Friday, August 13, 2004

Happy Friday the 13th

Let's take a trip down memory lane. A year ago this Sunday I fired up this blog - at this point in August last year that would have been "Fair and Balanced Friday". Y'all will notice that I've hung on to the "fair and balanced" phrase since I began. Took me a couple weeks to settle on a name for the blog: started out as "Fair and Balanced: Yeah, Right" and then "Fair and Balanced Musings of a Bokononist" before I settled on "The Left End of the Dial" - a homage to where all my favorite radio stations were back in the day (I avoid radio like the plague these days), a reference to a favorite alternative rock band (The Replacements), and an apt description of my own political inclinations. Worked for me.



I'd been reading blogs for a while. What motivated me to start one of my own? Let's just say that a couple years of Bu$hCo's nonsense (PATRIOT Act inspired fascism, the idiotic war against the Iraqi people and a simultaneous cultural war against those of us dissidents who didn't fit in with the wingnut vision of the new fatherland) had alreadly grated on my nerves. The last straw was od-ing on Faux News ("We distort, you comply") courtesy of my in-laws during a vacation in California. Their neo-Stalinist approach to propaganda disguised as "news" was sufficient to inspire me to add my own voice to blogtopia.



Suffice it to say, the tone of the blog was intended to be angry. This would be my space to rant. Over the last year I've done precisely that and then some. I've tried to turn on some folks to some cool political art, some great jazzers, and to drop a few rhymes and haiku that I've been working on. For those of you who've bothered to tune in, turn on, and check it out I thank you. If you've found something of value here, that's most cool.



So what's next? A continuation. I'll drop a few new things here as time and inspiration permit. I'm a jazz, rap, and beat poetry fan and want to keep turning y'all on to some artists and their work. I'll drop some more rhymes. Assuming that we're rapidly approaching the post-Bush era, I want to spend some time working out a positive vision of an America that I hope is still to come - we'll have plenty of time to talk about love and light before too long, I hope.



Peace.

Religion is the opiate of the wingnut

Bush's born again drug war



Clips:



Listen to George Walker Bush speak about substance abuse and it's apparent that one is listening to a preacher, not a president. "There are faith-based organizations in drug treatment that work so well because they convince a person to turn their life over to Christ," Bush divulged to the religious journal Christianity Today. "By doing so, they change a person's heart [and] a person with a changed heart is less likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol."





[...]



As President, one of Bush's first actions was to sign an executive order establishing a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, presently headed by "Faith Czar" Jim Towey. In 2002, the Bush administration awarded nearly 500 faith-based programs - including several drug "education" and treatment programs - $477 million in taxpayers' funding. In 2002, Bush doled out an additional $568 million in federal funds to 680 self-identified faith-based groups - programs like the fundamentalist Christian drug-treatment project "Set Free Indeed," which states: "We rely solely on the foundation of the Word of God to break the bands of addiction.



[...]



Religion has also been the theme of several new, high profile anti-drug campaigns launched by the administration. In 2003, just months after being tapped by Bush to head the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Karen Tandy threw her weight behind a grassroots anti-drug campaign called "Pray for the Children," which according to the group's website, maintains, "The power of prayer is unequaled" in influencing adolescents from refraining from drug use.



[...]



Also last year, Bush launched "Faith. The Anti-Drug," a multi-million dollar campaign to encourage the religious community to incorporate pot abstinence into their spiritual teachings. "Faith plays a powerful role in preventing youth marijuana use," announced Drug Czar John Walters - himself a disciple of notorious "virtuecrat" and former drug czar William Bennett - at the campaign's kickoff party.



[...]



But are such campaigns "making a difference?" And are they even appropriate? Critics resoundingly say "no" on both counts.



"Religious drug treatment programs [like those favored by Bush] turn back the medical clock to the 19th Century," says Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, a faith-based initiative watchdog group whose membership includes over 7,500 religious and community leaders. "The President values programs that say: 'We can pray you out of your addiction' more than programs that say: 'We will treat your addiction with counseling, medical treatment and spirituality.' Even more outrageous is his insistence that taxpayers foot the bill for his dangerous approach."



It's also potentially unconstitutional, according to Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United, a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. that argues for the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.




To me the bottom line is that so-called faith-based approaches to addictions are miserable failures as well as failing to pass constitutional muster. Just as stupid as these abstinence programs regarding sexuality. With regards to addictions, not only does the addict need to get their system cleaned, but they require a good deal of assistance in changing their cognitive and behavioral habits. That takes time, counseling, medical attention, and lots of support from a variety of interpersonal sources. Faith can help the recovering addict to the extent that he/she can find an additional source of strength, guidance, and so on, but it cannot be the sole treatment to addiction. You can't pray your way out of addictions.

From the "Prozac Nation" Department

'Let them eat Prozac!



The prevailing attitude was summed up by Susan Sheybani, assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. Sheybani recently suggested that American workers unhappy with low-quality jobs should find new ones -- or take Prozac to get over their unhappiness. "Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" she said.



Since 40 million adult Americans don't have health insurance, the Prozac solution proffered by self-appointed Dr. Sheybani isn't within the means of the unhappiest of our workers. Prozac, without insurance, is expensive, even as a generic. Sheybani might also consider that anxiety-riddled workers are less dangerous when left to their beer and satellite dishes, which have kept them sated and distracted up until now. A few beers, a few minutes with Fox News and they'll keep voting against their best interests, keep equating patriotism with the amoral corporate hucksters, keep believing Saddam was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Taken as directed by a physician, Prozac is designed to lift such delusional scales from one's eyes. Not worth taking a chance, Piggy Sue.



The only other solution offered to overworked and underpaid Americans by the prevailing power structure was one suggested by Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a recent speech to an exclusive California business club. Donohue told the millions of Americans who've lost their jobs, will lose their jobs, can't find work or have to settle for low-paying jobs with no benefits to "Stop whining!" The remark was greeted with warm applause from the upper crust to whom it was delivered. To Republicans in 2004, bashing American workers is like Strom Thurmond's ancient cry for racial purity and lynch parties. "Stop whining," said Donohue, "the benefits of offshoring jobs outweigh the cost."



And what are those benefits?




Whatever they are, they sure aren't benefits for us regular folks. Who benefits? Here's a hint: the cats whose most pressing difficulty is whether to buy a new fleet of Hummers this year or to go for the new fleet of Mercedes.

Huh...this is counter-intuitive

Terrorism fears no longer helping Bush, study finds



Michigan State University political science professors Darren W. Davis and Brian D. Silver say their study found that the more worried people are about the possibility of another terrorist attack, the more likely they are to vote for John Kerry. The research will be presented at a meeting of political scientists in Chicago next month.



[...]



And, the professors say, that trend is influencing how people plan to vote in the November election.



The two researchers' most recent survey, conducted in Michigan from April 19 to June 15, indicates that 24 percent of respondents -- a sampling of Michigan residents statistically weighted to reflect the adult U.S. population -- were "very concerned" about the possibility of another terrorist attack and 44 percent were "somewhat concerned."



When respondents were asked how they planned to vote in the November election, a narrow majority -- 51 percent -- said they would vote for Bush.



Davis and Silver then examined the respondents' voting preferences and how they related to the respondents' levels of concern about terrorism. Of those who were "very concerned," 38 percent said they planned to vote to re-elect President Bush, while 76 percent of those who were "not at all concerned" said they would vote for Bush.

Maybe we can learn a few things from our friends in Sweden

Sweden's success story has lessons for the world



The truth is, as a recent report by the United Nations showed, that if you factor in not just national income, but the longevity of its people, low infant mortality and high levels of education, Sweden is probably the most successful country in the world.



Moreover, a new study by Professor Richard Florida, of Carnegie Mellon University, which measures the kind of creativity most useful to business - talent, technology and tolerance - puts Sweden at No. 1 in Europe and ahead of the United States. In the future, Florida argues, this means that Sweden will become a "talent magnet" for the world's most purposeful workers.



Yet there is another side of Sweden. If one walks down a remote dirt track on the island of Faro that leads to the shores of the Baltic, one comes to the house of the filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, hidden both by forest and the unwillingness of the local people to divulge its whereabouts. Bergman has spent a lifetime chronicling the Swedish soul - its solitariness, its obsessiveness and its melancholia - as have other Swedish artistic geniuses. The same traits are in the poetry of Tomas Transtromer, the music of Wilhelm Stenhammar, the paintings of Anders Zorn and the writings of August Strindberg and Stig Dagerman.



Maybe it is this - and the long, dark, gray winters - that will succeed in keeping Sweden partly cut off from the world. Despite its successes, at least half its population prefers to be a step apart.Swedish voters turned their back on the euro. This is the European country that, along with France, loves itself the most. It is comfortable in its old ways, is wedded to its cradle-to-the-grave welfare state - despite the high taxes needed to support it - and lives a life that is distinctly introverted. You can see all this reflected in Medieval Week, held in the walled city of Visby on Faro's neighboring island of Gotland, when visitors come from all over Sweden just to walk quietly around in medieval dress.



The real truth is that the two sides of Sweden coexist, and not altogether uneasily. Sweden has more multinational corporations per head than any other country and, despite its socialism, state-owned enterprises barely exist. Sweden has pioneered private competition in a range of endeavors from railways to hospital management and schools. Immigrants have been welcomed generously. Sweden is the only country in Europe not to insist on some years of transition before the workers of the new eastern members of the Union are granted the right to free movement.



The Swedes have been called the Japanese of Europe; in their consensual society, disputes are talked out even if its takes hours, days or months. The idea of the adversarial debate, whether in Parliament or in the courtroom, is regarded as uncivilized. Yet at the same time Swedes are immensely individualistic. This is the country that pioneered sexual freedom and women's emancipation. Late teenage sex is accepted unblinkingly. The divorce rate is the highest in the Western world.



If you want to understand Sweden you have to understand its Lutheran heritage. While Church attendance, except at Easter and Christmas, is extraordinarily low, probity is in the Swedish soul. Honesty in business is one reason why Swedish companies shine abroad. A handshake seals a deal. Rarely is an idea oversold. Bills are paid on time. If you are in a serious relationship, infidelity is not acceptable. If it happens then it usually means separation.



Swedes have consciously chosen not to take the Anglo-Saxon road. They have one of the lowest take-home pay envelopes in the Western world; the state taxes away almost half of their income. As for the rest, Swedes would rather take long vacations and work a short week than push up the national income figures. Outsiders may say that Sweden, once the richest country in Europe in terms of gross domestic product per head, is losing its way. But insiders are content. The economy purrs along.

George Orwell got it a few years too late

try to order a pizza in 2008. Needs no further commentary. Check it out.

And in the Palestine Lives Department:

Palestinian youths speak out with art



Subtitle: An America Jew has made sure at least some Palestinian children will remember their land the way it was before its destruction by Israeli bulldozers. Clips:



Dr Susan Greene has repeatedly left the safety of San Francisco and travelled to the occupied territories - armed only with a paintbox.



She has become a leading member of the Break the Silence Mural Project - an arts group that promotes a greater awareness of the complexities of the conflict in Palestine.



"Although there is no real freedom of movement, friends got me to Bait Hanun where the local children and I painted a mural of orange trees," she told Aljazeera.net on Thursday.



Anyone familiar with Bait Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, knows the town was once famous for orchards - especially its orange trees.



"Now it is a desert. The trees have been martyred ... so the mural depicted martyred orange trees."



[...]



"As an American Jew I have the privilege to be able to speak out. Americans need to get acquainted with what is happening here. Palestine is as big an issue as South Africa was. What is going on here is genocide.



[...]



"At night I couldn't sleep because of the gunfire and the F-16s constantly making flights over the town.



"But the children are accustomed to it - if you ask them whether they have trouble sleeping, they will tell you 'the gunfire is like music - we can't sleep without it'".



"What Israeli soldiers do to Bait Hanun is horrible and relentless."




Spread the word.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised...

It will be texted. Check out this article on Wired News (Text Messages for Critical Masses, a clip of which follows):



In the history of political protests, police have long had the technological upper hand when it comes to monitoring protesters' movements and actions. But a new tool is giving activists at this year's two major political conventions a chance to stay one step ahead of the police.



Known as TxtMob, the new service from the Institute for Applied Autonomy was unveiled last month at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. There, TxtMob allowed more than 260 subscribers to automatically blast text messages to the mobile phones of every other subscriber.



"There were ... a number of interesting uses that the system got put to" at the DNC, said John Henry, TxtMob's developer. "Police did arrest one protester, and there were not a lot of people around. Someone saw it happen, (sent a TxtMob message), and a hundred of that kid's friends were on the scene in minutes ... to make sure" the police acted correctly.



[...]



And because of concerns that police at the convention would run roughshod over them, some protesters found that TxtMob was useful for keeping each other apprised of police movements.



Now, thanks to the largely successful word-of-mouth rollout of TxtMob at the DNC, Henry is planning to take it to New York for the Republican National Convention later this month. There, because of the far larger protests expected and the resulting police force that will be gathered to control them, Henry imagines the service will get a much tougher workout.



"Anger at the Republican Party is significantly higher than it is at the Democratic Party," he said. "I'm realistically concerned about the safety of those going to New York" to protest at the RNC.



For now, TxtMob is being used exclusively for political organizing.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Be afraid...be very afraid: Part Dieux

Using the threat of terrorism to scare voters: all of September will be "National Preparedness Month"



Damn, you can't make this shit up. Dear Leader is behind in the polls, so what to do? A whole fucking month devoted to fear and loathing. Gotta love these chumps.



Bob Harris sums the whole sorry spectacle in a sentence:



This is, in short, a partisan, deeply politicized, Republican deal. On its face.




And let us not forget more creeping American-style fascism:



What troubles me most of all, really, is the one other set of groups pledged as active participants -- the media, in the form of the Ad Council, the NAB, the Outdoor Advertising Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.



... and then the deluge.



Don't say I didn't warn you.




These fuckers have learned the lessons of Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels all too well.

Wisdom from a fellow Bokononist

I Love You, Madame Librarian



So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.



[...]



In case you haven’t noticed, and as a result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war lovers, with appallingly powerful weaponry and unopposed.



In case you haven’t noticed, we are now almost as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis were.



With good reason.



In case you haven’t noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound and kill ’em and torture ’em and imprison ’em all we want.



Piece of cake.



In case you haven’t noticed, we also dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.



Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything.



Piece of cake.



The O’Reilly Factor.



[...]



What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without a sense of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations and made it all their own?


Beatin' the Bushes

The Lies of George W. Bush: a most cool Daily Kos diary that summarizes David Corn's Lies of George W. Bush in one convenient place.



Nick Lewis of NET POLITIK has several posts up on his blog detailing the many mis-statements of Dear Leader: My Favorite Bushisms, My Favorite Bushisms II: The Sequal, More Bushisms from Current Events Monitor. I remember back in the early 1980s there was a book called Ronald Reagan's Reign of Error (I was a teen on the border line of poverty at the time, so never bought the book but did clip out a review of the book from a local newspaper - no telling where that's at now). I'll say this: Reagan has nothing on Junior when it comes to incoherence.



Next time some cat tries to feed you some bullshit about how honest Bush is, how much of a straight-shooter he supposedly is, or how he's just like one of us average guys, give them the lowdown and set them on the path of righteousness. To give you some idea: most of my family and my wife's family come from working class and rural backgrounds, don't have more than high school educations, and hail from Texas and I'll tell you they all - without fail - don't sound ignorant at all and they can smell bullshit a mile away. Bush sounds ignorant in spite of that fancy Ivy League education and speaks with a forked tongue y'all.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Learn More About Jerry Corsi

AP finally notices Corsi's bigotted Freeper posts



When interpreting the validity of the various smear campaigns against Kerry, it's well-advised to consider the source of the smear. It's also important to vocally challenge the smears and to shed light on the background of their perpetrators. Corsi is one very unseemly character.

The last days of Weimar?

One has to wonder sometimes. Yeah, I know: Bush is no Hitler and history never really repeats itself (or as Heraclitus would say, "You cannot step into the same river twice...for different and again different waters flow."). Still I and others have noted that there is a uniquely American form of fascism rearing its ugly head that has found friends in the White House, Congress, and elements of the mass media and corporate sectors. A round-up of some stories that grabbed my attention:



Not Scared Yet? Try Connecting These Dots by Ray McGovern. Among other things, McGovern looks at how Americans might react to a possible "delay" of elections:



On Friday I listened to a reporter asking a tourist in Washington, DC, whether he felt inconvenienced by all the blockages and barriers occasioned by the heightened alert. While the tourist acknowledged that the various barriers and inspections made it difficult to get from one place to another, he made his overall reaction quite clear: "Safety first! I don't want to see another 9/11. Whatever it takes!" I was struck a few hours later as I tuned into President Bush speaking at a campaign rally in Michigan: "I will never relent in defending America. Whatever it takes."



How prevalent this sentiment has become was brought home to me as Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) quizzed 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey (a former Democrat Senator from Nebraska) at a hearing last week on the commission's sweeping recommendation to centralize foreign and domestic intelligence under a new National Intelligence Director in the White House. Kerrey grew quite angry as Kucinich kept insisting on an answer to his question: "How do you protect civil liberties amid such a concentration of information and power?"



Kerrey protested that the terrorists give no priority to civil liberties. He went on to say that individual liberties must, in effect, be put on the back burner, while priority is given to combating terrorism.
Whatever it takes.



Does this not speak volumes? Would Kerrey suggest that Americans act like the "good Germans" of the 1930s, and acquiesce in draconian steps like postponement or cancellation of the November election?



These are no small matters. It is high time to think them through.




RNC Protest Organizers Reject Rally Site looks at the on-going struggle for protesters to be seen and heard at the upcoming GOP convention in NYC. On a related note, Jim Hightower of The Nation looks at Bu$hCo's efforts to quash free speech and protest even before the 9/11 tragedy in Bush Zones Go National.



One crucial element in the development of a fascist state is the merging of the federal government and big business to the extent that it is unclear as to where the public sector ends and the private sector begins. We see in this article, Big Business Becoming Big Brother by Kim Zetter of Wired.com that the US government is increasingly contracting out surveillance work to private corporations which apparently allows the feds to keep an eye on the theat posed by peace sign-wearing activists without the inconvenience of those restrictions regarding privacy rights. Nice.



And David Neiwert of the excellent blog Orcinus continues to look at the role of mainstream media and (yes) mainstream GOP voters in allowing virulent racists and virulent racist ideas to go unchallenged in Home to Roost. Remember that old parental admonition that you are judged by the company you keep? Well, as long as GOP types continue to keep a blind eye to the right-wing extremists who've aligned themselves with the GOP, it'll be difficult to impossible for independents of a variety of political stripes (from the very liberal such as myself to those who are more moderate or libertarian) to trust representatives of that party. Something to think about.



While were on Neiwert's blog, don't forget to check out the post Good Christian Hate which looks at a recent gay bashing crime by someone who apparently was quoting Biblical scripture while working over his victim. In another post by Neiwert Shades of Kristallnacht, we get some commentary on a recent anti-Semitic vandalism of a large number of businesses in the Bay Area of California that had displayed signs for a local Board of Supervisors candidate David Heller, who so happens to be Jewish and whose grandparents had been killed by the Nazis during WWII. The vandals spray-painted swastikas on the windows of those businesses. Finally, Neiwert tackles one of my least favorite right-wing gasbags, Bill O'Reilly, in a post titled Just like the Klan which discusses a recent "debate" between O'Reilly and Paul Krugman on Tim Russert's CNBC show. I put "debate" in quotes as O'Reilly wasn't actually there to discuss issues as a rational human being and was instead content to threaten and intimidate. Real nice guy. Fair and balanced, and all that. In making the claim that the watchdog group Media Matters is just like the Ku Klux Klan, Neiwert notes that not only is O'Reilly factually wrong but is serving a sinister purpose with that claim:



Not only does O'Reilly smear one of his political nemeses -- he soft-pedals what real hate groups stand for. When he compares Media Matters to the Klan, he's not only telling his audience that the former is full of hateful vitriol that poisons the public well, he tells them that the Klan is a reasonably legitimate organization that mostly is engaged in mere political partisanship.



And that makes O'Reilly appear not only ridiculous, but genuinely dangerous.





Food for thought.

Check it out

What'd I Say?



Fun with wingnut hate speech quotes and hypocrisy, as well as material on bringing populism back to the Democrat party.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Be afraid...be very afraid

That's the line from Bu$hCo these days. As I and some other bloggers have noted, fear is an effective weapon in the despot's arsenal, and if the despot plays his cards correctly can lurch his subordinates toward a more authoritarian mindset. Hence the need to find a much needed antidote during a pivotal election year. Pessimist of the Left Coaster provides one such attempt in FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real, which weaves a number of relatively famous quotations on the topic of fear with some current news and commentary. Nicely done and well worth reading.