Friday, November 7, 2003

Winners of the TPM Imminent Threat Contest

The quotes themselves are quite an eyefull. If you've deluded yourself into believing that the White House never built up Iraq as an "imminent threat" then these quotes provide a healthy does of reality.

And speaking of lies yet again

Jessica Lynch has a few words about how her story was handled by the military

Suffice it to say, she was unhappy about her situation being used and distorted for propaganda purposes.

Read it and Weep

Column by Art Buchwald. Usually he's a humorist, but this column has a distinctly sober tone. One of the victims of the Bush White House and the Republican-led congress is our nation's libraries. Sadly, the people running the show here in Washington don't seem to give a damn.

And speaking of Bush lies

Looks like six more soldiers died in yet another helicopter crash. It's unclear as of this writing whether the crash was caused by mechanical failure or by hostile attack. Damn, this really sucks.

Bush Lied (or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Have Fun With Google)

Thanks to Hammerdown, here's this juicy tidbit: A google search for the term "Bush lied" and you will end up with some 34,000 hits. Go visit Hammerdown (link above) to check out some of the his he found noteworthy.

In the meantime, you can check out some other search terms on Google, such as "Bush lies" which generates approximately 24,400 hits, and "Bush is a liar" which generates approximately 4,850 hits.

Stupid Patriot Act Tricks

Apparently the FBI used the Patriot Act to investigate a strip club proprietor. Geez!

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Silly word games and weapons of mass destruction

Josh Marshall's excellent column tackles the recent wingnut claim that the Bush administration never used the term "imminent threat" when characterizing the Hussein regime in Iraq. Josh does a nice job of debunking the claim and shows how, in their own words, the Bush cabal represented the alleged threat posed by the Iraq government.

What Grade Would You Assign Bush?

The gist: Bush appears to have failed to learn important lessons from his MBA training about judgment and decision-making. The Iraq fiasco is an excellent case study for how to fail as a manager.

Irony 101

Here's a blurb from Soundbitten...although Bush's approval rating has been dropping over the last several months, there is one group that has offered Bush some comfort: college students (their approval ratings for the "prez" are roughly 10% higher than the national average). If only Dubya liked college students as much as they like him. While in office, a primary form of financial aid -- the Pell Grant -- has been frozen at its current level of $4000 for an academic year (another empty promise from Dubya was that these grants would increase).

About 40% of the Iraq Military Deaths From Rural Backgrounds

I've mentioned this before, and thought I'd mention it again: young men and women from small towns and farming communities are the ones who are cannon fodder in this war. Having spent the last several years of my life either living in a rural area (currently) or living in a small city surrounded by rural communities (my grad school days), I've gained a great deal of appreciation for the pressures facing young people in these communities. Let's face it, the jobs simply are not there for many of our youth, and the military seems like an attractive option for those seeking an alternative to a life of poverty and underemployment.

Is America Becoming Fascist?

I've had an occasional discussion regarding fascism with a friendly acquaintance and this article seems to fit in pretty nicely with that conversation. Where my acquaintance and I get hung up is on terminology: he seems hesitant to use the term fascism to describe the current political climate, instead preferring to note that a uniquely American brand of authoritarianism seems to be ascendant. True, fascism is a fairly loaded term, but it does appear to describe the psychological and ideological foundation of much of our current White House. Certainly worth reading for Stanley Payne's general theory of fascism and the model of fascism proposed by Umberto Eco. I think the parallels are definitely there between their models and the one accepted by the powers that be.

A couple other tidbits worth noting: Payne's model points out that fascists are anti-conservative, and this is an important point when trying to put American fascism in context. American conservatism has a rather pronounced economic and often social libertarian streak that is at cross-purposes with fascism. Where the American fascists (under the ideological label "neo-conservative") have succeeded is in appropriating many of the themes of conservatism to advance their own agenda. To the conservatives I'll say this: you've been jacked by Bush and cronies.

The article also notes something that to me should be pretty obvious: fascism has probably always been around, and varies only in terms of its relative dormance. Given the right set of economic, political, and diplomatic conditions fascism can be awakened from its dormant state, and succeeds to the extent that it can play on the fears and ideals of the populace.

Food for thought.

Gross Domestic Product or Grossly Distorted Picture?

Here's a quick primer on what the Gross Domestic Product means and what it fails to tell us.

As the Economic Policy Institute correctly points out, the causes "underlying this growth are temporary: one-time tax cuts lifted disposable income; mortgage refinancing increased household spending; and a decline in inventories contributed to a lower trade deficit." Translation: the GDP this quarter was on a one-time economic steroid shot, juiced up by short-term political bribes (tax cuts) that can't be repeated, home owners cashing in on low interest rates and a temporary change in lower imports.

I also found it interesting that credit card purchases are part of the GDP...go into more debt and make the economy look superficially like it's chugging along. Boy is that comforting! The basic upshot is that the GDP merely indicates that money is being spent or borrowed, with little indication of who benefits from these transactions.

Some Fair and Balanced Humor


Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Don't Believe The Hype

Nice post w/plenty of links. Who's selling and why are any of us buying? Chances are that whatever it is -- be it consumer goods or political spin -- it's a piece of crap. Enjoy.

Mark your calendars for November 28!

Long queue at drive-in soup kitchen

First in a three-part series by Julian Borger on George Bush's America, less than a year away from the 2004 election. The main focus of this first article in the series is on the increased problem of poverty here in the US. There's nothing really new here to me, but it's well-written, and a well-written reminder is typically worth reading. The main culprits for the current poverty situation are fairly easy to name: the NAFTA treaty that was signed by Clinton in 1994, and the welfare reform legislation that was passed by a Republican-led congress and heartily endorsed by Clinton in 1996. The effect of NAFTA has been for companies to relocate manufacturing and white-collar jobs (under that lovely term "outsourcing") to other countries, such as Mexico. Those are jobs that have likely been lost forever.

The other culprit, welfare reform, has led to an increased stress on private relief organizations to provide what was once provided by the federal government. Much in the way of programs that were supposed to bridge the transition from welfare to employment have been cut back since the boom years of the 1990s went bust; it is increasingly difficult for individuals to successfully navigate the more stringent requirements to get welfare; and food stamps inadequately cover a typical family's food bill. It should be noted that even during the go-go 1990s when the economy seemed to be on overdrive, there were signs that the success of welfare reform was somewhat illusory. Where was most of the job growth then? In the service sector. Retail jobs typically pay low wages, and provide minimal benefits for those lucky enough to be employed full-time and no benefits for those who are under-employed. Individuals who had transitioned from welfare to employment faced a cut off of food aid and so-on that led them to the soup kitchens and food banks in increasing numbers. It was hard for soup kitchens and food banks to keep up with the demand even during the last years of the 1990s, and I can only imagine how difficult it has become for these same organizations now during much more difficult economic times.

What are the consequences? At bare minimum I see the following:

1. Increased malaise and cynicism among those who are near or below the poverty line. Those who do register to vote among this demographic are not inclined to show up to the polls at election day. There seems to be a general vibe that those in politics are generally corrupt, cannot be trusted, and will only screw the poor once all is said and done.

2. The increased poverty and the problems that come with poverty such as malnutrition and inadequate health care will have long-term consequences for the entire US society. It's one thing when adults have to skip meals in order to make it from paycheck to paycheck (and having been there too many times for comfort, I hardly endorse or excuse the conditions that lead adults to forego proper nourishment). It's quite another thing when children, who are going through many critical periods of the development of their cognitive and physical systems, are denied adequate nourishment. The available evidence is that inadequate nourishment has a negative effect on intelligence. Although some effects of malnutrition can be reversed if caught early enough, the reality is that a lot of kids are likely to fall by the wayside under the current set of economic and political circumstances. These are kids who are going to be short-changed from ever reaching their full potential, and are likely to have a more difficult time attaining any semblance of success as they reach adulthood. The problems with finding affordable healthcare are leading parents to cut corners on such things as vaccinations for their kids, and are making us collectively more vulnerable to communicable diseases of various sorts.

The above is maddening to me, especially given that our President and apparently majorities of those in Congress seem able to find an additional $87 Billion to send to Iraq but cannot or will not provide the funds needed to address the situation faced by those in the US who are failing to make ends meet.

Wake Up!

Sign the petition and boycott CBS during the November Sweeps period for their cowardly decision to pull the Reagan mini-series from its schedule.

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

More fun with language

Simon Tisdall produces an editorial that more or less sums up some ideas and concerns I've had (and no doubt other progressives have) over the last couple years: namely regarding the influence of language use on political discourse. Add this to George Lakoff's ideas on framing in political discourse and we have a pretty interesting and disquieting picture.

Here's the thing: we are a species that depends on language for communication and because of our language capacity relies on language to assign meaning to experiences. Contrary to the old nursery rhyme, words can and do hurt as much so if no more than sticks and stones. In the case of the current "President" we find someone who uses words in an intentionally divisive and hurtful fashion, in a manner that only serves to provoke a hostile reaction. Take the "war on terrorism." How do we define a "terrorist?" How do we distinguish between a "terrorist" and a "freedom fighter?" These terms strike me as rather vague and easily a matter of perspective. Would we Americans be okay with references to our nation's founders as terrorists? Who gets to decide which peoples are "civilized" and which ones are "barbaric?" Again this strikes me as a matter of perspective: how civilized are we in the US when we make legal the execution of minors, round up alleged "terrorists" and hold them in a prison camp without due process, and export highly destructive weapons? I wonder. Why is it okay for the US to have WMD, but not okay for others to possess WMD?

In any case, it strikes me that world leaders in particular need to take care in the language they use. In order to survive in an increasingly interconnected world, it is crucial to avoid loaded words and slogans that serve only to fuel misunderstanding rather than to foster understanding. It is equally critical that we as citizens critically evaluate the words of our leaders -- are they being truthful or are the feeding us more propaganda?

"Dakhil" and the Hitherto Fruitless Search for Saddam Hussein

Well worth reading for insight into why the search for Hussein has been a failure and why our occupation is meeting with increasingly stiff resistance. Contrary to our "President", ignorance is not strength.

I See Nude People

Well, not really. But I did read this article. Ever wonder what nudist clubs and "Girls Gone Wild" videos have in common? The article attempts to show a common ground: namely changing attitudes regarding the human body. Makes for an interesting study of the role of social norms on our perceptions of others' behavior, and how our reactions to the same behavior can change as the norms change. Personally, I've been about challenging social norms for a long time, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that such norms are not set in concrete.

We Americans are still living in the shadow of the Puritans when it comes to the human body and human sexuality. What's been happening over the last few decades has been a reduction of that shadow. Puritanism itself is an outgrowth of an assumption that dates back to the Greco-Roman era attributable to the Neo-Platonic philosophers (among others) that the body and the physical world more broadly are somehow impure and essentially function as prisons for the spirit. For us, the physical world and sin go hand in hand. That seems to be most visible in this article with regard to others' perception of nudists and nudist clubs: apparently there is a perceived but grossly unrealistic characterization that nudist clubs and nude beaches are places where orgies occur. As it turns out, the vast majority of nudists are rather strikingly ordinary (shall we say even conventional?) with regard to their lifestyles apart from a practice of going clothing optional whenever possible. And context really is everything. I've been to nude beaches before and it's quite striking how sexually uncharged the atmosphere is: if it's titilation that one really wants, it's best to go to a conventional beach where people are strategically concealing taboo body parts with as little material as they can get away with -- now there's a considerably more sexually charged atmosphere.

Hopefully we Americans are getting over some of our hang-ups. That at least seemed to be the gist of the article: we are, albeit slowly.

Update: While we're on the subject of nudity, check out this link to Naked Protesters and Nude Activists: Public Nudity in the Public Interest. Props to the Sensual LIberation Army for the link. Just a quick note -- these two sites will lead you to images of nude people. If you are under the age of 18, visiting these sites may make you go blind or insane, corrupt your morals, or lead you to eternal damnation. If you are 18 or over, presumably you're already nearsighted and neurotic (doesn't do much good to view pictures if you're blind, and most mental hospitals have no internet access for patients), your morals have long ago been corrupted, or you've already cut a deal with the Devil and are eternally damned so it no longer matters.

More fun with graphics

Courtesy of Evil GOP Bastards

Monday, November 3, 2003

Arsonist Burns Peace Activists' Home

The gist: Some people will go to extreme lengths to extinguish challenges to orthodoxy...including setting the houses of dissidents on fire. I have to wonder, what was the arsonist(s) afraid of? Obviously the anti-war sign at their house touched a nerve. It heartens me that the victims of this act of terror have maintained their resolve in the process.

REM -- "Bad Day" Updated Lyrics

Thanks to Atrios (Eschaton):

A Public service announcement followed me home the other day

I paid it nevermind. Go away.

Shits so thick you could stir it with a stick- free Teflon whitewashed presidency

We're sick of being jerked around

Wear that on your sleeve

Broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, lord,

Count your blessings.

We're sick of being jerked around

We all fall down.

Have you ever seen the televised St. vitus subcommittee prize

Investigation dance? Those-ants-in- pants glances.

Well, look behind the eyes

It's a hallowed, hollow anesthesized

"save my own ass, screw these guys"

smoke and mirror lock down

Broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, lord,

Count your blessings.

the papers wouldn't lie!

I sigh. Not one more

Its been a bad day.

Please don't take a picture

Its been a bad day.


We're dug in the deep the price is steep.

The auctioneer is such a creep.

The lights went out, the oil ran dry

We blamed it on the other guy

Sure, all men are created equal.

Heres the church, heres the steeple

Please stay tuned--we cut to sequel

ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, lord, Count your blessings.

Embrace the lowest fear/Ignore the lower fears

Ugh, this means war.

Its been a bad day.

Broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, lord,

Count your blessings.

We're sick of being jerked around

We all fall down.

Its been a bad day...

Riddle Me This Batman

According to our Great Misleader, the increase in insurgent activity is proof that we're winning and that the insurgents are desperate. Now given the attacks and casualties this last weekend, does that mean the occupation of Iraq is going even better? At what point do we declare victory, since the "mission accomplished" photo-op clearly was premature? Will we one day have our Great Misleader declare victory in Iraq after the guerillas wipe out an entire Army division? The mind boggles.

Shorter Bush

Who cares if the American people actually elected me or not. I am God's Chosen One.

Note: I'm left with this question...When did we start letting deities cast ballots?

Today's Graphic (via All Hat No Cattle)

Giggle search for "George Bush Vietnam war hero"

Some humor to make your day. Enjoy!

The Chickenhawks Come Home to Roost

The gist: Bush has been messing with the bull (in this case unprovoked invasion of sovereign nation); now here come the horns (of a dilemma -- stay put and watch re-election prospects drop or pull out of Iraq or at least put the UN in control and lose face).