Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bad History update
I went to bed last night right after launching The Carnival of Bad History and planned to spend today tinkering with the tools and writing letters to other carnivals and carnival fans hoping for a few plugs. It was late morning by the time I managed to get myself up and to the keyboard. I started my work by adding a traffic meter and signing Bad History up with Truth Laid Bear.

Then I went to the store to get some snacks for my clever wife (CW). CW had nine teeth pulled on Thursday, so I have been spending a lot of time fussing over her. Still, the trip to the store took less than an hour. When I looked back at the traffic meter for Bad History it already had more hits than archy. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

It seems that many of the people I had planned on writing to today discovered the site while I was snoozing and shopping for soft snacks and gave me plugs without my begging. That's pretty cool and says a lot about the community nature ofthis blooging thing we have going here. Thanks everybody.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Another carnival
What's more obnoxious than a history buff in a movie theater? When I was in grad school studying modern Balkan history, my friends and I knew that the answer was two or more history buffs in a movie theater. When one would sneer at the screen, "they didn't have those helmets till 1916," the others would know that the gauntlet had been cast. The title of uber-nerd was up for grabs. The only way to win was to ignore the plot, ignore the performance, ignore the art and focus our proud laser-like attentions on the meaningless and trivial minutiae. Those were the days.

Neither Alan, my best buddy from grad school, nor I found work in history. He's a librarian and I'm a tech writer on the opposite side of the continent. Maybe if we had the outlet of a room full of captive minds to pass our historical wisdom onto we wouldn't still be such annoying uber-nerds in the theater. But we don't, so we are. From time to time we send each other examples of bad history. Alan has several times suggested we start a bad history website, modeled on Phil Plait's award-winning Bad Astronomy website. I always agree, "yup, we should do that." That usually covers us for a year.

This year is different. When Alan suggested doing the site the other day, a little light went of in my head that said "carnival." "A carnival would be perfect," I told him, "All we have to do is be the host/editors. We're saved the pressure and work of finding enough material to keep it fresh and interesting. We'll make new friends, perform a service for frustrated history geeks everywhere, and rake in tons of prestige, status, and respect just like real history teachers."

So, I'm proud to announce The Carnival of Bad History. I'll be your first host. For now, we will aim at monthly issues with the first issue on March 1. If there is enough demand, we'll make it more often.

The world is full of bad history. Best-selling novels are full of it. Nostalgia-dripping reruns on Pax and the Hallmark channel are full of it. Blockbuster summer movies are full of it. Public statements by Condoleezza Rice are full of it (and, yes, Condoleezza Rice herself is full of it). This is your chance to do something about it. If you post on anything related to bad history send me the link and take part in the premire issue of The Carnival of Bad History.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Yet another national embarassment
I'm sure you've all seen this by now.
At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

...[T]he vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Kos had the same reaction I had on seeing this, "Cheney was properly dressed for the inaugurtion last week, which makes this breach of etiquette that much more puzzling." We on the Left often speak of the Vice President as the only grown-up in the White House, a sinister and scary grown-up, but definately a grown-up. My clever wife looked at the picture and said his posture doesn't so much look like that of an "awkward boy" as that of someone pondering the horrible revenge he's going to take on the staffer responsible for this embarassment.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I vote for freedom
Lambert, over at Corrente, has been taking nominations for the next euphemism for privatization. So far, "Alpo Accounts" seems to be the favorite. I think "Faith Based Accounts" is also good, but, by far, my personal favorite is "Freedom Accounts"--'cuz freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

Alert Corrente reader ck points out that, on a strategic basis, "Freedom Accounts" is severely flawed. "Freedom is Dear Leader's favorite word, and since our usage of it is snarky and ironic -- Dear Leader is liable to adopt it as his own.... [A]ll of our counter-attacks need to be direct and flame-thrower-in-the-face, rather than ironic and indirect." Ck is right, of course, but still...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More language wars
When the idea of phasing out Social Security and moving the money into the stock market was first proposed by conservative think tanks in the nineties, the term they used for this program was "privatization." George Bush used that term all through his 2000 presidential campaign. He continued to use it after the 2004 election when he revived the idea and announced that it would be a centerpiece of his second term. Some time after Christmas, he stopped using the term "privatization" and began using the term "personal accounts" to describe the same transfer of funds to the stock market. Bush even wiped all memory that he had ever used such a word from his mind.
The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

THE PRESIDENT: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.


The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.


The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.


The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

Apparently, they discovered that the word "privatization"--or any other term based on the root "private"--didn't poll well back during the 2002 midterm elections. However the new term wasn't enforced very well until Bush began his major offensive against Social Security after the 2004 election. Over the last few months 'private accounts" and "personal accounts have been used interchangeably with little comment until last week. At that point, some kind of decision was made within the GOP (probably based on new polling) that no form of the word private was to be allowed. Thus, Bush's exchange with the Washington Post.

Today we got a glimpse of their new push to enforce the jargon-du-jour when Josh Marshall talked with Frank Luntz on Al Franken's radio show. Most readers know Marshall, the proprietor of Talking Points Memo, who has been doing a heroic job covering the Social Security issue over the last few weeks. Luntz is a Republican pollster and marketing genius*. Luntz has been advising Republicans on how to [mis]use language to frame issues in their favor for over ten years. It was Luntz who changed the estate tax into the death tax. It was Luntz who coined the phrase Contract with America.

[This is my own transcript, so any errors belong to me and not to Media Matters.]
Marshall: Do you think it's fair for Democrats or reporters or anybody else to use the word "privatization" or "private accounts" to describe the President's policy?

Luntz: I think it's fair for Democrats to do so.

Marshall: Why not the press?

Luntz: Because it's not-the press is making a pejorative statement...

Marshall: But wait, but wait. It's the phrase the president himself uses over and over again.

Others: Why would...? Hang on a minute. What makes it pejorative?

Marshall: Yeah?

Luntz: Because I-for example, I-when I listen-when someone says the word-I know some of the people on this on this discussion are Jewish. If somebody...

Marshall: Hey, buddy...

Luntz: ...Israel, I know someone is likely to be a supporter. If someone uses the phrase State of Israel, I know that they are trying to create a distance.

Marshall: Huh?

Luntz: If someone uses the phrase "private accounts," "privatization" I have an idea of where they stand on Social Security and I'm usually not wrong on that.

Marshall and others: But the President used that.

Luntz: Used that [heavy emphasis on the past tense of "used"].

Marshall: Okay, okay, so long as he stops using that, from that point on...

Others: [Laughter and crosstalk.]

Marshall: I'm serious about this. At the point at which he no longer uses the word, reporters have start using a different-verbiage-shall we say?

Luntz: It's one of the reasons why the American People don't trust the media. If the media wants to engage in a debate, let it say so. Let them come on the shows that they do on Sundays, let them state a point of view, and people know that they're not getting the journalistic report, they're getting the opinions of the left wing or the right wing because there are journalists on both sides who speak.

By "pejorative" I'm sure Luntz means "biased" (I'm also sure he intentionally chose that word for it's stronger and more sinister connotations). As Marshall points out, the logical corollary of Luntz's reasoning is that the press must always use any new term the White House designates as soon as they designate it. Not to do so, would be to take sides on the issue against the administration.

Of course, since choosing to repeat the administration's preferred framing means taking the administration's side, a further corollary is that there is no neutral ground for reporters and no objective reporting. The press must decide whether they are with the administration or against it. Since being openly against the administration is a good way to get cut off from administration sources, professional suicide, the price of access to the White House is willingly incorporating oneself into the administration's propaganda machine.

* I'm not being sarcastic. The guy is really good at what he does. It's just that he has chosen to use his powers for evil.
No on Gonzales
Kos has a No on Gonzales petition of sorts. I'm on board.
With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

I've already blogged about Gonzales and why I think is wrong for America here, here, and here.The election of George Bush last November was seen by the world as a vote of confidence in everything he has done to destroy our credibility. If there is anyone out there who is still inclined to give us the benefit of the doubt, confirming Gonzales will let them know their worst suspicions about America were right.

A vote for Gonzales is a vote for torture. It's that simple. Vote no.
What's wrong with this picture?
This story is on the Reuters' website today.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York radio station apologized on Monday for repeatedly airing a joke song that ridiculed victims of the recent tsunami in South Asia and used racial slurs, saying the piece was in poor taste.

New York FM radio station WQHT, or HOT 97, ran the segment on its "Miss Jones in the Morning" show. The piece used racial slurs to describe people swept away in the disaster, made jokes about child slavery and people watching their mothers die.

Why did people complain about what HOT 97 did? Because it was insensitive. Where did Reuters put the story? In their "Oddly Enough" section, the place where they usually put humorous stories. Do they even read what they put up on their site?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Making it big in show biz
The nominees for the 2004 Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Awards were announced today. The Razzies give recognition each year to the worst achievements in film. This year, demostrating the power and reach of right-wing politics, the Bush cabinet picked up a number of nominations, even though they publically deny being in show business.

We, of course, know better.
President Bush and some of his advisers received worst-acting nominations for their appearances in news and archival footage in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which assails Bush for his actions surrounding the September 11 attacks.

Bush was nominated for worst actor, while Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice got a nomination for worst supporting actress and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for worst supporting actor.

[Razzies founder John] Wilson said that while "Fahrenheit 9/11" was a piece of anti-Bush propaganda, the president and his associates earned their Razzie nominations on their own.

"It wasn't Mr. Moore's editing," Wilson said. "It's the raw footage of these people just making fools of themselves."

I'm certainly with Mr. Wilson in believing they need more recognition for that.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

New, new journalism
Although I am reluctant to criticize one of the giants of Left Blogistan, I feel I must. Call it old age or just low blood sugar.

Daily Kos is one of my first in the morning reads and has been since I first explored the neighborhood about two years ago. In those two years, DK has grown from a site mostly written by Markos into an institution written by a community with only minor input or editorial control from Markos. At first, Markos was able to recruit some of the best talent on the web to work on his front page. He kept this standard up until the election, but since then his standards has fallen dramatically.

Traditional American journalism was based on something called the inverted pyramid. A front page story was traditionally told three times. All of the key facts would be presented in the first paragraph. This need to get the five W's into no more than two sentences above the fold, led to the classic staccato brevity of old journalism: "Twelve year old Johnny Smith of the hillside district was found murdered Tuesday afternoon in City Park. Police have arrested Norman Jones, the PE teacher aT Johnny's school and named him as their chief suspect." The story was then retold in as many paragraphs as were allowed on the rest of the front page. Finally, the full version with as many details as were known was recounted on the jump page. Version one should lure readers to continue reading, while version two should get then to open the paper to the pages where the advertisements are.

That was old journalism. In the 70's, something called new journalism began to appear in the country's largest papers. Journalists, aware of awards, career paths that led from local news to national news, and competition from faster electronic media, began to experiment with more literary forms of writing. And so infotainment was born. A typical page one story might read: "Johnny Smith was well known around his neighborhood. The neighbors all knew his infectious laugh and recognized his silly songs. Everone knew when he came home from school jus by listening for his happy voice, But one day Johnny didn't come home." Although new journalism was more creatively satisfying to the writers, it was less informative to the readers. At the end of the first page when the reader is prompted to go to the jump page, the reader doesn't know whether Johnny was murdered, ran away, was run over, or stricken by a horrible disease.

DK's latest crowd of front-page writers show all of the weaknesses of new journalism. Kid Oakland and Armando are two of the current stars. Just looking at Saturday, January 22 I find the following. First, Kid Oakland in a piece called "I Voted":
It's a sign of the, white and the corner of the bathroom mirror, stuck up absent mindedly and now staring out like a reproach: a sticker that reads, "I Voted."

"Yeah," I think when I see it in the morning,"but I didn't vote for this."

And that's the crux of the matter in so many ways...

That's it. The link to a jump page appears after the ellipsis. Kid Oakland tries too hard, but I'm not here to complain about his purple prose. I think it's understood that we're all amateurs here. Only by writing more will we become better writers (but, please, drop the five dot ellipsis. More than three is excessive). My complaint is that I have no idea what this article is about. In the same time I wait for the jump page to load, I could go to another site, one that puts the whole article on the front page. KO needs to understand the nature of the medium in which he is publishing and modify his writing to suit it.

Armando commits a related but different crime in "Lawrence Summers and Political Correctness."
There has been much said about the statements made by Lawrence Summers, the President of Harvard University, regarding the dearth of women in the science fields. I don't know exactly what Summers said, here was his latest apology issued Thursday:


Not knowing exactly what Summers said, I am loathe to critique it. But I do know what Ruth Marcus wrote in the Washington Post about it, and I found that to be incredibly obtuse:

Why doesn't he know what Summers said? This is the Internet. Summers' words have been printed in dozens of places and critiqued in hundreds of places. Hasn't Armando heard of Google? Should I attach a link to my mention of Google? There is no excuse for that kind of laziness. Ruth Marcus' alleged stupidity would not have gone away during the five minutes it would have taken to confirm that her words were or were not out of line.

I love DK, I respect Markos a lot, and I'm not going to go away just because his latest crop of interns don't live up to the Everest-like standards Meteor Blades set. That's too much to ask for anyone. But is it too much to ask that they recognize that they are blogging on the Internet, adjust their prose to the medium, and use the amazing resources that have been put at their disposal?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Byck and Rice
Over the last week or so, I've received a number of hits from people looking for information on Samuel Byck whose story is told in the new movie "The Assassination of Richard Nixon." Because the post in which I mentioned Byck was was one discussing how badly Condi Rice was performing her job as National Security Advisor, the post seems doubly relevant this week, so I'm rerunning it here. I first ran this post on March 21, 2004. (Note: Some of the original hyperlinks no longer work. I've left them intact in the interests of historical comptetion and not because I'm a lazy old poop.)

Remember Samuel Byck?
Most people don't. Condoleezza Rice certainly doesn't. In an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post she's still pushing the official party line that they had no reason to suspect that someone would try to hijack an airliner and use it as a weapon. She originally made this claim in May 2002: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people - would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." Today she qualifies it a little, but only a little: "...we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles...." It's minor difference, from one of no one could to no one would.

Atrios takes exception to this nonsense, pointing out that the CIA had produced a report on just that danger--specifically naming bin Laden--as early as 1999. "Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House," according to the September 1999 report entitled "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?." Atrios lets her off too easily. Since Condi follows her boss in not actually reading reports, she might have an excuse for not knowing about the CIA warning.

But that wasn't the only warning that such a danger existed. At the Genoa summit of the leaders of the G-8 industrial leaders, the Italians went to great lengths to protect the leaders from arial attack and specifically named bin Laden as the source of the threat.

Professional and amateur reporters have brought to light a whole series of explicit warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout the decade of the nineties, including some actual kamikaze attempts. In 1994, French authorities frustrated a plot to fly an airliner into the Eiffel Tower after the plane had already been hijacked and three passengers killed. In 1995 Philippine authorities uncovered plot by Ramzi Yousef's group named Project Bojinka. According to this ambitious plot they would fly hijacked airliners into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the Pentagon, the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, and the World Trade Center while blowing up another eleven planes in the air and assassinating the Pope in Manila.

Oddly missing from most of these accounts is the story Samuel Byck, the only homegrown, American, wannabe kamikaze.

On the morning of February 22, 1974, Byck tried to hijack a Delta Airlines DC-9 in Baltimore with the intention of killing Nixon by crashing the plane into the White House. Byck was an unemployed salesman from Philadelphia who was already known to the Secret Service. For two years he had been mailing threats to the president and bizarre taped messages to public figures like Jonas Salk, Senator Abe Ribicoff, and Leonard Bernstein. The previous Christmas he had picketed the White House in a Santa suit and a sign that read "All I want for Christmas is my constitutional right to publicly petition my government for a redress of grievances."

Byck's plan was a disaster from the moment he entered the airport. As soon as he was delayed by the screening line he went berserk. Drawing a gun he shot and killed a security guard and rushed aboard the plane. When the pilot tried to say the plane wasn't ready to take off he killed the pilot and wounded the co-pilot. Byck didn't know how to fly a plane so he grabbed a passenger and ordered her to fly him to Washington. Before he could take his frustration out on the terrified passenger, airport police fired through the window of the cockpit wounding him. Byck killed himself rather than be captured.

A tape sent to columnist Jack Anderson explained his motives. Byck had been turned down for a Small Business loan.

Byck may finally be getting his moment of creepy infamy. Twenty years later, Stephen Sondheim made Byck a character in one of his least successful (but still great) musicals "Assassins." Sean Penn will be playing him in the forthcoming movie "The Assassination of Richard Nixon." Penn takes his role philosophically, "Yes, once again, I'm in the feel-good picture of the year."

Why has Byck been so absent from discussions of terror? Is it because it was thirty years ago? Byck's incompetent plot took place during the golden age of hijacking. Had he succeeded, he would have killed about four hundred people (and rather abruptly ended the Watergate crisis). Certainly, any discussion of hijacking, airport security, and the danger of airplanes as missiles should include our closest previous near miss. Is this just another one of those things that we can blame on the lack of historical sense among Americans? Or is it because Byck was a white American citizen. Just as Oklahoma City and other right-wing domestic terror rarely makes it into our public discussions of the current threat, do we exclude Byck from our historical memory simply because he wasn't Cuban or Palestinian?

I believe my friend David Neiwert has the straight dope on this one. The War on Terror is more of a marketing effort than an actual war or even law enforcement campaign. The official narrative is that America is standing tall against cowardly (brown, non-Christian) foreigners. Straight talking Republicans are our only hope. The rhetoric rallies the faithful to the GOP banner and even peels some Democratically inclined voters over to Bush's side. There is no advantage in suggesting that some Republican friendly groups might be terrorists. The only domestic them allowable in this us-or-them scenario are people who would never vote for Bush, liberals, pacifists, and overly loud critics. The press, more lazy than evil, take the official talking points of the War on Terror and run with them. They still sometimes come up with conclusions that make the administration uncomfortable. But having been told we are in a war of civilizations with an unspeakable foreign them, how many are likely to look at the possible relevance of a middle-aged, unhappy, Jewish guy from Philadelphia?
No shame
The Washington Post has an article on the Bush administration's spin regarding the inaguration speech. I'll have a post on the spin later today. In the meantime, a nice little footnote jumped out of the article and caught my attention. You'll enjoy this.
Bush's grand ambitions excited his neoconservative supporters, who see his call to put the United States in the forefront of the battle to spread democracy as noble and necessary. "It was a rare inaugural speech that will go down as a historic speech, I believe," said William Kristol, editor and publisher of the Weekly Standard and a leading neoconservative thinker. He predicted the speech will drive policy for the rest of Bush's presidency.


The planning of Bush's second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about "freedom" and "liberty." That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them.

Twelve paragraphs pass between these two points, so I'm not sure how obvious the connection will be to most Post readers. The speech that Kristol reviewed as "a rare ... historic speech" is, in fact, a speech he helped write. He probably didn't take part in the actual composition, the White House entrusts that to better writers than Kristol, but he contributed to the message and the theme.

What's that word that so many bloggers use when talking about writers in the mainstream press? It rhymes with "door" and starts with a "w."
A sickness in the family
David Neiwert's beautiful three year old daughter, Fiona, was rushed to the hospital Thursday with an attack of appendicitis. Fortunately, they were able to operate before it perforated and she is now recovering at home. However well it goes, that's still a lot of pain, confusion, and fear for a little one to bear. It's not very easy on the parents either. Our best thoughts are with the whole family for a quiet and uneventful recovery. If you are the praying type, now is the time to do it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

I updated the blogroll over on the left. I added some links that were long overdue for inclusion, removed a few that seem to closed shop, and updated the links to a few that have moved. If you notice any links that are pointing to the wrongplace or nonfunctional, let me know in the comments. Thanks.
Some speech, eh?
I listened to most of the Inauguration speech yesterday. I was not impressed. His writers have done better in the past. Sure it was full of happy talk and nice platitudes about freedom, but it lacked substance and, when set against the record of his last four years, was more ironic than inspiring.

How seriously can we take statements like, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you"? Does that mean we will be rushing to the aid of the Chechens, Uzbeks, Burmese, Saudis, and Kurds of Turkey? Oh course not. Just as it was with Reagan, our commitment to freedom and human rights leads to action only when it supports our existing strategic objectives. As great as his expressed sentiments on freedom are, I can only be embarrassed when I think of the rest of the world hearing them and comparing his words with his actions.

As I have said many times before, I'm not a fan of Bush's speaking style. His affected folksiness, overly precise pronunciation of multisyllable words, and delivery in three word bursts--like a bad William Shattner imitation--grates on my nerves. The combination of insincere platitudes badly delivered made my eyes glaze and my attention wander. Though I normally appreciate anything that leads to napping, it was not a good condition to be in, since I was driving my mother to the airport at the time.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

CNN challenges the Onion
Irony is the only possible explanation for this headline:
Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider

Forty-nine percent of 1,007 adult Americans said in phone interviews they believe Bush is a "uniter," according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday. Another 49 percent called him a "divider," and 2 percent had no opinion.

The results nearly match those of a poll taken in October 2004, which showed 48 percent considered Bush a "uniter" and 48 percent called him a "divider," with 4 percent having no opinion.

Fortunately, it's an unsigned piece, so no one will have to go through the rest of their career with this idiotic story on their resume.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bush family values
Mustang Bobby points us to another example compassion from America's first family.

Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday unveiled a proposed $61.6 billion state spending plan that would cut taxes paid by Florida's wealthiest while hitting students with higher tuition, cutting medical services to the state's neediest and providing little new money for public schools.


"I believe this is a common-sense budget based on sound conservative principles," Bush said.

Local advocates, meanwhile, blasted the governor's call to reduce $398 million in spending on the Medically Needy program, which provides medical services and prescription drugs for nearly 36,000 sick Floridians who can't get insurance coverage.

"I can't understand why they want to keep throwing away lives to give somebody a tax break," said Bill Rettinger of Hollywood, a severe asthmatic and bone transplant patient who has been in the Medically Needy program since 1999. "I can't understand that mind-set, where 36,000 are expendable but a $136 million ... tax break isn't."

Reward the rich at the expense of everyone else. Now them's values.
Kinky for Governor
My favorite Texan (besides Molly Ivins) is officially a candidate for governor of the second largest state. Singer, song writer, novelist, cat lover, and bon vivant Kinky Friedman is officially throwing his hat into the ring.

Here's a platform we can all support.
"I have achieved a lot of my dreams in life and I want to see that young Texans achieve some of theirs,' Friedman said in a telephone interview. He added, "I want to be governor because I need the closet space."

Friedman said the main priorities in his campaign will be reforming the Texas education system, adding safeguards in the judicial process where Texas ranks as the nation's leader in capital punishment and establishing a peace corps for the state.

Plus, he wants "to fight the wussification of Texas."

"I am determined to get back to a time when the cowboys all sang and their horses were smart," Friedman said.


Friedman has said he expects his campaign to be unconventional, irreverent and star-studded. He knows it will be tough to win in the heavily Republican state, but he thinks he can win votes from people fed up with bland politicians.

"We hope the people of Texas are going to reject the choice of paper or plastic," he said.

Disclosure: My clever wife and I are long time fans of the Kinkster.
Never their fault
Reuters reports that few minutes ago the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State. That's no surprise; we expected it. Reuters seems to think that the committee vote also ends any discussion of Rice, because they have removed from the visible parts of their website all reporting on her testimony before the committee. Too bad. She said some things that need to be discussed. Reuters is also wrong in thinking this ends the discussion. All the committee vote did was pass the nomination onto the floor of the Senate for debate and a full Senate vote.

Kos picked this bit up from her testimony this morning:
Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday the Bush administration made some bad decisions in Iraq and was unprepared for stabilizing the country in a rare acknowledgment of mistakes.

But Democrats complained the Republican President Bush's administration was unwilling to learn from its mistakes to change policies in Iraq, be candid about the cost of continued deployment and develop a better exit strategy.

"We have made a lot of decisions in this period of time. Some of them have been good, some of them have not been good, some of them have been bad decisions, I am sure," Rice told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"We didn't have the right skills, the right capacity, to deal with a reconstruction effort of this kind," she said on the second day of hearings on her confirmation...

"We have made a lot of decisions," she says, but she speaks of it as a matter of abstract statistics. Yes some of those were sure to be good and some bad. I picture her whipping out a chart of a bell curve at this point. She makes no effort to name the bad decisions--or even to show that she is aware which ones fall onto that end of the curve. The closest she does come to mentioning a shortfall, "We didn't have ... the right capacity,"isn't really an admission of guilt. At best she's blaming vague circumstances; at worst she's passing the buck back to Clinton. "We failed because Clinton didn't plan to invade and occupy Iraq and didn't give us the tools to do so."

Still, I do have to give her credit for making sure the American people are fed only the very best propaganda. Like so much that comes out of this administration, her words give the impression of one thing while actually saying something very different. The tone of this statement is one of humility, of taking responsibility. But the actual meaning of the words accomplishes no such thing. She only admits to mistakes as an academic possibility, but not as a real event for which she and her boss bear responsibility.

Pretty slick.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The pathology of G.W.Bush, cont'
Have we all heard about Bush's interview with the Washington Post this weekend? We have!? Good. I think enough clever bloggers have commented on the surface content of it (Jesse, for example) that I'm safe in ignoring that. I want to mention the subtext (uh-oh, my social science background is showing through again).

Let's start with the reporters (Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher) thesis statement.
President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

Most of the gang, I think, quite properly picked up on this phrase. Is it justified by the leader of the free world's actual words?
"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

Yes. Yes, it is. The leader of the free world actually says he and his followers only have one moment of accountability in an entire eight year period. Therefore, nothing any of them did in the first four years is subject to question; anything they do in the next four years is pre-forgiven. One moment in eight years is all they face. Having passed that moment, they are forgiven for the past and approved for the future.

Am I being unfair? Is such a close parsing of such a few words dishonest? If these were the only words of his I had to work from, that might be a fair critique. But we have many other words of the leader of the free world. He has often shown this attitude toward infallibility.

Following the order of the Washington Post interview:
Bush acknowledged that "some of the decisions I've made up to now have affected our standing in parts of the world," but predicted that most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

"There's no question we've got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about," he said.

I have discussed this tendency and the creepy pathology that it reveals before. Whenever Bush and non-Bush are in disagreement there is no chance that Bush is wrong. There is no chance both are wrong and there is an honest middle ground that both might reach. The only possibility is that non-Bush is wrong and Bush only needs to better explain why they should support him. Oh, and the source of the misunderstanding is non-Bush's stupidity, not Bush's lack of clarity. Bush is without fault.

This is what I have called the rich bully pathology. Poor bullies need to crush everyone else. Rich bullies need to subordinate everyone else. Bush does not feel that he has to make any concessions towards anyone else. The most magnanimous thing he can do is let others support Bush. Why don't we understand how wonderful he is in letting us play left field on his team (even though left field is the worst position on the team). We, the non-Bush portion of the planet should be grateful that he lets us support him. That we are not thankful only shows what ungrateful bastards we all are. We should be ashamed.

And yet, we're not.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pun envy
Cousin Doug * up in Vancouver has discovered the bizzare possibilities of a Star Wars - Mr. Potato Head marketing tie in.

Yes, it's real. Yes, it's called Darth Tater. Damn, I wish I'd thought of that.

* Not really a cousin.
Let the old poops play
Today, Ezra offers this game for the amusement of his readers.
I like this timewaster. Open your iTunes (or other, inferior, music player), hit shuffle, and tell us the first ten songs that come up. I've added a twist: if the song has an exclamation mark next to it, it's a favorite.

This sounds like a good argument starter for a boozy Friday afternoon. I'm sure my friends and I in grad school could have carried on over this far longer than it deserved. The problem with it now is, that as an old poop, I don't own an MP3 player and I've only heard of one of the songs or bands on Ezra's list (and it's a 30 year old song).

So what would be the equivalent game for old poops? CDs, for the most part, exist in shapeless piles that don't really tell your much about the owner. The bottom half of the piles might contain the remnants of some ill-fated attempt to categorize them, but the rest is just random slush. LPs on the other hand show a nice pattern of archaeological layering. The most recently listened to albums are always at the front, the least listened to work their way to the back. If anyone still has their albums, and most old authentic poops do, the archaeological metaphor is further supported by the fact that we stopped listening to our albums long ago and the pile represents a moment frozen in time when the volcano (music industry) erupted and buried the village in ash (CDs).

Let's take a look at my time capsule (my turntable finally broke down in the summer of 1997, so that's the moment in time we're looking at). I have:
  • War
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Django Rheinhart
  • Pink Floyd
  • Albert King
  • Rassan Roland Kirk
  • Steely Dan
  • David Grisman
  • Yes
  • Eric Satie

I'm sure Ezra will score better at recognising my bands than I did with his.

Okay, geezers (and geezettes), what's in your time capsule?
Language question
Would it be proper to refer to the supporters of Social Security privatization as "privateers?" I think I'll do it anyway.
Huygens has landed!
The little lander has made it safely to the surface of Titan. By now it has already been crushed and corroded and no longer works, but it made it to the surface, collected data, and successfully transmitted some of it back. The data is now streaming back via the Cassini mother satellite. This is the culmination of a seven-year voyage and a twenty-year program. The data should keep a whole generation of space scientists busy.

Give that squashed little satellite a big yee-haw.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Two points for the first amendment
Jesse at Pandagon found two bits of good news today. Here's one.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the removal of stickers placed in high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying they were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Here's the other.
Biology teachers at a high school in Dover have rejected the instructions of local officials to read a statement in class today questioning the theory of evolution.

I won't go into my whole routine on creationism in the schools right now (creationism, bad; wall of separation, good), but I will get back to this later.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

How things work: part 192
Exploiting the conservative persecution complex explained.

The right is outraged to discover that God had been banned from the inauguration (or something like that).
Crosses will be banned from this month's inaugural parade in Washington, D.C.

The Jan. 20 presidential inauguration is causing controversy—and religion is at the heart of the strife.

Not only is the phrase "under God" in the president's oath under attack from an atheist who has filed suit to stop any prayers from being said during the ceremony, now crosses have been banned from the inaugural parade.

Critics are calling it religious discrimination and censorship.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney and the Christian Defense Coalition were granted a permit to hold a prayer vigil and demonstration during the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day. In that permit the list of prohibited "structures" includes crosses—along with bicycles, crates, coffins, cages and statues.

Mahoney is outraged.

This is a fairly typical example of the fake outrage tactic. Religious right groups are intentionally misinterpreting a completely harmless bureaucratic decision to portray it as anti-Christian bias and pesecution. The Park Service restictions are on "structures," big things that could be used as weapons or to conceal weapons. They have not banned crosses as jewelry, crosses on t-shirts, crosses on bibles, or even crosses on banners and signs. Truth is not important to their business. The point is to keep up a drumbeat of persecution urban legends so that the faithful will feel besieged and leap to the call of their leaders without any of that pesky thinking first. "Did you know that Christmas was banned in Seattle? Did you know prayer is now a hate speech crime in California? If Kerry had won the Democrats were planning to ban the Bible. Now crosses are illegal in our nation's capitol. Next they'll be coming for the womenfolk. The only way to stop this horrible persecution is to vote the way I tell you and send me lots of money."

I had hoped this nonsense would slow down after Christmas, but it looks as if it's going to be a prermanent part of Bush's second term.

P.S. - Did you know that in Texas they are planning to issue hunting licenses to kill liberals? You better send me some money.
I'm not the only one to point this story out, or the first, or anything significant, but some stories just demand a "nyaa, nyaa, nyaa, I told you so" chorus.
Official: U.S. ends search for WMD in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. inspectors have ended their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in recent weeks, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN.

The search ended almost two years after President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, citing concerns that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction and may have hidden weapons stockpiles.

Members of the Iraq Survey Group were continuing to examine hundreds of documents and would investigate any new leads, the official said.

Charles A. Duelfer, who headed the Iraq Survey Group's search for WMD in Iraq, has returned to Iraq and is working on his final report, the official said.

I did not think Saddam posed any kind of threat to us in 2002 and was against the war from day one. This is not the same as saying I thought he was a nice man who deserved to stay in power. I've wanted to see him go since he was massacring Kurds back in the 70's. Bush could have made a case to finally get rid of Saddam based on human rights and regional stability. Such a case would have gone a long way toward convincing me and the rest of the world. Such a case would have preserved American credibility and international law. Bush chose to shred both with his clearly bogus WMD fairytale and unilateral bullying.

Well, now it's clear that it was all based on a lie. American credibility is at an all time low. Hundreds of American soldiers have been killed and thousands have been maimed and broken. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and tens thousands have been maimed and broken. If a real threat arises, our military is stretched dangerously thin. The Middle East is even less stable than before (who ever believed that would be possible). Global terrorism and anti-Americanism have been handed a recruiting bonanza. I would have expected "I told you so" to feel better than this.

And, yes, if someone does stumble across authentic stockpiles of America threatening Iraqi WMDs Bill Safire has every right to go "nyaa, nyaa, nyaa, I told you so" back at us. I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Irony overload
In Texas a military court is putting a soldier on trial for the crime of torture and will probably send him to prison. In Washington D.C. the Senate is holding hearings on the man who told the soldier it was okay to torture people and will probably reward him with a cabinet position. My head hurts and my moral sense is adrift.

Monday, January 10, 2005

I'm innocent
Jeffrey Dubner at Tapped offers this:
Everybody wants to know: Who else Armstronged themselves for the administration? It's a rare suspicion that sets off both David Corn and Jonah Goldberg, so there's certainly an interest out there in airing any dirty secrets -- but somehow, I don't trust the White House or the many federal agencies to pursue this with particular vigor. (Imagine the administration's search for the Valerie Plame leaker, only lazier.)

No, this is the sort of task that can only be solved by one method: process of elimination. I'll start it off:
I swear that I have never taken money -- neither directly nor indirectly -- from any political campaign or government agency -- whether federal, state, or local -- in exchange for any service performed in my job as a journalist (or commentator, or blogger, or whatever you think I should be called).

I can take that pledge. But I would just like to point out that I'm extremely hurt no one even offered.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Criminal, unethical, and stupid
Another trifecta! The party of the grown-ups and fiscal responsibility strikes again.
Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.


The contract may be illegal "because Congress has prohibited propaganda," or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government, said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "And it's propaganda."


Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced "video news releases" designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office [GAO], which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.

Golly, I hardly know where to start.

The Ketchum "video news releases" for the Medicare prescription drug plan aired last January and February on 40 local television stations. The video clips featured a fake reporter, named Karen Ryan, who mimicked the look and style of a typical local news reporter. Karen Ryan (that is her real name) is a Washington D.C. communications consultant who specializes in training executives for media appearances. She is something of an expert in the fake news release. Over the years she has appeared in dozens of video news releases for groups all across the political spectrum.

In March the GAO issued a report condemning the Medicare video news releases.
An investigation by the U.S. General Accounting Office concluded that the VNR had violated a ban on government funded "publicity and propaganda." According to The Hill, a newspaper based in Washington, D.C., "VNRs are standard practice in the public-relations industry and local news reports often rely on them. ... However, the GAO said in its decision, 'our analysis of the proper use of appropriated funds is not based upon the norms in the public relations and media industry.'"

Seven months later, in October, Karen Ryan was back on he air as part of the same NCLB program that hired Williams. Nothing had changed during that seven months. The same laws that made it illegal for the Department of Health and Human Services to produce propaganda in January made it illegal for the Department of Education to produce propaganda in October. Yet, here they were handing a million of our tax dollars to the same PR firm to hire the same spokesperson for the same illegal and unethical practice. The contempt that the Bush administration has for law and honest government couldn't be more clear.

Let's get back to Mr. Williams. In his defense he says, "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." Why then did he charge us a quarter million dollars to do something he wanted to do? Why did the party of fiscal responsibility pay him? Could Republican cronyism have anything to do with it? Williams is not only one of the few black conservatives on television, he is a former aide to Bush's favorite Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Or is the Department of Education just run by stupid people?

How much more of this fiscal responsibility can we survive?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Promises, Promises
The late and lamented actor Jerry Orbach won a Tony in 1965 for singing "Promises, Promises." Alberto Gonzales will probably get confirmed as Attorney General after making lots of promises, promises. The main difference between the two is that Orbach really deserved his prize.
Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel criticized for calling parts of the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment "obsolete," will promise to live by anti-torture treaties if he is confirmed as attorney general, according to a statement obtained on Wednesday.

Gonzales said he was "deeply committed to the rule of law," in a statement for delivery at Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday.

The L.A.Times has an editorial opposing confirmation for Gonzales.
As a leading architect of Bush's ends-justifies-means war on terror, Gonzales pushed to justify torturing terror suspects in violation of international law, promoted military tribunals that echo Stalin's show trials, helped write the Patriot Act (which, among other powers, gives government agents vast new snooping authority) and excused the limitless imprisonment of American citizens whom the president merely suspects of terror activity.

Three years into that war, much of Gonzales' handiwork has been rejected by courts, damned by the world community and disavowed by the administration -- as in the Justice Department memo quietly released last week declaring that "torture is abhorrent to both American law and values and to international norms."

Gonzales' defenders argue that, as White House counsel, he was simply a passionate advocate for his client.

There is enough in Gonzales' background--the torture memos and conflicts of interest that crossed the border into corruption--to render him unfit for the AG or any kind or responsible position in jurisprudence. Mere unsuitability has never been cause to prevent political appointments from going through. There are, however, good reasons not to treat this as politics as usual.

That last statement from the LAT is particularly telling, "[H]e was simply a passionate advocate for his client." Gonzales' years with Bush are filled with examples of him acting as if his primary job in a judicial position was to be "a passionate advocate" for Bush, not to give him good and sound legal advice--which sometimes means saying, "you can't do that." Certain types of law, corporate law for example, are built around finding loopholes for you client to do whatever he or she wants. That's fine for individual advocates. Judges and Attorneys General, on the other hand, are supposed to be advocates for all of the people, not--and this is the important part--for the person who appointed them. Gonzales shows no indication of understanding this. Quite the opposite. Gonzales has behaved like a moderate on those occasions when he has acted independently, but those occasions are very rare.

The Democrats in the Senate are in a difficult position with this. Some are still in denial over the true nature of the Bush administration and think that there might be some return in behaving in a reasonable and conciliatory manner. They are naive and deluded and we must do everything we can to bring them around.

Others think they can find some kind of safe middle ground.
[M]any Democrats think the best they can do is wound Gonzales enough with questions about his notorious torture memos to disqualify him for any future Supreme Court seat. In the end, however, they will feel pressure to support him or face retaliation from Republicans.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest tries to explain it to our representatives as bluntly as possible:
What do you get out of failing to oppose Gonzales' nomination? Is it that you're afraid that Rush Limbaugh is going to say bad things about you if you oppose him? Are you worried about how the media will portray you, maybe say you are "obstructionist?" Are you afraid that you'll be portrayed as "anti-Hispanic?"

Here's what I think YOU don't get: THIS IS ALL GOING TO HAPPEN ANYWAY, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! Rush Limbaugh IS going to say bad things about you. The Right-wing echo-chamber WILL portray you as obstructionist. They WILL portray you as anti-Hispanic. THEY WILL DO AND SAY THESE THINGS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! And, the irony is, these past several years have shown that the more you cozy up to their side, the more they will do this to you, because it shows them that you think you are vulnerable and afraid of your constituents.

Opposition is the only possible course. We gain nothing be being nice.

The only tactical choice open to the Democratic Senate leadership is whether or not to filibuster. I think Frist has made it clear that he plans to eliminate or cripple the filibuster. He is just waiting for a chance to make the Democrats fault. That means the Democrats can only count on having one filibuster. Of course, when the time comes, it might be that Frist fails in his attempt to abolish it--a public outcry could do that--but we shouldn't count on it. So, do the Democrats use their only filibuster now on Gonzales or wait for the Supreme Court battles?

My own inclination is to save it. My recommendation for Gonzales is to plaster him (and Bush) with as much mud as possible during the hearings. The Democrats should hit all of the talking head shows this Sunday to make their case against Gonzales. They should make it clear that a vote for Gonzales is a vote for torture, corruption, and toadyism. When the vote comes, they should all vote against him. Let the Republicans vote for torture; don't provide them with any protective "bipartisan" cover. They can force him through with the force of their votes. Let them do it. Whenever he does anything wrong we should waste no time in saying, "I told you so."

The job of the opposition is to oppose.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The cookie defense
Alberto R. Gonzales' confirmation hearings for Attorney General begin in the Senate tomorrow. Gonzales has a pretty repulsive record and I hope the hearings drag it all out and tie it around George Bush's neck. Already some new details are emerging concerning Gonzales' role in adding the United States to the shameful list of countries that use torture.
Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, intervened directly with Justice Department lawyers in 2002 to obtain a legal ruling on the extent of the president's authority to permit extreme interrogation practices in the name of national security, current and former administration officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Gonzales's role in seeking a legal opinion on the definition of torture and the legal limits on the force that could be used on terrorist suspects in captivity is expected to be a central issue in the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings scheduled to begin on Thursday on Mr. Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general.

The request by Mr. Gonzales produced the much-debated Justice Department memorandum of Aug. 1, 2002, which defined torture narrowly and said that Mr. Bush could circumvent domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security.

Until now, administration officials have been unwilling to provide details about the role Mr. Gonzales had in the production of the memorandum by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Gonzales has spoken of the memorandum as a response to questions, without saying that most of the questions were his.


A White House spokeswoman, Erin Healy, said Tuesday that while Mr. Gonzales personally requested the August opinion, he was only seeking "objective legal advice and did not ask the Office of Legal Counsel to reach any specific conclusion."

When Gonzales wrote to the Office of Legal Counsel and asked, "does the president really have to follow the Geneva Conventions?" he was just asking a hypothetical question and didn't really ahve a particular answer in mind.

How belivable is that? If a five year-old boy walks up to his mother just before dinner and asks, "if someone ate all of the cookies, would they be in trouble?" do we think he's just curious and either answer would be acceptable? Gonzales is a lawyer who is completely familiar with the concept of a leading question. He was trolling for a prefered answer and the Office of Legal Counsel was happy to give it to him.
You call this a role model?
If you've only been listening to the edge of the growing debate over Bush's plan to phase out Social Security, you've no doubt heard that Chile initiated private accounts back in the eighties. The Farmer has been looking into the Chilean experience and located two excellent overviews, one by Dan Restrepo and the other by Steve Idemoto. The Farmer presents some excerpts with the usual Farmeresque commentary.

The original articles and the Farmer's Digest version are well worth reading. If you don't have time to read it all, here's the conclusion from the Idemoto piece.
Advocates of Social Security privatization continually crow about Chile’s high returns under individual accounts. In concentrating on returns, however, they miss crucial parts of the story. They ignore the fact that Chile has cut social spending, raised taxes, and cut benefits in order to pay transition costs—transition costs that the government will continue to pay until 2050. They ignore exorbitant management fees that have, over a number of periods, cut these much-vaunted returns to nearly zero. Advocates also fail to mention that these individual accounts have increased economic inequality and left workers vulnerable to market downturns. Moreover, privatized systems must either require retirees to convert a substantial portion of their account into an annuity – which means that the account can't be passed on to heirs other than the spouse – or accept a high percentage of the very elderly outliving their account and falling into dire poverty. Once these factors are taken into account, the case for privatization becomes much shakier.

Got that? They had to cut social spending, raise taxes, and cut benefits in order to pay transition costs. The transition is 70 years long. After the fund managers take their fees the accounts actually lose money in some years. And, in order to pass the thing in the first place, Pinochet had to jail or murder the opposition, especially the labor movement. Okay, he didn't exactly murder the labor leaders just to pass this bill; he murdered them just for the fun of it. But he wouldn't have been able to pass such a bill if there had been any kind of free labor movement still operating in the country.

This is the ideal that the Bush revolutionaries are putting forward. Maybe our grandmothers can give us some tips on how to prepare a tasty meal from cat food. If this program passes, that's what most of us will be eating in our twilight years.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How to make a geographer cry
I was just watching CNN Headline News. They had a story about whgistleblower accusations that the test of an AIDS vaccine in Uganda put the lives of mothers and babies at risk. While the announcer read the story the graphics department slapped up their neat logo for the story. The logo included the word AIDS superimposed over a map of South Africa -- a country five times the size of Uganda and 1400 miles away.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year
Turn down the music; people with hangovers are trying to sleep.

Change the battery in your smoke detector.

Start a diet.

Clean out you medicine cabinet and throw away the expired perscription drugs.

Call your folks.

Be nice to a stranger.

Get involved.

Update the copywrite notice on your blog template.

Everything ready for action?