of the best songs of last year and it barely got any play on MTV (thank god for MTV2). It's called One Mic, if you haven't heard it. He's getting play now with Made You Look and I Can, and those are good songs...I Can is the first positve rap song not done by Eminem to make it onto MTV in a while, as best I can tell. (Not counting all the crap love song/duets going around, since there's no message there). But Nas has been around for a while, too. 50 Cent has some crazy talent, but I'm still not sure he'll ever get past singing about partying or gang banging. One can hope

Oh, and someone please let Ja Rule know he can't sing, and really needs to stop trying. Supposedly, he's going to have a cameo on the new Metallica album. This cracks me up.

And, not to give the white music a free walk, rock sucks too. Eveveryone sounds like everyone else. Looks the same, too. Some good stuff comes out of it, but the only newish bands that released a really deep song last year was Blink 182 (Stay Together for the Kids - a friggin gem of a song) and Jimmy Eat World (A Praise Chorus, my favorite rock song to come out so far this millenium). Everything else was some combination of whining or crappy jokes. If I hear one more bad song use a word like "addicted" to be able to say "I'm a dick...I'm addicted to you" (that's Simple Plan, I think...Lit did something similar a few years ago), I'm going to snap. It only sounds clever to 14 year olds. Jimmy Eat World is awesome, and Blink is an amazing mix of deepness and goofiness...but there's so many Blink look-a-likes, and Staind look a likes, and Limp Bizkit sound a likes. Don't even get me started on Taproot. They did a song who's chorus was built around the line "In case of fire, break the glass". I wish I were making that up. The worst part was that, while the lyrics were retarded, the guitar line was freaking briliant, so you wanted to like the song. P.O.D. had Youth of the Nation put out in 2001, and that was deep, and they had a good reason to do it, what with the school shootings in San Diego a few years back happening only a handful of blocks away from their homes. Sum 41 seems like a boatload of fun, and Still Waiting is a brilliant tune. But both bands suffer from some serious inconsistency..some of their stuff is great, a few songs touch on brilliance, but half of each album feels like filler.

So, that's my music rant. The bands/acts I'm keeping tabs on right now are The Ataris, Sum 41, Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, REM, Eminem, Snoop, and a few others. Seems like so long ago that there were that many bands that were flat out great, not just worth keeping tabs on. I know it's unfair to expect another Nirvana any time soon, but I'd kill for a Soundgarden or a Pearl Jam (and please don't tell me that Pearl Jam is still going. They took a huge left between Vitalogy and No Code, and it isn't the same...they lost part of their fire). Never mind STP (also not quite the same as they were back in the day...this can be blamed on Scott Weiland cleaning up his act. All in all, it's a change for the better, but I still prefer their older music), Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Soul Asylum, Sublime, Tool, and after Nirvana, the Foo Fighters...and I'm not even getting into hip hop, when we had Tupac and Biggie, a young Wu Tang Clan, Snoop...there's more, and that's still only the top level stuff. There's lots of smaller bands that made a few contributions here and there. Nowadays, other than Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, I dunno if there's a band on that level, and Eminem is the only rapper to put himself there lately (the jury is still out on 50 Cent..I haven't heard all his stuff).

Anyway, that's my (way longer than I expected) rant on music. I'm 23, and I just made myself feel really old. Kurt died over 8 years ago, Rage lost their rage and picked up Chris Cornell, which is a good thing, but I'd trade it in for Rage and Soundgarden both being back together in a heart beat. It's harder to make that argument for the Foo Fighters...if I had my choice, Kurt would come back and kick Grohl out. Bradley Nowell was dead before he even made it, which is tragic...Layne Staley's battles with drugs finally got the best of him last year...Tupac and Biggie were the only casualties of the East Coast/West Coast crap...which I compared to a British Rock/American Rock battle that culminated in the deaths of Lennon and Dylan to a friend who isn't a fan of rap...it may be pushing it a little, but it was close. Pac and Lennon are a good comparison especially...Pac's lyrics were brilliant, and he always had these hopes for something better than what there was now. Jam Master Jay got shot to death, too. I'm 23, and 6 of the most talented musical personalities of my lifetime are dead already...and only 1 made it with me into my 20s. How f'd up is that?

Okay, enough of that. More disgust at politics later, or perhaps another rant, who knows. I'm gonna watch a muppet show DVD.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Almost forgot

The other day, while watching Fox News, they tried to pat themselves on the back with one of the most misleading stats ever. To argue claims that the media and the President haven't done a good job of explaining the reasons for this war, they showed the responses to a poll question that, as best as I can figure out, read "Do you know why the US is involved in the following war?" and then listed all the major wars of the last century or so.

The thing here is, if someone believes that the whole point of this war is to get oil, they can still say yes. It's completely freaking skewed.

The current war had the highest number. No shock there. A surprising number of people answered Yes to the question when posed about the Vietnam War. Overall, the longer ago a war was, the less people answered yes. Pretty freaking sad that WW2 was near the bottom, 60 years ago or not.

This just goes to show: Don't ever trust polls. They're all shoddy and can be influenced to get the answers you want just by shaping the question the right way.
Awnaw, hell naw, ya'll went up and done it

Actually, I went up and done it. I've challenged the freepers to a debate. Why? Because there seems to be some growing dislike of NAFTA, GATT, and the like, and also there's some people there seeing why unions might be a good thing, and I figured if I can say a few things respectfully and change a few minds, it'd be worth it. I'll keep everyone updated on it.

Oh, and the title is part of the chorus to a Nappy Roots song, Awnaw. The Nappy Roots rule. Onto:

LinkFest 2k3!

I've got almost 20 links I've been wanting to post, but I'm lazy and whatnot. Since that'd be insane, I'm going to say this: Check the last 2 days worth of stuff at Atrios, This Modern World, Very Very Happy, and Talking Points Memo. Most of what I was going to link to came from one of those places. I'll just hit a few good ones:

Americans seem to be waking up to the fact that their civil liberties are getting stripped: Survey: Americans say some new federal powers infringe on civil liberties

This made me laugh big time: Thin Ice

Things like this make me want to hurt people: Army Chaplain offers baptisms, paths. That title is really off. He's trading baths for baptisms. You want to be bathed, you're getting baptized. On the plus side, it seems that the Army is investigating him.

The Boston Globe is
reporting that the Fed is working on a plan to help the economy. The problem there is that the problems are systemic, and not something the Fed can really address. They need to be addressed by the government as a whole. But Bush is too busy building huge deficits and waging war. I'll talk about this more soon. It ties into my Freeper debate, as well.

Salon.com is pointing out what most people should know already...that The Daily Show is the best political satire available. Some good quotes in there.

CNN has a report on the numbers of Americans in jail. It's pushing closer and closer to 1%. That's pretty messed up, if you think about it.

The Guardian, a British paper, of all things, has a story on the increasing amount of money spent by the media on political contributions in America. This should be seen as bad news by pretty much everyone.

And, finally, thank you, Arianna Huffington.

I think tomorrow I'm going to rant about something. If I happen to have any readers (it would be nice), feel free to offer topics to rant on in the feedback section.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Feel More Secure?

This is from a column in Wired:

In the documents, all of the travelers complained about the inability to clear their names from the list. One person wrote that he must show up four hours before his flight in order to clear security in time for departure. Another said government officials suggested he change his name.

"I've endured too many security checks for this to be 'just a random search' -- this is harassment. I am a 62-year-old Caucasian grandmother and law-abiding citizen," wrote one woman, who also said she is screened on nearly every segment of a flight, including transfers.


That's thanks to the government watch list, which is pretty simplistic, consisting just of names. Another guy had problems because he had the same name as a guy who's been in US custody for months. He flys twice a week for his work, and has to get the FBI involved to keep his flights from being held up like these people see it.

Those that argue that the "temporary" lack of liberties these people face is necessary for security, would do well to remember a quote of Ben Franklin's: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety..."

Monday, April 07, 2003

Ugh, part 2

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.

Here's the picture. (warning: image is somewhat graphic.)

That woman was protesting the war, and the police did that to her. Lovely.

Thanks to BoingBoing for pointing this one out.

Update: Thanks to This Modern World, I found more images.
Ugh.

Some journalist thinks God saved him from oncomming fire in Iraq. By guiding the rounds into the soldiers in front of and to the left of him.

Luckily, the two soldiers survived, but one most likely lost an eye, and the other suffered a sucking chest wound.

I prefer to believe it was the hand of God that put them there, one behind me, one to my left. They were there to protect me.

That's freaking despicable. I'm certain that God doesn't feel the lives of those soldiers are less important than the lives of that reporter. I only hope their families don't have to see that crap.

Thanks to Atrios for pointing this crap out.
A few links

Why is it that our best orators are almost all in their 80s?

First, there was Senator Robert Byrd and his speech back in February.

And now, we can add to that a column by George McGovern in The Nation this week.

Those opposed to war speak like this, and those in favor shout "unamerican" and the like. Our president can't even speak properly half the time. When did this country fully embrace idiocy?
Keeping up the daily pace, sort of

It's technically the 7th, so I missed the 6th, but I slept through most of the 6th (stupid day light savings time) and so this is my post for both days. Lots to post about.

Molly Ivins has a new column up, which is a must read. Ivins is actually from Texas, so she's known about Bush longer than most of us. And judging from her writings, he doesn't seem to get better with time. One part worth quoting:

And of course we are all happy to learn that the Bush administration plans to provide universal health care and massive school construction for postwar Iraq, while simultaneously cutting health and education funding here at home.

We voted for that, right? 1 in 6 kids in the US lives in poverty. 1 in 6 people in the US doesn't have health insurance. But, as everyone is so willing to state, we're the best nation on the planet. Right.

Here's the deal. The US was founded on the best ideals, and the American way of life is the best available. But the system in this country is broken, big time. Nineteen percent of people in this country think they're in the top 1% in income, according to a survey conducted last year or so. This country spends more on insurance ($900 billion, with a b, is the total for the last year with a stat available) then we do on food. China listed the cost of higher education as a US humans right violation. The US prescription drug industry has some of the highest profit margins of any industry in the world. Drugs here cost 6 to 8 times what they do in Canada. People in the US work longer and harder than anyone else in the industrialized world, even longer than the Japanese.

This is big enough that it gets it's own paragraph. We work, on average, just shy of 50 full work weeks a year...1966 hours on average. That's 49 full work weeks plus 6 hours. So basically, in a 52 week year, people in the US get 2 weeks and 4 days off. The Japanese only work 1889 hours a year, or just over 47 full work weeks...they get, on average, about 2 more weeks off than we do. (these numbers are from 1997-98, I haven't seen anything more recent). Also, compared to 1960, we're the only major nation working more now than we were then per year. The other major industrialized nations...Japan, Britain, Germany, and France, saw their hours go down over that period by 429, 182, 576, and 285, respectively. We've gone up by 171 in that period, and I bet it's going up still. Two reasons people in the US work longer? They have to pay much more for health care, and for their higher education...two things which are mostly free in the rest of the industrialized world (even in poorer countries, like Cuba). And in the last 20 years, the wages of the average US worker have not kept pace with workers in other democratic nations. That means that, while they saw their working hours shorten (and we saw ours go up), they saw their wages raised relative to ours. In Germany, for example, in 1997, German wages for manufacturing jobs were 32% higher than US wages (based on purchasing power..it gets worse for us if you look at exchange rates), while Germans were working 406 hours less...10 full 40 hour weeks. How does Germany get by on so few hours? They've gone to a 7 hour work day. Higher wages, shorter working hours, and more vacation days ever year. Plus, socialized health care and higher education. And, in case no one noticed, the Germans have a pretty solid economy.

Some economists argue that US unemployment was lower than in places like Germany...4% or so in the US, vs 8 to 11% for most of Europe. But the US uses a different standard for unemployment than the EU does. In the US, if you stop looking for work, you don't get counted in the work force, and so you don't factor into the number of unemployed. One economic survey done in the US in 2000 suggested that the unemployment rate that year should have been 35%, because 70 million healthy adults not actively seeking jobs hadn't been counted. Britain has the same counting problem..they don't count people not looking for work. Also, 40 million Americans are counted as employed, but are working part time...and even if they are actively looking for full time jobs, they are still counted as being fully employed, which I'm sure they would argue with, given the chance.

The US economic policy for the last 2 decades has been devoted to globalization, moving from manufacturing jobs to service sector jobs, increasing hours with relatively stagnant wages for the middle and lower classes, and increasing wealth for the upper class.

A friend of mine who's relatively new to America, having grown up in Bahrain and England, asked if the poor were willingly supporting tax cuts for the wealthy out of generosity. I had to explain that most people who voted didn't think about who tax cuts affected, they just went by the argument "tax cuts good, tax hikes bad".

Speaking of taxes. In the 50s and 60s, the percentage of the federal budget raised through corporate taxes was 26.5%, compared to 6.9% for payroll taxes. In 2000, 31.1% of the federal budget came from payroll taxes, compared to only 10.2% for corporate taxes. This is actually an improvement over 1990, when 35.5% came from payroll taxes compared to just 9.1% from corporations.

I don't think anyone would argue that the balance there is very much off. And that doesn't even go into the subsidies provided to different industries, to the tune of $87 billion a year in 2001, according to the Cato Institute

That isn't the free market. That's making the rich richer on the backs of the poor. All of this means that the majority of Americans don't actually get to live the American way of life. Unless they're lucky enough to be born rich, or get lucky and come up with something like Amazon.com, you're going to work your ass off to break even for most of your life. So wave that flag proudly as you drive from your first job to your second job, and don't worry about not seeing your kids, the TV will raise them just fine.

All economic stats come courtesy of Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, by Kevin Phillips. If you have any interest in economics, it's a must read. And in case any conservatives think it's just some liberal stat-twisting, Kevin Phillips is a conservative, who's first major book was "The Emerging Republican Majority". So nyah.

Hmm. Went off on something of a rant there. I have more to talk about today, but it'll wait til later, as I'm sure this is enough reading for now.

Assuming someone is actually reading.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Holy Crap! Good News!

Note: The good news isn't actually war-related, it's political. But we'll take what we can get here at Apathy, Inc.

John Kerry is making some headlines today, and with good reason. He's the first democrat to show signs of a backbone.

Kerry has used a joking comment about needing regime change here as well as in Iraq in his recent speeches. Recently, this has gotten him attacked by the likes of Tom Delay and other leading republicans for supporting the enemy, lack of patriotism, and trying to compare Bush and Hussein.

The important thing to remember here: None of the prominent Republican leadership served in Vietnam. Kerry did. And he came back swinging.

Kerry's response? "I'm not going to let the likes of Tom DeLay question my patriotism, which I fought for and bled for in order to have the right to speak out."

Delay claimed that he couldn't get into the military during Vietnam because minorities had taken all the available spots. Dick Cheney says he missed the war because he had "more important things to do in the 60s", or something like that. The only two Republican leaders with military experience that i know of are Rumsfeld, who fought in Korea, and Powell, who fought in Nam, was head of the Joint Chiefs for the first Gulf War, and hasn't exactly been a cheerleader for this war.

Another thing Kerry said: "I watched what they did to Max Cleland last year. Shame on them for doing it then and shame on them for trying to do it now."

Max Cleland was a Senator from Georgia. He left 3 limbs in Vietnam...both legs, and an arm. In the 2002 midterm elections, the Republicans attacked him as being weak on homeland security...they questioned his patriotism. And it worked. I don't live in Georgia, so I don't know the details of the campaign...but the fact remains that anyone who loses 3 limbs fighting for America should get a pass for the rest of his life on patriotism, period.

Of course, no one in the Democratic party, save Cleland is backing Kerry in his fight to prevent the Republicans from painting everyone who disagrees with Bush as a commie pinko bastard. And that's going to have to change for there to be any reasonable debate on the diplomatic failings of the last year plus.

To balance out this good news, Atrios points out the following quote:

"Nearly eight in 10 Americans now accept the Bush administration's contention — disputed by some experts — that Hussein has "close ties" to Al Qaeda (even 70% of Democrats agree). And 60% of Americans say they believe Hussein bears at least some responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — a charge even the administration hasn't levied against him."

It should be noted that nearly all experts say there is no link between Hussein and Al Qaeda, especially not "close ties". And the 60% who are now blaming Hussein and Iraq for Sept 11th are certainly living by the "Never Forget!" claim that, as Very Very Happy points out, is being pimped by Fox News on a regular basis. Maybe they should change it to "Never Forget, But be Willing to Get a Little Fuzzy on Some of the Details." I guess that's kinda wordy, tho.

For those who are a little thin on the details: Al Qaeda actually paints Hussein as a lesser evil, second to America. Bin Laden wants the world to live under Muslim governments, based on the laws of the Quran, as he sees them (which is an exceptionally strict interpretation, to say the least). One of Hussein's biggest fears has been the religious groups in Iraq opposing him, and Al Qaeda would support those groups before they supported Hussein. There has, to date, been no reliable evidence whatever linking Al Qaeda and Hussein. Just lots of words and images suggesting it from the White House and their supporters.

Friday, April 04, 2003

The Grand Experiment, Day 3

For those wondering, "the grand experiment" is my attempt to post at least once a day. This will mark the 3rd straight day I've posted. I'm awesome! Or something.

So far, the bad news is certainly regular enough to keep things going.

From the website of The Nation, we find Matt Bivens' "The Daily Outrage" spouting off on the Bush Energy Plan, which is currently in the House.

A quote he got from the Natural Resources Defense Council:
"The bill would do almost nothing to improve energy efficiency, save oil, or advance clean, renewable energy sources. It would, however, provide billions of taxpayer dollars to the oil, coal and nuclear industries -- even though energy companies are currently making record-breaking profits -- and create massive subsidies to log our national forests."

On top of that, two journalists were killed in Iraq...Atlantic Monthly editor Michael Kelly and respected Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan.

And the Washington Post has an editorial on a proposed US funded, pro-American Arabic language news service to be beamed by satellite into the Mid East. The Post sees this as an obviously bad idea...in my limited correspondence with people who have lived in the Arab world, there is a very good understanding of the money and power behind major news agencies, and so the bias of most is understood. For example, al Jazeera is run by the Qatar government. So they almost never cover things that show said government in a bad light. Similarly, Dar Al Hayat, which is my Arabic news agency of choice, is owned by a Saudi family, and run by Lebanese people...so they focus fairly regularly on Lebanon and rarely speak badly of Saudi Arabia. While both of these stations have these problems, they both also feature a commitment to journalistic integrity. If they aren't pro-US, it's because they represent the news from a perspective that isn't pro-US. And neither can be said to hide the facts. al Jazeera may be willing to show things that are graphic, but that doesn't make what they are showing false, or less relevant. There is a war on. And while CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all follow the Pentagon's lead and try to make the war look clean, the reality is that war is hell, and people are being killed. Laser guided 2000 pound bombs may be able to go through specific windows of a building, but when that building explodes, the whole neighborhood gets affected. Iraqis are getting killed in droves. People who did nothing more than get drafted into their nation's army are getting killed for reasons that have not been articulated to the people paying for the killings.

The only real reason that hasn't been struck down by credible arguments, and also the only cause the US leadership hasn't actually gone into, is the reason PNAC has argued for some time. The goal here is to replace all the questionable governments in the middle east with democracies set up by the US. This is a goal most Americans probably wouldn't support...because it will require hundreds of billions of dollars...maybe even trillions, and will require the US to go to war in, at the very least, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Saudi Arabian and Egypt may also end up on the list of invaded nations.

There are dozens of problems with this. For starters, it's an attempt to build an empire. Empire isn't really a democratic concept. The people of many of these nations don't like the US, and for many, they have good reason. In some nations, we have supported non-democratic, sometimes totalitarian regimes, for decades, simply because we wanted the suppliers of much of our oil to be stable. Why would they trust us now when we promise them democracy and self government, especially if it requires us to invade their country first? We supported Saddam up until he invaded Kuwait. Bush was planning on giving millions to the Taliban in the spring of 2001, to help get a natural gas pipeline built through the country. To suggest that the moral blindness we have lived with for decades is now gone is hard to believe, at best.

The US took longer to get into both world wars than anyone else, including the "cowards" like Canada and Russia, who won't back us now. While the Vichy government in France rolled over, and the leadership of much of France's army was unable to prepare for the German Blitzkrieg, the majority of the people of France worked to fight the Germans, even knowing the brutality that their nations would face. The Prime Minister went into hiding in Algeria, starting a government in exile. Every member of the Vichy government was executed for treason, save the head of it, who was imprisoned for life (at the age of 87). The French are not "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". Do they have financial interests in mind? Of course they do. So do we. Every nation has multiple things to consider before committing to wars, and economic reasons are among them.

The US completely stonewalled the EU and NATO in Afghanistan. It was felt that, in Kosovo, the US had to get NATO permission for every bomb they wanted to drop, and that was a bad thing...to quote one senior defense official, "No one's going to tell us where we can and can't bomb". But the Kosovo situation was a triumph of diplomacy...it was the first time in the history of the world that a group of nations had worked together to stop a humanitarian disaster in another country through force, instead of through diplomatic and economic efforts. One nation taking action against another to force change, without the support of the rest of the world, is very, very different from a group of nations working for the same goals.

Especially when there is little visible evidence of a pressing need to force those changes. If the US had gone to NATO, or the EU, and said "We, as a group, shall use all available diplomatic, economic, and military pressure to change the governments of places with criminal regimes, for the betterment of the populations of those nations, and also the world", perhaps the argument would have won the day. But focusing on one nation (especially with much more serious problems in places like North Korea), providing various arguments, several of which proved to be false (the Nigerian uranium, for example), and insisting that force was the only option at every juncture, is not a way to prove to the world the good intentions, or the case, for the actions we currently undertake.

Hussein is a criminal, of the highest order. He has done more to harm his people and the people of neighboring nations than anyone else currently in power. But he is far from the only criminal in power in the world, and he isn't the most dangerous today. For example, North Korea and Zimbabwe are both facing larger problems. Kim Jong Il starves his people to build nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach the United States, China, and Russia, among others. Mugave in Zimbabwe is using violence to crush any political opposition, as well as to prevent international human rights workers from doing their vital work.

Both of these problems, among others, are being left untouched by the US...the US was even responsible for much of the problems in North Korea, as the N Korean nuclear program had been stopped through the diplomacy of the Clinton administration. The deal Clinton got was abandoned by the Bush administration (along with nearly everything else Clinton did, save NAFTA). These are amazing diplomatic failings, which must be laid at the feet of the Bush administration, and the lack of reporting on these in the general media is nearly criminal.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Blogger Must Feed!

Hmm. Blogger ate the post I'd just written on a news story that's bothering me something fierce.

Start here.

The scary thing? Technically, all that stuff is legal. The KGB tactics, the indefinite jailings, and the questionable reasoning.

As best as his family can judge, he has been brought in because he once donated to a Muslim charity. Said charity was later declared to be supporting Al Qaida, simply because an Al Qaida higher-up donated money to them at some point.

Either the rules regarding evidence are getting kinda flimsy, or we're playing Six Degrees of Osama here, and anyone who can be linked to him is screwed.

For those too lazy to click, the first paragraph goes like this:
"On Thursday, March 20, 2003, our friend and colleague Maher (Mike) Hawash was arrested ("detained") as a "material witness" by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the parking lot of Intel Corp's Hawthorne Farms parking lot. Simultaneously, FBI agents in bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles awoke Mike's wife Lisa and their three children in the home, which they proceeded to search. Since then, Mike has been held in the Federal Prison at Sheridan, OR."

Now, if that doesn't sound KGB-ish, I dunno what does. If he's a witness, there's probably nothing in his house requiring those assault rifles, or the house being searched. I'd be completely willing to argue the situaiton on the merits, but there are no merits..it's all secret. And that's the scary part. The guy was taken, and only a cursory explanation was given. This isn't how the American justice system is supposed to work.
Step 1: Complete. On to Step 3!

Okay, so we now have feedback, thanks to the good folks at enatation. They won because it's available, something only half the services I found could actually claim. Also, they have the most editable interface, and they have lots of already created templates.

So, now to see if anyone's reading. If you are, please post a comment, as I'm curious.

I'm also a bit sleep deprived. Inspiration doesn't always come on schedule. Time for a bit of a nap. I expect many, many comments when I return. Well, actually, I expect none. Between my complete lack of self-pimpage and my infrequent updates, I don't expect to have many regular readers. It'd be pretty cool to get one, tho.
Update Time!

A few things. I've been pretty bad about updating this site regularly. I want to be better about that. I'm not the greatest writer in the world or anything, but I think I'm pretty good, and I think I have decent things to say. So I'm gonna try harder, and stuff. As part of that, I have a few goals: Redesigning the site some, and figuring out how to get a comment board up for each post. I've already done a little redesign..I added links and changed the table layout a bit so the links all look decent. Look to the shiny new links to the right to see what I mean. I'll probably keep adding to that as I go, but there's a good start there.

My big quest now is for something allowing comments. I have no idea if anyone is reading this, because no one has emailed me to date, at least that I've caught, maybe it's getting blocked as spam. Who knows.Comments would let me know if anyone's replying, and also make everything far more public. Intelectual voyerism: It's the new black. Until I find something, feel free to use my email address, now linked at the bottom of every post, as well as in the table to the left.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm going to try to hold myself to at least one post a day, possibly more. We'll see how long I can keep that up. Lord knows there's enough bad news out there for me to work with.

Update to the update: Blogger lists five commenting options...The first three on the list are YACCS, netcomments, and Falasério. If you follow those links, you'll learn that YACCS isn't accepting new users to sign up right now, netcomments seems to no longer exsist, and Falasério isn't in english. Not a good start. Checking on another search found 4 options, 2 of which aren't open, and other which I've already found. So out of 8 options, I've found 3 others that look to be open to me: enetation, BlogOut, and SquawkBox. Time to fiddle and see which one I like. Hopefully there will be comments soon. Much like the underpants gnomes of South Park, I have a 3 step plan:

Step 1: Comments!
Step 2:
Step 3: Internet domination!

My plan is flawless. My humor could probably use work, tho. Ah well, back to the fiddlin'.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Damn Communists

One of my basic beliefs is that there are 2 ways to determine if something should be controlled or heavily regulated by the government. The first is "Should every person have equal access to it, no questions asked?" Medicine, education, and arguably the internet and electricity are things that I feel fall into this category. The other question is, "Are the methods of providing the product ill-suited to a free market?". Power, phone, cable and to a degree internet access all fall into this column. Air travel does, too, sort of. Power, phone, and cable services are all things that have to travel over wires (as is net access). It's hugely inefficient to string up 2 sets of powerlines for everyone to give everyone access to power from 2 companies, and it's also inefficient to offer the services of multiple companies over one set of lines. The air lines are similar, yet different. Air travel must flow through choke points - airports. They also provide identical services in most major routes, which is innefficient. 20 half full flights is less efficient than 10 full flights. But maximum efficiency might cut out routes that are not high traffic, which would be unfair to people who live away from the major coridors.

Very few poeple would argue that education should be deregulated or privatized. The educational system in this country is a problem, because it is not the same for every person. People in poor areas do not get the same educational opportunities that people in more affluent areas get, because of the way education is paid for in this nation. Also, people from poorer families are less likely to go the the best colleges, because the best colleges are the most expensive, and there are limited ammounts of financial aid available to those students. This isn't even going into the racial issues still facing the educational system, because many minoriteis live in areas that do not have the same affluence as white neighborhoods. That's a topic for another day.

Medical treatment is quickly becoming a similar issue. One study suggested that 75 million americans did not have health insurance for at least part of 2002. Since I don't have health insurance, I can give you an idea of what that means. I have been to the dentist once in the last 3 years. I haven't been to a doctor in 5 years. I've been lucky (read: healthy) over that time, but if something were to happen to me, say a broken limb, I would be screwed. Even with smaller problems, like an illness that won't go away, the only options for me are the emergency room and...the emergency room. Which burdens the hosptials because they have to use resources designed to deal with actual emergencies to deal with things that people should see their primary physician about. And if people who go to the emergency room can't pay, then things are made even worse, as the resources have been expended without anycash coming into the system, so the hospital must bear the burden of replacing the resources. It drags the system down.

Another argument for nationalized health care is borrowed from The Mighty Reason Man at Very Very Happy:
The only real point I have to make tonight is this: the opportunity to be as physically healthy as modern medicine allows should be a basic right. One of the fundamental ideals of this country is that everyone should have the chance to make their lives, or the lives of their children, better -- that's the essence of the American Dream -- and people who are not healthy cannot do that.

It's as simple as that.


Far more eloquent than I could ever say it.

Arguments for socializing the power and telecommunications industries to come later.