Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Moronic Headline of the Day

So, what's wrong with this picture?

AP - Allawi to Promote Iraq Election in Jordan

CCR Update

The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed their war crimes complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor's Office (details here). Their press release states, in part:

We are asking the German prosecutor to launch an investigation: since the U.S. government is unwilling to open an independent investigation into the responsibility of these officials for war crimes, and since the U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court, CCR and the Iraqi victims have brought this complaint in Germany as a court of last resort. Several of the defendants are stationed in Germany...

German law allows German courts to prosecute for killing, torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, forcible transfers and sexual coercion such as occurred at Abu Ghraib. The world has seen the photographs and read the leaked “torture memos” – we are doing what is necessary when other systems of justice have failed and seeking to hold officials up the chain of command responsible for the shameful abuses that occurred.
The CCR link now has a form letter on their site that can be sent to the prosecutor, urging action. Please take a moment and add your name to the list. I'll update as things develop...

We Don't Get Fooled Again

Oh, What a Tangled Web They Hate

From Wired News a treasure trove of ways to find information the US government attempts to hide. Ah, mighty heady days, Dear Hearts, those days when the Powers that Be let the nascent Information Highway grow from a government-university experiment to our Internet, the people's information network that will not be stopped. ARPANET? Ring a bell. As much as they want to recapture control, I've known for a long time that they goofed when they let the baby djinn out of the bottle. Information like magical wish-givers wants to be free. The link: Web Won't Let Government Hide.
"Given the government keeps tabs on the world using armies of agents, algorithms and wiretaps, how can a citizen compete? Try a browser."
Many resources here, including something I didn't know, and my family calls me the "Search Engine Queen"... Google's government-specific search engine: Google Uncle Sam.

Sharpen your boolean search skills, Lovelies. The researchers' motto is: Somebody, somewhere knows the answer.

We are the locust... (my tiny homage to a Harlan Ellison short story which I won't quote now, because I've done it before ... read his short story collection "Stalking the Nightmare", and the introductory story, "Quiet Lies the Locust Tells")

"The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the foe, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they'd all flown in the last war."

We Don't Get Fooled Again - The Who

Cab Fares, Redux

Remember the story from Nov. 19 about the $5000 taxi fare from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone? I'm thinking the price has gone up in the past few days. This is the second major attack on the 15 mile stretch of road in as many days.

AP - Suicide Bomber Rams U.S. Convoy in Iraq

Also, it looks like the U.S. breaks a unenviable record today. We're still closer to the beginning of this thing than the end.

Monday, November 29, 2004

From Small Seeds...

One attribute that distinguishes ASZ from other progressive blogs is that we like to challenge our beloved readers to engage in simple little actions that can make a big overall difference. Sometimes it's no more than clicking through on a link. Other times, it might be something as easy as dropping a Christmas card to a wounded GI. Look at it this way - action (however seemingly insignificant) keeps you occupied, off the street, and engaged in a meaningful way. Ergo, progressive as a verb.

Here's the latest installment in ASZ's progressive viral marketing. On Tuesday, 11/30/2004, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (the group that continues to bring some measure of justice to Gitmo detainees) will be filing a criminal complaint in German court to hold a select group of perpetrators accountable for war crimes.

I can hear you guffawing now -- but this is an amazing opportunity, and I think the CCR pre-press release explains it quite nicely:

In a historic effort to hold high-ranking U.S. officials accountable for brutal acts of torture including the widely publicized abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib, on Tuesday November 30, 2004, CCR and four Iraqi citizens will file a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office at the Karlsruhe Court, Karlsruhe, Germany. Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction suspected war criminals may be prosecuted irrespective of where they are located.

The four Iraqis were victims of gruesome crimes including severe beatings, sleep and food deprivation, hooding and sexual abuse. (Further details of the treatment of the complainants will be provided after the filing.)

The U. S. officials charged include Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Former CIA Director George Tenet, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Steven Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Major General Walter Wojdakowski, Major General Geoffrey Miller, Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry L. Phillabaum, Colonel Thomas Pappas, and Lieutenant Colonel Stephen L. Jordan.

Please check back on our home page in the next day for an opportunity to write the German prosecutor in support of the investigation: it is critical that he hear from as many people as possible so he feels worldwide pressure to pursue the case.

CCR needs a bit of Left Blogistan "rapid response". Why? Because there will be little notice in the mainstream media, yet with the force of numbers behind this criminal complaint, CCR's action can become a major story. So, if you're a blogger, grab this story and run with it. Or, if you hang out on other blogs, broadcast the story around via comments.

The bottom line is that there's little love lost between the U.S. and German governments right now, and that's why this complaint stands a chance of moving forward. German law regarding this type of complaint was enacted post-WWII to facilitate prosecution of war criminals, even in their absence from German soil. And clearly, some political motivation exists for the German prosecutor to cooperate with the complaint.

I don't know what the net effect of such a complaint and prosecution would be. I can't say if any of the principals would even be obliged to respond. But I do know that this issue could be thrust into the media mainstream by sheer force of numbers. If a million progressives in the U.S. contact the German prosecutor, it would certainly be hard for the mainstream media to ignore.

Earlier today, one of our coveted commentors lamented how quickly that story lines such as Abu Ghraib disappear in the U.S. Our media is like one big hyperactive pinball machine, bouncing from one atrocity to another. The upshot is that everything blends into one big omnibus atrocity, such that most people just throw up their hands and don't even try to understand the nuance.

Here's an opportunity to force a story back onto the front page - a story that should have never left the front page until the truly guilty parties were doing the perp walk. It'll only take a minute of your time tomorrow. Bookmark the CCR website, or check in with ASZ tomorrow for more details.

Another Happy Planet Monday

First the fun, um, ah, borrowed from Holden at First Draft, his regular caption contest.

You can caption here or there.
You can caption anywhere.
But don't forget to check out
little Georgie's lifts.

Now for something less fun, but edyifying.
"The Sniffles of War": A Memoir by Tom Bisser

"In adolescence as you sit with thumb in mouth among your toys and comic books there is always the War, that your Dad was in the War, every Vietnam unhappy dinnertime meal Dad going berserk are you reminded of the Vietnam War. Nightmares daymares wacked-out stereotype multiple-personality Vietnam Dad My Lai massacre flashbacks blowing-up neighbor's garbage cans laughing wildly insanely crying former Marine Dad."

First it was Cicciolina

Perhaps some of you don't know about this scandal. But it wasn't that long ago that Cicciolina (does that mean "little cricket?), a porn star, was elected to the Italian Parliament. I guess those working folk wanted one of their own to represent them? Cicciolina was also at the center of some big-time art controversies as the subject of the work of Jeff Koons. I've long been drawn to good old-fashioned art and censorship controversies.

Well, this time it is a controversy in the Italian Parliament again. You see, the conservative Parliament recently fired "Dario Mattiello, an assistant to the upper house's vice president, after photographs of him at a gay nightclub in Rome were distributed." There have been protests about the firing in the gay community, and now Parliament is accusing gay activists with infecting their computer system with gay porn images.

There is something akin to poetic justice here, though I can't quite get a handle on it. Still, it's nice to have a laugh at the expense of conservatives. Our conservatives here in the old USA, meanwhile, are back to what they do best, like banning dancing at high schools. These folks and how they deal with culture and its changes. . . I imagine them with eyes closed, their fingers in their ears, and singing at the tops of their lungs "la la la la la la la." They have such faith in abstinence education and banning, two methods that simply don't work.

The Promise

During the time immediately prior to the Democratic Convention in August, stem cell research had once again put on a very public face. Ronald Reagan had just passed away from Alzheimer's disease, and Ron Jr. ignited a firestorm by speaking at the convention in Boston. Some even say that Ron Jr.'s speech was the catalyst for Zell Miller's hate-mongering at the GOP convention a month later.

In any case, quite a few of us chimed in at the time, indicating that we had a personal stake in the issue of stem cell research. For myself, it was my mother, who passed away earlier this year after suffering from (not battling, as the media would portray it) Alzheimer's. And obviously, there's the potential genetic connection to both myself and my kids.

The fundie wing of the GOP has made it quite clear - they do not support stem cell research, for all of the usual suspect reasons. One of those reasons (allegedly) is the lack of empirical evidence that such research and therapy will actually help people. For the less-than-blind, the evidence has been there for quite a few years. The science just needs to mature.

And now, it appears that we may have a human face on the benefits of stem cell therapy. It's just too bad that the face didn't have blonde hair, blue eyes, and live in Nebraska, because the story might actually get some real attention:

Paralyzed woman walks again after stem cell therapy

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy...
We all know that the Bush Administration prefers faith-based answers to scientific problems. But I'd be willing to bet that a well-heeled, card carrying member of the religous right would be the first to send a loved one to South Korea if they thought there was a chance of helping the loved one.


So, which is it?

AP - Tepid Start to Holiday Shopping Season


CNN - A Weekend Shopping Spree - Indications point to a booming start to holiday season...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thank You Sir, May I Have Some More?

Here's my opener: I normally go out of my way to avoid repetition of topics that I find on the big dog progressive blogs (those listed under "Usual Suspects" in the left column). Today is an exception, because an article posted on Eschaton is an extension of a discussion I've been having all weekend - liberals framed as abused spouses.

Let's set the stage. Friday evening, I was following some commenting on a totally unrelated topic at Eschaton (the comment boards at Eschaton are more like a chat room than a studious reflection on the topic at hand) . The trolls were out in force, and a couple of them were championing the meme that the Democratic Party must become more Christian and conservative like the GOP if it expected to have any relevance in the future. Along comes the following comment:

I'd also highly recommend the George Lakoff book "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think"

It's excellent. I can now tolerate being around Republicans because while I don't agree with them, I know where they're coming from.
Abigail | Email | Homepage | 11.26.04 - 9:16 pm | #

To which I responded...

Is that like being able to tolerate an abusive husband because you "know where he's coming from"?


Richard Cranium | Email | Homepage | 11.26.04 - 9:20 pm | #

Don't misunderstand me - Abigail was not one of the trolls - she was attempting to respond reasonably to the trolls, and offer some advice to the liberal contingent in groking the neoconservative mindset. Saturday morning, I open up my email, and lo and behold, Abby had taken the time to write me privately:

Answer: no. Comparing Republicans - all of them - to abusive husbands is absurd and idiotic. I'm sure you must know some decent smart Republicans. I know quite a few. And I must say that having read Lakoff's book (which I cannot recommend enough) my eyes have been opened. The book makes a lot of sense and I hope you pick it up and read it. Liberals are in the right. So let's start using the right tactics in order to have civilized debates and not screaming matches that accomplish nothing.

I'm the first to admit that I've yet to read Lakoff's book. Quite frankly, having been involved in politics for many years, I think I have at least a rudimentary understanding of the differences between the GOP and the Democrats - there is very, very little operational difference between the two. While there's some socially oriented philosophical departure between Democrat and Republican platforms, from an operational perspective, neither party will do much to upset the big money Washington apple cart. Which makes what's happening nationally even stranger.

In this post-election lull between voting and coronation, something odd is happening that I can't recall having experienced before. Liberals (personified, not simply the liberal "agenda") continue to be vilified by the right wing as if the election were still a month away. I don't mean, "hey, we won, let's find some common ground to work on because if we don't we'll squash you like a fucking bug" vilification, but a mean spirited, schoolyard bully rub-your-nose-in-it vilification.

Case in point: George Will's column today. To save you the dread of clicking through to Mr. Will, let me sum up by saying that he takes off on 'liberal academia'. His basic premise is that higher education is entrenched in pushing a liberal, secular view of the world. Well, duh, George. The entire point of a balanced university-level curriculum is to teach critical thinking skills as well as impart rote book knowledge. Critical thinking skills = questioning the status quo. Questioning the status quo = liberalism. Liberalism = anti-Americanism. Q.E.D., Will and his ilk don't cotton to the general concept of "university", which harkens back to the time of the Roman-Greco culture. You have to wonder what someone like Aristotle would think about George Will.

So, Abby, why would I want to find common ground with such pap? Short answer: I don't. Yet in the progressive blogosphere, there seems to be a significant movement in the direction of driving the Democratic party to an accommodation with the 51%'ers. And that's ludicrous on the face of it. This is where my "spousal abuse" response sprung from. There are simply too many on the liberal side of the ledger who want to become more like the abusers, because they think it will make the abusers like us more.

Rook can probably back me up on this:


When a woman (or man) capitulates to their spouse's abuse, it's always on the premise that he (or she) won't do it again. Without making you go watch Oprah or Montel, we all know how that works out. Politically speaking, the GOP has become the abusive spouse. And liberals continue to play the role of the abused spouse.

But don't take my word for it. Here's a link to an article at Deride and Conquer, written by a domestic abuse advocate, which focuses on the parallels. A snippet:

We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 56 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don’t know how.

Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: stop responding to the abuser...

The only quarrel I have with Mel Gilles' posting is her use of the word, "progressive". Change that to "liberal", Mel. "Progressive" connotes action. "Progressive" can be used as a verb. "Liberal" connotes philosophy, and has been soundly pounded into a word that we'll never again (in my lifetime) be able to disassociate with the notion of namby pamby-ism.

So, with this post, I'm officially divorcing the terms liberal and progressive in my vocabulary. They both still have a place. But being a liberal means to me that I'll accept abuse. I won't anymore. I've become progressive.

Postscript: I said I was rushed before - as of 8PM, I've gone back and polished up my thoughts a bit more, made a few corrections, and hopefully clarified my feelings.

A Hard Habit to Break

I've followed this story since its beginning back in 2002. Three Dominican nuns of conscience cut though a security fence in rural northeastern Colorado to protest the US's immoral nuclear weapons of mass distruction at the Minuteman III missile site.
"Clad in white jumpsuits identifying the trio as a "citizens' weapons inspector team," they cut through a security fence, smeared crosses in their own blood on the silo lid, and tapped on the rails - on which the 110-ton cover would move in the event of a missile launch - with ball-peen hammers in a symbolic attempt to beat swords into plowshares."
And why are these courageous women ages 57, 68, and 70 making the news today? Because Sister Sarah Gilbert is serving her sentence at Camp Alderson in W. Virginia along with the diva of proper living, Martha Stewart.

Read on...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Recipe for a Promotion

Policy happens, and then you get a promotion!

Yeah, the guy who set the policies for Gitmo, and then went over to study Abu Ghraib and the other prisons in Iraq, with the horrors of Abu Ghriab happening just weks later, has been promoted. There is no conclusion we can come to but that the destruction of civil liberties, the denial of Geneva Conventions, and the sanctioning of torture is a Bush Administration policy.

Why does "Peter Principle" come to mind so quickly?

Rinse twice and spit liberally. Good luck getting the taste out of your mouths.

Thanksgiving Weekend Blogging

I have returned and am nearly in one piece. There are a few aches and pains, but overall we avoided some kind of Armageddon that might have occured when such an odd grouping gets together.

First, I met Spin'ster's kids for the first time and they overwhelmed expectations. Perhaps the high point was Jillian changing into her Princess outfit in front of a fairly formal dining table of adults. She's not yet four, but she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. Her little sister Cate charms the bigs in a different, but no less effective way, and I found myself drawn to picking her up for a hug about every two minutes.

The niece and nephews in all but ceremony (they will all be taking part in the wedding next Fall, the boys in kilts) ran me ragged. Yes, they are the source of aches and pains, as SpinDentist was put to work on the trampoline popping them up as if they were furiously exploding kernals of popcorn. Needless to say there are muscles screaming in my abs and back, muscles I didn't know I had.

I'm back for the political stuff within a few hours.

The 8th Circle

The US government, at least at the federal level, increasingly resembles a king's court daily. The smallest amount of criticism towards King George, from any agency over which he has even the slightest bit of influence, quickly turns the agency into a shadow of its original self, as its experienced officials "resign".

The remnants of such agencies, as well as the survivors of the purgings, are best described as flatterers. The new head of the CIA, former Republican Congressman Porter Goss, recently sent an email to CIA employees stating
"We support the administration and its policies in our work.

As agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies.

We do not make policy, though we do inform those who make it. We avoid political involvement, especially political partisanship."
Interesting. Goss claims that the CIA is supposed to avoid partisanship, but also states that it supports the administration, and will not support opposition to the administration. Sounds very apolitical to me...

Now, as we also know, some of upper-tier administration officials are best described as deceivers.

Considering this pairing of flatterers and deceivers reminded me of Dante Alighieri's figurative description of hell in his work "The Inferno". In this tale, in which Dante's pilgrim travels deeper and deeper into the depths of hell, Dante reveals his perspective on the harmfulness of given sins. The more destructive a sin, the deeper Dante places it in hell. In total, Dante divides sin into 9 levels of destructiveness, in which both flattery and deception are placed in the 8th circle, and thus only less harmful than treason. Of course, it is also arguable that some of the actions of the current administration could also be viewed as treason... actions such as sending young men and women off to die in a meaningless war and thus weakening our defenses against future threats.

Note, this "ranking" of sins is not firmly based in Christian theology, and is mostly the work of Dante's creativity, but it is still something to consider. I have tried to fathom what traits our administration could exhibit that would result in greater harm to our nation, and I haven't been able to devise any...

We have our leaders misleading us onto a destructive path, and "credible" people praising such leadership...

Long Time Passing

"Over many glasses of tea at a Karrada St. café in central Baghdad, Galleymore described her anxiousness for her son, and her internet project, called Motherspeak, relating the anxieties of mothers on all sides of the Iraq war."

At Counterpunch:
An Uncommon Mom

The Uncommon Mom's Internet project is Motherspeak

Burroughs Unleashed

Michael H. at Spontaneous Arising captures a William S. Burroughs rant (in verse) that very closely mirrors what I'm feeling right now.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Making of a Poor Richard's Almanac...

The Doc went to visit the Spin'ster and I went underground, and poor Richard is left, like a proper older sibling, to pick up the slack. Suffice it to say that apart from the wonderful Thanksgiving at my Boo and Tom's house, it's been a dicey time. It's really been the dicey-ist in a lot of years. We know Kate is the one that does "this" here at ASZ... It's how famlies (chosen families) do it. I'm the emotion-on-my-sleeve one of the three of us. If you all think I'm a limosine liberal... put your mind to rest. I'm just a working-poor woman trying to get through each day. I just happen to have couple of brain cells left over for blogging.

Yesterday was mostly wonderful. I helped make scratch stuffing with Boo and Tom, and stuffed the bird and had a breakfast snack, and waited... waiting is... Heinlein... Stranger in a Strange Land. Waiting is.

We had a wonderful time all day. We got to watch Shrek2... and I'm a sequel hater, but this one was excellent.

Coping. Coping. I know about coping. I've a lot of training. I'm doing some of it now. I was going to post a link for people to find some resources for coping, but if you're here you already have the skills to find coping stuff on the Internet. I really didn't think this one would lay me low. It's usually Xmas... I got sent home from work today. I'm not too worried. When we've already confronted the abyss, there's not much more to be scared about.

Coming Home

Wounded Marine celebrates Thanksgiving with his family:

..."This hasn't been a good day," his mom, former local actress and singer Debby Schick, said from her son's bedside. "They removed his nerve blocker and they've turned off his morphine pump."

Doctors substituted a candy-type sucker laced with pain medication, but it knocked Schick out, so he lapsed in and out of the holiday like a shopper going stall to stall at a bazaar...

...Jacob Schick, 22, was wounded when an improvised explosive device, a roadside bomb, detonated under the armored Humvee he was driving in Iraq's al Anbar Province on Sept. 20. That was less than two weeks after he and his unit, Bossier City-based Bravo Co., 1/23rd Marines, arrived in the strife-torn country.

His right foot had to be amputated. And he suffered compound fractures of his left leg and arm, with severe tissue damage to both and to his left hand. Doctors battled infections with antibiotics..."

I don't ever want anyone to think that I'm not considering these guys (and ladies) and their tremendous sacrifices when I write my anti-war screeds. While I will continue to scream into a vacuum about the circumstances that necessitated their sacrifice, I will never, ever blame them for their geopolitical location. They've been put there by (charitably speaking, and in no particular order) a combination of bad policy, lies, and a continuing lack of critical thinking on the part of the 51%'ers.

When I think of the thousands of Iraq war vets like Jacob Schick, I think about the thousands of homeless, displaced, broken vets from a war nearly 40 years ago. And I know that the 'system' will eventually deal with the current crop of young men and women no better than it has dealt with the vets of past wars.

It's truly sad, and as hopeful as the media portrays guys like Jacob Schick, the dark dispair will remain for a lifetime with many of these wounded, maimed, and psychologically traumatized men and women. If the entire truth about the current war ever makes it into mainstream conciousness, America will again have succeeded in little more than creating a whole class of embittered and forgotten vets.

Maybe we can make a small difference with at least one guy. Drop Jacob a Christmas (or a "get well") card at:

Lance Cpl. Jacob P. Schick -- 4 West
Brooke Army Medical Center
Building 3600
3851 Roger Brooke Drive
Fort Sam Houston, Texas

The Weird and Spectacularly Weird

The web is a wonderful tool for gathering information, but as we all know, it helps to be an educated information consumer. There's just so many words out there, some of them written for pure shock value, a lot of it written with tinfoil hat permanently welded to the author's head.

Here's one I ran into this morning:

Saudis, Enron money helped pay for US rigged election

You wanna live on the hairy edge of tabloid reality? Try Jeff Rense's website, rense.com, the web's answer to Weekly World News.

But the thing is, when you read some of the weird and the wonderful, keep in mind Agent K's admonition to Agent J (in MIB) regarding tabloid journalism: some of the best investigative reporting on earth. Within every tabloid tinfoil hat story, lays a kernel of truth - or there would be no tinfoil hat stories.

Back to your regularly scheduled world...

If I was a smart guy, I'd open up a bar in Center City Philadelphia, and call it The Green Zone. The possibilities for decor and theme are endless. Interestingly enough, one of the bistros that I occasionally frequent in the Northern Liberties area of Philly is named Ministry of Information. It's an afterwork happy hour thing. Anyway...

'Twas a hot day in the real Green Zone yesterday:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A mortar attack killed four employees of a British security firm and wounded 15 others in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, the company and British officials said Friday...

Tim J. O'Brien, spokesman for the London-based Global Risk Strategies, said the employees were killed Thursday, but declined to say what killed them.
How about a fucking mortar round, Tim? Ya think?

In other news, Puritan America™ continues to ply its trade on unsuspecting teenagers, even as STD rates soar this year. Abstinence-based sex education is all the rage this year (and next, and next, and next...)

Congress last weekend included more than $131 million for abstinence programs in a $388 billion spending bill, an increase of $30 million but about $100 million less than Bush requested. Meanwhile, a national evaluation of abstinence programs has been delayed, with a final report not expected until 2006.

Ten state evaluations, compiled by a group that opposes abstinence-only education, showed little change in teens' behavior since the start of abstinence programs in 1997.

The president has been a strong proponent of school-based sexual education that focuses on abstinence, but does not include instruction on safe sex...

Next up on the BushCo / 700 Club agenda: Headwear for girls! It's great to know that nothing changed while we were eating, drinking, and watching football yesterday. It's life's little constants that keep our feet grounded in reality. [/snark]

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Christmas Resistance Movement

I expect to get back to regular blogging tomorrow - but now that Thanksgiving has passed, the season of mass consumerism is upon us. For those of you as excited as I am about this prospect, here's a site that you might like.

(I'm generally not temperamentally suited to survive the month of December with my humor intact. We'll see if this year's any better than usual.)

Update, 1:15PM, 11/26/04 - Thanks to theyeti from The Frozen Tundra for pointing me to a nice non-consumer jumping off point created by AdBusters, "Buy Nothing Day". And apparently Hecate (subbing for Atrios over @ Eschaton) has a nice anti-shopping screed going...

National Eating Day Open Thread

Have a great Thanksgiving! I'm sure something pithy will get posted today; I just don't know when or where or by who.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Vote Results Rejected - Fraud Alleged!!

Rarely in the history of blogging has there been such a target of opportunity for snarkiness:

(AP) - Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday the United States cannot accept the results of elections in Ukraine, which the opposition says was marred by fraud. He challenged leaders of the former Soviet bloc nation "to decide whether they are on the side of democracy or not."

"If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly there will be consequences for our relationship, for Ukraine's hopes for a Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud," Powell said.

Weird how that sort of thing happens, huh?

Update, 3:25PM - Michael H. at Spontaneous Arising zeros in on the first volley of snarkiness at Counterpunch.

Update, 11/25/04, 1:30AM - Here's a link to a bit of an update on the Ukraine situation. In light of the recent U.S. elections, the absurdity continues to grow, on so many levels. Don't forget that Bush's good buddy Vlad Putin praised the U.S. elections, calling Chimpy McFly a "predictable partner".

Travel light - leave your weapons at home

And your boobs...

Airport Searches Irk Female Passengers

Reports like this are becoming more and more common. Seems like there ought to be a little common sense built into the system.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The misrepresentation of environmentalism

Until a couple years ago, I had always held the view that environmentalists were drug-abusing hippies that didn't have jobs, dressed in flannel, and that most of them regularly chained themselves to trees. Never did I stop to consider most people with environmentalist-bendings were well-educated men and women with a deep concern for future generations.

To be honest, I am not certain as to what these impressions stemmed from. Perhaps it was the fact that the only environmentalist groups the media seems to focus on are eco-terrorist groups, tree-spikers, people that climb and refuse to leave trees in logging areas, or the literal tree-huggers. While I hold some degree of admiration for the passion these latter two groups exhibit non-violently, they are not normative of all environmentalists.

Perhaps this does not hold true across the country, but the term "environmentalist" has seemed to take on an increasingly negative connotation over the course of my 21 years. Attending a Christian university, a private Christian high school, and residing in Utah for much of my life have not presented me with the clearest means to view and understand different aspects of the greater American society, but even on the more rare occasions when I am not surrounded by my typical company, I have sensed an animosity towards "green" movements. For the conservatives that are concerned for the environment are few and very far between.

It appears that "environmentalists" are being unjustly portrayed and demonized by much of the United States in the same manner that "liberals" are. And while liberals do indeed represent a very sizable portion of American citizenry, not all liberals are environmentalists, and thus I fear for the future of environmentalist movements, especially as their concerns seem presently seem to be so valid and pressing.

And then I encounter articles like this one and fail to understand why people dismiss environmentalists as people on the fringe of society.
A man-made flood is roaring through the Grand Canyon in a bold experiment to restore the sandbanks of the Colorado river and to save fish and plants that have been disappearing over the past 40 years.


But in 1963 the natural flow of sand and water was permanently altered by the construction of Glen Canyon dam, just upstream from the Grand Canyon. The dam now traps all the sediment that would have flowed through the canyon, leaving the Colorado river sand-starved and flowing with ice cold, crystal clear water used to generate electricity.


"The ecosystem has been compromised by the dam and this is an effort to mimic what nature doesn't have a chance to do," said a Geological Survey spokeswoman. "
In Utah, environmentalist groups go door-to-door with petitions, asking for support in their movement to drain Lake Powell, which is the reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River on the Utah-Arizona border. I hear mockery of such groups every summer when I return to Salt Lake City from Washington. However, the fact remains, the concerns of these groups are quite valid.

So my question for you is this: what do you think of environmentalism? Is it fairly portrayed in our nation today?

Iraq, the Press and the Election

Under normal circumstances, if one of the regular bloggers on ASZ is linking to a Tom Engelhardt piece, we're doing it through his site, tomdispatch.com. I'm going to make an exception tonight, in the hopes that you'll not only read the piece that Tom prefaces, but that you'll bookmark the root site - motherjones.com. There's a lot of good reading at Mother Jones, and it really should be one of your regular cyberstops.

Tonight on Mother Jones, Tom introduces a piece written by Michael Massing, in advance of its publication in the 12/16/2004 NY Review of Books. Massing discusses the absolute lapses in coverage that the mainstream media has given to the true situation in Iraq. Michael's frustration is most evident in the first paragraph of his article:

In the end, the war in Iraq did not have the decisive impact on the election that many had expected. In the weeks before the vote there were the massacre of forty-nine Iraqi police trainees; a deadly attack inside the previously impenetrable Green Zone in Baghdad; the refusal by an army unit to carry out a supply mission on the grounds that it was too dangerous; the explosion of several car bombs at a ceremony where soldiers were handing out candy, killing dozens of children; the abduction of contractors, journalists, and aid workers, including the director of the CARE office in Baghdad; the release of a report holding the highest reaches of the Pentagon and the military responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib; a report by President Bush's hand-picked investigator confirming that Iraq had long ago lost its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction; and the spread of the insurgency to every corner of the country, bringing reconstruction to a virtual halt. All of this, in the end, counted for less to voters (if the exit polls are to be believed) than such issues as whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry and whether discarded embryos should be used for stem cell research...

Michael's article is long, involved, and important. In raw terms, it's a thorough indictment of the U.S. media for completely missing the story in Iraq. The quest for ratings, access, and "embededness" has, unquestionably, driven the U.S. news media in the direction of a subjugated propaganda tool for Uncle Sam.

Free press?

Only those outlets that are truly willing to cut through the veneer and facade, and in the process, amenable to being marginalized to the point of being insignificant in the public debate. As unfortunate as it may be, any mainstream press outlet not toeing the "party line" is frozen out and/or branded as either 'fringe' or 'terrorist supporting'.

Yes, the Bush administration has been very successful in the implementation of its most basic tenet: "You're either with us, or against us."

And if you're perceived as against them, they will bring the full weight of their power to bear in discrediting you to the point that you can't buy a vegemite sandwich in a Sydney deli.

Case in point: Ronnie Earle - the next Jim Garrison.

Slouching Toward Today:

Making Something Better or Different

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats

In my own country I am in a far-off land
I am strong but have no force or power
I win all yet remain a loser
At break of day I say goodnight
When I lie down I have a great fear
of falling.
Francois Villon

I suppose it's that kind of day, one of those that began last night before sleeping and didn't really end. Dear Thorn in My Flesh was reading my Joan Didion book, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, all comfy on the bed, with the cats keeping him warm and "Law and Order" providing background noise. Then my world tilted a bit for a moment spilling some stuff upon the floor, and now it's today, this afternoon... and I'm thinking about the Joan Didion stuff on the floor and the Hunter Thompson debris that followed. It's not really a terrible mess. I could probably ignore it. But I'm walking around it all, wondering if I should clean it up or tell you about the stain. I suppose that because I'm writing about it means I'm willing to fess up, ask for redemption or at least permission to go on so about the spill. (The photo of Joan above at left I guess to have been taken 35 years ago or so... I wonder at what age we each envision ourselves through time. Joan is a glowing crone now, but I rather like this image of her.)

So another lengthy introduction down, I want to tell you to pick up a copy of Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, either at Amazon or at your favorite local used bookseller's place. When you get it I want to particularly direct you to two of the essays in the collection. The pieces were published from 1968 forward. Read the title piece, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", and the last piece, "Goodbye to All That". Joan, the quintessential creative nonfiction writer and essayist of the time, addresses the era from her own personal overlooks in San Francisco and New York City respectively. I particularly want to influence those of our Constant Readers age 30 and under to read those essays, and the whole collection. I could go on with many superlatives about how Joan does what she does, but I'd rather have your take on it. I already know what I think, and why it seems so important to me to read her again now:

"It was not a country in open revolution. It was not an country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the cold late spring of 1967, and the market was steady and the G.N.P. high and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not. All that seemed clear was that at some point we had aborted ourselves and butchered the job, and because nothing else seemed so relevant I decided to go to San Francisco ... I just stayed awhile, and made a few friends."

And the Hunter Thompson? I have to blame that on the dear curmudgeon... I woke up this morning with my mind still blistered from lying next to him while he was rereading Joan. I asked him to tell me what if anything new he had pieced together, and he told me about the great connection between the two essays I mentioned above, and about how it reminded him of things the Doctor had said in his Hell's Angels collection. And about the page he had marked in the paperback edition years ago with a note to page 324 on the front flyleaf. I have the book next to me with the Didion. I've neglected Thompson in recent years, but we read some of it out loud today.

"One afternoon as I sat in the El Abobe and watched an Angel sell a handful of Barbiturate pills to a brace of pimply punks no more than sixteen, I realized that roots of this act were not in any time-honored American myth but right beneath my feet in a new kind of society that is only beginning to take shape. To see the Hell's Angels as caretakers of the old "individualist" tradition "that made this country great" is only a painless way to get around seeing them for what they really are -- not some romantic leftover, but the first wave of a future that nothing in our history has prepared us to cope with. The Angels are prototypes.

I warned you about the mess. But my years on the Happy Planet have taught me that sometimes I have to make a mess before I can see something better, or at least something different. Without looking backward through people like Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson, I don't know how to even begin.

Note: In the future history wikipedia they will call this Kate Storm in her Verbose Period. ;-)

Keep an eye on this story...

I first heard about this airplane crash yesterday. Fog, my ass.

Something just isn't quite right here. I can smell it. Keep this story in the back of your mind for awhile.

Investigator says jet was flying hundreds of feet too low prior to crash

But It Was Dark!!

Knock, knock.

Who's there?

Damn, I can't even think of a good punch line for this one:

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - It began with U.S. troops busting through the doors of the wrong house.

Dozens of soldiers rammed the white gates of a well-to-do home in central Mosul early on Tuesday, detaining three Iraqi men, only to discover their target was a house with black gates.

"Four houses down," said the elderly homeowner patiently, his hands bound behind his back by yellow plastic cuffs.

"You've got the wrong people," he told the officer leading the operation in good English, his wife, daughter and two pajama-clad grandchildren cowering alongside him, trying to avoid the glare from the spotlights on the soldiers' guns...

The troops still sacked his house.

OCCIFER!!! Arrest somebody...

I want my...
I want my...
I want my M-P-G.

Get Clouseau. Call Poirot. Find Mrs. Marple.

Our story so far: Kate and her irrascible anarchist old man were ensconced on the connubial bed after a mind-altering meal of homemade from scratch chicken vegetable lentil and rice soup and french rolls. They both had a book in hand. There were two cats on the bed. It was just another Monday Night Veg in Paradise in front of the TV with McCoy and his faithful assistant du jour of great legs and amazing mind. Lenny Briscoe was there too with his loyal and hot-headed sidekick. All the usual suspects. It was well with the world until Kate realized something dastardly had happened when she was distracted with life on the Happy Planet. Something had been stolen when she wasn't watching. Heisted. Boosted. Pilfered. Pinched. Lifted. Still sounds right. Enough exposition disguised as introduction, Constant Readers? Read on.

Okay. So. There we were and I put the book aside for a moment. An automobile commercial was on... commercials: the backbone -- programming, the snippets sandwiched in-between advertising moments. I was multi-tasking. The TV-leaning section of my brain said: OH MY GAWD! It was simulcast by my mouth. I said:

"When did they remove the MPG ratings from automobile commercials?" Keys grunted and peeked over his book and the cat on his lap. "They" of course are the demigods of Madison Avenue in cahoots with the automobile manufacturers. Keys said I was right... they, those sneaky bastards, have taken away without ANYONE noticing a contemporary backbone of car advertising. No MPG ratings. No MPG on the highway. No MPG in the city. The master magicians made those numbers simply vanish.

I was dumfounded. How had I missed the sleight-of-hand-mind? So insidious, the control of the advertising "science" upon perception. I learned about this in elementary school. We learned about persuasion and propaganda. The techniques. Do they teach it anymore in school? I don't think they did when my kids were of that age. I'm betting they don't teach it now.

I forgave myself for not noticing ... I was meant NOT to notice. Check it out for yourself. The MPG ratings for automobiles were constant not very long ago, and now they are gone, and "consumers" are the stupid-er for it. Fuck the air. Fuck the lungs of our children. "We want SUVs and trucks, and we don't care how many miles per gallon those heavily-laden symbols of sheet metal get. We want. We want." Instead we get bank APRs, loan percentage rates and payment numbers. I think it's telling. Terribly, terribly telling.

Does anyone know when advertisements dropped MPG ratings in boldface type ... how long? I wasn't paying attention. Shame on me. Seriously. But... sigh... how can one person pay attention to it all? To the ever-grinding distintegration? I did a cursory search (pun intended) on MPGs and commercials and found nothing. Big surprise. The only solace I can offer is a link to buy Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media". I will get it to reread from the library today. Here's an interesting commentary on McLuhan's work: The Medium Is the Message.

"That ain't workin',
That's the way you do it.
Money for nuthin'
And your chicks for free."


Time for me to take off for what my fiancee is calling "my big fat greek thanksgiving." Let's detail the attendees:

-The Duke and Duchess, my fiancee's parents, who are so Republican they would vote for a field mouse if he had a Bush lapel pin attached to his tail.

-The brother-in-law's mother, who views life through a prism of "is it good for Israel. I think she decides on her brand of butter this way.

-Liz and Marty, dot.com limosine liberals in training.

-Sam and Hayley, the children, 5 and 7, of the limosine liberals, and whose table I will be sharing.

-Spin'ster and Spin'ster-in-law with their two adopted girls. Yes, a lesbian couple pledged to each other for life. And two darling chinese neices I will meet for the first time. i'm expecting a whole bunch of cuddle time.

-Jennifer and Max, the fiancee's other sister and her boy. They're Quakers. Max is a serious eight year old, and I'm giving him a copy of a Dave Barry book.

Holy CRAP! Is this hell or is it memorex? Oh, and the picture is the obligatory Bush bashing segment of this post!

Rinse well, folks, and happy turkey day!

Monday, November 22, 2004


A lifetime ago (roughly), I started a mini-career in the operations department at an industrial plant during the construction phase of the facility. Since I had some background and experience in the production processes, I was assigned to the operations staff - in other words, not a plant operator, and not exactly a manager. I was a non-union staffer who wrote the plant operating procedures, among other duties.

Archie was one of the guys who started with the company at roughly the same time as myself. He was a plant operator; a union guy who had to make use of the procedures that I developed. So by necessity, our 'circles' (professional and eventually personal) intersected at quite a few points, and we came to know each other fairly well.

Fast friends? I don't know about that. But we talked a lot. We held late night, third shift bitchfests about many of the same complaints regarding the company, even though we were clearly on opposite sides of the corporate fence. Still, when I needed to know something about the plant from an operators perspective, or when I needed to take the "pulse" in the trenches after I was promoted into the management ranks, Archie was my go-to guy.

We commiserated. We shared a beer or three, off hours. We played on the same softball team. Archie was the first person I sought out after one of our mutual friends, a plant operations supervisor about our own age, died from a heart attack while sitting at home alone. And I celebrated with him when he left the union ranks and took a supervisory position. The guy was good at what he did.

I ran into Archie this past weekend. We hadn't seen each other in quite a few years. I left the company in the mid 1990s for greener pastures and a higher degree of sanity. You know the drill. We went our separate ways.

Seeing Archie for the first time in many years was a bit of a shock. I still navigate in a circle of people from the plant, so I know how things have changed over the years. What was once a very stable company recently went through the umpteenth-senior management reorganization since I left. And they continue to turn the thumbscrews on the employees (particularly on mid-level managers and other non-union staff) every day of the week.

The pressure is extraordinary. I can almost physically feel the pain every time I speak with any ex-associate who still works there. One of my very close friends (and a neighbor) suffered a stress-related heart attack about a year ago - and then the company had the audacity to lay off my friend a month after returning to work. That's the type of workplace the plant has become.

But no one brought it home to me personally like Archie did this past weekend. He's a few years younger than me, but he looks 10 years older. He didn't used to. Ten years ago, he looked like a kid compared to me.

In our fairly short (10 minute?) conversation, he kept repeating the phrase "only 8 more years". He told me, "Richard, I hate to even get up in the morning to go to work."

I said, "Arch, we're not 28 anymore," all the while thinking to myself, 'only 8 more years to what, Archie?' Of course, he was referring to early retirement. What the hell good is early retirement, though, if you don't make it that far?

After nearly a decade away from the plant, even though I speak quite frequently with friends who still work there, I can't imagine what it's like. I left the plant in the mid-90's because it had become such a stressful and difficult place to work. Archie is not unique in my experience. I can physically see how every single one of these former coworkers have been literally stressed and beaten into, for lack of a better word, submission. They're hanging on...for something...for an illusion of security in retirement...for a paycheck next week...damn, I really don't know.

Maybe more to the point, I actually (most days, anyway) enjoy the job I'm doing now. It's the third or fourth job I've held since I left the plant. I'm making less money today than I was 10 years ago, but after meeting Archie this weekend I know in retrospect that it's been worth the sacrifice, and that I made the right decision. I just can't imagine waking up in the morning and dreading the next 10 or 12 hours of my life, and knowing that I'll have to turn around and do it all again the next day.

At least I'm pretty confident I'll make it through (and past) the next 8 years. I'm worried about Archie, though.

Assault Weapons ARE used for Deer Hunting!

I suppose I must now amend my stance on regulating them. This guy sure seems to have bagged his limit.

I love Wisconsin. So peaceful and also a bit liberal:
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources runs a scheme under which hunters can donate their dead deer to feed the state's needy.

So, what will they be doing with those human bodies?

You, too, can make history

So where is all the outrage about the new video game getting its debut today? Of course, today, November 22, was chosen on purpose for this game.

I want equal time! Maybe a video game where you play about a quarter of it and then shove it aside and announce "Mission Accomplished?

Hold it. Maybe they were just waiting for Abbot Vaughn to die before putting across something so dusgusting.

Long Damn Wait for a Table

Jenna and Not Jenna's night out in the Big Apple:

"Freemans, Tuesday night 16th of Nov.: The Bush twins , along with 2 massive secret service men, tried to have dinner. they were told by the maitre'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years. upon hearing, the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots... it was amazing!!! [Ed: We're hearing that this is actually true.]"
Liz, I think you've found a place in the city that you can actually enjoy dinner!

(I'm betting some of the wait staff at Freeman's were severely stiffed during the RNC Convention in August. I've heard stories...)

As Atrios Would Say...


Text Book Revision Marches to Social Agenda

SPRING, Texas — Outside the Spring Church of Christ, a large roadside sign says a lot about the prevailing sensibility in this cordial town. It reads: "Support New Testament Morality."

This is the home and powerbase of Terri Leo, a state Board of Education member representing 2.5 million people in East Texas.

At the urging of Leo and several other members — who describe themselves as Christian conservatives — the board this month approved new health textbooks for high school and middle school students after publishers said they would tweak references to marriage and sexuality.

One agreed to define marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a wife." Another deleted words that were attacked by conservatives as "stealth" references to gay relationships; "partners," for example, was changed to "husbands and wives." A passage explaining that adolescence brings the onset of "attraction to others" became "attraction to the opposite sex."

Leo said she pushed for the changes to combat the influence of "liberal New York publishers" who by "censoring" the definition of marriage were legitimizing same-sex unions...
"Liberal New York"? Where the conservative rallying cry was born on 9/11/01?

We really do need to cut the red states loose. Or need to be cut loose from the red states. Either way works for me. Or maybe we should all stop bitching and start a revolution. I know that the concept works for some folks here (cough cough, Kate, cough...) ;-)

Strengthen The Good

Most of us would agree that it's the small victories in life that make the most overall difference to each of us. Just knowing that we've accomplished some random and anonymous act of kindness during the day improves our overall outlook on life, if not our general mental health. That's the idea behind Strengthen the Good:

STG is the nexus of a network of bloggers committed to raising awareness for small charities around the world. Every three weeks this space highlights a new "micro-charity" - a small, inspiring charity, one with a real face and where $1 makes a difference - and the bloggers in the network link to that post, sending traffic, and awareness, the charity's way.

I ran into STG quite by accident, but I really like the idea and will be promoting their micro-charity concept. It doesn't require big bucks from you, big chunks of time on your part, or an endless stream of fundraising material in your mailbox (snail or e).

Their latest endeavor is a good example. Many of the good folks who visit ASZ are avid readers - that's become abundantly clear over the past months of discussion. If you're like me, though, being an avid reader also means becoming a collector of old books. And as you relegate that last-read book to the bookshelf, it generally collects dust, never to be opened again. Here's an opportunity for you to clear out a box of old books from the attic. Rather than throw them out or donate them to a local ladies auxiliary for their next fund raising bazaar, why not try something completely different that might have a much greater impact? Help build a library for teenagers in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

For sukabi

That article you linked about Planned Parenthood in North Carolina and how the local Public Radio station, WUNC in Charlotte, won't let them use the phrase "reproductive rights" is interesting.

Has WUNC ever heard of Republicans for Choice? As I am marrying a registered Republican who used to serve on the Board of a reproductive healthcare clinic, I know of Republicans for Choice.

Anchors Aweigh!

This could be a general posting about the $388,000,000,000 omnibus spending bill that the GOP-controlled congress passed yesterday. Or, this could be a rant posting about all of the trap doors that were built into this bill, such as opening all taxpayer IRS returns to scrutiny by the "Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees or their agents to review any American's tax return with no restrictions whatsoever". Or even still, this could be a partisan whine posting about Rep. David Obey's (D-Wis) comment that the bill "falls so far from meeting our investment obligations for the future that it could only be brought to the floor by the majority party after the election".

But it's not.

This posting is about the USS Sequoia:

...A floating retreat, the USS Sequoia was one of the places presidents from Hoover to Carter found to escape the rigors of office. Richard Nixon came to the 104-foot-long vessel on perhaps the most difficult moment of his presidency, the day he announced his resignation...

In 1977, Jimmy Carter sold the Sequoia -- "the yacht was a bit too imperial for his down-home presidency," Stamberg reports. In 1999, a collector of presidential memorabilia bought the Sequoia for almost $2 million, restored it, and rents it out now -- for $10,000 a night...

So, why is this posting about the USS Sequoia? First off, I have always been fascinated by this vessel and its history. And it reminds me a lot of Admiral Dewey's flagship, the USS Olympia, which I've toured on several occasions and is now a museum on the Philadelphia waterfront.

Second, included in the aforementioned omnibus spending bill, $2 million dollars is allocated for the government to buy back the USS Sequoia from its current owner. For the life of me, I couldn't figure this one out. Why would the government want to buy back an antique, which would certainly be more expensive to renovate and operate again as the Presidential Yacht than buying, say, a state-of-the-art Hatteras yacht.

But in reading the quoted NPR piece above, it struck me - the words: "too imperial for his down-home presidency", discussing Jimmy Carter's reason for selling the ship. I suppose that's exactly why the GOP-controlled house wants to buy it back for Dubya - the "imperial presidency" thing.

Long Live the King.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Synopsis: Bad, Bad Man

For anyone who doesn't quite understand why the Republican-controlled congress erected a deflector shield around House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this week, Prairie Weather sums up the situation quite nicely, with appropriate linkage to and fro.

DeLay is Boss Tweed on a national scale, and the domed building at the East end of the Mall in Washington, D.C. is his Tammany Hall (different political party, same concept).

What Do YOU Mean When You Say Radical?

I Know What I Mean.

"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."
Henry David Thoreau

(Note: image from here).

Thoreau also said: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Radical solutions --radical -- root -- root of the problem, which is of course not ever the goal in a stasis-seeking and self-replicating system such as is exemplified in the US government and other such systems on the Happy Planet. Really I've not run across more than two people in the last twenty years of my life that understand what the word radical means as I use it. And I keep seeing "smart people" flail about wildly to fix branches of a rotting tree, ignoring the root rot. I wish I could find the quote but I just remembered hearing a speech by Cornell West, where he said something I've said over and over. We are not going to be able to build something better upon the roots of what we have here in the US. The song "Bad to the Bone" comes to mind. The Bible also mentions something similar... about not building upon a bad foundation.... shifting sand.

That said, I happened upon an interview with William Blum at Counterpunch. Blum has a new book out: Freeing the World to Death, which I haven't read, but intend to after reading this interview. It feels all the time to me as if there are few "real" radicals left these days. And of course, since the ShrubCo Junta, it's once again become life-threatening to be so. Imagine how Thoreau or Emerson and others might see today. I've felt pretty lonely... Reading Blum's interview was a good tonic for me. I know I'm not the only old radical... I know there are many of us.

Here at Counterpunch. The Granma Moses of Radical Writing, by Mickey Z.
Quote from the interview: "It's not easy to undo a lifetime of conditioning with a few sentences. How can I match 10000 hours of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and The National Enquirer? In the current edition of my newsletter, The Anti-Empire Report, coming out soon, I write about such people, whom I call the Valueites. There is now thought amongst progressives about reaching such people, trying to win large numbers of them over. This is certainly an understandable goal, but I suggest that we not waste our time, energy, and resources."

Because I Can

A couple of new entries grace the "essential linkage" list today:

Dahr Jamail's blog gives you an independent reporter's "insider" view on events in Iraq. A recommended addition to your daily reading list.

Rox Populi - I've been meaning to blogroll Roxanne for quite some time. Consider it done, Rox.

The Media Drop - recently discovered because they discovered us, a nice little "left slant" non-partisan news compilation blog. [How's that, Tom? ;-)]

And lastly, both Jess and Charlie have linked through to ASZ forever from their respective blogs, so we're finally (and embarassingly belatedly) returning their very generous favors.


Outsourcing Senate Seats

Importing nationally recognized names to run for Senate seats seems to be a political strategery (sic) that both major parties are using more and more each election cycle. Most recently, Alan Keyes (a resident of Maryland) was imported to Illinois in a last minute desperate challenge to Barak Obama. There wasn't any sense that Keyes would be a serious challenger: no, it was more about agenda exposure by the radical right. Keyes was soundly trounced, and a major political figure for the future (Obama) emerged from Illinois.

Lest you think I'm unfairly picking on the GOP for this tactic, during the final year of the Clinton presidency, Big Dog and Hil went hunting for a residence to occupy following their tenure in the White House. The search for a place to live seemed more driven by geographic political compatibility than anything else. Democrats in New York had sent out feelers to Hillary for a Senate run against Rudy Guiliani - but unfortunately, her residence of record wasn't even in the same time zone as the Empire State. So, "Hello, Century 21? I'm looking for a nice Senate seat in move-in condition. What have you got?"

I wonder what the commission was on that transaction?

These are two of the more high profile state-swaps in recent memory, but the practice is occurring more and more frequently to accommodate high profile names and/or specific political agendas.

Now, I was always under the impression (ok, so slap me) that to represent the residents of a particular state, it would make sense that a candidate at least meet state residency requirements, and I'm not talking about renting a U-Stor-It shed or blind post office box somewhere within the state borders. How can a congressional representative (Senate or House) claim to represent the needs of their constituency when they don't even live part-time in the jurisdiction they represent?

Case in point: earlier this week, a story broke which received very little national press - but it caught my attention, particularly given the Senator in question. Rick Santorum (R-Alpha Centauri), who purports to be the junior Senator from PENNSYLVANIA, is actually living with his family in Leesburg, VIRGINIA. He and his wife home school their kids via an internet "charter school", at the expense of Penn Hills School District (PENNSYLVANIA) taxpayers -- $38,000 / year for his five children. The local school board rightly pulled the plug on the Santorum kids this past week.

My questions: what took the school board so long, and are local school district taxpayers demanding a refund from Senator Santorum for prior schooling expenses covering the time his family has lived outside of PENNSYLVANIA? The Santorum's clearly don't qualify for the home schooling option granted them by Penn Hills School District (PENNSYLVANIA), because the family doesn't live in PENNSYLVANIA. And, rather than making a politically suicidal application to the Leesburg, VIRGINIA school district to cover the tuition (an application they could legally make), the Santorum's have decided to cover their own expenses of home schooling their kids.

As a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette editorial points out, "No one should represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate because he once lived here or because he visits all 67 counties every year. A traveling salesman can do that." The editorial paints a pretty shaky picture of Santorum's residency in PENNSYLVANIA.

Is Santorum just hedging his bets? After all, he's up for re-election in the 2006 midterms. If PENNSYLVANIA doesn't work out for this uber-fundamentalist fascist whack job of a Senator, maybe he'll have better luck running in VIRGINIA, where he currently lives.

And in the interim, perhaps the Pa. Democrats can convince Martin Sheen to rent a post office box in Altoona.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Late Friday Family Blogging - The Stonehawks

Yes. I'm coming clean. My children are made of glass.

Actually, it's just a large 4.5' X 3' mixed media piece that I created for my son and his wife when they married in 1997. It's stained glass and other found objects on a boxed masonite canvas. Mixed media stuff is my favorite thing to do along with watercolor, at which I'm a silly dabbler. I have done no new piece in ages. I must. I must. It's one of those sane-making things we Happy Planet Sims can do for ourselves. Creativity. Not for the squeamish.

The back story: Before my son and his wife married they puzzled over the issue of their last name. They didn't want to do the hyphenated thing, and neither wanted their own family names. My son went the whole hog. Went to court and changed his last name to Stonehawk. Published in the papers, made all legal. When they married they became not his family name and not hers. They became the Stonehawks. Their own name.

It was the most assertive thing I'd ever known my son to do in his "life", and I applauded it and him for it. His father's family took it badly, however. He is the only male grandson of seven grandchildren with the family name ... and very much older than the other six little girls. His aunt in particular tried to guilt-trip the hell out of him. Hulkette was very pissed. So was my son. He politely told her to "shove it".

I have the photo now because I've just done major repairs and upgrades to the canvas. Pieces fell off when they moved to a new apartment. I added a little "pocket watch" hanging from a ribbon in the beak of the bird on the moon, and added some flowers in the grass at their feet. I gave my daughter-in-law a heart shaped piece of glass in the appropriate place. I'm not immune to the fantastical notion that such things transcend our paltry three dimensions.

So there it is. Is it art? Not in the sense of a Monet, but it's at least an artifact of our existence.
Note: the heads are done in mirror and are reflecting my kitchen "studio" ceiling and such...

Business is BOOMING!

Afghanistan's opium cultivation jumped 64 percent to a record 324,000 acres this year and drug exports now account for more than 60 percent of the economy, the United Nations drugs office said November 18, 2004. A Pashtun boy is shown walking near poppy fields near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on April 9. Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

Perhaps this is appropriate that I spotted this tonight. After all, Turner Classic Movies was showing The Wizard of Oz. Who can forget Margaret Hamilton's enunciation of the word "Poppies?"

But is this just 64% increase? Not according to sources in Australia, a fervent US ally, using US satellite surveys. They peg the increase at 239%.

Would that the Bush Administration could work that kind of miracle on our economy!

Hacking it in Iraq

Travel to Baghdad from London via Royal Jordanian Airlines? About $800.00 USD. Taxi fare for the 15 mile ride from Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone via taxi? About $20.00. Making it there alive to spend tea time with John Negroponte? Priceless. Or at least $5,000, tip not included:

A 15-mile stretch between Baghdad airport and the city centre is said to be the world's most expensive taxi ride.

Small convoys of armoured cars and Western gunmen charge about �2,750 ($5,108) for the perilous journey.

The route, known as the Qadisiyah Expressway, has become the scene of regular attacks and kidnappings by insurgents.

Security costs have soared in Iraq reflecting the escalating risks for foreign workers...(more)
Here's what's most revealing about this article: all the kings horses, all the kings men, and $200+ billion dollars can't keep a lousy 15 mile stretch of road safe in the most secure part of Iraq.

This whole pre-emptive invasion thing is so not working out.

What If?

U.S., Iraqi Troops Storm Baghdad Mosque:

(AP) - Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, stormed one of the major Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad after Friday prayers, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said...(more)
What if...

(ASZ) - Houston police, backed by Texas National Guard soldiers, stormed one of the major Catholic churches in Houston after Sunday mass, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said...
Apples to oranges comparison, perhaps, but still...

Update, 1:00PM: Patricia from Blondesense pointed me to an unfiltered report of the mosque shootings written by Dahr Jamail in Iraq. I use the term "unfiltered" purposefully -- like anything else being reported from Iraq, I suggest you triangulate, corroborate, and expectorate (as necessary) all reports coming from the warzone.

Group Project

How's this for a group project? The good folks at the uber conservative Heritage Foundation have posted a nice little spreadsheet that details U.S. troop deployments from 1950 to the end of 2003 (most recent stats available, I presume). While I'd like to think I have a decently analytical mind, and I usually parse this kind of schtuff very carefully, I though some folks here might want to take a crack at it without my opinions cluttering your perceptions.

Anyway, here's the link to the Heritage Foundation whitepaper that picqued my curiosity, and here's the link to the spreadsheet detailing troop deployments since 1950.

I'll be more than happy to compile analysis and findings in a future posting. It would be particularly interesting to look at casualty rates -vs- troop buildups in the various conflicts over the timeframe that the deployments are tracked on the spreadsheet.

The Cover of the Rolling Stone it's Not

But I've got something nonpolitical to crow about.

Now, regular readers here will remember my involvement with the fledgling charity Fans Helping Fans. We've been organizing and holding small events for quite a while, and hoping for our big break. Well, today might be the start of that big break, as we got on the cover of the Philadelphia Daily News.

The article even gets everything right, almost, a big leap forward for the Daily News, Philadelphia's "People Paper." For those who don't know, Fans Helping Fans is always the url I link to when making comments. It's a group of Philadelphia Eagles fans who got together and formed a charity to help other fans in emergency need. We were only incorporated in July, but now we've made the front page for the first time. And we'll do it again in ten days when we make our first grant public.

Never Too Early for Thanksgiving Wishes

What in the world can I be thankful for?

Bush is still in power, and it looks like he is replacing all the moderate voices in his Administration with hardliners. Or himself, maybe? Now that's scary, and Thanksgiving is not supposed to be scary!

As many have read, I'm going out to Kalifornia to visit with Spin'ster and her partner, but also with my fiancee's family. In the comments section here it is evidently being billed as "Dining with Wolves." Fear not. The old SpinDentist will turn on the biggest charm offensive since Bill Clinton and have the babies climbing on his lap for hugs.

This isn't a deep post. No railing about Tom DeLay and his criminal actions. No Hallibutron snarky comments. It is more about family values that we all have. I'm dying to meet two little girls, my neices, for the very first time. And I am dying to smother them with uncle love.

OK, potshots at the BushCorp Admin resume tomorrow. Until then, remember to floss.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

And Now...For Something Completely Different

I found a Flash movie tonight. You might like it. You might not. It's not anything gross, disgusting, or yucky. There's no nekkid women (or men). The music is rather loud and obnoxious (but a necessary accompaniment to the movie). I think you have to be a bit of a propeller head to get it, but then again, maybe not.

If you don't like stupid, don't click through.


And, since it seems I'm just farting around tonight anyway without much direction -- remember last week's phenom site, Sorryeverybody.com? It was bound to happen. Another similar site went live the other day, apologiesaccepted.com. Many of the photos and messages from around the world are very heartfelt.

Consider yourself a 49%er.


Look it up.


Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Osama Bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, said he quit the agency last week in part to speak out publicly against the "scapegoating" of the CIA's clandestine services for intelligence failures that lie with US leaders.

When a spook feels threatened and motivated enough to quit a cushy government job in order to speak out about a critically important topic, because he feels it isn't being (or can't be) addressed internally, someone's eyes need to open. Let's be clear -- this recent resignation, among others, is a big deal.

Do I expect spooks to spill their guts about every little internal departmental squabble? Of course not. But I do expect the atmosphere in the agency to be conducive to dealing honestly with these kinds of familial problems behind closed doors.

And DCI Goss...

The head of the CIA has told its employees that they must not "identify with, support or champion opposition" to the Bush administration.

The email to staff by Director Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman, has been seized on by critics...

Several leaks of intelligence relating to Iraq occurred during the recent US election campaign.

Much of it was embarrassing the administration, leading Republicans to say elements within the spy agency were siding with the opposition Democrats.

...is already violating every promise of non-partisanship that he made during his confirmation hearings:

Associated Press, Sept. 14, 2004: President Bush's nominee to be CIA director, Rep. Porter Goss, told critics who say he's too partisan for the job that he understands the importance of independent, objective intelligence, despite his nearly 16 years as a Republican partisan in Congress.

No surprises there. I said back in September that the committee Democrats should be roasted for not holding Goss's partisan feet to the fire. I mean, it's not like the guy didn't wear a known set of political stripes.

And I wonder, just wonder, if this whole nasty soiree could have anything to do with this:

The 9/11 Secret in the CIA's Back Pocket
By Robert Scheer
The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday 19 October 2004

The agency is withholding a damning report that points at senior officials.

It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward." ...(more>

Nah. That would be cynical of me. Wouldn't it? Well, cynical perhaps, but not a stretch in terms of defining the new role of the CIA, when the 9/11 Commission-recommended realignment of the U.S. security apparatus is complete.

Mess O' Potamia

If you have a moment today, definitely take a look at Mess in Mosul at the Slate website. As schizo as the media was before the election, it appears to be even more so now.

There's one disturbing story that's surfaced in the last 24 hours - Porter Goss's recent email to CIA employees - that led me to the Slate site. I'll be writing more about Mr. Goss later this morning.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

For Spin'ster

There's a new study out that will get all those Right Wing Fundie Christian Fascists in a lather. Watch for Hannity and all the rest to focus on this one in the next few days. But it appears on first blush that Teens With Same-Sex Parents Well-Adjusted. Yeah, kids raised by two Moms are pretty much not different at all from kids with a Mom and a Dad.

Better still, I think, though some of those Christian Fundies might not, is this report from down in the bible belt, the New Orleans Times Picayune, which notes. . .

That doesn't mean there aren't differences between children raised by gay parents and those of heterosexual parents, she said.

For example, boys raised by gay parents tend to be less aggressive, more nurturing and more sexually restrained than those raised in heterosexual families. Girls raised by gay parents tend to be more sexually adventurous and self-confident, Stacey said.

In general, the studies say, when children of gay parents become young adults, they are more likely to have had or considered same-sex relationships, though they are no more likely than children of straight parents to identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I'm happy to present good news.

Psst! Spin'ster! Don't worry about the little ones over Thanksgiving. They will be fine. I'll let them pull on my beard.

Add This Site to Your Regular Reading

The headline today is: November Ranks 2nd In Deaths. These guys don't pull their punches, and they have substantial credibility with many on the right. But the stories they cover are not always supportive of the right's agenda, which this week seems to be to attack the reporter who filmed the soldier who shot an unarmed insurgent, or to attack on moral values using the Monday Night Football issue. Yeah, the right's issue now is to attack the media at every turn, rather than to report something like: Army Starts Punishing Reservists. You remember the story, but it is one the Bush Administration would like to keep buried. But this website features it:

The Army has begun disciplining some of the 18 soldiers from a Rock Hill-based Reserve unit who refused orders last month in Iraq to take part in a fuel convoy they considered unsafe.

Lt. Col. Steven Boylan said by phone from Baghdad on Tuesday that the actions could range from relatively minor penalties such as an "Article 15" letter of reprimand to a general court-martial with criminal charges involving prison. Although military officials will not identify the soldiers or their individual punishments, citing privacy laws, one Carolinas family has confirmed what happened to their son.

You see, the website I am recommending actually cares for soldiers. They talk up front about ill-equipped soldiers. You can bet they get the inside scoop on what soldiers think, too. Indeed, soldiers probably read this site more than any other.

Sure, the site has an opinion page that is heavily slanted right, but there's a scathing attack on Porter Goss up there alongside Ollie North's column. The article, by Richard Coffman, takes Goss apart from the point of view of a 31 year CIA veteran.

The site even has some comment on that story that is stirring up all the right-wing pundits, the one about Pentagon To Cut Boy Scouts From Bases . This is yet another of those issues that will be used by the right-wingers to bash the ACLU and the cultural values front, but my new site suggestion deals with the issue even-handedly.

So what's this new site suggestion? It's a tabloid and the last time I saw it was in the supermarket. Well, the supermarket was over at the Base Exchange. You see, the print version of www.military.com is available to every soldier of the United States Military in every base in the entire world.

Read it. It's important.

Now rinse.