Friday, December 31, 2004


I don't expect to be around much more today, so allow me to take this opportunity and wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!

Here's my top five wish-list for 2005:

  1. Whatever tranquility is possible for those who are directly affected by the tsunami.
  2. An end to the conflict in Iraq - one way or the other.
  3. The Philadelphia Eagles finally get over the hump and win the big one.
  4. A Democratic Party senator grows a pair of stones on January 6th.
  5. BushCo finally drops a running chainsaw.
To all of the "regulars" - thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sometimes, it's nice to know that I'm not shouting into a void.

And to Doc, Kate, Forrest and sukabi - without you guys, ASZ is nothing more than a cranky old geezer venting his spleen. There's plenty of that out in Left (and Right) Blogistan already. To steal a line from our friend Patricia, you guys rawk!!

With that said, I raise a virtual toast to more great blogging in 2005!


Bush is consistent with the Right-Wing Clerics

I ran across two stories that once again lead me to the belief that the radical right-wing clerics here in the US are not about compassion at all, but more about political might, if not outright hate. The first concerns a law in Arkansas that has now been overturned. Seems the folks in Arkansas, driven by the right-wing clerics here in the US, made it so that no household with a gay member could foster a child. Thankfully, our courts have overturned the measure, as there is no factual basis for its being protective of children. Nope, this wasn't an equal protection case, but hinged on the Child Welfare Safety Review Board's mission, which is to protect children, and the judge found that such a regulation did no such thing.

Meanwhile, Bill Berkowitz, in a review of US right-wing clerical organizations, finds that none seem concerned by the disaster playing out in the Indian ocean. At least their concern matches that of the President, eh? What's interesting is that most of the sites he mentions lead off with ways of increasing their political power rather than anything to do with compassion.

How the Mighty Fall

Man. A world-class terrorist can't even catch a break these days. Here's the "top ten" Google searches for public figures during 2004:

  1. george w bush
  2. janet jackson
  3. john kerry
  4. britney spears
  5. saddam hussein
  6. kobe bryant
  7. michael jackson
  8. angelina jolie
  9. martha stewart
  10. clay aiken
If When al-Qaida attacks the U.S. again in the future, we now have proof positive why Osama bin-Laden is pissed. He couldn't even break the top 10 of Google's 2004 Zeitgeist Report. During the past election campaign, a lot of people were remarking on how bin-Laden's name never seems to come up anymore, but still - to get beat out by Clay Aiken...listen, if you're the most wanted man on the face of the planet, that's gotta be a huge embarrassment.

Maybe that's why OBL went back into the video production business?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Last (Wo)man Standing

Yeah. This is about right.

Check out Newsday’s article on the last standing abortion clinic in Mississippi, and the lead that the state has taken in the war on reproductive rights.

There used to be seven clinics available to get an abortion. Yet over the recent years, Mississippi has become widely known as a state that is intent on abolishing the procedure from its territory. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is now the last clinic remaining.

Get used to it. The entire country is going to be a Mississippian Theocracy in short order.

Bone Picking With Nick Wadhams

Mr. Nick Wadhams
Cub Reporter, Associated Press
450 W. 33rd St.
New York, NY 10001

Dear Mr. Wadhams,

Earlier today, you filed a report with Associated Press that described a potential problem with Iraqi elections going forward: no poll workers due to threats against their lives. Now, this would indeed seem to be a roadblock to conducting any sort of election.

You sought to backlight the situation thusly:

...The United States, which has said the vote must go forward, has repeatedly sought to portray recent attacks that have killed dozens of people as the acts of a reeling insurgency, not the work of a force that is gathering strength...

I wish to point out that your use of the term, "United States" is entirely in error. Recent polling indicates that in excess of 60% of the U.S. believes the entire situation in Iraq to be totally out of control, and that we've been immersed in a goddamn quagmire from which there is little hope of early escape.

It is entirely appropriate that you, and the Associated Press (apparently, a wholly owned subsidiary of BushCo, LLC) append your earlier release to strike the term "United States" and insert the term "Bush Administration".

Indeed, it's only the Bush Administration that has continually sought to portray (since, oh, about May, 2003) the "insurgency" as "reeling". As a fully vested citizen of the United States of America, I take great umbrage in your implication that I feel that any sort of sham election or vote should go forward in Iraq. Further, I believe your characterization of rebel elements in Iraq as "reeling" is flat out fucking stoopid and panders only to what I would refer to as the "idiot constituency" in America.

Please excuse my excessive reliance on quotations in the above paragraph - I use them only to emphasize the areas of total and complete bullshit that you (and the rest of the media) have continued to highlight in regurgitating press releases from the Karl Rove Ministry of Truth™.

I anticipate your correction within a fortnight.


Richard Cranium, BFD, LSMFT

Demolishing the terminology of the Right's exclusive morality (with a Trojan horse)

Pro-life. Pro-family. Pragmatic. Realistic. Pro-America.

These are all terms that, at least in certain contexts, cause progressives to squirm due to how their meaning has been adapted to correspond only to the conservatives of the United States. However, there are only very few progressives to which the true definitions of these terms could not be applied. We are nearly all pro-family; we understand how edifying a strong, loving family can be upon the youth of the United States. We are all pro-life; we don't take joy in performing abortions, executing inmates, torturting prisoners of war, or trampling the poor. Progressive Americans wish the best for their country; we simply do not place material success over moral success (integrity, honesty, courage, peace) in our priorities.

Due to the effectiveness of the GOP's subtle and primitive mind control, simply "reclaiming" these terms without demolishing the premises upon which their current meanings are based will prove to be quite difficult at best and nearly impossible at worst.

Bringing the public's perception of these terms back to their real meaning is, if not completely necessary to the success of progressives, something that would be very beneficial. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius would argue that this "rectification of names" is absolutely necessary.
If terminology is not corrected, then what is said cannot be followed. If what is said cannot be followed, then work cannot be accomplished. If work cannot be accomplished, then ritual and music cannot be developed. If ritual and music cannot be developed, then criminal punishments will not be appropriate. If criminal punishments are not appropriate, the people cannot make a move. Therefore, the Superior Man needs to have his terminology applicable to real language, and his speech must accord with his actions. The speech of the Superior Man cannot be indefinite.
Book 13, Verse 3 of the Analects**
As truthful as our objections are to the redefintion of such terminology, and the implication this has on the bigger picture, it is likely, that at least for some time, until the precariously built Jenga tower of the Bushistas is brought down, our objections may fall largely upon ears deaf to us, as the redefinition of morality has also resulted in us being written off as corrupting influences.

Historically, one of the most effective means to bring down an enemy was to utilize a mole. It worked for the Greeks in Troy, with their famous wooden horse. It worked for the Philistines in the case of Samson, with Delilah. It must still work, as it is one of the same strategies employed by national intelligence agencies, crime fighting organizations, and terrorist groups worldwide.

We already have our mole. Though deceased, he has already been accepted warmly into the heart of conservativism in our country: the evangelical Christian church. Our mole is CS Lewis.

In the The Abolition of Man, Lewis effectively argues that a number of various moral values exists within each man and woman. These are not values that relate directly to issues of gay marriage, the necessity of war, gun-control, fiscal responsibility, or patriotism. However, they clearly relate to that which is at the root of each of these issues: how we are to treat our fellow humans. Lewis labels this notion as the Tao. This name was chosen to illustrate that the notion is not strictly limited to the West, but rather that it includes the East, and all of mankind.

The method by which Lewis makes his argument is by homing in on the laws/writings of many different civilizations, from antiquity to the present. Among these "civilations" (I use the term loosely here) are included the ancient Egyptians, Norse, Hindu, Jewish (Old Testament), ancient Chinese (including Confucius), Roman, British (via John Locke), early Christian church, Babylonian, ancient Greek, Australian Aborigines, Native American, old Anglo-Saxon, and ancient Indian. The laws/writings are then grouped together by topic, in a means to demonstrate each group was based upon a value inherent to all humans, across many years, miles, continents and racial/ethnic groups.

The main text of The Abolition of Man is very densely written and sometimes difficult to understand, but the Appendices include a compilation of laws/teachings/writings from the civilizations listed above.

The general principles into which Lewis groups the areas of the Tao are
  • The Positive and Negative Laws of General Beneficence (love one another/harm not one another)
  • The Law of Special Beneficence (love one's own family)
  • Duties to Parents, Elders, Ancestors
  • Duties to Children and Posterity
  • The Law of Justice (in the areas of the sexual, honesty, and the courts)
  • The Law of Good Faith and Veracity
  • The Law of Mercy
  • The Law of Magnanimity (liberality in bestowing gifts)
Lewis himself could be properly described as a liberal, as in his day he opposed the idea of legislation that would have made it difficult for non-Christians to be granted divorces at the will of Christians in a secular state. He advocated the notion of creating two very distinct "types" of marriage: the first to be granted by the state, with rules for all marriages; the other to be granted by various churches, in which case the rules would be set by given churches and applied/enforced only upon those who claimed to be members. See the parallels between this view and the debate on gay marriage?

Most evangelicals lack knowledge of Lewis in these areas. Thus the next step for all of us, including me, do a little more research, and make sure they come to know it quite well. They will have two choices then. They can either reject Lewis as they have with other politically-liberal Christians, or they can accept the waywardness of their own attitudes. As one who has grown up in and been schooled for nearly 10 years in evangelical Christian institutions, I do not believe they will find it easy to discard Lewis so easily.

Update: Let's make their heads crack with outrageous amounts of cognitive dissonance. I'm very serious. Spread the word that CS Lewis was a liberal and cite the reasons above and any others that you can find. I'm tired always being on the defense; its time for us to be on the attack now.

**Note: Here is an alternative translation to Confucius' statement on the the Rectification of Names; one that "fits" more today.

Let's get some perspective

The picture is from Sri Lanka, but it could be India, Phuket or Indonesia. Far more than a million people are out of their homes and the death toll is up to 117,000 at last count, with many still missing.

Yes, there's been some complaints about the compassionate conservative response. Is it fair? In 1999 an earthquake struck Northwest Turkey, centered in Izmit. I worked at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross at the time, and our Chapter CEO was tasked to do the US Red Cross PR on-site in Turkey. I briefed him before he left. I'm quite familiar with that disaster. It killed about 14,000 people, and left 200,000 homeless in late summer. The potential for disease was less than in the Indian ocean, as the tropics promote more of that sort of thing. Some of these figures can be found at Yeah, this disaster is anywhere from five to ten times the magnitude of the Turkish disaster. How does Bush's compassion compare to Clinton's?

What was the US response led by Clinton? The quake happened on August 17th, 1999. On August 19th President Clinton ordered three Navy ships from Spain with a compliment of 2,100 marines aboard.

The three "amphibious-ready" ships, the USS Kearsarge, the USS Ponce and the USS Gunston Hall, have about 630 beds, six operating rooms, five X-ray rooms, eight doctors, three dental officers and 88 medical corpsmen.

The 22 helicopters on the ships can provide medical evacuations from the damaged areas.

This report doesn't include monetary figures to compare to Bush's contributions now committed several days after the disaster, but, then, this report from CNN is just three days after the Turkish quakes!

What we have here is the law of unintended consequences, and it will surely bite America in the ass like all other Bush policies have. Surely Bush didn't intend, of course, to be stretched so thin that he had no marines, no hospital ships, and no supplies to send on humanitarian missions. But that's the result. This is called opportunity cost, folks. The opportunity cost of a quagmire is that we are unable to effectively play our role as citizen of the world. And that boy in the picture will not receive the help he and nore than a million others so desperately need.

But I forgot, the Bushies have sold the Iraq quagmire as a humanitarian mission, or tried to do so. What's the count now of deads Iraqi citizens from American munitions?

So there I am in Madrid. . .

There was tons of stuff that could have caught my attention and started me blogging away. I went through the Madrid train station, after all. I saw plenty of policemen with Uzis. There was a Palace big enough to make King George envious. There was Guernica, which I have already called "Fallujah" in another post. There were at least thirty paintings of the crucifixion in the Prado, and there's a comparison to Abu Ghraib just dying to be made, now isn't there? Then there's that confusing painting by Velasquez, Las Meninas, that twists the very notions of perspective that it might very well stand as a metaphor for our current Administration. I even, one day, strolled into a square that was getting the pyrotechnics ready for the celebration of the New Year. Evidently it is custom for children to dress up on that day, so there were fireworks being sold next to masks. The irony was not lost, as we were just a mile or so from that train station.

But, no. While these items might have sparked some good debate, those likages are far too easy. Besides, I was much more impressed by the unassuming Museo Sorolla. It is a museum dedicated to a man perhaps as apolitical as they come, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. And yet, his works are once and at the same time bold and tender, sweet and strong. Perhaps the cheap thing to say is that the only thing he shares with Mr. Bush is "Bastida."

It was tremendously odd to go from the the BBC broadcast of the tragedy in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia and be confronted with a painting such as El bano del caballo, a painting of a nude boy leading a horse out of the surf. On the one hand we see the awesome force of nature, and here with Sorolla's work we see kindness and innocence within that power.

I'm energized and will be blogging regularly soon. Consider this to be the answer to your "What did you do for winter vacation" questions.

Voting Rights = Civil Rights

From Ray Beckerman over at the Ohio Election Fraud Blog:
January 6th is a critical date in American history. It is the last chance this country has to preserve its democracy. If Senators and Congresspeople do not stand up and do the right thing that day, democracy is over in the nation that introduced it to the modern world, and our descent into dictatorship will have been completed.

If the small group of ultra right wing traitors presently in control of the Senate, the House, the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Press, and the manufacture of deliberately unverifiable voting machines, is permitted to stage a second coup d'etat, there will never be "election reform"; this crowd has made it abundantly clear that it respects power, not law. It will have become impossible to rid our nation of this cancer through the electoral process.

Things to do before January 6th:While most of the above are Ohio centric, Florida is still a steaming pile. The BradBlog is covering the Feeney - vote rigging angle, and it's getting hot.

New Mexico isn't without problems either, ever heard of "phantom votes"? Seems they cancel out undervotes -- but don't actually exist. Huh?

It's time to be noisy folks. Get your Senator to contest AND investigate the vote. No more of the hacked up legislation like HAVA - which enabled more unverifiable voting to occur in the form of Diebold, ESS, Sequoia, TriAd, ect. "vote technology". It's time for actual standards to be employed, and a truly non-partisan, auditable, transparent voting system to be implemented.

How Cool Is This?

Yanked once again into irreality

I found this at The Guardian:

Former US attorney general joins Saddam defence team

Ironic and poetic richness... priceless.

Progressives Take Note

A lot of progressives (and Democrats) were very upset when John Kerry threw in the towel early on November 3rd. I think our disappointment can be linked all the way back to Al Gore capitulating to the GOP howling in 2000 - they say they want "every vote counted", but in the end it seems like they just don't want to rock the boat.


Why can't we learn? It isn't about reality, it's about perception. And now in Washington State, Dino Rossi is not just asking for (yet again) another recount, he's asking for a re-vote. His people are pulling a Ukraine right here in the good old U.S.!

And don't think this isn't a well calculated move, fully financed and blessed by the national GOP. The results won't change, and in the end there won't be another election, but that doesn't matter. Rossi is squishing sour grapes (after the GOP tried unsuccessfully to suppress votes in King County). The results of the governor's election in Washington will forever be in question.

Yes, it's an instructive political slice.

There's many a lesson to be learned here, fellow progressives...

If You Haven't Switched...

Totally non-current events related...

I highly recommend Firefox browser, particularly if you're running an older machine. It out performs IE and Netscape by a mile in every possible way. You can download Firefox at:

And for current Firefox users, here's a neat little page with some instructions that will let you speed up Firefox even further...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Lathe of Heaven

I'm still engaged in life. And I'm still here, but I've been letting my significant others at ASZ hold down the fort. I've been remiss. I have a keyboard with a bum space bar, but I'm still here. I've been living and reading Ursula Le Guin, and watching how the world responds to the earthquake and tsunami in SE Asia. In her novel The Lathe of Heaven she quotes a Zen master:
"Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. (Chuang Tse: XXIII)

Yesterday I found this in the LA Times. It's in direct oppostion to my worldview, to a zen way of viewing, but it's an interesting quirky read, and easier from Common Dreams than from the source: Reelection Honeymoon With Voters Eludes Bush, Polls Say It's almost impossible for me to blog "politically" on US issues when we've had Iraq and now we have the global issue of SE Asia's earthquake and tsunami. I am a child of the Happy Planet. True, the US government is killing people in Iraq at a Texas rate... still ...we have our mother The Earth saying, "I was here first".

If you've not already enjoyed Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, I cannot recommend it more highly.
"Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (exept the mind of the pedant), perfection is the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being." H.G. Wells, "A Modern Utopia"
The political fluff-stuff-nonsense-white noise in the print media AND the Internet sources make me fucking nuts in trying to nurture a "still point" in my life. I don't ever want to hear what Mr. Blinky is saying OR doing in Crawford or DC. He is insignificant and irrelevant to me. I have me, my husband, my children and my sister and parents to worry about. Those and the tsunami victims are enough to keep my mind-soul occupied for now. I don't know that that is what you all do, but we all have to do something and I must do something to stay sane... every now and then.

More from Le Guin:

"He was aware that in thus relegating to irreality a major portion of the only reality, the only existence, that he in fact did have, he was running exactly the same risk the insane mind runs; the loss of the sense of free will. He knew that in so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void. But the void was there. This life lacked realness; it was hollow; the dream, creating where there was no necessity to create, had worn thin and sleazy. If this was being, perhaps the void was better. He would accept the monsters and the neccessities beyond reason. He would go home, and take no drugs, but sleep, and dream what dreams might come."

Sleep well, anticipating the turning of the year....

Warning - Too Much Education Causes (gasp!) Liberalism!

In the weeks and days leading up to and following the election there were a flurry of postings about how the Red States stack up against the Blue States as far as IQ and education. There have been several recent stories about religious groups pushing "Intelligent Design", which is creationism decked out in a dress and lipstick, in public schools. Health textbooks are being rewritten to define marriage as a lifelong commitment between "one man and one woman", instead of between loving partners. The list goes on.

Is this over-reaching by a small group of zealots, or is there a concerted effort to purge the educational system of "liberal" ideas? From Smirking Chimp:

It's Happened to a Lot of Good Christians

By Dr. Teresa Whitehurst, CounterPunch

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to a conversation I overheard at Starbucks in Nashville last winter. I was distracted from my work on that cold and rainy night by two young men who sat down in upholstered chairs next to my table. One was talking and the other was listening, in what appeared to be an informal college orientation.

"The only trouble with Lipscomb [a conservative Christian college nearby] is that old man Lipscomb made a rule that the college couldn't have a football team, so that's a bummer. But it's a great school, and you're gonna love it.

"Now you do have to be careful about one thing," he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones, "My professor told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values."
The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.
"If you get a bachelor's degree," the seasoned student reassured, "you'll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master's, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn -- LIBERAL. He's seen it happen to a lot of good Christians."
The young men paused for a moment, shaking their heads at the dangers that lie ahead...

The article goes on...

Justin Pope describes the anti-liberal movement to "balance" college courses with the politically correct and religiously correct rightwing views (justified by research or not), but not just on conservative Christian college campuses:

"Leading the movement is Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a onetime liberal campus activist turned conservative commentator. The group posts student complaints on its website about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors - often in classes.

"Instructors "need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion," Horowitz said. "You can't get a good education if you're only getting half the story.""

One thing that the "liberal, leftists" don't do is take these groups seriously and offer a counter measure - until it's too late. There has been plenty of reaction on blogs and newspaper opinion pieces to each, individual article that has hit the wire about school boards instituting some measure of censorship or discrimination. There is plenty of outrage over censorship issues, or teaching that slavery was "a good thing". But as one incident fades and another one takes its place it is treated as an individual event instead of a series of events that may be connected. What is lacking is a coordinated effort to investigate what and who is behind this "movement" to undermine public education.

Another Day in Paradise: Part 1,324

12/29/04 Aljazeera: Dozens killed, wounded in Mosul fighting
US troops backed by warplanes have clashed with anti-US fighters in the Iraqi city of Mosul, after being attacked by bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

12/29/04 KUNA: ?Iraqi police find dead body of Al-Anbar''s deputy governor
Iraqi security forces found Wednesday the dead body of Al-Anbar's Deputy Governor Moayad Marwan who was kidnapped Tuesday and killed hours later in Al-Ramadi town, Iraqi police said.??

12/29/04 FEZA: Turkish Truck Driver Killed in Northern Baghdad
Police sources report that a Turkish truck driver was killed by armed people south of Samarra. US army sources said that two people working for the US army, one a female engineer, were killed and their corpses were found near Tikrit.

12/29/04 Reuters: Two Lebanese kidnapped in Iraq
ARMED men burst into a house in the upscale Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansour overnight and seized two Lebanese businessmen, police said.

12/29/04 Reuters: US army kills 25 insurgents in Mosul
American troops battled insurgents in the Iraqi city of Mosul, killing around 25 guerrillas in clashes after being attacked by suicide bombs and RPG'S. 15 U.S. troops were wounded in the clashes, none of whom had returned to active duty.

12/29/04 Aljazeera: Clashes in Mosul after massive bomb attack
Witnesses said a fuel truck exploded next to a building in southern Mosul that US troops have occupied since last month. After the blast, heavy machinegun fire could be heard in the area and warplanes flew overhead. There was no word on casualties.

This is just a small window for today - links from here.

Wanna Buy an Airline? Cheap?

Oh, Yeah. This will work.

On the heels of their Christmas debacle, USAirways is asking employees to work for free over the New Year's weekend.

USAirways is sooooooo toast.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bankrupt US Airways on Wednesday said it is asking nonunion employees who are not scheduled to work over the New Year's weekend to volunteer to work for free at its Philadelphia operations.

And of course, most of my frequent flier miles are on USAirways. Story of my life.

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

...a few pounds of that missing 380 tons of RDX high-explosive has surfaced:

A powerful blast destroyed a house in western Baghdad during an overnight police raid that turned into a devastating ambush. It flattened nearby buildings and killed at least 28 people, including seven Iraqi officers.

...An Iraqi police official said the attack was evidently an ambush and that massive amounts of explosives were used.

The attack happened late on a day that had already seen about two dozen police and other Iraqi security force personnel killed...

July, 2003:

"There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there," Bush told reporters at the White House. "My answer is: Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation."


A Little Tsunami Linkage

As you're probably aware, the toll keeps climbing in the Asian tsunami disaster. Without telling you something you don't already know, ASZ isn't the best place on the web to get a sense of what's going on over there. However, here's a quick guide to some up-to-date information that I've found over the past few hours:

Unfiltered, non-American-centric news update: BBC News - Asia Quake Update

Raw video footage: here, here, and here. (Warning - not terribly dialup friendly, as these are fairly large Windoze media files.)

Best ongoing disaster blog commentary: Steve Gilliard

Best commentary on commentary from a fellow Garden Stater, and how you can help: Brilliant at Breakfast (also, click through to the B@B main page for more...)

Sixth Sense: The animals knew something was up

Stingy: A great article on opportunitic "journalistic" hackery. I mean, we already know the fringe-right wingnuts want to get rid of the U.N. How's a disaster that kills scores of people sound like for an excuse?

If anyone has more links (timely and newsworthy) to add that aren't covered in the above, leave them in the comments and I'll hook 'em up.

Update, 10AM: My own comments - we're getting to the point where numbers are both meaningless and devastating, in terms of human impact and relief efforts. I just heard the number 71,000. It's hard to process that -- a death toll equivalent to the entire population of Venice, Italy. No amount of relief effort is going to help such a wide area of the globe recover anytime soon.

Update, 12:40PM - Caveat Emptor
A quick word of warning (like any of you smart people need it anyway...)

In situations such as the disaster in Asia where we have little to no individual direct control of events, it's natural to heed the call for donations and assistance. Opportunities to donate for tsunami / earthquake relief are sprouting like mushrooms after a summer rain. But like any distaster of any magnitude, the charlatans and ripoff artists abound. Someone will try to make a buck out of someone else's misery.

Before you click that "donate" button, conduct a little due diligence on the organization you're funding. If you're at all unsure about the legitimacy of an organization, heed your bullshit detector, and stick with credible relief efforts being organized by outfits such as American Red Cross / Red Crescent or OxFam International.

Also, on TV I'm seeing people collecting toys, food, clothes, etc. Use your brain. Even the most well-intentioned individuals who are spearheading such relief drives don't know what they're getting into. It will be months (if ever) before any of these hard goods make it to the affected area. These items are still well available in the affected areas -- it's the money that's critical.

Just some unsolicited advice from someone who's been there before...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

L-Dopa for Understanding the War on Terra™

Jonathan Raban has written a stunningly succinct article, The Truth About Terrorism, for the January 13, 2005 New York Review of Books. When I use the word "succinct" in the context of describing this article, I'm not trying to impart that the article is short (it's not) or a great soundbite type of report (far from it). I'm trying to convey that even in its length, the article gets to the point so much faster than reading Against All Enemies, or Imperial Hubris, the 9/11 Commission Report, or a biography of Osama bin Laden.

The Truth About Terrorism is the Cliff Notes of the Bush/Cheney faux war on terror.

There are a couple of passages that simply slam home the concept of duplicity being exercised by the Bush Administration. The first example that Raban brings to the table is the case of Bush advisor Richard Pipes. Back in September, Pipes seized on the Beslan school massacre in Russia thusly in a NYTimes op-ed:

The attacks on New York and the Pentagon were unprovoked and had no specific objective. Rather, they were part of a general assault of Islamic extremists bent on destroying non-Islamic civilizations. As such, America's war with Al Qaeda is non-negotiable. But the Chechens do not seek to destroy Russia, —thus there is always an opportunity for compromise.

This is the kind of bullshit that America's being fed. It's quite OK for another country (not of our own basic liking) to negotiate with terrorists. In fact, Pipes was almost going overboard in saying that the Chechen rebels who caused the massacre had legitimate grievances that the Russians should consider. As opposed, of course, to the U.S. and Osama bin-Laden. Pipes continues the lie that al Qaida and bin-Laden just hate freedom: they don't like us or our way of life. Raban then blows this theory all to hell with bin-Laden's exact demands and words:

There's no mention of American values in bin Laden's call for the removal of US bases from Saudi Arabia (a demand that has since been quietly met) and for an end to "the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post," or in his indictment of the American "endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula."

Michael Scheuer, the recently de-cloaked author of Imperial Hubris, receives a great deal of attention in the article. Chillingly, Raban recounts a warning from Scheuer that sounds amazing like what transpired in Fallujah - and consider that Scheuer's opinion was being committed to the written word some 18 months before the November blitzkrieg of Fallujah occurred:

Scheuer warns of huge body counts on both sides that "will include as many or more civilians as combatants," "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure," land mines to seal borders and passes, "displaced populations, and refugee flows." "This sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world."

Scheuer's al-Qaeda is more frightening than the versions offered by ideologues like Norman Podhoretz or by dot-connecting terrorist hunters like Richard Clarke because it is an entirely rational enemy, motivated by causes just as dear as those that drive Americans. It is bent, as we are here, on defending its own liberties in its homelands; it is amply armed, and is equipped with a better understanding of the strategies of fourth-generation warfare than Americans yet possess.

What Raban is saying is that you ain't seen nothin' yet. U.S. strategists haven't even started to assimilate the learning curve in 4th generation warfare. By the time they do, the body count is going to be higher, much, much higher. 4GW? Haw! The U.S. military is still married to many of the same tactics that George Patton used in order to get to Bastogne sixty years ago! Shock and awe, indeed.

Now, link the concepts conveyed above with the words expressed by Saddam Hussein in an alleged recent interview, which ran today in the Egyptian and Tunisian press (hat tip to regular ASZ reader "Uncle $Scam"). Whatever cold thoughts you previously harbored will become even more chilled. When I first read the "Saddam interview", my initial reaction was that it was great Islamic propaganda, probably played well on al-Jazeera, but was filled with a lot of boasting half-truths. Here's a snippet:

Doule�mi: In this context, there are remarks of Kofi Annan who said that this occupation is illegal.

Saddam: This is something important , it is necessary to keep it for the History. Kofi Annan cannot take any more of the American lies. If God wants it, Bush will be lonely after the whole world will know that he is a liar. He will leave Iraq by the small door because Iraqi Resistance is well prepared. It was prepared quite ahead of war. I had joined together the military and political commands and we had prepared this new page of the war against the Americans. What arrives today is not the fruit of chance.

But after reading Raban's article, the big picture starts to coalesce a little more, all of a sudden the light flickers on, and...

"Fuck! BushCo knows this shit. They've known this shit all along!"

Yes, gentle reader, they do. And yet the Bush cabal continues to play the "freedom is on the march" card. They're pretending to gamble with house money, while sneaking back to the credit window at the world casino again and again, hoping to pull to an inside straight to cover their debts. Trouble is, they've built enough plausible deniability into the whole scam to escape relatively unscathed when the markers are finally called in.

Submitted for your approval: the bottom line of Jonathan Raban's article is that 9/11 was not about American "values". 9/11 was fundamentalist Muslim response to U.S. government imperialism and meddling in the internal affairs of the middle east.

And now, the War on Terra™ doesn't (or can't) wind down until Mesopotamia becomes the fifty-first of these United States.

Postscript: I chose the title for this posting in honor of Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose seminal work with L-dopa in "awakening" catatonic patients was portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie, “Awakenings”.

Ed. note: For those of you who originally read this posting Tuesday night, I re-wrote the ending Wednesday morning because it just didn't flow right. Like all of my postings here, this one is a work in progress.

Surfing the Ministry of Truth

I'll confess it's been awhile since I watched the cable news nets - nearly two months. This afternoon, I was actually hoping to get an update on what was going on in Asia. Slap me and call me silly. Here's what I saw in roughly 1/2 hour of channel surfing:

CNN: Judy Woodruff was gushing over Bush being picked as the "most admired American". I didn't stick around to see what the hell was up with that. As I clicked the remote, my head was swimming: most admired for what? For skipping out on his National Guard duty? For smirkingly executing hundreds of prisoners on death row during his term as Texas Governor? For eschewing "nation building" in his first presidential run, knowing full well his administration was planning to do just that if he was elected? Turning a major government budget surplus into a historic deficit in less than 3 years? (Yes, he did that in 2003, and again in 2004.) Sending over 1300 American men and women (and countless thousands of Iraqi civilians) to their untimely deaths for a lie? Yeah, I guess there's a lot to admire there, Judy.

CNBC: I'm not familiar with the blow dried bimbo who was anchoring Closing Bell this afternoon, but she had economist and op-ed guy Paul Krugman on the show. Krugman was trying, over all of her protestations, to explain in simple, clear terms why potential Social Security issues were, at best, a distant third in terms of priority if BushCo was looking at the big picture. The deficit was number one, followed by Medicare / Medicaid, and then (maybe) Social Security. The bimbette kept trying to trap Krugman into saying that SS was a problem, using old figures and absolute worst case scenarios, but Krugman was having none of it. He took the bimbette to school, basically. She asked repeatedly why he didn't think the deficit could be halved in 4 years. He kept telling her to do the simple math. When the segment was over, it was like she finally gave up - Krugman did a stellar job of bitchslapping the bimbo.

MSGOP: Does anyone still watch this network? Why? They were prattling on and on about this past weekend's airline woes, and how sucky the airlines have become. Yeah, I think that justifies the (at least) five minutes worth of my life that I wasted watching Fox-verylite. 50,000+ people dead, and I'm watching folks whine about lost luggage.

Fox: Neil Cavuto's on vacation, so the heavyset dude with the Aussie accent was doing the show. He was worse than Cavuto; unfortunately, no barf bags were immediately available in my kitchen. He and a panel of UN-bashers weren't discussing the calamity of 50,000+ killed in the tsunami, and the obvious humanitarian crisis that builds by the hour, but spent their time lambasting the U.N. spokesperson who said the U.S. was "stingy" in it's relief response to the crisis. It was all well planned - the charts and graphs that compared (basically) apples to oranges in terms of relief efforts had obviously kept some graphics guy up all night last night. I'm betting that the later Fox shows actually lay total waste to the unfortunate U.N. spokesperson.

Now you know why I haven't even thought about watching broadcasts from the Ministry of Truth for a couple of months. It may be even longer before the next time that I chance surfing through Maximum Leader's cable outlets.

Ok, after all of that, I still came back to the web to search for updates on the disaster. The death toll is up over 52,000 right now, and word is that the toll could easily double in the coming days. I'm hoping that tonight's BBC newscast gives me some real info.

And I couldn't let this commentary pass without at least one more parting shot -- as I kind of expected, the "end-timers" are picking up on the tsunami theme as another indicator of the approaching apocalypse (google "Luke 21:25" if you don't believe me). They're waiting for the mothership to arrive at any moment. You can peek into the end-timers take on this event here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and just in case you were wondering: the Rapture Index is now at 155. Ahem.

Jack Van Impe's show this weekend promises to be a high-octane, olde tyme fire and brimstone gas. (For those of you unfamiliar with Van Impe, he's one of the original four horsemen of the apocalypse, and is only about 1/2 step to the left of the late Marshall Applewhite.)

A Personal Political Diagnostic

Where do you fit?

Lord knows I've taken plenty of online "tests". Most are just goofy as hell (which Simpson are you?), but I ran into one this morning that is as thought provoking as it is long. And the end result surprised me a bit.

The Political Compass analyzes responses to a variety of personal beliefs (economics, social, government), and then charts the overall results on an x-y axis. What's as interesting as the end result is seeing who you share political space with. My guess is that most regular ASZ readers would land in the same quadrant as me - economically libertarian and socially to the left.

The most eye-opening result for me was how extreme I track in both instances: -6.5 in economics, and -5.69 on the social scale, which puts me in some very august company (the Compass gives examples of public and historic figures who occupy each quadrant). I express surprise because I don't consider myself an "extremist" in any sense of the word.

Political Compass is an exercise in self-analysis, and well worth the investment of a little time. Feel free to share your results and analysis in the comments. I'll add some more of mine later.

(P.S. - on the Simpsons quiz? I'm Homer. I think my ideal gift of a cool, refreshing Duff kind of tipped the scale on that one...)

Monday, December 27, 2004

Election Theft - Quickie Update

The suit that Kerry-Edwards was going to file on Wednesday was filed this afternoon.

On Monday afternoon, Kerry-Edwards' state counsel for Ohio filed a motion in to preserve evidence related to the state's presidential recount, RAW STORY has learned. Specifically, the motion seeks to preserve all ballots and voting machines for investigation and analysis, and to make a Triad Election Systems technician available for a sworn deposition. Triad had previously been accused of tampering with voting machines in Ohio....

Meanwhile, Blackwell refuses to be interviewed.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has requested a protective order to prevent him from being interviewed as part of an unusual court challenge of the presidential vote.

Blackwell, in a court filing, says he's not required to be interviewed by lawyers as a high-ranking public official, and accused the voters challenging the results of ``frivolous conduct'' and abusive and unnecessary requests of elections officials around the state.

Another republican who thinks he's above the law ...this is getting ridiculous.

The Ohio Election Fraud blog weighs in with this piece from the Columbus Free Press:
What Are They Hiding??? Major television networks refuse to release data to Congressional inquiry

...As of yet it's been hard to explain why the controversies in Ukraine make the headlines, but when similar problems are discovered at home, you have to scour the Internet to find the information.

It certainly isn't for lack of events on which to report. Members of The House Judiciary Committee have been meeting regularly reviewing evidence of systematic voter suppression and voting machine tampering. A coalition of lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the Bush campaign citing deliberate manipulation of votes. Sworn testimony and signed affidavits have implicated companies, individuals, and a Florida congressman.

And as always The Brad Blog is diligently reporting on new developments.

Update: The Free Press has an update on the Blackwell story, it seems Mr. Blackwell refused to appear at a deposoition yesterday, Dec. 27.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell refused to appear at a deposition on Monday, December 27. The deposition was part of an election challenge lawsuit filed at the Ohio Supreme Court. Meanwhile John Kerry is reported to have filed a federal legal action aimed at preserving crucial recount evidence, which has been under GOP assault throughout the state.

Richard Conglianese, Ohio Assistant Attorney General, is seeking a court order to protect Blackwell from testifying under oath about how the election was run. Blackwell, who administered Ohio's November 2 balloting, served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

James R. Dicks, Miami County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, filed a motion to block a subpoena in his county while Conglianese filed to block subpoenas in ten key Ohio counties.

President George Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney and White House Political Advisor Karl Rove received notice that they will be deposed Tuesday and Wednesday, December 28 and 29. The trio's Ohio attorney, Kurt Tunnell, so far claims his clients have not been properly served. Under Ohio law, the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court is responsible for serving the three with subpoenas.

Ask your senators to support an election investigation!, and the link to the actual petition is at

Update 2: Gathering in Chicago on December 30th at 5 PM to Petition Barak Obama to Permit Challenge to Ohio Electors

And via the 2004 Election Fraud blog we get this continuous vigil outside the Kerry residence, and another petition to not certify the vote.

That should satisify the activist in all of us... for a while.

Moyers on "The Media" and Democracy

This morning I came across this speech Bill Moyers gave on the state of the media and its' impact on democracy. Read, listen or watch the entire piece, it's well worth the time.

...God knows we need some “media reform.” I’m sure you know those two words are really an incomplete description of the job ahead. Taken alone, they suggest that you’ve assembled a convention of efficiency experts, tightening the bolts and boosting the output of the machinery of public enlightenment, or else a conclave of high-minded do-gooders applauding each other’s sermons. But we need to be – and we will be – much more than that. Because what we’re talking about is nothing less than rescuing a democracy that is so polarized it is in danger of being paralyzed and pulverized.

Alarming words, I know. But the realities we face should trigger alarms. Free and responsible government by popular consent just can’t exist without an informed public. ...Only 13% of eligible young people cast ballots in the last presidential election. A recent National Youth Survey revealed that only half of the fifteen hundred young people polled believe that voting is important, and only 46% think they can make a difference in solving community problems. We’re talking here about one quarter of the electorate. The Carnegie Corporation conducted a youth challenge quiz of l5-24 year-olds and asked them, “Why don’t more young people vote or get involved?” Of the nearly two thousand respondents, the main answer was that they did not have enough information about issues and candidates. Let me rewind and say it again: democracy can’t exist without an informed public. So I say without qualification that it’s not simply the cause of journalism that’s at stake today, but the cause of American liberty itself. As Tom Paine put it, “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.” He was talking about the cause of a revolutionary America in 1776. But that revolution ran in good part on the energies of a rambunctious, though tiny press. Freedom and freedom of communications were birth-twins in the future United States. They grew up together, and neither has fared very well in the other’s absence. Boom times for the one have been boom times for the other.


Democracy Now has the full transcript, there are also links to audio and video streams. Bill Moyers: "Our Democracy is in Danger of Being Paralyzed"

Update: 'Falluja and the disappearing media' - I'm throwing this into the mix as an example of MSM failure/complicity in the Iraq debacle.

Gadafy / Quadafi / Daffy Duck

An interesting observation on Moamar of the Many Tents and Chimp of the Brush Hogs from Ryan at A Man Could Stand Up.

(Okay, so it's a slow day at work...sue me.)

Pro-life? Prove it.

No tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean and affected countries
SINGAPORE : A tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean could have saved thousands of lives after the Sumatra earthquake.
But the system does not exist currently, because tsunamis are a rare occurrence in the region.
Here is an idea for progressives and "pro-life" majority in this country. Maybe the United States could take a small chunk out of its military budget, the amount being spent in Iraq for the war, and the paying of no-bid contracts for Dick Cheney's retirement and instead help these affected nations to develop a reliable early warning system. I'm not too familiar with the history of natural disasters, but I would think this is easily one of the most deadly ever. Its true that tsunamis like this are very rare, but we have the technology to help save some lives in these occurrences, and there is no excuse now for other nations to lack this type of system.

The death toll for this catastrophe has now risen to over 24,000. And if the current trend continues, this number is old news. It seems that everytime I've heard or seen a report that gives a number, I'm immediately able to find another report with a larger number. But I'm not going to look for more such reports anymore... its far too depressing.

Update: Tsunami Death Toll Climbs to 52,000 & WHO: Disease Could Double Asia Death Toll

Tsunami Photos

Dec. 27, 2004

Welcome to All Spin Zone!

While you're here, please visit our main page for more tsunami relief updates and general blogging and chatter about politics and current events.

The unfolding magnitude of the disaster spawned from yesterday's Indian Ocean tsunami is simply overwhelming. From Joe Gandelman's Moderate Voice comes a link to these pictures and on-scene blogging from Thailand:

Post-tsunami photos

Tsunami blogging

Photos of the tsunami in progress (password = abc123)

Once again, the blogosphere beats the mainstream media to the punch.

Update, 7:55PM: Here's a link to a new website on the SE Asia tsunami, which includes news, updates, and information on relief efforts.

Update, 1/2/2005: Further ASZ tsunami blogging can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Juggling Chainsaws

In a previous post, I scratched the surface in describing the number of chainsaws that the Bush administration is concurrently juggling. In my personal recollection of political history, I can't find one instance where an administration was trying to keep so many core issues in the air at the same time. From Iraq to Social Security, from judicial appointments to same sex marriage, the Bush administration is dealing with a dizzying array of cultural, political, and policy problems.

There has to be a limit to the skill of the juggler, when one more roaring McCullough becomes one implement of destruction too many, and the whole act comes crashing down. It's a given that at some point, someone is going to lob another running chainsaw into the mix - and the whole juggling act will fall apart.

In a recently famous (unattributed) quote from a BushCo official, the wankers-in-charge are creating their own realities. We at ASZ have cast those realities as "Bizarro World", a reference inspired by Superman comics rendition of a looking glass into the human condition where up is down, right is left, and the insane is sane.

Without my having to cite specific examples from just the past week, folks, we're already there. When the Democratic Party of FDR and JFK has apparently decided to abandon support of Roe-v-Wade; when one of my great hopes for the future (Harold Ford) has determined that dismantling Social Security is a good thing, we've arrived.

It's December 27th, 2004, and we're about as close to the bottom as we can get.

Which means that everything looks up from here.

Why do I make such a bold proclamation? Because the dam has to burst sometime soon. The 51%'ers who looked at Bush during the past election cycle and determined that he was the best option between two mediocre candidates are already having second thoughts. Buyer's regret, if you will. His own job performance numbers and crumbling support for the situation in Iraq clearly indicate that he's heading for some rough waters. His minions in Congress will look at the local numbers and start to increase distance. Bank on it.

We've tossed around the impeachment option here, and decided that a GOP-controlled House and Senate is not going to impeach Bush under any circumstances. He could be nabbed with kiddy porn on the Oval Office computer, and he'd still skate, because someone would make up an excuse for him. That's been the story of his life.

And yet, I remain delusionally optimistic that the sum of Bush's transgressions will result in an awakening of his base and an affirmation by his detractors that what George Bush represents is not a reflection of America, despite what the past election might imply. "Bush Unchained" is not what returned him to office. A lack of true vision by the DNC and Kerry Campaigns is what set up Bush's bare majority election theft.

As progressives, it's now our mission to say, "I told you so" to both major political parties.

But beyond "I told you so" lies a challenge to lay out a better vision for where we go from here. That's been the most frustrating thing for me since November 2nd. In my heart, I know the answer, but in my gut, I know my answer isn't what the 51%'ers (or many of the 49%'ers, for that matter) want to hear - that leadership is fallible, and that sometimes, kneejerk decisions made in an effort to pander to core beliefs are just plain wrong.

When BushCo finally drops the chainsaws that they're juggling, and public opinion allows progressives regain some steerage of a government run amuck, we have to be ready to stand for something.

What is that "something"? And where do we start?

If I ever figure out the answer to either of those questions, I'll let you know...

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Really Stupid Question

I'm sitting here tonight at my computer desk, working on an extensive piece for later posting. I have my legs folded up in my office chair "indian style", typing with my left arm resting on my left knee, and my right arm supported by the instep of my left foot.

Question: Am I weird, or just really limber for someone 50 years old?


Bush's Watergate?

On the heels of the ACLU release of an email and memo trail last week, the Washington Post reports in today's edition that 10 current and former detainees at the American Gulag in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have retained attorneys and lodged complaints:

Further Detainee Abuse Alleged :

At least 10 current and former detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have lodged allegations of abuse similar to the incidents described by FBI agents in newly released documents, claims that were denied by the government but gained credibility with the reports from the agents, their attorneys say...

...Brent Mickum, a Washington attorney for one of the detainees, said that "now there's no question these guys have been tortured. When we first got involved in this case, I wondered whether this could all be true. But every allegation that I've heard has now come to pass and been confirmed by the government's own papers."

Between this, tied to Abu Ghraib, and the ongoing investigation of the Valerie Plame outing, I have to believe that there's some serious shit bubbling just below the surface. The ACLU info that sukabi and I posted about earlier this week received some good feedback, and you can pick up linkage to the ACLU documents from those threads. If there's any justice in this life, the denial-heads in Washington are going down in flames over these war crimes, along with the denier-in-chief.

Nixon rode into his second term with Watergate hanging over his head, yet it still took some time for the case to mature. We can only hope that the wheels of justice continue cranking. The stories can't be buried forever.

Can they?

The Day After (and your Sunday Naomi)

Hope everyone had a great day yesterday...even with the holiday, certainly a lot has been happening around the world. We wake this morning to an unfolding disaster in the Pacific Rim, caused by a large magnitude offshore earthquake and subsequent tidal wave. Update, 12/27/04: Joe Gandelman @ Moderate Voice has a stellar roundup of Asian (and other) blogs who are directly following this disaster.

I'm not sure what BushCo could have had to do with this, but one of our valued readers proposed the scenario posed at this link as a possibility (me, I'm more of a 'mother nature acting up' kind of guy). Here's another link for discussion and breaking news regarding this crisis. The death toll is currently pegged at 7,000, rising by the hour, and is expected to increase dramatically in the coming hours and days.

Domestically, George and Laura had a peachy Christmas at Camp David; they're heading out to clear some brush in Tejas today. Did you forget to send a card to Maximum Leader? Tsk, tsk. Anyway, ML called for "compassion toward the sick and suffering" in his annual Christmas address, urging Americans to volunteer to help the neediest among their fellow citizens. Hey, George, did you forget that more than 45 million uninsured are relying on faith-based healthcare? They're praying they or their families don't get sick, because they can't afford it. I hope a midwife or two heeds his call.

Meanwhile, the replay of the disputed election in the Ukraine is taking place today. Interesting how a bit of civil unrest can throw the results of a fradulent election into doubt. Also interesting is the fact that Bush's good friend Vlad Putin has backed away from his homeboy, and is now vowing to work with whoever is selected. In the rerun of the Ukraine election, the winner seems pretty much predetermined - all reports point to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenkol as the probable winner - but the Ukraine will be left with its own version of red state / blue state.

And finally, no Sunday would be complete without a bit of kibbutzing from my favorite citizen of the world and progressive pundit, Naomi Klein. Today, Naomi posits that the U.S. government is now deploying the "Pottery Barn Defense" in its failure to acknowledge failure, and throwing good money (and lives) after bad in Iraq.

Have a cup of coffee on me, and enjoy your re-entry to the real world. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and crappy planning on our part, a parachute to ease your re-entry is strictly optional and at your own expense. Kind of like personnel and military vehicle armor in Iraq, if you think about it.

(P.S. - Haloscan is being a cranky bitch today...just keep after it...if you're moved to comment, it will work eventually. Try reloading if the comment window doesn't open properly the first time.)

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Do They Know?

Back in 1984, a group of musicians got together and performed a song for African hunger relief. Around this time of the year, you can flip the dial on the radio and hear it about every 10 minutes. While it was written for a specific cause at the time, the sentiment behind the song is as true today as it was 20 years ago. Substitute another area of the world, another conflict, another cause, and the feelings expressed in "Do They Know It's Christmas" are what reside at the core of every person who considers themselves a "progressive".

Is it OK to be selfish today and put the rest of the planet out of our minds? Of course. I don't think anyone could cognitively function while in a constant state of handwringing over the condition of the human species in general, or political misfortune in the U.S., in particular.

But there is a bigger picture than a Hallmark Christmas. Our collective good fortune to be born into relative Western affluence doesn't absolve us of working to right the wrongs we perceive, in whatever capacity we can. Whether it's shouting into the void of cyberspace, marching in civil protest against the status quo, or accepting a personal mission someplace where it's needed, just for the sake of the need itself. That is what the spirit of this day is about.

It doesn't matter a whit if one is Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, Muslim, Jewish, athiest, or any spiritual destination in between; the core message of the story of Jesus is exceedingly simple (and so, so missed by the old testament fundamentalists who are running this country hell-bent-for-leather into the ground):

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

From my heart, I wish everyone in ASZ's wonderful community a happy and safe Christmas - and I relish the opportunity to be sand in the gears of the machine in the coming year. ;-)

It's Christmastime,
there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime,
we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmastime

But say a prayer,
pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it's hard,
but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window,
and it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them
instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life(Oooh)
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Here's to you raise a glass for everyone
Here's to them underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Holly Jolly Open Thread

I don't know how much anyone's going to be around over the next 24 - 48 hours, so jussssst in case, here's an open thread to stick in your peace pipe and smoke.

Remember, we didn't start the fire.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Let's All Make Merry!

Isn't that what this holiday is all about? Isn't it about being merry and lots of fun music written so everyone can sing them?

Evidently the right wing clerics of the Republican Party think Mr. Bush is wrong to have his White House celebrate as such, at least according to worldnetdaily. It seems these folks are not beneath putting as much pressure as they can on the Shrubster. As far as I'm concerned, and have expressed for a long time, he's hooked up with people who have no morals, just as the neocons have none. Here's how the "journalism" in worldnetdaily puts it:

While President Bush was re-elected last month in an election victory many attributed to an outpouring of support by evangelical Christians impressed with his candid outspokenness about his faith, some Americans notice the White House website lacks even a single mention of Jesus, whose birth is celebrated by hundreds of millions worldwide Dec. 25.

The official White House site proclaims this as the "Season of Merriment and Melody" – not the birth of the Savior of the world.

It won't be long before these folks will be howling like the devil to whip young Georgie into line. The evidence mounts daily, if not worldnetdaily. And, no, as disgusting as their lack of gratitude towards their chosen leader is, it is far from surprising.

I've been away a while, having now completed my move to Philly, and I thought I'd leave you today with some lyrics of a progressive Christmas tune. This is one those folks wouldn't touch, that's for sure, but heard on Stan Rogers' Between the Breaks . . . Live! it will bring you to tears:

First Christmas

This day, a year ago, he was rolling in the snow
With a younger brother in his father's yard.
Christmas break - a time for touching home
The heart of all he'd known, and leaving was so hard -
Three thousand miles away, now he's working Christmas Day
Making double time for "the minding of the store"...
Well, he'd always said he'd make it on his own
He's spending Christmas Eve alone.
First Christmas away from home.

She's standing by the train station, panhandling for change
Four more dollars buys a decent meal and a room.
Looks like the Sally Ann place after all,
In a crowded sleeping hall that echoes like a tomb
But it's warm and clean and free and there are worse places to be,
And at least it means no beating from her Dad
And if she cries because it's Christmas Day
She hopes that it won't show...
First Christmas away from home.

In the apartment stands a tree, and it looks so small and bare
Not like it was meant to be
The Golden Angel on the top, it's not that same old silver star
You wanted for your own
First Christmas away from home.

In the morning, they get prayers, then it's Crafts and tea downstairs
Then another meal back in his little room
Hoping maybe that "the boys" will think to phone before the day is gone
Well, it's best they do it soon.
When the "old girl" passed away, he fell more apart each day
Each had always kept the other pretty well
But the kids all said the nursing home was best
'Cause he couldn't live alone...
First Christmas away from home.

In the Common Room they've got the biggest tree
And it's huge and cold and lifeless,
Not like it ought to be
And the lit-up flashing Santa Claus on top
It's not that same old silver star you once made for your own
First Christmas away from home.

Recommended listening, folks. And it is good to be back, no doubt.

If ...

If I think I'm the last sane human being on the planet does that make me insane?

I've been able to take a couple of hours to indulge myself today. Mr. Keys went off to tune a piano. He's just back now. But I was able to not work at work. And not work at home. I chose, as my mini vacation, to watch the DVD of a film I saw in the theater when it was first released last year, I, Robot. Now, mind you, I'm a science fiction-raised baby. Cut my teeth on all of it thanks to my father and the burgeoning SF culture of the 50s and 60s. I grew up in the hayday of middle period SF. I've read almost every Isaac Asimov novel and story ever written. I won't name all of the other authors. And I've read ALL the Asimov robot stories. And my Dad read to us from Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" late nights, a lot of nights, along with assorted 19th century poetry and other SF.

So, today I watched it at home on my computer... I was all alone. Such freedom. I had the speakers turned up full blast... and I didn't remember much of it from my theater visit. I knew what would happen in the end, but the details of the film had left my mind, and I was dazzled by the Will Smith/Dale Spooner character line early on, as I was in the theater. I paraphrase as I did above:

If I think I'm the last sane human being on the planet does that make me insane?

If you've not seen the film, bear in mind that they made something cerebrally SF into something more action film oriented. Still, and you have to know, I'm a harsh critic of schlocky SF... it's pretty good, and this is why. It appeals to a larger meaning, about uniqueness and consciousness. It's set in Chicago of 2035. It hangs onto the human foibles of greed and grasping for power, but it goes far beyond that.

Now if you really want to do it up right, you'll read Asimov's entire robot series. But, if you can't do that, you should still rent or buy the film if you haven't seen it, or even if you have. ;-)

Understand that SF for me has always been a well-understood metaphor for life as we know it now, robots and extra-terrestrials notwithstanding. These days on the Happy Planet, when everything's twanged out beyond all twanging, the SF part of my brain says... yes, it's scary, but "we" already know about all of this, so there's nothing much to worry about.

My morning with Will Smith and Sonny the Robot was strangely but rightly comforting for me.

I'll just add that I think there are many of us who wonder about what it means to be the last sane human being on the planet. My end of the year affection goes out to all of you "last sane human beings".

Lilly Livered GOP-lite

Democratic Leadership Rethinking Abortion

When is the moron contingent of the Democratic Party going to figure out that the way to move forward is not to pander to the anti-choice crowd? They'll never be in the Dem's column, anyway. The idea needs to be to distinguish the party from the GOP, not blend into it.


On the other hand...this could be the best thing to ever happen to the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. There would most certainly be a call for a strong, progressive third party were the anti-choice crowd to take over the DNC.

In the True Spirit of the Holidays...

I've been a big Seinfeld fan since the show first aired. Even several years after Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George's last episode, it's still the funniest show on television, and is about the only thing I watch with any regularity.

There are so many classic episodes that it's hard to pick out just one as my favorite, but in the spirit of the season, I give you Festivus For the Rest of Us.

Got aluminum pole?

You can air your grievances in the comments below, but I ain't wrasslin' no one.

Heating Up or Last Gasp?

(Click on the image for complete details at Raw Story - Rep. Conyers has become the designated waterboy for the Democratic Party on election fraud issues. My respect for him in this role is immense.)

All the Terrorism Nooze Youse Can Use

Nekkid Terrorism: Only a Matter of Time...

...before a representative of the American Taliban wingnut contingent siezes on this story and says, "Yeaaaaah, what a greeeat idea!" I guess the fundie peeping Tom's south of the border were getting offended...

You know it's coming.

MEXICO CITY - Alarmed by glimpses of sweaty citizens in the buff, the city council in the southeastern city of Villahermosa has adopted a law banning citizens from allowing themselves to be seen nude by the public, even while in their own homes, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The regulation, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2005, calls for as much as 36 hours in jail or a fine of $121 for offenders in the Tabasco state capital, 410 miles east of Mexico City.

'We are talking about zero tolerance ... for a lack of morality,' said city councilwoman Blanca Estela Pulido of the Revolutionary Institutional Party, which governs the state and city...

Copy Cat Terrorists: Speaking of "south of the border"...

From Texas comes the following:

The first cloned-to-order pet sold in the United States is named Little Nicky, a 9-week-old kitten delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years.

The kitten cost its owner $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved cat, named Nicky, who died last year...

The company that created Little Nicky, Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone, said it hopes by May to have produced the world's first cloned dog — a much more lucrative market than cats...

A completely hypothetical question: if a clone of a past President runs for election, would that be a violation of the 25th Amendment?

Just askin'.

Terrorists on the Lam: Burka-clad Bandits Terrorize Philly

Like the Wingers need another reason to hate...

...Philadelphia police said at least 10 recent robberies of small businesses - including gas stations and convenience stores - follow the pattern in West and Southwest Philadelphia. In each case, thieves are wearing the traditional Islamic dress known as a burka.

In addition to the robberies, burka-clad thieves have held up four area banks, according to the FBI. Two other banks were robbed by a lone woman who fits the description in the other heists.

"We don't have enough information to make a direct connection between all the crimes," said FBI Special Agent Jerri Williams, "but the coincidences are all there..."

French Terrorists Mug Santa

He knows if you been naughty or nice...

A group of French teenagers have mugged Father Christmas, attempting to steal his sack of presents. The man dressed as Santa Claus was handing out sweets in the southern town of Ales when things turned nasty.

One of the teenagers demanded extra sweets and, when the red-cloaked Santa refused, he and his friends started kicking and pummelling the man.

Father Christmas suffered multiple bruises and has lodged a criminal complaint...

This ASZ newsbreak has been brought to you by the word "terrorism" - because you just can't say it enough!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Completely, absolutely, not remotely connected with politics, world events, or any of the other hobgobblins that are gnawing at my ankles right now:

After the kind of day I had today (one of those days when I was totally out of synch with the entire planet), I needed a laugh-out-loud kind of experience. Allow me to share.

Run, Don't Walk to the Nearest Exit

In the last couple of days, as the violence in Iraq has escalated, there have been several reports of the security situation improving. Somebody forgot to forward that memo to a major contractor responsible for rebuilding Iraq's transportation infrastructure.

Contrack International Inc. has reportedly become the first major US contractor to pull out of the reconstruction effort in Iraq (news - web sites), adding that high security costs were to blame.

"We reached a point where our costs were getting to be prohibitive," company president Karim Camel-Toueg told the Los Angeles Times.

Contrack, based in Arlington, Virginia, had won a 325-million-dollar award to rebuild Iraq's shattered transport system.

US officials said Contrack's decision to terminate work in Iraq was reached with the US government in November, but had not been publicly disclosed.

So, according to this report they were awarded the contract in March 2004. Since then things have gone so swimmingly that they've managed to refurbish a few train stations and do some site assessments and design work:

In the eight months Contrack was under contract in Iraq it was paid about 30 million dollars, mostly for site assessments and design work, company and US officials told the daily.

The Conrack partnership intended to build new roads, bridges and transportation terminals in Iraq, but only managed to refurbish a handful of train depots, company officials said.

Who is Contrack International Inc.?

Established in 1985, Contrack International Inc. is a privately owned U.S. business with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and offices in Egypt, Israel and Qatar. The company receives international public works and defense projects financed by the U.S. government. Since 1990, Contrack has completed contracts totaling more than $467 million and is currently operating in Egypt, Qatar, Russia and Bahrain. In 1998, Orascom Construction Industries, the largest private construction firm in Egypt, acquired 45 percent of Contrack . Egyptian-businessman Naguib Sawiris, son of the founder of Orascom and a former board member, owns the controlling interest in Contrack, according to a trade publication. Sawiris, whose family is Egypt's answer to the Rockefellers, holds U.S. citizenship, which allows Contrack to be eligible for certain U.S. government financed projects. The two companies also have a non-compete agreement on U.S. government financed projects in Egypt.

In 1950, Onsi Sawiris, chairman of the board of Orascom, founded the company, which has now been restructured into three companies: Orascom Construction Industries, Orascom Projects & Touristic Development and Orascom Technologies. His three sons, Naguib, Nassef and Sameeh are involved in running the companies....

When asked for comment a spokesman for Contrack gave the following reply:
"Security? we don't need no steenking security. We're getting the hell out, now."

Well, that would have been the honest reply anyway.

Gazing into the Crystal Ball

Homeless Honored Around the Country

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I drove into center city Philly for dinner with friends. At the bottom of the exit ramp for Columbus Ave. was a homeless man with a sign - a "will work for food" kind of deal - indicating he was a Vietnam war vet.

My wife pulled $5 out of her purse and asked me to give it to the guy.

Being an old hand at dealing with streetcorner homeless in Philly, I challenged her. "How do you know he's really a vet?"

"Does it matter?" she shot back.

I thought about it for a moment, rolled down the driver's window, and passed him the money.

How many homeless veterans are there?

Although accurate numbers are impossible to come by ... no one keeps national records on homeless veterans ... the VA estimates that more than 299,321 veterans are homeless on any given night. And, more than half a million experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every four homeless males who is sleeping in a doorway, alley, or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served our country ... now they need America to remember them.

Why are veterans homeless?

In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all homelessness … extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care … a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.

Statistics and more at National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

How many more (present and future) has Maximum Leader created with his Excellent Iraqi Adventure™?