May 15, 2012

More Than One Woman Promoted Mother's Day in the US

Earlier in my life, I took at face-value "the progressive history of Mother's Day." Perhaps you've heard it? Someone told you about Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation and told you that ending war is the real reason for the day? Sorry to break it to you, but that's not true.

The reality is that Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis did something amazing in West Virginia. She organized Mother's Work Days, starting in the 1850s to improve health and sanitation. When the Civil War broke out, she asked her members to sign statements of neutrality and provided healthcare for combatants of both sides. After the war, she organized Mother's Friendship Days to encourage the reconciliation vitally needed at the end of any armed conflict. When she died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, dedicated her life to creating a holiday to honor her mother and all mothers.

According to the Legacy Project, "In 1908, Anna persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, WV to celebrate Mother's Day on the anniversary of her mother's death, the second Sunday of May. It was to be a day to honor all mothers, and also a day to remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty started by her mother." To expand the celebration state-wide, Jarvis needed the help of corporate sponsors. This started the commercialization of the day. The flower and card industry strongly supported the state holiday and federal legislation. Towards the end of her life, Anna Jarvis was bitter about the crass commercialization of her memorial to her mother's memory.

Julia Ward Howe wrote her proclamation in 1870 and promoted June 2 as a Mother's Day for Peace starting in 1872. The celebrations fizzled out after she stopped personally funding them.

I truly appreciate Howe's writing. I love that her perspective evolved over time - she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in support of the Civil War because she was an ardent abolitionist. But after seeing the carnage of that war and the Franco-Prussian War, she became a pacifist. I agree with her that people need to come together to figure out how to solve conflicts without resorting to violence. But I am frustrated by the inaccurate history perpetrated by most progressive organizations, from Democracy Now to CODEPINK to WILPF US. To be clear: I have a mountain of respect for all three of those organizations, but I also want to honor history accurately.

Interested in honoring Howe's June 2 Day of Peace?

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
And if you're in LA, join me at the Women's Peace Walk, sponsored by WILPF LA and the Greater LA Chapter of the US Committee for UN Women.

Posted by cj at 6:12 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2012

Dependence on Chinese Production Deserves Factual Storytelling

This American Life logoToday, This American Life announced that it is retracting Mike Daisey's monologue on Apple in China. This weekend a new episode dedicated entirely to factual coverage of Apple's suppliers in China and revealing Daisey's lies will air.

Daisey's response? His only regret is allowing This American Life to air excerpts of his monologue as factual journalism. Never mind the fact that he knew before the piece aired that the program was fact-checking his work. Never mind that he knew that the most poignant vignettes of his monologue were entirely fictional.

There are two things that need to be said about this debacle. First, not every story on This American Life is factual. Am I the only one sick of David Sedaris talking as a mouse? But they're pretty good about differentiating between story telling and telling the story of life. Daisey, on the other hand, claimed that his entire monologue was based on meeting actual people.

The second thing I must admit is that fiction can deepen people's understanding of current events and history to a much greater degree than fact. The classic example is Grapes of Wrath. A more recent, and more flawed, example is Acts of Faith. There is deep power is story telling. Characters drawn by an expert hand can deepen our understanding of The Other and help us grapple with the shades of grey created by the human condition.

Nevertheless, Westerners, especially white males, need to get over themselves in their great attempt to decipher humanity. I'm not just angry that Daisey lied to This American Life producers and thinks his theatrical focus should justify his lies. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

Daisey's interpreter Cathy also disputes two of the most dramatic moments in Daisey's story: that he met underage workers at Foxconn, and that a man with a mangled hand was injured at Foxconn making iPads (and that Daisey's iPad was the first one he ever saw in operation). Daisey says in his monologue:
He's never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, "he says it's a kind of magic.
Cathy Lee tells Schmitz that nothing of the sort occurred.
Let me be clear: putting words in the mouths of workers injured in the production of your prized technology, making them claim to appreciate the majesty of your toy, is not and will never be acceptable appropriation of another human being.

Exploiting people, especially people whose language and culture you don't even pretend to try to understand, is worse than paying them to work for your company. Daisey does admit one thing in his monologue - that he knew nothing about China before starting on his journey to find out where his Apple products come from. From where I sit, putting words in the mouths of victims is more heinous than not letting them speak for themselves. Why do white people do this over and over again? It really isn't that hard to honestly translate people's reactions to the world around them. And if you don't think that's dramatic enough to hold an urban audience's attention for 90 minutes, then maybe you haven't done enough research.

I am glad the NY Times reported factually on the manufacturing of Apple products and I'm glad global consumers are challenging Apple to maintain higher standards in the production of their products.

Let's just be clear on a few things: if you can't speak a Chinese language, if you haven't studied modern China, and if your one experience of China involved paying an interpreter to help you see one urban area then you are in no position to speak for Chinese people. Whether presented as fact or fiction, the idea that a white man with zero understanding of China can speak for a man mangled in the production of iPads is ludicrous.

The best fictional indictments of economic problems are based on factual reporting. Steinbeck wrote newspaper accounts from migrant farm camps in California before starting his book. The accuracy of his depictions is why his book was burned when it was originally published - the 1% never want to admit they're exploiting the 99%. But for goodness sake, don't think neocolonial crusades are going to change global manufacturing.

I'm excited about the technological improvements in the new iPad. And I'm hopeful that the public will be holding Apple more accountable for its production process. I also worry about the environmental, health, and cultural damage done to China by its rapid modernization. I worry about the Chinese government's denial of individual human rights in pursuit of collective progress. Though my husband is Chinese and I've read The Joy Luck Club, I wouldn't attempt to write Chinese characters without extensive additional research. It's time US storytellers learn the limit of their gifts. The human experience may be universal, but each person's story deserves to do more than justify your material consumption.

Posted by cj at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2011

Uncloak the Kochs: Eyewitness Account of the Rally

As an unknown blogger, I find it interesting to watch well-known bloggers treated as members of the media, with everything from priority seating at a panel discussion to multiple quotes in mainstream press.

I also find it interesting that the entire day in Rancho Mirage was created for consciousness raising. Here's one of my tweets from today:

[from @socialupheaval] Feels lacking a real plan beyond today Answers to what action to take lacking @ #UncloakKoch panel

Here's the response I got:

[from @CommonCause] @socialupheaval there is a plan; as @VanJones68 says, 1st step is lifting consciousness. That's today. Tmrw we go forward together.
Actually, what Van Jones said was that he was caught off guard being given the microphone to answer the question what action steps are next for the event. He said he didn't plan the event, Common Cause did, but if he had to answer the question, we should connect with our neighbors and increase awareness of the issues.

See here's the thing: 1,000 people show up in Rancho Mirage. Most of them traveled long distances to get to the rally. Did they not know why they were traveling out of their way for a rally?

We who spent 4+ hours traveling to and fro on Common Cause buses; we who were told we are the leaders we are waiting for - we were looking for concrete action we could take to implement the values expressed by the panelists and rally speakers. We could have formed action groups: meeting up with people from our local areas to develop plans. If Common Cause had a plan for grassroots, cross-organization movement building, their staffers who rode the buses with us could have engaged us in that vision, and helped us find a way to contribute to those clear local steps forward. Instead, we're told to enjoy our consciousness raising.

To be clear: I've been involved in progressive activism for 20 years. I still get a thrill from gathering with like-minded activists. I love that I came on a bus to the desert and met up with two different Wellesley sisters (who don't know each other). I was truly inspired by Van Jones.

But, I'm still wondering: what's next? Where do we go from here?

Posted by cj at 9:05 PM | Comments (1)

February 7, 2010

Cause Marketing and Drug Addiction: Two Gifts the US Gives to the Americas

This weekend, I was desperate for a massage. In addition to my chronic pain, I returned to the gym this week and my entire body has been screaming at me ever since.The receptionist at my neighborhood spa said "10% of our proceeds on Sunday go to Haiti relief."

I didn't try--at any point--to express my opinion on retail fundraising. First of all, where exactly is this 10% going? (They never did give me a nonprofit name for their contribution.) Second, if I really cared about giving money to Haiti wouldn't it be more effective for me to give the money directly to a nonprofit? I rarely contribute to anything besides WILPF, but when the earthquake hit, I did donate to Partners In Health. But I don't make spa appointments based on my desire to help out the world. Mostly, I make them for personal reasons: like every muscle in my body being tight and the pain in my back and forearms being overwhelming.

The commodification of nonprofits demoralizes me. The insistence that for-profit models ("social entrepreneurship") is how we should all move forward towards a better world. And the way businesses use cause marketing to enhance their brand cache (and bring customers in on a slow Super Bowl Sunday) is just ridiculous.

But these are my problems with the system in general. I don't hold it against my local spa that they chose to jump on the bandwagon. Mostly, I've been plagued by the questions that family members raised: how can we be sure the money doesn't line the pockets of corrupt politicians (or greedy NGOs)? The answer to that is simple - give to Partners In Health. But to the larger question - how has Haiti persistently stayed the poorest country in the hemisphere? To that, I don't have the clearest answer.

I know some things in general terms: US governments backed coups. US corporations supported corrupt governments that suppressed the people of Haiti. US agriculture dumped food stuffs on Haiti that US consumers don't want to eat (all those chicken breasts we clamor for? They're attached to animals full of the other, other white meat. As in dark meat. As in the food we dump on developing countries at prices far lower than it would take to raise a chicken and slaughter it in the country.) While based on the experience of Jamaica, the documentary film Life and Debt can give insight into these issues.

But ultimately, and this I should have realized before reading an op-ed in the NYT, it comes down to a simple equation: US drug addicts fuel violence, instability, and class chasms throughout Latin America. I think it's a bit of a stretch to link a crack pipe in NYC to a terrorist cell in Yemen. But it's a much easier link between that crack pipe and the social/economic/political problems of Haiti and many other Latin American countries.

Ben Fountain details the connection in his brilliant op-ed, "Addicted to Haiti." If we want to give Haiti a fighting chance of recovering, instead of trying to adopt its orphaned citizens, we should start caring for the US'ians who are addicted to cocaine. We should start treating US addiction as the public health crisis it is, rather than continuing this nonsense about wars and czars. Black and white, law-based reaction to addiction has failed. Not just for Haiti. But for the survivors of never-ceasing blood baths in Juarez, Mexico. And the survivors of the never-ending civil war in Colombia. And every family who has struggled to put the pieces back together after a loved one diminishes his brain capacity by filling it with toxic substances. And for the addicts who struggle to stay sober; and the ones who don't make it.

Let's stop texting the Red Cross. Trust me, they'll keep going without you. Let's get real about regional development and start working to decrease demand, increase the availability of rehabilitation, de-criminalize addiction, increase social and economic opportunities so fewer kids seek out gangs for community identification / monetary gain. What do you say? What do we have to lose?

Posted by cj at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2009

The Human Right to Health Care

I find it frightening that the mainstream media's coverage of the health care debate includes absolutely zero advocates of single payer health care. Instead, the Sunday talk shows drone on about what a drain that would be on the capitalist system. Politicians actually lament that if we allow the government to compete in the health care industry, it's a slippery slope to creating government corporations in computer manufacturing and every other capitalist industry.

Then the moderates pipe in that it's a shame Obama is flirting with subsidized health care, but it will be okay if the public option is a thousand and one tiny co-ops, never allowed to amass the scale needed to challenge the for-profit system.

Let's get real, folks. As the majority of US'ians know, health care is a human right, not another financial derivative waiting to be cashed in on. Being a female thyroid cancer survivor should not force me to spend $55 more than the average US'ian at CVS every single month. [My average monthly spend at CVS is $89, whereas the average US monthly spend is $34, according to Mint.com].

I noted my gender in addition to my cancer status because my dear health insurance company determined that I must pay a monthly penalty for choosing name-brand birth control; I am gouged $30 more per month than I was on my previous employer's health insurance plan.

Let's be clear: I did not choose to be susceptible to the environmental damage wreaked on my hometown by decades of military contractors. Since it is vitally important for me to maintain a steady dose of thyroid hormone, and since that hormone reacts to the levels of other hormones in my body, it's necessary for me to take brand-name birth control to ensure I always get the same amount of estrogen in my system. But nevermind all that nonsense, because a profit-seeking medicine gatekeeper decided that I must take generics whenever they are available. I can only be grateful that they didn't decide to gouge me for both medicines I take monthly.

Right, so to bring this personal frustration back to the political sphere, let me just repeat: the state of ease or dis-ease in my body is something for my doctors and me to control. No one should be able to complain that I'm not a great customer because I'm a cancer survivor: I'm a wonderful customer, since I help keep those damn pharmaceutical companies in business!

Do you know the modern health insurance industry was born in the 70s? In forty short years, they've bamboozled us out of more money than any other industrial country and created some of the worst health statistics.

What is so frightening about single payer health care? Is the upper middle class really afraid the poor will over-crowd their hospitals? (This is the argument I heard while waiting 2 hours to be admitted to Cedar-Sinai Hospital for pre-scheduled radiation treatment...as I sat, slightly delirious because I was off my meds, famished because I wasn't supposed to eat 3 hours before swallowing the toxic treatment, in the admitting waiting room while other about-to-be-patients ate their lunch and the entire intake staff took lunch at the exact same time.)

Do people really think government bureaucracy is more inept than corporate bureaucracy? At least the government has citizens' needs as their number one priority. When your primary motivation is profit, what does it matter if you kill someone by denying them treatment?

I'll never understand why more US citizens don't rise up and demand single-payer health care. I'll never understand why the former darling of the Democratic party, Senator Max Baucus refuses to allow single-payer advocates a seat at the negotiating table.

Posted by cj at 9:44 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2008

Crony Capitalism, brought to you by King Henry Paulson

If you want to understand how horrifically out of touch Treasury Secretary Paulson is with reality, just watch Meet the Press and This Week.

Let's get this straight: bailing out unbridled Wall Street greed is the only way to maintain the stability of the global economy. Only billion dollar banks deserve to be bailed out by the US taxpayers. Common home-owners, who cannot afford their mortgages are shit out of luck because they must take personal responsibility for accepting loans they could not afford.

CNBC reporters blithely called this bailout the creation of the socialist nation of America and their assertions went unchecked by the moderator. Let's be clear: socialist democracies place human needs at the center of government's responsibility. A treasury czar who dismisses the economic crisis of individual citizens out of hand is not acting in the interests of humanity, he is acting in the interest of corporate greed. His actions and the Congress' acquiescence to immediately agree to bail out Wall Street is the essence of crony capitalism.

Naomi Klein's shock doctrine theory is being played out. Congress is apparently willing to fall over itself to increase the imperial power of the executive branch. And Americans should accept a government bailout of billionaires because otherwise our lives will be irreversibly harmed. Don't worry about the guy next door getting kicked out of his home; that's his fault. Care deeply about maintaining corporate earnings for the top 1% of this country.

Crony capitalism and imperial reign. It's time to shout that the emperor has no clothes and that King Henry has to go.

Posted by cj at 3:40 PM | Comments (0)

$700 Billion Blank Check

The Imperial Presidency continues its quest to unfetter the executive branch from the undesirable checks and balances of the legislative and judiciary branches.

In 2.5 pages, the Treasury Secretary laid out a simple ultimatum to the US Congress: give me the ability to spend up to $700 billion to buy undefined mortgage-related junk from Wall Street. I will not tell you how I will use the money, nor will I give you an oversight of the project. But you can take away this authority in 2 years if you have the (never used) balls to do so.

This is the grand plan of the imperial presidency. Absolutely zero help for cash-strapped American citizens, zero pressure on banks to rewrite mortgage terms to keep more citizens in their houses, and did I mention zero oversight on the biggest corporate bailout in American history?

Crony capitalism writ large.

Read all about it in the LA Times.

Or "Bubblenomics," in the NYT Week in Review.

Or the complete NYT coverage of the crisis.

Posted by cj at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 2, 2008

There Are No Jobs

The lead article in today's NYT Business Section is graph after graph of depressing news on the US labor market. US corporations have been making more money over the last ten years by squeezing more productivity out of a leaner and leaner workforce. We had a "jobless recovery" from the last recession, and now companies are plunging workers into even deeper spirals of unemployment because some screwed up economists convinced them that credit checks have an actual correlation to a person's character.

So now, if you lose your home in the mortgage meltdown, and maybe the bank repo's your car because you lost your job, it'll be even harder for you to find work to pull yourself out of the economic hell that is the US "middle class."

Intellectuals wonder why Americans focus so much on celebrity gossip and have such a poor grasp on foreign affairs. Perhaps they can't be bothered with politics because they're struggling to make ends meet and they focus on the lives of the rich and famous because that fantasy is the closest most Americans will ever come to the American dream.

"Is a Lean Economy Turning Mean?" by Peter Goodman

Posted by cj at 2:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 3, 2007

The Sorry State of Public Trans in the US

My favorite city to live in (Chicago), is having trouble paying for its old, rickety public trans system (which by the way is the 2nd largest system in the country). Alas, those down state and suburban fools in the state legislature refuse to budget for the needs of the majority of the state's population (aka Chicagoland residents). Instead of expanding and enhancing the system, the MTA probably has to cut services and postpone upgrades.

In related crazy-people-control-politics news, the LA MTA has a new plan for the subway to the sea. Instead of acknowledging Wilshire as the overwhelmingly most popular bus route in the city, there's a proposal to route it on Santa Monica where more young people live who would embrace faux city living. Apparently, the masses of poor people who desperately need better public trans in this city are secondary to the desire by city boosters to create yuppie paradise.

"Chicago's transit budget at a crossroads: Emergency funds are granted as state lawmakers debate a sales-tax increase." in today's LAT

"L.A. subway plans take a radical shift," by Rong Gong Lin II in today's LAT

Posted by cj at 8:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 7, 2007

We'll Be Paying for Empire Expansion Till the End of Time

This Just In: Paying for war when it occurs is fiscally irresponsible. That is, if you believe the mouthpiece of the administration, the White House press secretary. If the war hawks have their way, we'll be paying for this empire expansion till the end of time.

But that's okay, because the surge is making Iraqis safer. The Public Editor of the NYT makes the case that maybe there's been a decrease in the number of civilian casualties since the surge began. Then again, he ends the column by reminding us that it is still unsafe to live in Baghdad, according to an article written by 15 NYT reporters (never mind what's happening elsewhere in Iraq - it's too unsafe for US writers to venture beyond Baghdad).

Let's not get bogged down in details. It's important to remember the frame through which the occupation of foreign countries became acceptable to the US public: by creating a culture of fear that blames the ills of the world on so-called "Islamofascists." Nevermind that the word is meaningless. Pay no attention to reality: fascism is alive and well in the Western world. Even university courses on political science in the US have a difficult time defining fascism. Perhaps because the core of fascism is simple: the military & corporations taking control of the levers of political power. Instead of allowing this simple definition of fascism to be understood, Western leaders propel a a blurry, fearful understanding of a combination of racism and authoritarianism as the only "true" definition of fascism. Furthermore, instead of debating people who recognize the full scope of power held by the military industrial complex, Western political and intellectual "leaders" dismiss us as crazy left-wing nut cases.

Military force must always be the last resort of states and the international community. As Albert Camus said:

Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.
Do not be persuaded by the rhetorical flourish of individuals who believe democracy and freedom can be created through bloodshed and military occupation. The monolingual, jingoist armed forces of the US are even less capable of building peace in the Middle East than the biased State Department.

The safety of the world relies on more individuals becoming engaged in the political process, supporting international institutions, creating dialog with people in other countries, and demanding that the international political and economic structures be based on human security and human needs rather than on corporate greed.

Camus quote from this Op-Ed piece in today's NYT.

Posted by cj at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day...

I'm trying to figure out what I do with this holiday. I had a full day of work yesterday and I'll have another full day tomorrow. I'm not completely clear what I'm celebrating today. Am I celebrating the country that condones torture in undisclosed locations and on a prison built illegally on land belonging to another country? Am I celebrating a country that refuses to acknowledge that most women in Afghanistan are no safer today than they were under Taliban rule? Am I celebrating a country that thinks its system of corporate "free-trade" capitalism should be exported to every corner of the earth, despite having the largest income inequality of any industrialized nation?

Maybe I'm celebrating the country that cares more about the nuclear power industry and the military industrial complex than it does about its citizens' health? Because you know, I've really appreciated how the lax environmental standards in this country gave me thyroid cancer and allowed me to have a vital organ removed and replaced by a daily pill.

Or am I celebrating a country that managed to convince its citizens that Iraq is somehow related to the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center? Am I celebrating a country that tries to convince me to be wary of every Muslim and every Latino who crosses my path? Apparently, my Arab brothers and sisters "hate my freedom" and my Latino neighbors are "taking away my job."

Of course, there are those who will say I should leave if I'm so unhappy. But, you see, this is my home. And the thing I'm happiest about today is the opportunity to be near family. Then again, I'm contemplating bailing on the family get-together because I'm wary of being on the road so much today. Angelenos are notorious for drunk driving, especially around major holidays. So, uh, Viva los Estados Unidos!

Posted by cj at 8:02 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2007

Net Neutrality

Help support Net Neutrality. Go to Save the Internet to learn more. And write your Congresspeople using their online form. Be sure to write an individualized message, so Congress knows we're netroots, not astroturf.

Here's what I wrote to Boxer. Of course, it would've been better if the site had given me a clue as to whether or not Boxer has already taken a position on this issue. It's late and I want to get to bed, so I didn't research her position myself.

Dear Senator Boxer,

I urge you to support net neutrality. As a direct marketing professional, I understand the desire of corporations to ease the transfer of their BtoB and BtoC communications.

But as the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US) I have personally experienced the frustration of denial of delivery for legitimate email communication between my organization and its members and supporters.

I hope you will take leadership of this issue and rally your fellow Senators and Congresspeople to enforce net neutrality.

As your constituent, I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
C.J. Minster
http://www.socialupheaval.com

Posted by cj at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2007

Bush is Over (if you want it)

Bush is addicted to war. The US has been killing and occupying in Iraq longer than it was involved in WWII. Will you do something to stop the insanity?

Posted by cj at 9:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007

My take on Presidential Politics

I tend to agree with my sister WILPFers that far too much energy is sucked away by presidential elections. Core issues of peace and justice are never tackled, and none of the candidates every completely represent my views on war, peace, and the way towards democracy. Heck, the whole way we elect presidents is undemocratic.

Nevertheless, I'm still interested in engaging people in the political process. And I think elections are a unique way to preach beyond the choir. That's part of the reason I'm involved with the Courage Campaign, a California progressive organization that is pushing to make CA more than just an ATM on the road to the White House via our ATM Watch.

Some people are skeptical, and I responded to one such critic on the Courage Campaign blog. Feel free to read why I think its important for presidential candidates to address California issues in "ATM Watch in the News: Are Californians Californian?"

Posted by cj at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2007

Sunday Morning Talk Show Watchin on Sunday Night

Tony Snow, best known for being a has-been Fox Sunday talk show host, is the current head of PR for the Bush administration (aka the White House Press Secretary). This morning, he appeared on Meet the Press. He smiled his way through explaining that the people of the US really want to stay the course in Iraq and escalate / surge the troop levels there. He insisted that the horrible Iranians are killing our troops via their Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Sure, he didn't actually link Iran to Al Qaeda, but since he was stirring up fear with both bogeymen, I wouldn't blame you if you thought they were coordinating their efforts to bring down our Empire. Tim, known for his "tough" questions, didn't bother to ask the White House Press Secretary about the fact that Al Qaeda is already operating in Afghanistan because we dropped the ball there in our rush to clean up Daddy's mess in Iraq.

Then there were two guys pontificating on how good it is that the Senate and House are trying to debate non-binding resolutions on this bloody never-ending war based on lies. Congratulations, politicians, for beginning to do your jobs. Next time, why not do something that has an impact on this war - like say, defunding it or demanding a withdrawal?

Next up, the youngest looking bureau chief ever. I guess you gotta be young to want to live in Iraq for four years. Turns out, he's just four years older than me and speaks the Egyptian dialect of Arabic. (I assume he's about 34 because he graduated from college four years earlier than me.) I'm a little unclear where he actually reports from these days. According to his MSNBC bio, he works in Beirut, Lebanon. This older WaPo bio explains how he left his college sweatheart in Cairo to pursue the adrenaline rush of conflict in Israel & Iraq. Yet, he claims: "I'm basically a pacifist."

Mitt Romney is rambling his way into a dark, dark hole of tread over by many before him. This no chance in hell candidate declares that marriage is not primarily about adults - it's about children. Apparently, adults are not choosing their own life partners when they get hitched. Nope, we're just a bunch of breeders and our offspring are the only important part of the equation. Guess we should deny marriage certificates to infertile women and women past menopause b/c they clearly aren't good enough for Romney's litmus test. Also ridiculous - watching is badly coifed wife gush about Mormonism, because its prostelytizing missions turned her sons into men. Wow. Mitt's wife needed to be taken care of by his father while he was away in France on mission for the Mormon church. My goodness. I guess I should stop mockin the two of them, since Ann has Multiple Sclerosis. Well, I'm still not interested in Mitt Romney as POTUS. But, hey, I suppose if the Republicans nominate him, they'll help the Dems win.

First articulate progressive I've ever seen on a Sunday talk show is a woman from The Nation magazine: Katrina Vanden Heuvel. Unfortunately, she's being pit against ABC Roundtable mainstays Fareed Zakaria and George Will, two of the most articulate conservatives in this country. According to her Wikipedia entry, she's a frequent guest on Hardball with Chris Mathews. Too bad I work when that show airs. She has an infrequent blog on the Huffington post. And of course, there's that little mag she edits - which every good liberal subscribes to and very few have the time to read. (Personally, I don't bother cuttin down trees for it. Instead, I subscribe to the Sunday NY Times to get my progressive cred.)

Posted by cj at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 8, 2007

Notes from Thursday Papers

I'm off of work, recovering from having my throat sliced open. (I was diagnosed with probable thyroid cancer and had my thyroid, two nodules, and some lymph nodes removed. One of the nodules was cancerous.) I thought this would be a great time for me to catch up on novel reading and do more blogging than I have in recent months. Instead, I've been reading newspapers and falling asleep.

I was going to write a post on the political articles I've read, but alas, I just realized that all of the stuff I've read belongs on my other blog. The LA Times Business section should be titled the "Entertainment Business" section. I can't stand the Wall Street Journal's editorial page or most of its news articles, but I can say that their coverage of marketing and fashion is highly entertaining. I haven't cracked open the NY Times yet, but I think I should take a nap before my WILPF conference call.

So no notes here (yet). Go to angelheaded hipster for more ramblings on fashion, dog shows, and the like...Right now, I'm watching Democracy Now! so maybe I'll get something else to write about...

Posted by cj at 3:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2007

Short Shrift for Protestors

At least 100,000 people took to the streets of DC yesterday to protest the US occupation of Iraq. And yet, it was relegated to inside page coverage in both the NY Times and the LA Times. At least the LAT put a picture on the front page - but both were more interested in fronting articles on Obama and Hillary than they were in the political activism of thousands of citizens.

I think this speaks to the limitations of mainstream media. The masses are not authoritative. That's why the nightly news highlighted Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon & Jesse Jackson - they are recognizable and eloquent in a way that can't be found consistently in the masses. The other limitation is that protestors must always be followed immediately by some self-righteous war-mongerer who believes peace activists are diminishing the morale of the troops and that the only way to support the US military is to keep them as an occupying force in a country where the occupation caused civil war and where US'ians have zero understanding of the language, culture, or ethnic differences in the country.

I do not know how to change the media reality of this country. I do not yet have a plan for the nonviolent paradigm shift necessary to overturn the belligerent, corporate-capitalism forced on the world by the US ruling class. But I do know that it more important than ever to figure out how to do this. Our progeny and the future of the world depends on it.

"Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase," by Ian Urbina with contributions by Sarah Abruzzese and Suevon Lee in the NY Times

"Thousands join bicoastal war protest: The Washington rally draws about 100,000 people. Marchers also take to the streets in L.A. and San Francisco." by Adam Schreck, Ashraf Khalil and David Streitfeld in the LA Times

Posted by cj at 7:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2007

Move the California Primary to February

Sign the Courage Campaign petition.

Read my post on the CC blog, "This is What Democracy Looks Like."

Posted by cj at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2007

Why there is no entry re SOTU

Last night, the president gave his annual State of the Union address. Apparently, there are now compendiums of drinking games on the subject. And since I finally got my wireless router working, I could've been watching it on the big screen and furiously entering my feedback. Alas, it was not to be.

I did not see the SOTU address because I was working an eleven hour day. There was a lot of work to do - I didn't even stop for a full lunch break - and I was happy to be of help. Plus, it allowed me to take time off today to be with my family for my nephew's bris.

I could've watched a webcast of the speech, or read it, but I chose not to. Perhaps in the future I'll rant about his fucking ridiculous bullshit remark about "gold-plated health insurance," but this is one cancer patient who will refrain for the time being. I'll be back - perhaps tomorrow - with more measured thoughts on world affairs.

Tip o' the hat to my fellow blogger, Todd at the Courage Campaign, for pointing me to the drinking games post at Daily Kos.

Posted by cj at 9:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2007

Personal Thoughts on Healthcare

I'm now a blogger for the Courage Campaign - an organization that focuses on bringing together people for progressive political change here in California.

If you click over there, you'll see my thoughts on the human right to healthcare (told mostly from a personal perspective).

The nutshell version is that Schwarzenegger's plan is a big pile of crap and that the only way forward is universal healthcare.

Posted by cj at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2006

Jeannette Rankin on Film

Do you know who Jeannette Rankin was? She was the first woman elected to Congress, a life-long pacifist, and a person who voted against both world wars. Her life was magical, her story is empowering. WILPF US Board Member Jeanmarie Simpson wrote and starred in the play "A Single Woman" about Rankin's life. Simpson and WILPF Life Member Cameron Crain have brought the story to the big screen - a film based on the play is now in post-production.

Unlike "Blood Diamonds," Simpson did not have to alter the facts to create a moving drama. The story is compelling because at every turn, Rankin held her ground and lived by her pacifist beliefs. We must listen to her story, even if we disagree. There is nothing weak-willed about a principled pacifist. And the path Rankin promoted is filled with strong actions. The path of diplomacy and political dialogue is a path we Americans have strayed far from. By embracing Rankin & the film, we are embracing the hope for a better future.

Posted by cj at 9:47 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2006

Women Being Left Behind in LA County

I just wrote a post for the Courage Campaign based on a report from the United Way on how women, especially single mothers, struggle to stay afloat in LA.

Go read it. It includes a link to the transcript of the Larry King show I was on.

Posted by cj at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2006

Blogging on Cali Issues at Courage Campaign

I'm proud to report that I'm now a blogger for The Courage Campaign. From their About page:

The Courage Campaign was created to revitalize the California dream from outside the political system. We are progressives who activate and enable the grassroots and organized leadership to take on the problems that have held back our state for the past 30 years.

Go read my rant on public trans in LA.

Posted by cj at 4:13 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2006

Taking the Foreign Service Exam

Editor's Note: This was originally posted on July 26, 2004 on my old blog. That blog gets a huge amount of traffic based on this one post. I decided to move it to this site to try to entice people to read my more recent ramblings.

Recently, many people have found my blog by searching for info on the FSWE and the FSOA. Lemme just say this as a previous test taker (took the FSWE four times, passed the first three times; took the FSOA three times, got on the passing list once). To be clear - I am *not* an FSO. I was on the list of eligible hires for 18 months, but never got into an A-100 class. If these terms make no sense, then send me an email or post a comment and I'll answer your question as best I can. I got a lot of help preparing for the FSWE and FSOA. My profs at Wellesley prepped us during seminars about the oral exam (even before we'd taken the written). My class dean's jaw dropped when I announced I had passed the written exam during my senior year of college (proving that yes, even those without straight As can get ahead in life). If you follow foreign affairs regularly and did well on the AP U.S. History exam, you'll probably pass the written exam. (check and check; I got a 5 on that exam.) To be honest, I passed the oral exam because I took it after spending a week learning how to be a union organizer. Sound strange? Here's why it's not: I had to explain my position, discuss sensitive issues, and reach compromises with people during that week of training. Those are the same things you have to do at the orals. I've also spoken to a few FSOs, one of whom worked as an oral examiner.

[For Google's Eyes Only. Update: For some reason, people are finding other posts about these topics but not this all inclusive one. So here's my attempt to teach google to find this post. Keywords: FSWE, FSOA, foreign service, foreign service exam, foreign service oral assessment, foreign service written exam, passing the foreign service exam, State Department, diplomat, blog.]

How to Study for the Foreign Service Exam
1. Don't look to Amazon for a good list of books before taking the written exam. Read the newspaper and weekly news magazines, especially The Economist. Read a book on management theory and one on economics. Read the Constitution. Play games about geography and learn as much world geography as possible. Learn how to write an essay. If you don't know any American cultural history, especially famous books about politics, read about that as well. (I think one of those big books of American culture would suffice.) Don't bother learning any more about the foreign service or diplomacy before taking the written exam. It's not worthwhile.

2. If you get to the orals, join the Yahoo groups on the subject. Also search the web for sites written by diplomats and expats for an idea of what you're getting into. Know the game before you get there: you'll have a group exercise to start the day. The point isn't to win (getting your project funded). All the projects are worthwhile. The point is to be a leader who brings your group to a consensus within the time period. Also pay attention to what the directions ask you to talk about during your presentation, and talk about those points. Introduce yourself before speaking. Stop taking notes on your project before the presentations start. Take notes on what your colleagues say.

3. Learn more management theory. It's really important. Learn how to read a budget and analyze a budget and manage idiotic underlings.

4. The point of hypothetical questions isn't to test your knowledge of diplomatic procedure. You can learn about the consular and administrative rules for embassies, but past that who cares? Always start by asking your supervisor for advice. Defer to them often. When asked why you want to be a diplomat, have an answer besides wanting to be an ambassador. Most FSOs never get to that point on the career ladder cause they haven't given money to a presidential campaign. (It's important to leave the really important jobs to diplomatic novices.) It doesn't matter if you know five languages or one, if you have five degrees or none. It's important to have a realistic career goal for going into the service. For me, I wanted to get into the Naval War College (the oldest war college in the country) and get paid to get a Masters degree in Security Studies. I thought that would look good on a resume above my Peace and Justice Studies degree.

5. Think hard about what you want to do in the Service and afterwards. If you want to get to know people in your host country, you should choose the Public Affairs or Consular cones. Those are the only cones that actually interact with the natives. The Economic and Political cones don't even chat with the foreign nationals who work at our embassies and consulates. There also isn't much power left in the Economic and Political cones. Economics is done by the Commerce Dept and politics are handled by Congress and every Administrative dept not labeled State. The public affairs officers create cultural exchange programs and teach host country citizens about American values and educational opportunities. Alternatively, you could join the Administrative cone since administrative job skills are the most easily transferable in the outside world. Consular officers do a thankless job and there aren't enough of them, so people in every other cone have to spend at least two years on a consular post. You stamp passports and deny entry to suspicious people. Least exciting work, but also the easiest way into the service b/c it has the lowest passing grade on the oral exam. You can't change your cone once you enter the service, so stop thinking the administrative and/or consular cones will offer a back door into politics or economics. If you're really interested in a meaty foreign policy job, go work at the Commerce department or at the House or Senate foreign relations committees. State does not make any policy, it only enforces it. You aren't going to change the world in a hugely significant way by being in the service, and if you agree with any other post on this site, you'll be a miserable and lonely person in the service.

6. Don't lie on any form you fill out. If you've done drugs, admit it. If it was at least two years ago, they wont care too much especially if it wasn't a "hard" drug. They'll throw you out of the running if they catch you in a lie. If you do lie on a form, fess up as soon as you have your first interview w. the FBI (or whoever it is that runs the background check). They're going to talk to your elementary schoolmates and your mamma's best friend and that chick who lived down the hall from you in college who hated your guts. They're also going to follow you and ask you why you went to a particular movie during your period of review and who that same-sex date was. Also, you wont get clearance to work anywhere in the world if you've got serious medical problems, so don't bother with these tests if you couldn't hack it in a third world country with minimal medical attention.

7. You'll live like royalty in a foreign land. That land will probably be a poor, newly independent state your friends have never heard of and probably have no intention of visiting you in. It will be a lonely and thankless life, offering little reward. There are much easier ways to work abroad. Teach English. Be part of the capitalist beast and go into international finance. Marry a foreigner. But don't marry a foreigner if you eventually want to be an FSO. It'll be harder to pass the background check if you do.

11/21/04 Update: I received an email from a retired FSO who pointed out that I discussed a lot of things you could do via the Public Affairs cone as responsibilities of the Administrative cone. My apologies for the confusion. When I first started taking the exam, the Public Affairs cone didn't exist (because it was still part of the U.S. Information Agency and just getting merged with State).

And just to reiterate: I'm not in any way affiliated with the USG. I've given up on my dream of being an FSO. Mostly because I love expressing my own opinion on world affairs and so instead am trying to eventually be a professional writer. For now, I work in the Midwest Advertising Office of a major national magazine that maybe you've never heard of.

Editor's coda: I currently live in Los Angeles. After five years as an account strategist in the advertising world, I now have a full-time activist gig: I'm the Bring Our War Dollars Home organizer for CODEPINK: Women for Peace. And I no longer want to give out advice over email. If you're curious for more info, just drop a comment.

Posted by cj at 11:02 PM | Comments (5)

The Drugging of America

The NYT features an article on kids who take drug cocktails to deal with their "mental health problems." At what point will drug-happy doctors stop prescribing drugs that comatose our kids and start Treating Them With Therapy and Other Non-Invasive Treatments?!?!

While I don't know what it's like to have attention deficit disorder, I do know that cocktails of drugs that stunt growth and mental capacity are not the way to fix the problem of employment sucking away parents' ability to parent their children. I can accept that in rare cases young children may need a single psychiatric drug (though I would never use one on my hypothetical children), but there is zero scientific evidence that three or more horse pills will help little Johnny function better. Why do we rush to drugs without even trying other forms of treatment? Do people really believe in magic pills? Don't they understand that psychiatrists still don't know how most of these drugs even work?

This position is a tad hard for me to take. I should give full disclosure and admit that I did take anti-depressants in college. I've even had doctors tell me that I should be on them for the rest of my life. And I can accept that as the right path for some adults. But these harsh chemicals that we're throwing down the throats of innocent, prepubescent children is horrific. It is beyond the pale - much worse than the simplistic notion of Prozac Nation.

The fact of the matter is that our society, our education system, our family structures, our lives are not structured in a way that is conducive to mental health. Starting with the US "healthcare" system - visits with drug pushers are more likely to be covered than visit to talk therapists. Alternative medicine is rarely covered. Activities such as yoga, massage, and life coaching are generally available only to the wealthy. Instead of being open to variety, the No Child Left Behind Act ensures that schools are getting more rigid in their approaches to "teaching," leaving less time for imagination or a way in for kids who are not motivated by Scantron tests. High divorce rates, increasing economic pressure for both parents to work outside the home, and over-indulgence of children has led us to need British t.v. nannies and Psychiatrists to keep our children behaved.

The article was so difficult to read.

Ms. Kehoe, who receives government financial and child-care assistance because her children are considered mentally ill, said she knew that there were risks to the drug cocktails. Both her sons are short and underweight for their age -- a common side effect of stimulants -- and she fears that the drugs have affected their health and behavior in other ways.

"But I don't think the insurance would pay for it if the F.D.A. didn't decide that children should use it," said Ms. Kehoe, who herself takes psychiatric medication.

[emphasis added]

Seriously. Do people have that much trust in insurance companies and the FDA that they're willing to risk their children's lifelong health? That quote has plagued me since I read it several hours ago in the print version of the paper. I don't know how we get from complete reliance on Big Brother to a healthy balance between drug therapy and other therapy for mental health problems, but we've got to start.

Happy Thanksgiving.

full article: "Proof Is Scant on Psychiatric Drug Mix for Young," by Gardiner Harris

Posted by cj at 9:34 PM | Comments (0)

November 8, 2006

Provisional Balloting - "Democracy," Warts and All

I was forced to cast a provisional ballot today because the old ladies that run my precinct did not have my name on the voter rolls. Basically, this means my vote wont count. Nevermind that LA County sent me a sample ballot and information on where to vote. Apparently, I didn't prove my residency. Nevermind that I simply returned home - to the exact address that I last lived at before moving away from Cali. Nope. I think the problem is that I didn't write a Cali driver's license down when I registered. See, I just moved back in September and well, I haven't gotten that yet. It's aggravating to be silenced by the system.

Even more aggravating, my fellow Californians are idiots. They overwhelmingly re-elected the misogynist in chief as governor. They passed an initiative to put GPS monitoring on all sex offendors even though its net result will be to make the public less safe (more offendors will simply drop off the roles, more cops will spend their time on duty watching computer monitors instead of policing the streets, more money will be wasted on a Republican vote getter that gets nothing for our safety). The proposition to make Cali like every other state in the union and force Big Oil to PAY FOR THEIR USE OF OUR PUBLICLY-OWNED OIL FAILED. The morons in chief on this one were Hollywood Money. I'm so disgusted with the system. But really, who can I blame? Yes, Hollywood and Big Corporations have the real power in California politics. But where are my sisters and brothers? Why do my fellow citizens not bother to vote? Why don't they lobby their representatives? Why don't we have a voice int he democratic process? Why does one racist fall (George Allen in Virginia), while another racist wins (the guy in Tennessee whose supporters sent out racist propaganda attacking Ford, the first black man to have a chance at a Southern Senate seat since Reconstruction)? How does the establishment Democratic candidate lose so swiftly after National Dems forced out the progressive Democrat (Duckworth, Illinois)?

I'm tired, bitter, and angry. Tomorrow is another day, and I'll use it to create the world I want to see rather than picking apart this horse race. Are you sick and tired of the way the world is turning? Then Join WILPF. Together, we're going to create the nonviolent revolution in domestic and foreign policy that this country so desperately needs.

I'll leave you with my comments on the LA Times blog -

The lesson of Prop 87 is that Californians are really, truly addicted to oil. They're afraid they will have to pay this tax at the pump. No sound bite from President Clinton on t.v. or any of the other wasted millions on this proposition could convince them otherwise. In some ways, this proves that democracy can't be created by the upper class - that Californians don't walk lock step behind Hollywood money. Then again, people do seem to be enamored by a celebrity governor regardless of his record or his muddied past.

In the end, the results of this particular election don't matter. There's a cancer on our democracy - people are so alienated by the system that they don't even bother to do their civic duty and vote. And even less people pay attention and get involved in the political process beyond voting. We must figure out a way to get back control of the political process from Hollywood moguls, large corporations, and the sycophant politicians. Here's hoping we build a grassroots democracy in the coming decade.

Posted by cj at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2006

Cold Hard Facts on Rent in L.A.

"Low pay, high rent, wit's end," by Nancy Cleeland: Column One feature in today's LA Times.

The cold hard reality behind LaLa Land's gilded image.

65% of rental units are studios or one-bedrooms.
Nearly half of rental households have 3 or more people.
8.5% have 6 or more.
5,000 rent controlled units have been lost since 2005.
Almost all rental units currently being constructed are in the luxury market.

Progressive Angelenos, limousine liberals, and all other people with a conscience in this town should be ashamed of themselves. How is it that we've failed on such a massive scale to protect ourselves and our neighbors from homelessness?

I thought the housing situation in Chicago was messed up. I thought Daley's plans to force the poor into the suburbs and gentrify public housing into public middle class housing was the ultimate corruption plan. Little did I realize how profoundly outright neglect of urban planning could ruin a city. Little did I realize there was a city larger than Chicago forcing its poorest members to suffer even more harshly than Chi-town. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Posted by cj at 1:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2006

Bush Fam Still Screwin American Taxpayers

Remember how Mama Bush gave money to Katrina victims in Texas, with the stipulation that the money had to be used to buy her son's "educational" toys materials? Yeah, well it turns out the Bushies are using their political influence to grab even more money. The (Every) Child Left Behind Act mandates testing in English and math. Yet for some reason, it's legal to use federal money earmarked for implementing the standards on social studies resources. Even worse, the "resources" Neil Bush's company, Ignite, are shilling is an electronic COW that "teaches" social studies. The technology was originally designed to give kids individualized instruction based on their answers to questions. After acquiring the technology, Ignite killed its original meaning by making the lessons one-size fits all. In other words, its a robotic teacher. A collection of lazy teachers is even quoted by the company, saying it allows them to not make lesson plans.

Does this sound like revolutionary schooling? Yeah, not so much. It does sound like a revolutionary fleecing of America. Nowadays, Bush cronies aren't just pushing to spend tax dollars making bombs and cutting social services, they're also forcing school districts to waste money on crappy pseudo-educational toys. The school district tech boom across America has done nothing to pay for the much needed pens, pencils, and paper lacking in many of our classrooms.

Read the gory deet's in the Sunday LA Times article by Walter Roche, Jr.

These same greedy Bush lackeys will tell you that the way to reform the problem in America's education system is to privatize it. Because the same for-profit motive that pushes school systems to acquire COWs will surely be a panacea to the problem of high drop out rates and inability to write complete sentences or do basic math. Let's be clear: Pump Up the Volume's plot line is happening across this country (i.e. principals forcing kids to drop out because of low test scores and principals keeping drop outs on the attendance roll to gather more district funding for fewer students). Charter schools cut much needed funding from school districts, destroy union contracts, and put the minds of our young people into the administration of people who have no background in education. But you don't have to go to a charter school for that - just look at how many districts hire chiefs with zero educational experience. Apparently, LA's school board thinks military service offers an exact transfer of skills needed to run a school district. Public education is a scary place. At least half of the administrative personnel should be cut from LAUSD's budget. Teachers, students, and parents should be in charge of figuring out what to do with the money saved. And instead of forcing our teachers to be drill sargeants for standardized tests, we should be reviewing the history and problems related to standardized testing - this would lead to the elimination of high stakes, racist, and classist testing from our schools.

Posted by cj at 8:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 4, 2006

V-I Day: Coming Soon Courtesy of Your Tax Dollars

$20 million.

That's how much it costs to celebrate the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, not really. Projected cost is higher - that's just for the military's participation in DC events. Our Congressional representatives approved its use in 2006; alas that's not going to happen so they rolled over the appropriation to the 2007 military spending bill.

Yahoo! Now if we could just get those pesky natives to understand the beauty of our occupations, we could spend the dough.

"In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory," by Thom Shanker in NYT

found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2006

Spinach Recall Caused by Overflow of Crap from Livestock

Warning - the following post contains a word some might find offensive. I find it more offensive that it occurs throughout our food system, and have decided to use the impolite term for feces.

Let's get this straight - all fresh spinach has been recalled from the US because there is no oversight of the livestock industry in this country. Factory farming and a complete lack of oversight from the USG means that animals are crammed into smaller and smaller feedlots and their shit is allowed to seep into area waterways. Owners are never fined and never required to clean up.

This has led to every single stream of ground water in the Salinas Valley to have huge amounts of E. coli bacteria. And since Salinas is the lettuce bowl of the country, an outbreak there spells trouble everywhere.

The thing is - this has been going on for years. It hasn't changed since the first E. coli scare based around fast food hamburgers. To read mainstream news you'd think there's absolutely nothing we can do to prevent the problem. Prevention is fairly simply: stop the overproduction of livestock. Force the industry to properly dispose of its shit. Slow down the butchering process so that shit doesn't splatter on the meat. And spend the money to clean up our ground water. Make the fat cats of agri-business pay for it - they've broken the back of meatpacking unions, they've forced us to eat shit for years, they deserve to pay.

Furthermore, let's bring back the public works administration - pay some people to clean up after dogs, cats, and wild animals in our cities so that their shit doesn't end up in the ground water system either. Then the birds will stop eating E. coli-contaminated crap and will stop crapping E. coli all over the lettuce / spinach fields. It's really quite simple - we must hold agribusiness accountable for this public health disaster.

More info:

"E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area: Salinas Valley waterways are known to carry the bacteria that poisoned at least 145 people and killed one who ate tainted spinach.," by Marla Cone in today's LA TImes

"Lab Definitively Links E. Coli Outbreak to Contaminated Spinach," by Mary Engel in today's LA Times

Posted by cj at 7:10 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

Class in America

Oprah - or her 11:00pm rerun - is on Class in America. She glosses over the extreme difficulty in changing class; applauds people who grabbed their bootstraps (and perhaps their good looks) and got themselves an expensive car. I watched the whole thing. I'm not clear why. It's not like I learned anything new. Econ classes, and the NYT series on the same subject told me more hard facts.

I don't understand how Robert Reich kept saying that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, but didn't also admit that the middle class is disappearing. Perhaps b/c of his final statement - that class disparity and feeling that you can't get ahead lead to great upheavals in society. Could it be? Are we really on the edge of mass activism for social and political change? One can only hope that the nonviolent sea change is coming.

Posted by cj at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2006

One dead in hate-crime shooting at Jewish center

It is with sadness that I report that the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle was the target of a hate crime yesterday. One woman was murdered and five other women were wounded when a man claiming to hate Israel forced his way into the center. The shooter called 911 and was arrested on the scene.

6 Shot, 1 Fatally at Seattle Jewish Center, by AP via ABC News

"Fatal Seattle Jewish center shooting a "hate crime"," by Daisuke Wakabayashi of Reuters, via Yahoo News

"One dead in hate-crime shooting at Jewish center. Suspect in custody; three women in critical condition," by CNN

cross-posted from the WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 1:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2006

Blog About Geneva Conventions, Get Fired

A woman with top level security clearance who worked for a CIA contractor had her security clearance revoked and was fired for registering her agreement that the Geneva Conventions should apply to the CIA on her intranet-must-have-security-clearance-to-read blog.

The story is ridiculous. It is a good distraction from war coverage.

"Top Secret World Loses Blogger: CIA Contractor Is Fired When Internal Post Crosses the Line," by Dana Priest in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 3, 2006

Air Force Spending $450K to recreate Technorati

Think Progress linked to the Foreign Policy magazine blog note about this asinine Air Force project.

Here's the deal: your taxpayer money is being spent to build a system for understanding the relevance, specificity, timeliness, and credibility (RSTC) of blog postings. The scientists in charge of this slush fund are going to use these new fangled links to determine what bloggers are talking about.

Funny thing is, Technorati already does a damn good job of that.
Then there's one of the early tracking systems, created at The Truth Laid Bear.
And there's the Blog Search Engine.
Let's not forget the Open Directory Project.

So tell me again what the Air Force is wasting $450,000 on?

As the copyrighted WILPF statement goes,
It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

cross-posted from WILPF US Membership Blog.

Posted by cj at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2006

WILPF on the Front Page of the LA Times

WILPFers were out in force to support one of our own, MacGregor Eddy, at her federal trespassing trial in Santa Barbara earlier this year. MacGregor is a member of the DISARM! Dismantle the War Economy! leadership team. Read her sentencing statement here.

This protest was noticed by the kooks at the California state office of Homeland Security and reported in today's lead story at the LA Times.

While it is a shame the government is wasting our taxpayer money spying on us, it comes as no surprise. WILPF recently filed a FOIA request. Our last one, 25 years ago, brought us 23 boxes of information dating back to 1923.

What can you do to help the peace and justice movement from further incursions on our civil rights? Join raging grannies, radical cheerleaders, and proud new parents in making peace a reality: Join WILPF!

cross-posted from the WILPF US Members Blog.

Posted by cj at 6:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2006

The State of Mainstream Debate

The Acting Executive Director of WILPF had an interesting experience last week. She was asked to participate in a debate on the Iraq War on a local cable channel. She was told she'd have time for an opening statement, followed by a question and answer period. Instead, only the conservative pundits were allowed opening statements and they framed the debate before our ED and a professor were brought into the program.

This is but one example of the larger problem in mainstream society. Progressive voices are only heard as a kooky add-on to the "substantial" discussions of "mainstream" / right-wing pundits. We're told that the "majority of Americans" agree with a middle-of-the-road cross between Republican "values" and Democratic "populism." In reality, when offered the choice between free-trade capitalist no-morals conservatism and social democracy inclusive progressivism, most Americans side with the progressive point of view. I might be using too many catch phrases here, but I have a serious point:

Too much of the media is drafted from the talking points of the corporate heads of state. You think I'm a conspiracy nut for pointing out the collusion between big business and government? Sorry, sir, but I've read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and I know the truth about power in this country.

By the way, left of center media isn't much better. NPR is decent, but doesn't have enough courage in its reporting of the war and the Bush administration. Democracy Now offers access to people rarely interviewed by the mainstream media, but damnit Amy Goodman doesn't actually interview people so much as say "talk about this." And when she gets someone on whose politics she doesn't agree with (rarely, but it does happen), she asks kooky questions that don't probe the heart of the problem with their views. I mean, I still watch the program; but it is so frustrating when I catch her in factual mistakes: like how she kept repeating that Nadia McCaffrey learned the truth of her son's death two years after he died. In reality, Mrs. McCaffrey knew what happened to her son soon after he was killed by Iraqi security forces who were patrolling with him - it just took two years for the military to officially acknowledge the real cause of his death. She kept erroneously stating this even though she was interviewing Mrs. McCaffrey - it was as if she wasn't listening to her guest, but simply repeating from the script written prior to the interview. Whatever problems I have with NPR, at least they got the facts right when they reported Nadia's story.

The take away lesson for activists is to think outside preaching to the choir. Think about how your statements sound to someone who hasn't read the same blogs, harbored the same negative reaction to the war on "terror," and marched in the same rallies. If you ever want to go beyond the soap box that no one listens to, you must create a compelling argument that sounds reasonable to non-activists. It can't have too much conspiracy theory (don't mention Kennedy's article on stealing the 2004 election), and it should have some factual basis in addition to the heart-pulling pleas of parents of dead soldiers. All due respect to military families for peace - your voices are vital to the expansion of the peace movement; but no one activist is worthy of being the poster child of this resistance. And those of us dedicated to a multi-issue approach must be willing to isolate an issue now and then to have our voices heard. We also must respect people's time and not expect them to understand arcane details of the cause that we're passionate about.

Okay, enough of the soap box. Sure do wish Ecuador had played better today. Congrats to Britain and Portugal for makin it to the semifinals!

Posted by cj at 9:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2006

Terrorists, Citizens, and Other Creatures Living in the World

I had the most interesting conversation tonight. My friend actually thought that the "terrorists" who were arrested in Florida this week will be acquitted because US citizens simply wont believe that their fellow citizens are terrorists.

Unfortunately, knowing US history as I do, there's simply no way I can agree with him. First, there are the terrorists that have been around during my lifetimes: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; and the Branch Davidians near Waco. And of course, when I was less than a year old, there was the Jonestown mass murder / suicide, origin of the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" (even though they used FlavorAid).

My point is that crazy people exist in all societies, including the US. It is not easy to distinguish between the white hats and the black hats. Indeed, many ultra-conservatives would take one look at the name of my blog and throw me in the same lot with the people I've been mentioning. So, where exactly has the shades of grey gone?

Lost, perhaps in the same place as a serious discussion of racism in our society. While many US residents believe in American exceptionalism and the need to fight crusades to "spread democracy and capitalism" (emphasis on the latter), a few of us are trying to valiantly resurrect the art of serious discussion.

In this Age of Fear, I think it would be extremely easy to convict US citizens of crimes they didn't commit. It happens everyday for far less egregious reasons than pledging oneself to Osama bin Laden. Never mind that the suspects had no weapons and no serious plots. The 24/7 news media spent days chattering about this government "coup," which gave the administration a welcome reprieve from the constant reminder that the majority of Americans want to get the hell out of Iraq NOW.

Posted by cj at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2006

Sunday Mornin Talk Show Snippets

Saw the end of Gonzalez rambling his b.s. on This Week. Was so late and so distracted by cleaning my dishes that I didn't notice who was spewing the company line. The I was intrigued by John Edwards and his vehement attack on the Shrub administration and everything they stand for. He kept burnishing his outsider creds - saying he knows so much more about what's going on with the average working man b/c he no longer lives in DC. Because, you know, a millionaire living outside the beltway obviously has his finger on the pulse of society. He didn't rule out runnin for prez in 08, but apparently his decision depends on his wife's health condition. Wasn't listening close enough to know what that health condition is, but I hope she gets better.

SecState Rice bantered with Tim for a good half hour. She continued the lie perpetuated by this totalitarian administration that their "war" makes it necessary to Spy on Citizens and Deny Freedom in order to make the world safe (for capitalistic greed). She defended the existence of US torture centers, despite the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture recently ruled they should be shuttered forever. Of course, she panders some token words about the desire to close them, but only after this "war" is over and The State has an alternative incarceration system for the detained "terrorists." (I am not convinced terrorists exist in those prisons when the vast majority of detainees are held without any formal charges and only a select few are being prosecuted in a real court of law.)

Enough of the morning chatter, it was time for a break with Ebert & Roeper. They really liked The DaVinci Code, and felt the movie was more realistic than the book. Personally, I was struck by the glaring omission of a key piece of the ending in the celluloid version. But I agree that it worked as a thriller, although at times I was bored by the extended chatter of explanation...They also liked X Men III, which I'm so excited about seeing. And they liked Over The Hedge. They split on Shiloh 3, and both liked The King, a movie that wont be in 98% of the movie theatres in the country, but does star Gael Garcia Bernal, so is worth looking for.

Back to a "serious" show, The Chris Mathews Show on NBC. I seriously don't know why I bother watching this crap. He has absolutely zero respect for progressive opinions and always tips his panel to the right. Adding insult to injury, almost every week features Katty Kay, the most repulsive British export, chatting like she knows shit about being American. In her version of America, it is impossible for a woman to be president. I really wish she was deported. Anyway, the show spent the majority of the hour discussing the Democratic horse race for the 08 presidential nomination. Note that it is still 2006 and there's an important Congressional election coming up this fall. Never mind those nattering particulars, it's apparently more interesting for inside-the-beltway pundits to yap incessantly about a race that is two years away.

Back to more palatable fare: PBS. I should've watched Zakaria's slightly annoying program instead of Matthews, but I went mainstream for that half hour.

John McLaughlin's One on One was actually good, probably b/c he was interviewing a fellow conservative, this time Francis Fukuyama. He also made time to chat via phone with Joe Cirincione of the Center for American Progress. Francis distanced himself from the neocon mainstream, following the pattern he started with his most recent book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. McLaughlin kept harping about the noble lie, attributed to Socrates in Plato's The Republic. Google Answers has a concise explanation of the original noble lie (which someone paid 5 bucks for). Here's a long interview about the lefty theory that the disciples of Leo Strauss are perpetuating the use of misconception and mass manipulation to further the aims of the Bush administration. Fukuyama vehemently denied that Strauss agreed with noble lying, and said his work was related to political theory, discussing / critiquing dense work and that he never formed a doctrine. Then they chatted about nuclear proliferation with Joe C.

Next came Now, which oddly seemed like it should be re-dubbed "Then," since the majority of the show was about the lead-up to Saturday's mayoral run-off in New Orleans. Not on Now: the fact that Ray Nagin won re-election. Well, apparently the original air date was May 19. But still, it was weird and oddly public tv-ish: because if a network re-ran something, they'd include an update. Turns out more NOLA's want to stick by Ray rather than cede power to the Landrieu dynasty (pa = frmr gov, sis = sr LA senator).

Therein ends my teevee watching till this evening's cotton candy.

Posted by cj at 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 4, 2006

File Under: Ridiculous Corrections

As pointed out by Today's Papers. I find it appalling how many mistakes were made.

Because they had so little time to prepare ... From the NYT:

An obituary on Monday and in late editions on Sunday about the economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith referred incorrectly to his family at several points. He had a younger brother, William, who died several years ago; he was not an only son. A sister, Catherine Denholm, also died several years ago; she was not among his survivors. Mr. Galbraith had 10 grandchildren, not 6. Because of an editing error, the term for his wife's vocation was truncated in some copies. She is a linguist. A caption misstated the date of a photograph of the Galbraiths taken at their home in New Delhi while he was an ambassador. It was in 1956, not 1966.

Posted by cj at 6:39 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2006

Mind-Numbing Chatter and the Loss of a Great Thinker, John Kenneth Galbraith

I used to blog about Sunday talk shows on a more regular basis. It's not that I've stopped watching them; it's that I'm less interested in what I'm watching. My original reason for tuning in was simple - the lead stories in Monday newspapers were based on what people said Sunday morning, so why not just get the news straight from the horse's mouth? Now that I've been following them for several years, my excitement has waned.

So instead of TiVo'ing both This Week and Meet the Press (when I lived in LA, where they come on at ridiculously early times like 7am), I watch half an hour of each (during the football off-season). First of all, I only have broadcast tv now. Second, the first half hour of each show is plenty of time; usually the interviews are done during that time and the rest is spent on roundtables, and in the case of ABC, gimmicky recaps of comedy / tragedy (late night shows and obits).

First I saw Ben Stein ramble in defense of SecDef Rumsfeld on CBS News Sunday Morning (a folksy show that's a good way to ease into Sunday, hosted by Charles Osgood of radio fame). Then 9 o'clock rolled around an I saw SecState Rice on This Week. She defended everything from the administration's scare-mongering re Iran to its "helpful" energy policy. I'm really bored with the company line and the mainstream press's complete inability to offer serious, hard-hitting questions to challenge their sound bites.

Next up was a debate between someone I thought was a good ol' boy Republican and a Nor'Easter Dem. Turns out the first was a retired Dem, former LA Senator Bennett Johnston and the latter was NY senior Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer harped about record oil profits, Johnston carped that instability and disaster have tightened the supply of oil leading to the current prices. This lasted fifteen minutes, ending with them agreeing that the Western Gulf of Mexico should be opened for drilling and more money should go to researching alternative fuels.

At this point, I switched to MtP. Their roundtable on oil lasted the whole hour, but I could only stay for 30 minutes (had an appointment on ABC). Here's what I really hate about these shows: roundtables are always held between The Establishment and The Establishment. Alternative voices are rarely invited, nor are they taken seriously if they are. So this roundtable featured Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, American Petroleum Institute President Red Cavaney, commentator Jim Cramer, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and energy analyst Daniel Yergin. That's four shills for Big Oil and one mildly left of center politician discussin big oil's rape of America. Why would anyone listen? That ain't a debate, it's a convention of sycophants with one guy starting every comment with "I guess I'm the only one who disagrees." No you're not - you're just the only one invited to the party!

Something the oil shills kept saying was that big conglomerates are needed to compete with the huge national companies overseas. Tim kept spewing numbers like $400 million in compensation for CEOs. Here's a thought: what if the US joined the rest of the world and allowed energy sales to benefit the entire country instead of a few billionaires? Imagine we lived in a country where record oil profits meant more money for schools, healthcare, and other societal needs. That's what Chavez is doing in Venezuela; why can't we do it here? We're not a nation of "rugged individualists;" we're a nation fed on the lies of the ruling class that blindly accepts falling wages because we foolishly think the American dream of pullin yourself up by your bootstraps is actually attainable.

Okay, so ultimately I don't like these talk shows because they absolutely never have a credible voice from outside the halls of power on their shows. It's not entirely their fault - I was watching The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS last week and got thoroughly frustrated with the idiot speaking against nuclear power; he wasn't an idiot, he just played one on tv because he had no sound bites and he couldn't articulate his crucial points in a convincing tone.

Right, so the halls of power aren't open to imagination. Nor are they open to many women or people of color. Condi was the only one who fit either of those categories amongst the peeps interviewed. (Roundtables of pundits don't count; tokenism is much easier in the halls of rambling cranks than it is in the halls of Actual Power.)

After an hour of this nonsense, I went back to ABC for a dose of Ebert & Roepert. Shockingly, they didn't like RV. They repeated their love of Akeelah and the Bee (no word on whether this will get them free Starbucks) and Flight 93. Even though half the show repeated their reviews from last week (see aforementioned movies), it was still more engaging than the chatter boxes.

Then I saw Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakariah. Ug. The man is too ubiquitous. I think he was also on the pundit roundtable I didn't watch on This Week. And why exactly does he take on Three Topics in 30 minutes?!?! There's no chance for any substance in what he / his staff reports on. The interviews are the quickest bits of nothing. Most interesting segment was on the textile market in Ghana. 90% of ppl in Ghana buy second-hand Western clothing. It's cheaper than Ghanian clothes (until recently, to wear traditional clothing, one had to buy the cloth than pay a tailor to make the clothes; now there are a few ready-to-wear manufacturers).

The part not talked about in the brief snippet: Western excess fuels this problem; our disposable clothing and finicky taste floods the world with secondhand clothing that is practically brand-new. It's a billion dollar a year business. I think it is a symptom of the larger problem of US-backed free-trade capitalism: excess consumption of unnecessary products, fueling our dependence on the corrupt system.

This ties into the obituary I read this morning for John Kenneth Galbraith. He followed Thorstein Veblen's example. Veblen wrote "Theory of the Leisure Class," and coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption." Snippets from Galbraith's extremely significant contribution to the world of ideas and politics:

"The Affluent Society" appeared in 1958, making Mr. Galbraith known around the world. In it, he depicted a consumer culture gone wild, rich in goods but poor in the social services that make for community. He argued that America had become so obsessed with overproducing consumer goods that it had increased the perils of both inflation and recession by creating an artificial demand for frivolous or useless products, by encouraging overextension of consumer credit and by emphasizing the private sector at the expense of the public sector. He declared that this obsession with products like the biggest and fastest automobile damaged the quality of life in America by creating "private opulence and public squalor."

Anticipating the environmental movement by nearly a decade, he asked, "Is the added production or the added efficiency in production worth its effect on ambient air, water and space — the countryside?" Mr. Galbraith called for a change in values that would shun the seductions of advertising and champion clean air, good housing and aid for the arts. [...]

In 1973 he published "Economics and the Public Purpose," in which he sought to extend the planning system already used by the industrial core of the economy to the market economy, to small-business owners and to entrepreneurs. Mr. Galbraith called for a "new socialism," with more steeply progressive taxes; public support of the arts; public ownership of housing, medical and transportation facilities; and the conversion of some corporations and military contractors into public corporations. [...]

In 2004, Mr. Galbraith, who was then 95, published "The Economics of Innocent Fraud," a short book that questioned much of the standard economic wisdom by questioning the ability of markets to regulate themselves, the usefulness of monetary policy and the effectiveness of corporate governance.

He remained optimistic about the ability of government to improve the lot of the less fortunate. "Let there be a coalition of the concerned," he urged. "The affluent would still be affluent, the comfortable still comfortable, but the poor would be part of the political system."

Despite the fact that Galbraith's ideas are dismissed by the corporate ruling class, his ideas have helped shape the world, especially in other countries that are pursuing viable alternatives to the lopsided development goals of the USG. I hope he did not suffer in his final years. While the world mourns the loss of a great man, can we really expect to live much longer than 97? May his ideas continue to illuminate the world.

Article quoted: "John Kenneth Galbraith, 97, Dies; Economist Held a Mirror to Society," by Holcomb Noble and Douglas Martin, front page of today's NYT

Posted by cj at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

A Few Things to Write to Congress About

1. Space for Peace, not War
Women's Action for New Direction (WAND) is using their online letter-writing system to get folks to write to their Congresspeople to oppose authorization in the defense appropriation bill for a $5.7 million to fire a laser at a satellite. Click here to write to your Congresspeople via WAND.

2. Tell Congress People Should Count More Than Corporations
So Common Cause is doing an action for real ethics reform. You can sign an email to urge your Representative to vote against a piece of legislation in its current form. You can also re-write the letter. Here's how I amended (and shortened) their email to Rep. Rahm Emanuel:

The corruption and lobbying scandals in Congress threaten the heart of American democracy. I believe it is essential for the House to adopt strong, effective and comprehensive reform measures to address these scandals.

H.R. 4975, in its current form, fails to provide real and effective reform of the lobbying laws and congressional ethics rules. I urge you to vote against H.R. 4975 unless the bill is greatly strengthened on the House floor and turned into acceptable legislation.

I believe the change needed to reinvigorate our democracy is much larger than any bill or amendment. While I support the effort to defeat HR 4975 in its current form, I am more interested in your ideas to strengthen constituents' access to power and our ability to be part of the decision-making process. As long as corporations are treated as people in the eyes of the law, corruption and scandal will continue to plague the halls of Congress. It is a shame that their voice has more credibility than this email.

Click here to write to your Rep via Common Cause.

Posted by cj at 8:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2006

I'm the Decider

A sister WILPFer sent me a link to this fabulous riff on "I am the Walrus." The original song is by one of my all-time favorite bands, Oingo Boingo.

Here's the political version - "I'm the Decider (Koo Koo Ka Choo)" on Huffington Post

Boingo, btw, wrote several political songs including a few about the first Gulf War...

And re Rumsfeld - I read an insightful article in the WSJ about the disputes btwn him and the career military men. But the thing is, I just can't get behind this groundswell to kick him out. Not that I think he's that great; just that the arguments are so small-minded. The problems created by the USG's occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are not completely caused by Rumsfeld's emphasis on small, quick-moving forces; the problems go back to the idea of occupation itself. An occupying empire cannot create democracy anywhere. And the corporations receiving billions of taxpayer money to "rebuild" Iraq will simply continue to take our money and Iraq will continue to be a more inhospitable place to live than it was during Saddam's regime.

The problems created by W.'s foreign policy cannot be fixed by turning the military over to "trusted experts." It can only be fixed by booting him out of office. And doing a 180 in foreign relations - only when the American elite / foreign policy establishment stops thinking they can mold the world in their image will the US be a helpful world leader.

Posted by cj at 3:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

The High Cost of Protesting

Let's be clear: while I generally believe there are better ways to make social change, I support people's right to protest. I've been encouraged by the immigrants' rights rallies that recently swept the nation.

And I'm horrified by the response of an Inglewood, CA principal: she forced elementary school students to relieve themselves in buckets inside their classrooms to "protect" them from the walk outs of nearby high school students. And the Inglewood school district continues to defend the idiot.

More info: "Campus Lockdown Appalls Parents: Some students at an Inglewood elementary school were barred from using the restroom." by Hemmy So in LAT

found via Today's Papers, by Eric Umansky on Slate

Posted by cj at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2006

Helen Thomas v. George Bush, Jr.

George Bush, Jr. had a press conference yesterday. (I was too busy voting and doing WILPF work to notice, but I read about it today.)

Here is Talking Points Memo's transcript of his exchange with Helen Thomas, columnist extraordinaire.

THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Gridiron, I am -- (laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

HELEN THOMAS: Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

HELEN THOMAS: -- everything I've heard --

(Read the entire TPM post for the full effect)

Thomas has covered more presidents as a member of the White House press corps than any other journalist. When the Moonies bought UPI, she ended her 57 year career there and became a columnist for King Features Syndicate (a Hearst company). Alas, I've been trying to find her columns for awhile to no avail. Or maybe her most recent column was penned on March 8...

According to Jack Shafer at Slate, she's no longer asking hard questions but rather speechifying, which makes it easier to dodger her questions because they are rarely asked directly. That might be true, but at 82, I think she's earned the right to be the voice of reason in the White House. Shame on us for not electing a president who appreciates her point of view.

More info on the press conference: "Bush Concedes Iraq War Erodes Political Status," by Elisabeth Bumiller in today's NYT

Less interesting transcipt from CQ Transcipts via The Columbia Dispatch (reporter names removed and full exchange not included)

Posted by cj at 8:45 AM | Comments (0)

Taxpayer Money Flowing Into Anti-Choice, Stridently Religious "Social Service" Groups

This should surprise absolutely no one - Shrub did this as governor of Texas and simply continued doing it once becoming president. Massive amounts of federal funding has flowed into socially conservative groups that stridently "educate" women that life begins at conception, to keep their legs closed to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

To qualify for federal funding for social "service" (questionable whether most of these groups provide any real service) it really helps to be:

A member of a minority group that Republicans traditionally have difficulty reaching out to. Therefore, if you're Latino and Protestant, you're in. If you're Latino and Roman Catholic, the USG doesn't need your help providing services to the poor (b/c most of you still vote Democrat). Black Evangelicals are also appreciated.

Never fear, there's still room in the federal budget for white evangelicals with a background in campaign fund raising or getting people to the polls.

Strange that I agree with a quote from Grover Norquist:

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the grant-making is "corrupting."

"The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state rather than the constituencies they are trying to serve," he said. "The guy who writes the check writes the rules."

At least $157 million has been wasted. It's not just a waste of money - it puts women's lives in danger by not being honest about all health options available in the even of a pregnancy; it puts teenage lives in danger by not providing real sex education, so that they know how to protect themselves if they choose to have sex; and it is just plain wrong to use government money to prop up work that is tied to a specific religion / religious beliefs.

More info: "Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues: Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million," by Thomas B. Edsall in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2006

Election Day Hassle

I completely brought this on myself. I could have re-registered at my actual address before the deadline for the primary election, but I didn't. I have re-registered, but according to the guy at the DMV I should vote at my old precinct. My old precinct is suburban Cook County and I live and work in the city. Even though I live in the heart of the Democratic machine and will be voting on a Democratic primary ticket, I think it's important to mark my ballot so I'm gonna trek out to my old haunts via public trans. My only worry is that I'll get all the way out there and wont be on the rolls. (I never actually voted there; I think I missed a local election; but I voted for Obama and Kerry back at my previous Chi-town address. I can't believe how many places I've lived in the last few years.)

Anyway, in case you too are wondering where to vote and for some reason you too live in suburban Cook County (or are registered there), go to http://www.voterinfonet.com/. Of course, I could've voted early downtown but alas that option ended last Thursday. Who knew?

And who the heck are all the people on the darn ballot?

Posted by cj at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2006

Think Progress Blogs and Webcasts re SOTU

I think the blog entries are more interesting than the webcast.

Why isn't there a female writer on the staff? Why only the color commentator, aka ditzy host of the webcast?!?!?

http://thinkprogress.org/?tag=State+of+the+Union

And um, the webcast only works well via IE, not Firefox.

Posted by cj at 9:43 PM | Comments (0)

SOTU Sucks

democracy = capitalism + transnational corporations + American soldiers

radical Islam = catch-all phrase for "the Evil Doers"
fear breeds loyalty
loyalty breeds blind faith
blind faith breeds total control
total control is the objective of POTUS

USG only wants "democracy" in our enemies' countries.
Democracy is not important in Egypt, where political parties were denied access to polls and its illegal to protest.
Democracy is not important in the US, where peace protestors are thrown into federal prison for months at a time and soldiers convicted of "negligant homicide" (i.e. murder) walk free

Wow. I wrote about Egypt before he lied about "multi-party elections" and apparently the Congress is in lock-step behind the idea that Palestinians are holding up the peace process when Israel is the one who refused to negotiate for years before the recent elections...

I'm gettin sick of liberty, hope, and democracy. How many frickin times can one man say those words?!?!

Reminder: the Evil Doers are All Around You. Thank Goodness for the popo.

PATRIOT ACT?!?! A tool of law ienforcement? It's a tool of denial of civil liberties, a way to stranglehold ppl in America as well as abroad.

See, the constitution and statutes give me the authority to spy on you, Mr. Joe American. (did you notice his dropping of the "g" in talking? Apparently, we need to be talked to in folksy-ness when being lied to about presidential power.

Yeah right. Republicans really appreciate immigrants. That's why they just gave Bechtel a contract to build more holding pens for ICE, to hold undocumented workers like cattle...

TAX RELIEF? American families? My frickin taxes never went down. Tax cuts during a war?!?! What happened to being fiscally conservative you damn moron? I really hate his smirk.

...and the Grolsch goes down smoothly...

Woohoo! Less government help! Why don't you pass more corporate welfare you baffoons and fully screw America's workers by completing your transfer of social services to private companies that can waste more money on administrating a worse system than the current one.

Increase Taxes! Decrease Spending on Corporate Welfare and the Military Industrial Complex!

Go Dems! Have a Spine! Note the horrid squalor of Shrub's social security "reform proposal" with your clapping.

Healthcare is a right, Not a commodity. Real reform would be a national, single-payer healthcare system.

How did I know his clean energy plan would include money for COAL?!?!?! Nuclear energy? Give me a frickin break.

Ethanol. A boom for politicians from small states with lots of corn. A disaster in terms of "new technology."

If you signed the Kyoto Protocol, it'd be a helluva lot easier to be an Environmental President.

Talent and Creativity? While you Cut Spending for grants to colleges? Give me a frickin break!

Your Culture Is Doomed To Unravel.
Progressive, thoughtful, honest culture is destined to inherit the earth.

Mangling your words again. Good thing you got some water during the applause break. "Legislate from the bench" - a lie propagated by Republicans. Liberals don't legislate from the bench, conservatives do.

Stay in School - where you'll learn how to pass standardized tests and lose all hope of creativity.

Really? You're meeting immediate needs? Where? Not New Orleans.

I've got mad job skillz. Doesn't help when employers refuse to pay higher salaries and healthcare costs increase exponentially every year.

Really? We can defeat AIDS? But it's not curable.

Yay Ryan White ACT! I worked on the TAC (Technical Assistance Contract) for that at John Snow, Inc.

Oh now you're just being silly. No new infections? Platitude b.s.

History is not turning. You Are a Moron Leading Us Towards Our Own Distruction.

I know Lincoln and MLK, Jr., sir. And you are like neither of them.

History is written in courage? We aint all macho bullshitters like you, sir.

Thank goodness it's over. 51 minutes of pure hell.

Posted by cj at 9:03 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2006

Sunday Mornin Teevee

First, a brief program note: I hate when the Bears season ends. Not because I follow football - I can't even watch the Super Bowl this year - but because it messes up my Sunday morning routine. Now, Meet the Press starts a half hour later, meaning that the last half hour runs at the same time at Ebert & Roepert. I think I missed their annual Note to the Academy program, but don't know for sure.

Back to the talk shows -

This Week: Like most media outlets, they spent a bunch of time giving an update on the tragic state of their reporters. Bob Woodruff and his camera man were hit by an IED and were in surgery this morning. While I share the sympathy of all the shows for the men and their families, I wonder why their situation is so much more worthy of air time then anyone else who gets hit by IEDs, is abused by US troops and Iraqi officials, or otherwise suffers in Iraq. Ok, moving on -

George talked to Barack Obama (who was Tim's guest last week). As usual, Obama sounded realistic and strategic - he doesn't come across as a politician trying divide the country for political gain, but rather looks to working with Republicans to clean up lobbying practices and other American problems.

Chuck Hagel was the Republican counterpart on This Week. It was interesting that George kept pointing out the ways Hagel is different from the Bush admin - Hagel believes in open, honest governing, including releasing photos of Bush with Abramoff and being honest about who Abramoff met with in the administration and what they discussed.

Note re This Week: they have a helluva lot more commercial breaks compared to MtP.

Onto MtP at 10am: over a half an hour with Republican Majority Liar Bill Frist. Think I'm too partisan? I really started gagging towards the end of the half hour when Frist refused to acknowledge Tim's assertion that the Minority Leader Reid rejected creating a Task Force on lobbying because he wants to create legislation, not more studies. Frist just kept repeating that he offered a bipartisan approach and Reid rejected it. Then Frist kept turning his politician's fake smile on his lies on CNBC that Tim quoted re the "blind trust" arrangement for his HCA stock. (HCA is the corrupt for-profit hospital chain that Frist's family created and runs that has ruined healthcare and workplace conditions for millions of people in the US.)

Due to my disgust with Frist, I tried to find solace in ABC. Found out that Chris Penn died. (Cause unknown.) Ebert & Roepert was a repeat, so I switched back to MtP.

The talking heads chattered on. I didn't pay much attention because they're all milquetoast heads - there's Never Ever a truly progressive opinion expressed, although often hard-line conservatives are invited to these round table discussions. I was reading my NYT (after learning that the cost is going up...seems the prices increase on everything when the calendar year changes except my paycheck, which went down due to an increase in my heath insurance cost)...okay, so all I heard was Tim saying: "Whoa, that’s going to set the blogs a running there, Kelly." Didn't actually hear Kelly's comment, so I'm thankful for the transcript. Here's what preceded that comment:

MR. RUSSERT: The president said the other day that this is a wide open race, the most wide open he’s ever seen. Does he have any kind of wink, or nudge towards any Republicans?

MS. O’DONNELL: Well, he was very careful because he knows that anything he says will influence the process. I think if he could get Condoleezza Rice to run he’d be happy about that, but we know where she stands on it.

Interesting aside to this Rice comment: I went to a lecture yesterday by a professor from Stanford, who used to work with/for Rice (she was provost of Stanford). He said that she refuses to hear any opinion that differs from her's and believes those opinions to be traiterous. So why the hell do so many pundits and politicians want her to run?!?! And where, oh where, is the Realistic, Effect Left in this country? I guess it's on PBS, since Now is starting and talkin about the new doc, "Why We Fight," that blasts the military industrial complex. Then again, it was preceded by "John McLaughlin's One On One," and McLaughlin is a one note right-wing wonder. The only problem with PBS is there are no breaks...which can be a problem at the end of 6 cups of coffee...

Posted by cj at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

Right Wing v. Left Wing College

A friend at DePaul University alerted me to a problem being experienced on her campus: conservative students, armed with activist training are creating turmoil and the people they are tormenting seem to be responding like textbook liberals. I don't know enough about the situation at DePaul to say anymore about it, but my friend pointed me to this really interesting article, "My Right Wing Degree," by Jeff Horwitz on Salon that explains this phenomenon.

I'm particularly intrigued that everyone uses the term "Leadership Institute," or some variation of that. I attended a Leadership Institute for union organizing. I kept bumping my head against the union's emphasis on This Election and This Win and This Crisis. While I agree that there is a shockingly low number of Americans in unions, I don't think the way to increase union membership working in crisis mode 24/7. Instead, I appreciate the groundswell approach of Morton Blackwell's LI. I think the right is effective because they play the game of politics; the left is ineffective because they either appeal constantly to Higher Truths or get stuck in the mud, reacting to meaningless drivel of the day. Obviously, lack of union representation is not meaningless drivel; but failure to think long term is a problem for most progressives.

Will you join me in changing this? Think more long term; take time to pay attention to world affairs that aren't the top of broadcast news programs. And let's figure out how to keep ourselves sane in this insane world by not getting outraged by every single thing that happens.

Posted by cj at 9:44 PM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Conkrite Says Get Out of Iraq

Entertaining AP article re Walter Conkrite, beloved news anchor from the time before I remember teevee news. (Cut me some slack - I was three when he retired.)

He thinks we should get out of Iraq and spend the money on hurricane recovery. Clearly, he's been out of the news gathering business for awhile since he pays no attention to the military industrial complex.

Amusing bit o Daily Show yesterday: Eugene Jarecki having a child-like amazement at Eisenhower's military industrial complex farewell address. And his doc re same, Why We Fight. Glad to see people other than my fellow peace & justice studies students and peace activists taking the military industrial complex seriously.

Posted by cj at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2005

Chicago Rejected Cheap Diesel for CTA

Citgo, a Venezuelan company, offered the CTA heavily discounted diesel fuel. In exchange, they asked Chicago to offer free or heavily discounted transportation to its poorest residents. Chicago refused; probably because it gets a lot of funding from the federal government. As we all know, the Bush administration abhors Hugo Chavez and Venezuela for defying corporate capitalism and leading a Latin American uprising against USG sponsored "free" trade agreements.

More info: "Chicago Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil," by Jessica Pupovac in The New Standard

Posted by cj at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Sunday Mornin Talk Show Feedback

I'm struck by the narrowness of mainstream media's political spectrum. The only people taken seriously are Republicans and Democrats. If you're a "maverick," aka don't follow every single talking point from your party, then you are met with skepticism and hype. If you're a nut job, aka think completely for yourself and reject the mainstream world view of 9-11 SECURITY BUILDING DEMOCRACY, then you are occasionally invited to the table and mocked the entire, paltry sum of time you are engaged by the host. Doesn't matter if you're a right-wing jingoist or a left-wing internationalist, you aren't taken seriously by Sunday morning talk shows if you don't follow a party line. Furthermore, none of the mainstream media hosts ever question the paradigm of US politics. Its never important to include pundits from across the political spectrum, and forget about diversity. If there is a black man and a white woman on the panel, not only are you lucky, but its a sign of complete political correctness regardless of the views your token "minority reps" spew.

I'm trying to figure out where there's room in the national discussion for serious people who are dedicated to international cooperation and collaboration in order to create a peaceful and just society. Not just hand-wringing over the death of New Orleans or the horrifying and increasing gap between the rich and the poor in the US and the world. More than hot air, we need a place at the decision making table for peacemakers and social justice activists. I think our inclusion starts when we're taken seriously by the pundit class.

At least Now, the investigative journalism program on PBS continues to take activists seriously. This week's topic was Do It Yourself Democracy, with guests Frances Moore Lappe (author of Democracy's Edge) and activist Diane Wilson (author of An Unreasonable Woman). After being demoralized by the increasingly obvious right-wing slant of Chris Matthews, and former SecState Albright's refusal to call the US occupation of Iraq a mistake, I was happy to view an uplifting reminder that we individuals have the power to create the democracy we wish to see.

Posted by cj at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 4, 2005

Sunday News Roundup (not really)

Watched MtP today. It made me realize how severely stuck-in-war-mode Senator John McCain is. I cannot believe he actually believes the US occupation of Iraq is a good thing. Furthermore, he believes that to win the "propaganda war" its a good thing for the US military to pay media outlets in Iraq to publish phony news articles. So much for a free press being a cornerstone of a democratic society.

Shockingly, no one at any level of government has taken the 9-11 commission's report to heart. Government is corrupt and doesn't take its responsibility to keep its constuents safe seriously. Instead of no fly zones over nuclear reactors (which we probably shouldn't be using to begin with), we've got a permanent no fly zone over the VP's summer house.

And then there was prattle on the Chris Matthews Show. Katty Kay continues to be the pundit I dislike the most for her insipid commentary. But nowadays, since the show comes on after both MtP and Ebert & Roepert, I find myself not really tuned into the dialogue; instead, I read my paper and glance occassionally, wondering why Kay gained so much weight. Apparently, I'm reacting to the fact that she spouts Republican talking points, according to chatter on the web.

Speaking of Matthews, he seems unable to deal with knowledgeable progressive pundits. He mocks and dismisses Amy Goodman on Hardball, and I haven't actually seen a progressive as a pundit on the NBC Sunday morning show. Last week his personal thought was based on the cover story of Esquire magazine - not exactly reaching very far to learn that Clinton has created another chapter in his political career around public health and economic development in Africa.

I haven't been inspired by anything in the newspapers today. I was annoyed that none of the female politicians were featured in the Week in Review's roundup of Afghani politicians. In the print version, none of the female politicians were given photographs - only disparagingly revealed that many of them "didn't win their elections outright" but were put into power by the Afghan constitution's insistence that 25% of the lower house be filled with women. Mind you, this is only about half-way towards the goal of Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal participation in post-conflict resolution. And nevermind the fact that many people believe there were anomolies in the counting process for Afghan elections. Let's just complain that women might actually have a voice somewhere.

Actually interesting news I read today (not written today):
"Women gain ground in Afghan parliamentary polls: Amid cheers for increased representation of women, polls show most victories were result of constitutional quota requirements rather than preference," in The Daily Star of Lebanon.

Posted by cj at 8:24 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2005

Using Political Hacks to Dismantle Voting Rights in Texas

Someone leaked a Justice Department memo to WaPo that clearly points out how illegal the redistricting of Texas House seats in 2003 was. Career employees figured out how messed up it was that Tom DeLay and his aides used back door politics to significantly change the redistricting map without oversight from the public. Further, the opinion of 8 career employees was overturned by a higher-ranking political hack. The Justice Dept decision that the redistricting did not violate the Voting Rights Act (created by the political hack) significantly bolstered the Texas Republican swindlers' case in court. The memo was not made public during the 3 judge review panel and only the Supreme Court can overturn the decision.

It's a complicated case, including the use of token minorities who don't represent the views of the larger minority population in their area:

The complexity of the arguments surrounding the Voting Rights Act is evident in the Justice Department memo, which focused particular attention on seats held in 2003 by a white Democrat, Martin Frost, and a Hispanic Republican, Henry Bonilla.

Voting data showed that Frost commanded great support from minority constituents, while Bonilla had relatively little support from Hispanics. The question to be considered by Justice Department lawyers was whether the new map was "retrogressive," because it diluted the power of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice. Under the adopted Texas plan, Frost's congressional district was dismantled, while the proportion of Hispanics in Bonilla's district dropped significantly. Those losses to black and Hispanic voters were not offset by other gains, the memo said.

I continue to be aghast at the blatant corruption within the Republican party. While I don't agree with the Democratic leadership on all issues, I still don't understand why people continue to believe there is no difference between a Republican and a Democrat. Furthermore, redistricting in general infuriates me. Whoever gets in power changes the maps to get their political cronies more seats. Political maps should be based on geographic communities, with an eye on insuring a political base for ethnic communities.

More info:
"Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal: Voting Rights Finding On Map Pushed by DeLay Was Overruled," by Dan Eggen in WaPo

Posted by cj at 8:11 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2005

Meet the Press and US Foreign Policy

Senator John Warner (R), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Senator Jospeh Biden (D), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee squared off today on Meet the Press. It represented my favorite parts of the Senate and Sunday morning talk shows.

First of all, both men are articulate, passionate civil servants. True, they are also politicians. But, unlike many party hacks, they have passionate intelligence that they use to lead the country. While Warner refused to comment on his meeting with ten officers with experience on the ground in Iraq, Tim pointed out that Sally Donnelly in Time magazine covered the substance of the meeting.

As he has since the Balkan Wars, Biden presented a balanced view of foreign policy that makes sense and gives me hope for the future of this country. I don't know anything about his domestic priorities, but I know when it comes to international relations, I have not heard a politician I agree with more than Joe Biden. Too bad his hair is thinning considerably, making him unlikely to gain the support needed to become the leader of this myopic, insular and provincial citizenry.

The round table was a let down after the intense discussion of Biden, Warner, and Russert. Most interesting was the consternation of David Broder and Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post over the ridiculous poor taste of their fellow Post employee, Bob Woodward, in his handling of his own part within the CIA leak case while acting as a partisan pundit throughout the proceedings.

Woodruff than rambled about bloggers speculating that Republicans mistook Russert for Woodward during their grand jury testimony and Woodruff said she understood the confusion, as she believes both men are great journalists. (Or something like that; the transcript isn't up yet, only the podcast.) Russert replied that while he is friends with Woodruff, he is no Woodward. For my part, my mind is either experiencing a mild case of dyslexia or early morning befuddlement, because during the majority of the roundtable, I thought Woodruff was related to Woodward, because I thought they had the same last name. Turns out Woodruff is married to "Wall Street Journal executive Washington editor Al Hunt, a liberal pundit who also appears regularly on the Sunday talk shows," according to this weird website that came up on top of a Google search for her.

Posted by cj at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

More on the President's Lies

"Ignoring the Facts," an Op-Ed by Richard Cohen in WaPo:

[T]he insistence that Hussein was somehow linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- a leitmotif of Bush administration geopolitical fantasy -- tells you much more than whether this or that fact was right. It tells you that to Bush and his people, the facts did not matter. [...]

It would be nice, fitting and pretty close to sexually exciting if Bush somehow acknowledged his mistakes and said he had learned from them.

Good to see Inside the Beltway types getting excited about something again. Interesting to see the MSM rail against the prez and his cronies.

Also found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 8:27 AM | Comments (0)

Lies My President Told Me

Knight Ridder has an amazing article on the distortions of the Bush administration. You should read it in its entirety. Some key excerpts:

The administration's overarching premise is beyond dispute - administration officials, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even leaders of foreign governments believed intelligence assessments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence turned out to be wrong.

But Bush, Cheney, and other senior officials have added several other arguments in recent days that distort the factual record. Below, Knight Ridder addresses the administration's main assertions: [...]

ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.

I feel like quoting the whole article, so please go read the good work of James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay with contributions from William Douglas and Warren P. Strobel for yourself.

found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 8:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 8, 2005

Another Attempt to Place a Crony in Office

Shrub nominated Ellen Sauerbrey to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration. You probably haven't heard of this particular nut job. She was in charge of Shrub's Maryland presidential campaign in 2000. Since then she's made a fine name for herself as the US Ambassador to the Commission on the Status of Women. She tried to insert language in the Beijing +10 consensus document that said the original document guaranteed no new human rights and did not include the right to abortion. Not one single country stood with her attempt to demolish women's rights and she had to withdraw the ammendment.

Clearly, the Senate should reject her nomination.

More info in "Editorial: Another Bush crony deserves rejection: Ellen Sauerbrey is neither ready nor right for State job." in the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune

Posted by cj at 6:36 PM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2005

U.S. Foreign Aid Spending in 2006

When bills are passed by the House and the Senate, they go to a review committee for reconciliation, to create a unified bill that then must be passed by both houses before it becomes law. The review committee for the foreign aid budget has completed their work. Of interest:

The bill also has $150 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza region, doubling current aid and matching Bush's request. The money is only for projects approved by the U.S. Agency for International Development, not for direct budgetary assistance.

Israel would get $2.3 billion in military assistance, up $60 million from current levels and matching Bush's request. [...]

The bill also has $432 million for international family planning programs, keeping the ban Bush insists on against U.S. foreign aid funding for organizations that support or perform abortions.

From "US lawmakers agree to $20.9 bln in foreign aid," by Vickie Allen for Reuters via AlterNet

Basically, our sisters in Palestine and Israel will be bombarded by more U.S.-funded Israeli weapons and our sisters around the world will continue to have inadequate access to healthcare because of the religious beliefs of the U.S. President. I pray that our work as WILPFers, by challenging U.S. policy directly, will help alleviate the harm done by the misguided appropriations priorities of our elected representatives.

Cross-posted from US WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 9:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 1, 2005

Democrats Find Juevos, Force Investigation into Cause of US War on Iraq

While I was busy working this afternoon, the Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid forced the Senate to do its job of oversight of the Administration by calling a Secret Session and forcing action on the Intelligence Committee's probe of the creation of the intelligence that was the basis for invading Iraq in 2003.

Senate Rule 21 which can force the Senate to go into closed session - calling all Senators to the floor and kicking everyone else out - is usually not used as a surprise element by the minority party. The Democrats have finally shown some national leadership by forcing the Senate to create a new bipartisan committee to report on the progress of the Intelligence Committee's investigation into how the Administration sold the US public on going to war.

More information:
"Democrats close Senate to push war probe: Deal struck to advance investigation on prewar intelligence," by CNN with contributions by Ted Barrett

Initial Reactions at AMERICAblog

Senate goes to closed session by BarbinMD on Daily Kos, including explanation of the Closed Senate Rule

partially cross-posted from US WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 9:08 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2005

Striking Healthcare Workers Blogging

Dialogic posted a significant portion of an Alternet article regarding striking SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). Annalee Newitz wrote "Strike Blog," which is an interesting if incomplete / not always correct article re labor strikes and blogging. Some of the commentors on her article have already corrected her most glaring mistake (being so enamored with blogging and laws that she thinks union speak online could keep folks interested in writing about their workplace conditions from being fired).

I know unions aren't a panacea for all that ails workers in America. But please look past whatever grievances you have with unions as institutions to sympathize with the plight of the workers at Sutter CPMC in San Francisco. I've never personally been involved in a strike, but as a former SEIU organizer, my heart goes out to the workers. Regardless of education level, all Americans deserve healthy working conditions, affordable healthcare, a living wage, and a real pension. There's a fundamental crisis in the US - a race to the bottom of wages and benefits for the vast majority of workers, while an elite few take an ever-expanding piece of the pie.

I'm glad to see SEIU expanding its use of alternative forms of communication.

Important Links:
Sutter Strikers' Blog
Official SEIU-UHW Sutter Strike Site
Take Action! Sign the Online Petition Supporting Sutter Strikers

and a related link found via the comments section of Alternet:
Communicate or Die: American Labor Unions and the Internet's post re Sutter Strike

Posted by cj at 2:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2005

Big Brother Still Watching...

The FBI doesn't want you to worry about its secret access to your emails, online transactions, and bank statements. It feels okay not even following its secret court's procedure for obtaining "warrants."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center thinks the FBI is full of crap and is suing. The document EPIC obtained details (with plenty of black outs) thirteen probable violations of intelligence gathering. The FBI's access to your private correspondence and records was vastly increased by the "USA Patriot Act."

It is really appalling how much we US citizens will put up with from our government. I suppose as long as they keep the black-listing to secret tribunals, the masses will continue to assent to this neo-McCarthyism.

More info: "FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations: Secret Surveillance Lacked Oversight," by Dan Eggen in WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2005

Workers Gettin Screwed in America

Yesterday, General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative deal that will slash healthcare benefits for workers and retirees, to save costs since GM has been in the red for a few quarters. The LAT points out that news is part of a larger trend - workers are being asked to work harder for less pay and miserly benefits. The number of employers offering any healthcare benefits has drastically decreased since 2000. Let's be clear: access to affordable healthcare should be a right, not a priviledge. As executive pay continues to skyrocket, the vast majority of US workers are making do with much less. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to increase in our "land of opportunity." This isn't some socialist diatribe - its just the facts, ma'am. A business writer was on NPR this morning talking about how companies are clamoring over elite workers, enticing them with huge bonuses and perks. He also admitted that the vast majority of US workers are "a dime a dozen" and don't have any leverage in compensation negotiations. Yahoo for the new wild West.

more info: "U.S. Labor Is in Retreat as Global Forces Squeeze Pay and Benefits," by David Streitfeld in the LAT

Posted by cj at 8:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

The Rich Continue to Get Richer...

Anyone else scared about their winter heating bill? I'm sure my gas bill will go up, and since my pay doesn't rise and fall with energy prices, I'm sure it'll squeeze some fun out of my holiday season.

But never fear, because as the masses get poorer, the rich get richer.

Rita damaged oil facilities much less than expected, and oil prices fell on Sunday. Inside, the WSJ claims, "Consensus earnings estimates have actually risen since Hurricane Katrina. Most of that is because energy companies are raking in so much cash. But even outside of energy, profit expectations for the next few months haven't fallen that much."
From Today's Papers, by Bidisha Banerjee in Slate

Posted by cj at 7:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2005

Murkiness Surrounds Resignation of FDA Commissioner

Piece of crap Commissioner Lester M. Crawford resigned yesterday via email, just two months after officially being named head of the Food and Drug Administration. He ain't resigning because of his extramarital relationship with a woman who worked in his office. He ain't resigning because of his disgusting abuse of reproductive rights by pulling administrative wool over the ability of women to get Plan B, the morning after pill, from pharmacists without a prescription. No, he's resigning because of a scandal that has not been made public yet.

A government official said the resignation was related to the fact that Dr. Crawford had not fully disclosed information about his finances to the Senate before his confirmation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing Dr. Crawford's privacy. [...]

Ira Loss, senior health analyst at Washington Analysis, which studies federal issues for investors, said he had been told by someone in the White House that Dr. Crawford had been asked to resign for a reason not yet known to the public.

"Something new has arisen that has led to this," Mr. Loss said. It was not the controversy over the morning-after pill, he said, because Dr. Crawford "did what they wanted on Plan B."

From: "Leader of the F.D.A. Steps Down After a Short, Turbulent Tenure," by Robert Pear and Andrew Pollack in NYT

Posted by cj at 1:20 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

If You Make War, You Can Play With Billions of Taxpayer Dollars

This Just In: No one, not the DOD, not the Congress, knows how much money is being spent on the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The GAO reports that defense spending is overstated. And no one seems to mind that no one knows the exact figures.

Only a Republican government could get away with misstating billions of dollars. Only a public completely asleep in a fascist system could relegate this to page A23 of one major newspaper.

"Defense Spending Is Overstated, GAO Report Says," by Ann Scott Tyson in today's WaPo

flagged by Today's Papers by Eric Umansky in Slate (owned by the WaPo company)

Posted by cj at 8:03 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2005

Another Crony on Her Way to a Major Political Appointment

Shrub nominated Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Problem is, this well-connected woman (her uncle is departing Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers and one of her previous stints was workin for Ken Starr) doesn't have enough managerial or immigration experience for the job.

Oh well. Shrub and his cronies want her, so it looks like the Senate's going to roll over and accept her.

more info: "Immigration Nominee's Credentials Questioned," by Dan Eggen and Spencer S. Hsu in today's WaPo

Posted by cj at 8:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2005

Foolish Tunnel Plans in SoCal

First, a precursor: I'm so sick of people dismissing the LA area out of hand. I love my hometown. I grew up in Northridge, in like, the San Fernando Valley, which is part of Los Angeles (as in the mayor of Northridge is the mayor of LA).

But I gotta say that as an adult I am happy to not deal with the traffic. I have sought out places with good public trans systems. The most extensive is DC. While that system is great, you really can't eat or drink on it which is a negative. Plus, it's difficult to figure out what the fares are, since it varies depending on where you get on and off. Boston was rather good, as long as you live in the city. And it was relatively cheap - plus I had an employer who would pay for my metro card, which was a huge plus. And Chicago is fairly decent - the El takes me to work everyday, and the buses seem to work well too. I wish they would update the tracks and the El trains, and put more money into public trans so they could stop threatening rate hikes every time they have to put together an annual budget.

Back to the article that started this rant - public officials in Southern California are thinking of building TUNNELS through the fault-ridden San Gabriel Mountains and underneath Cleveland National Forest (because apparently protecting a forest only means a few feet down from the surface), and underground in South Pasadena and Pasadena. Gotta say the LAT article would've been easier to read if (a)it coherently moved from one project to another and (b)was accompanied by simple maps of the proposed tunnel areas.

Come on people - stop with the single passenger solutions and get a lot more mass transit systems up NOW!

More info:
"With Traffic at a Crawl, Planners Talk of Tunnels," by Dan Weikel, Jeffrey L. Rabin and Daryl Kelley in the LAT

Posted by cj at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

Why Is the Only "Good" Govt Agency the Dept of War?

Shrub is on teevee telling us that in times of emergency, we must cede authority to the federal government, especially the military since they are the only ones who can get stuff done on a moment's notice.

There's something fucked up about a country where the only people capable of working quickly and efficiently are the people whose primary job is to kill other people.

Reconstructing a region of the country should not be done by religious groups or private, religious charities (like Habitat for Humanity). If we are to truly create a just, democratic society, we must create a government capable of building affordable housing, providing healthcare services, and giving free education and childcare. It will take the entire country to rebuild the Gulf Region; not "entrepeneurs," churches, and the Red Cross.

Otherwise, we should just leave it to Halliburton and Bechtel...they've already gotten no-bid contracts for work in the region.

Posted by cj at 8:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 4, 2005

The Only Way to Get By...a Devil's Brew...

I've been watching t.v. since 9:30 this morning and before that was reading the NYT. I watched the first half hour of "This Week" on ABC and the full hour of "Meet the Press," on NBC. Then I switched to CNN. And read some online articles.

And I cleaned up my apartment while watching. And I got disturbed, and started doing laundry - to escape the t.v. I couldn't turn off. I turned it off for about half an hour, but felt an impossible urge to turn it back on. Finally, after doing most of my laundry, I found sweet relief - a bottle of Duvel, the Devil's brew, a high alcohol content beer.

CNN is still on. I read an article that said Brian Williams is doing an excellent job on NBC, so I might tune into that in twenty minutes to see if he's on...but for the most part, I've been disapointed with all t.v. coverage other than CNN.

I'm brought back to the L.A. Earthquake - my one touch with a natural catastrophe. That devastation was nothing compared to this, but it was enough to convince me (despite having three grandparents killed from it) to begin smoking. Now I pray for the elderly left stranded in nursing homes. I know I'm incoherent, but the only thing that's keeping me from going loony is the Duvel I just drank.

"Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top," by Susan B. Glasser and Josh White in WaPo exposes the horror of the slow death of FEMA and criminal negligence of the USG.

"World Reaction: How Could This Be Happening in the United States?" by Kevin Sullivan in WaPo

"What Happens to a Race Deferred?" by Jason DeParle in NYT

"In Texas: 240,000 Evacuees Strain Capacity," by Lisa Rein and Dan Balz in WaPo

Posted by cj at 5:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 3, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Died

May he rest in peace.

Please pray even harder for the country - this is terrible news on so many levels.

Posted by cj at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

Hospitals Being Evacuated, Nursing Homes Full of Dead Victims

The evacuations came in the nick of time for several hospitals, where doctors had been working by flashlight and helping patients breathe with manual ventilators, waiting helplessly for news from the outside. Some staff members were so hungry and dehydrated that they were reported to be feeding themselves intravenous sugar solutions.

Although helicopters had delivered food and water to some hospitals, it was limited and rationed.

from "Grim Triage for Ailing and Dying at a Makeshift Airport Hospital," by Felicity Barringer and Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in NYT
With the major hospitals nearly emptied, emergency services turned their attention to nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and other critically stranded facilities. But the news was not good. Dispatchers at Acadian received word from Coast Guard divers that there were no survivors at a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish. Rescue workers found only bodies.

"We got another nursing home call, in New Orleans, where we were told there were 30 patients, and when we got there, there were 30 in body bags lined up outside," said Kevin Smith, spokesman for Acadian in Lafayette.

from "At the Hospitals: 'There Was Real Heroism,' Workers Rescue, Tend to Thousands," by Dafna Linzer and Peter Slevin in WaPo

Posted by cj at 9:14 AM | Comments (0)

September 1, 2005

More Katrina Coverage You Might Have Missed

Did you know that rapes have occurred in refugee areas?
"Superdome: Haven Quickly Becomes an Ordeal," by Joseph Treaster in NYT
"Trapped in an Arena of Suffering," by Scott Gold in LAT

Did you know that New Orleans is probably the largest Superfund site in the U.S.?

"This is the worst case," Hugh B. Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, said of the toxic stew that contaminates New Orleans. "There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."
From "Extraordinary Problems, Difficult Solutions" by Guy Gugliotta and Peter Whoriskey in WaPo

I am terribly saddened by the events that have taken place recently. I realize that while a natural disaster occurred, its severity and aftermath are human creations. That is, human pollution has created global warming that caused the marshlands around New Orleans to be submerged; U.S. government officials chose not to fund modernization of the levees surrounding New Orleans; the U.S. government chose not to evacuate the poorest citizens of New Orleans out of the city before the hurricane hit; the U.S. government chooses to spend more money occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and arming the Israeli military than it chooses to spend on FEMA and disaster relief.

It takes a lot of nerve for the president to stand before the citizens of these United States and tell us that we need to dig into our own pockets to pay for disaster relief when somehow our government coffers are big enough to pay for an illegal war across the world. I am scared to go to a gas station - fearing the cost of gas - and grateful that I am able to take public transportation to and from work. I am scared to see what my next energy bills will be for my studio apartment, and grateful that I use fans instead of an energy-sucking air conditioner. I am scared for the safety and well-being of my fellow Americans throughout the Gulf region, and I pray for their survival and eventual return to a safe life (perhaps in other cities).

I pray for peace with justice for us in the United States and for everyone on Earth.

Posted by cj at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005

Un-P.C. Thought of the Day

With all due respect to the people affected by Hurricane Katrina, especially the families of those who lost their lives - could we get some perspective?

Yes, the mainstream news should cover the hurricane damage. Yes, we need to know what the governors and mayors in the affected areas think. Yes, it could even be useful to hear directly from people affected.

But if you are frickin stupid enough to play weatherman and decide for yourself that instead of listening to a mandatory evacuation order, you're going to ride it out in your house, I have no time to listen to your harrowing three hours clinging to a tree for dear life. I don't have much sympathy for you. A hurricane cannot be this country's tsunami. Tsunamis generally hit with absolutely no warning. Natural disasters that hit with completely no warning are appalling. People who choose to be morons deserve help when they inevitably face harm, but they do not deserve to be spotlighted on national news and heralded as a hero. You are not a hero for disregarding a mandatory evacuation order. You are a stubborn idiot.

That being said, it is disgusting to me that this country chose to leave poor people in a sports stadium in the middle of New Orleans instead of evacuating them out of harm's way. If the U.S. government was truly committed to the welfare of all Americans, individual safety would not be left to whether or not you have a car or can afford to stay in a hotel.

Posted by cj at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Obama on Ocean Protection

Through Barbara Boxer's PAC, I sent messages to my representatives re protecting our oceans. Surprisingly, Senator Obama wrote me back with a very positive response:

Dear Cynthia:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about our ocean policy and your support for S. 1224, the National Oceans Protection Act of 2005. I appreciate knowing your thoughts on such an important issue.

I am committed to protecting our oceans and ensuring that we develop a comprehensive national ocean policy that will conserve and enhance the tremendous resources the seas offer. As you may know, the Oceans Act of 2000 required the formation of a U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to make findings and issue recommendations to the President and Congress. In 2004, the Ocean Commission released its report, providing us with the first wide-ranging assessment in many years of the state of our oceans. The report recommended a range of important policy proposals, including strengthening the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, doubling funding for ocean research, reforming fisheries management policies, and creating measurable water pollution reduction goals.

S. 1224 would require the U.S. to formulate a long term policy on ocean conservation and management of marine resources. As such, the recommendations of the Ocean Commission will play an important role in the discussion of this bill, as well as any other legislation introduced on our national ocean policy. S. 1224 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Although I am not a member of that committee, I have urged my colleagues who serve on that panel to take timely action on S. 1224. I hope the Committee will recommend ocean policy legislation to the full Senate this year.

Thank you again for contacting me, Cynthia. I hope you will continue to keep in touch with me on this and any other issue of concern to you.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

Go, Barack! I've been consistently impressed by his office's ability to respond to my emails, even when I don't use his web form. And thank you to the LA WILPF email list for alerting me to Boxer's PAC for Change.

Posted by cj at 9:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2005

LA WILPF keeps its Eye on Congress

The following links were sent to me by the Los Angeles, California WILPF Branch email list. The Rolling Stone article is a long, but straight-forward look at the current state of "democracy" in the House of Representatives. The second link provides a summary of the article.

"Four Amendments & a Funeral: A month inside the house of horrors that is Congress,"
by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone Magazine

"Rolling Stone on the Courageous Fight Inside the U.S. House of Horrors,"
by David Sirota on the Huffington Post blog

cross-posted from the US WILPF Members blog.

Posted by cj at 2:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Supreme Court Nominee Rigidly Anti Choice

The leaked name of Shrub's nominee for a life appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is John Roberts.

According to the Alliance for Justice, he filed a brief defending the idea that federal health clinics could force its doctors to not even mention the word abortion to patients. Further, he wrote that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Press conference in 48 minutes to officially announce.

Posted by cj at 7:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2005

Obama on Rove

Through one of those online activist sites, I sent letters to my Senators about Rove. Didn't really remember sending the letters, but I do remember thinking the man needs to get booted out of the West Wing for good. (A girl can dream, no?)

Obama emailed me back (or his staff did; or his electronic mail computer processor did). In any event, here's the email:

Dear Cynthia:

Thank you for contacting me regarding White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's involvement in the leaking of a CIA operative's name to the press, possibly as retribution for the administration's anger at her husband's report on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. This is an extremely serious matter, and I appreciate hearing from you about it.

It certainly appears from recent news reports that the independent investigation of this incident is nearing its conclusion, and I have confidence in special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's determination to get to the bottom of the case no matter where the facts lead. I also appreciate that President Bush continues to insist that he will fire any White House staffer who leaked classified information to the press. Like you, I expect him to make good on this pledge.

I continue to be troubled, however, by partisan posturing over this issue which seems to reflect an unhealthy willingness on the part of members of the President's party to allocate greater priority to protecting the President's chief political advisor than to addressing the very real security threat posed by leaks of classified information. While a federal judge has authority over the legal fate of those involved in this particular situation, Congress does have a duty to assure the American public that their security is not threatened by leaks of classified information.

In its July 13th edition, the Washington Post reported that, "The emerging GOP strategy -- devised by [RNC Chair Ken] Mehlman and other Rove loyalists outside of the White House -- is to try to undermine those Democrats calling for Rove's ouster, play down Rove's role and wait for President Bush's forthcoming Supreme Court selection to drown out controversy, according to several high-level Republicans." Is this really how the American people expect their government leaders to act?

During Senate consideration of the FY 2006 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 2360), Senator Harry Reid offered an amendment that would prohibit federal employees who disclose classified information to unauthorized persons from having a security clearance. This amendment simply revokes the security privileges of those who have violated the rules of their clearances. Yet, it was defeated by a 53 to 44 vote. No Republican senator voted for this amendment.
Thank you again for writing, Cynthia. It is my and their expectation that Mr. Fitzgerald's independent investigation will get to the bottom of this story and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.


Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator


P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/

Yeah, he was the right choice for Illinois. Glad I voted for him.

Posted by cj at 3:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Karl Rove Must Be Fired

There are many people following the Rove fiasco online.

The best summary of Rove's horrible harm to US security was written by University of Michigan professor Juan Cole.


Whether the courts can and will punish Karl Rove for telling Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA operative should be beside the point. That's for the courts to decide.

The real question is whether we want a person to occupy a high office in the White House when that person has cynically endangered US national security to take a petty sort of revenge on a whistleblower.

Also interesting is the Chatterbox Rove Death Watch in Slate.

And don't miss the transcript of Monday's press briefing, courtesy of WaPo.

I know all the papers had articles today on the continuing saga of Rove, but I haven't had a chance to read them.

Add your name to the Move On petition to fire Rove.

Posted by cj at 1:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

My Congressman Rocks!

Okay, we all know that politicians give up their moral compasses when they walk into Congress. Or at least that's what some people believe. If you're a walk-the-party-line Republican, you might also believe that "politics" is a dirty word. Anyway, through one of the many online activist websites where you click and they send emails to your Congress people for you, I wrote to my new Congressman about Abu Ghraib. Here's his response, minus my address and today's date:

Thank you for your recent letter concerning prisoner abuse and torture. I share your concerns about this situation and I believe it is vital that Congress play a strong role in maintaining oversight in the actions and policies of our armed forces.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have given rise to several well-publicized cases of prisoner abuse and inhumane treatment by representatives of the United States government. Congress must act to prevent such incidents in the future, and make it clear that torture and human rights violations are not to be tolerated in the United States Armed Forces.

I recently supported Congressman Curt Weldon's amendment, H.Amdt.534, to the 2005 Defense Appropriation Bill, H.R. 4200, which would destroy the Abu Ghraib prison and replace it with a modern detention facility. This amendment is a step toward ensuring that the human rights abuses suffered there will end. I also joined an overwhelming bipartisan majority in supporting Congressman Duncan Hunter's amendment, H.Amdt 535, which expresses concern for the abuse of persons in custody in Iraq.

Additionally, I have co-sponsored Congressman Henry Waxman's bipartisan bill, H.R. 2625, which establishes an independent commission to investigate pre-war intelligence gathering. Unfortunately this bill did not pass in the 108th Congress, but as the 109th Congress convenes I will push for the passage of this and all similar measures. I will keep your thoughts in mind if I have an opportunity to act on H.R. 952.

Again, thank you for sharing your views about this important matter. Please check my website at www.house.gov/emanuel for continued updates on my work, and do not hesitate to contact me again about those issues that are important to you. It is an honor to serve you in the U.S. Congress.

Sincerely,


Rahm Emanuel
Member of Congress

For a Congressman, that is one amazing statement, don't you agree?

Posted by cj at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

Deep Throat - the anonymous source for the WaPo articles on the Nixon Watergate Coverup - was revealed today by Vanity Fair to be none other than Mark Felt. Don't know him? He was a deputy in the FBI. Currently 91, he's retired and livin with his daughter in Santa Rosa, California. Mi chavo tipped me off to this story earlier this morning - he said it was mentioned during a presidential news conference that interupted his teevee watching. I couldn't find anything on the web till just now.

More info:
"Vanity Fair reports that former top FBI official Mark Felt was Deep Throat," by Canadian Press in (their) National Post

(Can't find it on Vanity Fair's confusing website.)

Posted by cj at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2005

Cars and Jobs

The rust belt in the Midwest is crumbling. Newest proof - new, non-union, foreign-owned auto plants in the South. There are two major things that separate union plants from the non-union ones: free healthcare and pension plans. That is, unionized auto workers have a right to healthcare and a right to retire with dignity. Unfortunately, that isn't good for business. It cranks up costs and in our ridiculous country, makes it extremely difficult to compete. Add that to poorer quality vehicles with fewer standard safety measures, and you get a US auto industry on the brink of bankruptcy.

I believe there are several solutions to this matter. First and foremost, we need universal, single-payer healthcare. In plain English, we need a system like Canada where taxes pay for every single citizen's healthcare. It's the only way to rail in the ridiculous, skyrocketing cost of healthcare here in the States. Second, we need to make it easier for people to join unions - it should be something everyone is able to do without the threat of job loss. That way, the workers in the South could join their Midwest brethren and fight for a real pension in a union contract instead of a 401(k) plan. People deserve a steady stream of income after retirement - not money tied to the turbulent stock exchange.

More info:
"Asian Carmakers Settle Into the South," by Greg Schneider with contributions by Warren Brown in WaPo

Posted by cj at 1:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

With Victories Like This, Who Needs Defeat?

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday did not recommend approval of John Bolton's nomination to be the US Ambassador to the UN. Instead, in a bit of mealy-mouthed morality, a single Republican Senator - George V. Voinovich from Ohio - voted no on recommending the nomination and yes on sending the nomination to the full Senate. Why the flip flopping? Well, he's still a Republican and unable to stand up to the pressure of the entire Republican machine. It was a compromise worked out during those weeks of fact finding the committee just did.

More info:
"Divided Panel Passes Bolton to Full Senate: Committee withholds its recommendation after a Republican member rebukes Bush's choice for U.N. envoy. But confirmation is likely." By Sonni Efron and Mary Curtius with contributions from Janet Hook and Richard Simon in today's Los Angeles Times. (It is also on the front page of today's Chicago Tribune, courtesy of media conglomeration synergy.)

Posted by cj at 9:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 9, 2005

My Senator, Richard Durbin, on John Bolton's Nomination

Through one of several activist websites, I sent emails to my Congressional representatives stating my disapproval on Bolton as the next UN Ambassador. (Frankly, I think the man belongs in prison for his crimes against humanity during the 80s, but that's just me.)

Here is Senator Durbin's response, minus my address:

May 9, 2005

Ms. Cynthia Minster
[my address ommited from this posting]

Dear Ms. Minster:

Thank you for letting me know of your opposition to the nomination of
John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

I share your view that John Bolton is the wrong person to serve in this important position. Mr. Bolton has strongly disparaged efforts to pursue international cooperation on important global issues through the United Nations; he has brow-beaten intelligence analysts who refused to alter their findings to suit his political views; and he has belittled the value of peacekeepers in solving civil conflicts. More broadly, and most importantly, Mr. Bolton has been dismissive of the basic notion that it is frequently in our national interest to work with other nations in addressing issues of international concern.

At a time when we should be strengthening our ties with our allies and the broader international community, President Bush's choice of John Bolton as our representative to the U.N. is particularly inappropriate. I will oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination should it be brought to the full Senate for a vote.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me, and please feel free to stay in touch.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

One other note: his emailed letter was not right-justified. I did that to make it easier to read.

Posted by cj at 3:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Gannon/Guckert Security Breach Continued

Found via South Knox Bubba:

"EXCLUSIVE: Secret Service records raise new questions about discredited conservative reporter," by John Byrne, The Raw Story

Posted by cj at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scrutiny of Bolton's Nomination Continues

John Bolton's nomination for Ambassador to the UN is under fire. As many as two dozen people will be interviewed in the next ten days regarding his pathetic record in government. The NYT names names and says the full transcripts from the interviews will be available to the public via a website.

"Senate Panel Is Widening Its Review on U.N. Nominee," by Douglas Jehl

Posted by cj at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

Bolton the Bully Soon to be Head US Diplomat at UN

At yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, the former State Department intelligence chief testified that Shrub's choice for negotiating delicate issues with other countries at the United Nations treats subordinates like crap. From "U.N. Pick Called Bully Who Abused His Power," by Sonni Efron in today's LAT:

The State Department's former intelligence chief testified Tuesday that John R. Bolton was a "serial abuser" of underlings who tried to remove an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him and was "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy."

But it appeared that the testimony of Carl W. Ford Jr., former assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had not changed any votes on Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Republicans control the panel 10 to 8 and were seen as likely to approve him.

Good to know that Republicans are willing to line up behind the president regardless of whether he's making good decisions. Nice to see that party affiliation is more important to some people than independent critical thinking. I now know why the Democrats are ineffective - too little group think and too much individual reasoning.

Posted by cj at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

Workers Screwed, Corporate Profits Soar

The LAT fronts "Wages Lagging Behind Prices: Inflation has outpaced the rise in salaries for the first time in 14 years. And workers are paying a bigger share of the cost of their healthcare." by Nicholas Riccardi.

As worker productivity increases, they're getting smaller raises (or none at all) while having to fork over more money for gas, healthcare, and other necessities.

For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut. ...

This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%. ...

Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down. ...

"Healthcare has eroded the wage base," said Janemarie Mulvey, chief economist with the Employment Policy Foundation, a business-funded think tank in Washington.

"In the long run, we can't continue like this. If healthcare keeps crowding out wages forever, something's got to give."

The squeeze is especially intense on the 47% of the workforce whose employers don't directly provide their health insurance. For lower-income workers, who are more likely to be uninsured, the falling value of their wages is even more serious because they're more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. And rising food and energy prices take a proportionately higher toll on the poor than on the rich.

The poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer. This is not class warfare propaganda. This is the truth, in black and white, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by cj at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 5, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich and Prescription Drugs in Illionois

Turns out my governor agrees that I have the right to unfettered access to prescription medication. Last Friday (while I was in Philly for a WILPF board meeting), the gov came to Chicago to announce an emergency rule he enacted to clarify previous legislation. Pharmacies must fill all prescriptions or send the script onto another pharmacy.

From "Illinois Pharmacies Ordered to Provide Birth Control," by Monica Davey in the NYT:

Governor Blagojevich, saying that his emergency rule clarified an existing state requirement, said he suspected that the pattern of complaints over the past year was no coincidence, but rather "part of a concerted effort" to prevent women from getting the birth control they wanted.

Under the emergency rule put in place in Illinois, pharmacies that do not have a particular prescribed contraceptive would be required to order some or to send the prescription to another pharmacy.

Thank goodness I live in a state that respects human rights, including the right to reproductive healthcare. Too bad the President and his cronies are systemically denying people's reproductive rights around the world and are trying to force their beliefs on the US as well.

For more on Shrub and his actions at the Commission on the Status of Women Beijing Plus Ten meeting, please see "Embarrased at the UN" on the US WILPF staff blog, Peace Rave.

Posted by cj at 5:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

A Republican I Agree With (on some things)

Former Senator and Former Ambassador to the UN John Danforth wrote an op ed in today's NYT titled "In the Name of Politics." He argues that the Republican party has been highjacked by the Christian right.

I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

I completely agree with this part of his statement. Of course, the part I don't agree with is the idea that the Republican Party or a "free economy" is the way to create a better United States. I believe in society helping its poorest members, recognizing that healthcare and education are a birth right, and accepting responsibility for governing the commons rather than leaving it in the hands of money-hungry businessmen.

Posted by cj at 9:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

Interesting Articles on the Schiavo Case

Usually, I turn away from anything to do with the Terry Schiavo court battle and drama over her emminent death. I believe it is a personal, family tragedy that had already been fully litigated before Congress stepped in to create a United States Law that only applies to one individual and her family. Nevertheless, something about Andrew Rice's description of today's frontpage coverage of the case in Slate's Today's Papers, grabbed my attention.

Although the articles I read today allow me to have a lot more sympathy for the Schindler family (despite the fact that her father tried to use the "Holocaust victim look-a-like" card recently in interviews), I believe ultimately its in Ms. Schiavo's best interest to let her go in peace.

In "Behind Life-and-Death Fight, a Rift That Began Years Ago," Abby Goodnough explains the history of the clash between Michael Schiavo and Robert and Mary Schindler. Lynn Waddell and Dennis Blank contributed to the article, which appeared on the cover of today's NYT. The details disturb me - if I were to pass judgement, I would say Mr. Schiavo was a horrible husband and Terry's family should have helped her get away from him, rather than turn a blind eye to the eating disorder that magically turned her from an overweight teenager into an underweight adult. It was probably her eating disorder that made Terry potassium deficient which led to her current, vegetative state.

But really, its not for me to judge. Clearly, I have made some judgements - like most Americans - but in the end, my opinion should not and does not matter.

The LAT fronts, in the Column One feature, "Life or Death: Love's Choice - Two mothers, each acting out of compassion, reach different decisions after their children lapse into vegetative states." by Stephanie Simon. It's a harrowing tale. In my mind, the best part is that neither mother judges the other, or thinks they can pass judgement in the Schiavo case.

Finally, WaPo fronted an analysis of the politics involved. "Schiavo Case Tests Priorities Of GOP," by Shailagh Murray and Mike Allen points out all of the reasons the Republicans were wrong in pushing their special legislation through the House and Senate. This was a clear case of Wag The Dog and Rouse The Base, to get the heat off of The Crook In Chief (aka House Majority Leader Tom DeLay) and spotlight the My Values Belong In Your Personal Life Cred of Mr. I Steal People's Money And Call it Healthcare (aka Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist whose family made its fortune overcharging the government and individuals through their hospital empire) and Mr. I Think I Should Make All American Women's Health Decisions Because of My Moral Superiority (aka Senator Rick Santorum) and Mr. I Need to Make A Name for Myself (aka Florida freshman Senator Mel Martinez).

Terry Schindler Schiavo, I hope you rest in peace.

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March 14, 2005

The Female Triumvirate at Foggy Bottom

According to The Note, Karen Hughes is heading to Foggy Bottom and will be (pending Senate confirmation) Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. Glad to know the only pre-qualification these days for top diplomatic posts is being A Really Good Friend of Shrub. After all, her previous work includes being a television reporter - clearly she must have the chops for the job. 31 year-old Dina Powell, currently head of personnel at the White House, will be Hughes' deputy and the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. (In addition to being a RGFS, Egyptian-born Powell speaks fluent Arabic, so at least she has some background in her new post.)

I suppose I should be happy that two strong females from Shrub's inner circle are joining Condi at State. After all, their close ties to Shrub mean State will finally get some recognition in the bureaucratic mind fuck that is DC. Nevertheless, I'm far from convinced State will be a force for good in the coming years. Here's my reasons:

1. Condi is stuck in a Cold War mindset. Did you see her on This Week and Meet the Press? She thinks we need to engage the Middle East in the same ways we engaged Europe during the Cold War. Apparently, we're going to invade their countries with hundreds of mindless backpacking college students and try to convince them to do some foreign exchange programs and then over power their domestic economies with our American-owned multi-national corporations' products.

2. Hughes is the spin-doctor behind Shrub. Meaning she makes his terrible steal from the poor to give money to the rich policies look warm and fuzzy. Not exactly the mastermind I want in charge of public diplomacy.

3. Powell seems like a nice enough woman. Except she is Shrub's #1 head hunter. Anyone who hunts for Shrub appointees and is good at must agree with his policies. That's not a good thing.

4. Shrub already appointed (pending Senate confirmation) John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN. Not only does Bolton have no respect for the UN, Shrub doesn't either.

Further reading:
ABC's The Note
"Karen Hughes named to State Department post: Bush confidante tasked with bettering U.S. image in Muslim world," by the Associated Press
"Bush's U.N. post choice seen as insult to organization," by Thomas DeFrank, New York Daily News (reposted in the Kansas City Star)

Posted by cj at 5:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Senate Passed Bankruptcy Restriction Bill

Howdy New World Order. Good to know you've got so many backers in the USG. Now I know where to turn to find the armies fighting the poor and the downtrodden.

"Senate Passes Bill to Restrict Bankruptcy: Credit Card Business Backed Measure to Collect More Debt," by Kathleen Daly

Here is the side-bar to that story, from the AP:

If enacted, the bill would:

-- Set up a new test for measuring a debtor's ability to repay. People with insufficient assets or income could still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which if approved by a judge erases debts entirely after certain assets are forfeited. But those with income above the state's median income who can pay at least $6,000 over five years -- $100 a month -- would be forced into Chapter 13, where a judge would order a repayment plan.

Under current law, a bankruptcy judge determines under which chapter of the bankruptcy code a person falls -- whether they have to repay some or all of their debt.

-- Require people filing for bankruptcy to pay for credit counseling.

-- Give top priority to a spouse's claims for child support among creditors' claims on a debtor in bankruptcy.

-- Allow for special accommodations for active-duty service members, low-income veterans and those with serious medical conditions in the new income test for bankruptcy applicants.

-- Restrict the homestead exemption in states to $125,000 if the person in bankruptcy bought his or her residence at least three years and four months before filing. Florida, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas have unlimited homestead exemptions that allow wealthy people to file for bankruptcy and keep their mansions in those states sheltered from creditors.

Source: The Associated Press

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March 9, 2005

Senators Continue to Lie and Screw Over Impoverished People

Perhaps my tone is too strident for you. Perhaps you have never lived through a family bankruptcy. The Senate is on its way to passing that terrible legislation that makes it more difficult for the poor to file for bankruptcy, and they're lying and saying its going to affect the rich. From Today's Papers:

The NYT off-leads and others report that a major overhaul of bankruptcy laws long-sought by the credit card industry is likely to pass the Senate after lawmakers rejected, by a 53-to-46, near-party-line vote, a Democratic amendment that had scuttled the measure in previous years. (The amendment would have prevented anti-abortion demonstrators from using bankruptcy protections to avoid court-ordered fines, a provision that rankles abortion foes in the House.) "The free ride is over for people who have higher incomes and can repay their debts," crowed Sen. Chuck Grassley. Except, oops: the WSJ points out inside that wealthy individuals are less likely to feel the impact of the legislation because of "significant loopholes" that allow them to shield their assets from creditors.
Emphasis added. I am so disgusted I could spit. Although, I'm not really surprised. What does surprise me is that poor and middle class people still call themselves Republicans. I'm not advocating class warfare - I'm simply saying that the Republicans in Congress and the Shrub in the White House have declared war on the poor and the struggling middle class both within this country and abroad. Proof of this war: this bankruptcy law change and the selection of Negroponte to be US Ambassador to the UN. What a joke! More on Negroponte in a bit.

Posted by cj at 9:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 4, 2005

Because Having a Bankruptcy on Your Record for Ten Years Wasn't Bad Enough

In case you didn't know, when you as an individual file for bankruptcy, it stays on your credit report for TEN YEARS. Now, big business and their backers (aka Congress) want to make it even more difficult for you to recover from a mound of debt. From CQ Midday Update:

Senate Republican leaders today filed for cloture on legislation to overhaul the federal bankruptcy code, hoping to end an amendment process that has already chewed up four days. If 60 senators vote "yes" when the cloture motion comes to a vote on Tuesday, debate would be limited and non-germane amendments would be barred. GOP leaders want to wrap up work on the bankruptcy bill next week so the Senate can turn to the fiscal 2005 Iraq war supplemental and the fiscal 2006 budget resolution before beginning its spring break March 18. The big test next week will be an amendment to be offered by Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. It would bar debtors from using bankruptcy proceedings to escape court fines imposed for violent protest activities, including those aimed at abortion clinics. The overall bill is aimed at making it more difficult for individuals to escape their debts through bankruptcy proceedings.
Emphasis added. Good to know the Dems are going to bat against all those thousands of clinic protestors who are filing for bankruptcy, but avoiding the larger issue. ARG!

Just to clarify, protesting at reproductive health clinics is abhorrent to me. Also abhorrent are elected lawmakers who put the whims of large corporations ahead of their real-life human constituents.

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March 1, 2005

Treasury Dept Being Used to Spin Shrub's Lies

I can't tell you how irritated I am that Shrub is using tax dollars to fund his bullshit room at the Treasury Department. Officially called the "Social Security Information Center," it's really a place to spin lies about the stability of social security and to promote privatizing all savings for retirement.

Just to clarify, the government has no money to hire more people to go after dead beat corporations who refuse to pay their taxes, but there's plenty of money to hire "communicators" who spin political lies for a conservative huckster. Gee, what a perfect use of the Treasury Department! Next thing you know, we'll be getting rid of the IRS because it is too intrusive. Wouldn't want fat cats to actually have to pay for the corporate welfare they constantly receive.

"For GOP, Urgency on Social Security: White House Plans Six-Week Push," by Mike Allen in WaPo

Democrats right to the Social Security Administration about the lies it is spreading. (pdf file)

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February 24, 2005

From the Makers of Today's Papers

Comes Today's Blogs.

Today was the first installment of "the latest chatter from cyberspace," and Slate editorial assistant Bidisha Banerjee already needed to make a correction to her post. Ironically, it was regarding the only article written up that I've read (the previously blogged bit about a liberal blasting the "conservative" blogosphere).

Found Today's Blogs via Daniel Drezner. Strange that Slate didn't send me an email announcing the arrival of Today's Blogs since they send me a (now abbreviated) Today's Papers everyday. (It's annoying that WaPo wont just email the entire frickin article.)

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Are Most Bloggers Right Wing?

Blind Boy Grunt pointed me to an Op/Ed by Ted Rall, "But Who Watches the Watchdogs?"

Rall's premise is that like every other place in America, the blogosphere is over-run by hard right reactionaries who get people fired for telling the truth and spew hate speech in the form of death threats to liberal columnists. Since I don't read those blogs, I can't really comment on their content. But he offers absolutely no proof that the majority of political bloggers are ultra-conservative, only anecdotal evidence. You can come up with extremely crazy things if you only rely on comment threads as your source material. For someone lambasting bloggers because we don't have access to primary source material, Rall does an extremely shoddy job of dismissing us.

Furthermore, Anarchoblogs, the Progressive Blog Alliance and P! prove to me that left-leaning writers and readers exist. Are we as obnoxious as the right-wing? IMHO, hell no. Maybe because we haven't been able to get Rush Limbaugh fired we're not as strong as wing nuts, but give us time.

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February 17, 2005

Even Republicans Recognize "Emergency" Request Includes Non-Emergency Spending

Mike Allen and Josh White report in WaPo on Congress grilling SecDef and SecState on the $82 billion "emergency" request for Iraq and the war on terror. Let's just think about that number for a minute - how can you spend a paltry billion dollars without knowing ahead of time that you're going to need the money? How can you possibly get to 82 billion dollars without budgeting for your expenses?

The request includes $658 million to build a new American embassy in Iraq - the largest US embassy in the world, staffed by more appartchiks than any other embassy. Lemme get this straight; we need more diplomats in Iraq than in the UK, Japan, China, Russia, France, Germany or any other country in the world? And you want me to believe we're not occupying Iraq? Puh-leeze.

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SecDef Spat on Congressional Oversight

Read the entire WaPo article by Dana Milbank on SecDef Rumfeld's appearances on Capitol Hill yesterday.

The first two graphs:

Two dozen members of the House Armed Services Committee had not yet had their turn to question Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at yesterday's hearings when he decided he had had enough.

At 12:54, he announced that at 1 p.m. he would be taking a break and then going to another hearing in the Senate. "We're going to have to get out and get lunch and get over there," he said. When the questioning continued for four more minutes, Rumsfeld picked up his briefcase and began to pack up his papers.

It gets worse...

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February 16, 2005

Lies About Your Tax Dollars

I've been following local and national stories about budgets. The strangest thing to me is the fact that states can get away with solving their budget problems on the backs of smokers. Now, here me out on this one - I have no problem with smokers being taxed to contribute to the public health costs associated with smoking. But nowadays, the "sin" tax added to a pack of smokes has nothing to do with emphysma or lung cancer. Here in Illionois, the guv wants smokers to pay for the state school budget. WHY?!?! Why is it so easy to take specific people for their bad habits, but political death to suggest that all people should share a portion of the tax burden? Why are smokers, alcohol drinkers, and airline passengers such easy targets? Why can't all tax payers accept that paying taxes is the price we pay for the institutions we've created?

More on money in these articles -
"Bush's Saving Strategies: Two tax-advantaged account plans in his budget are up for study by an advisory panel," by Joel Havemann and Warren Vieth in LAT
"To the Debate Over Social Security, Add One More Variable: Immigration," by David Rosenbaum and Robin Toner in NYT
"Social Security debate ignores the disabled, Harkin says," by Jane Norman in the Des Moines Register

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February 10, 2005

One Down, Only Seven Left At The Top of Fortune 500 Companies

According to the Chicago Tribune, with Carleton Fiorina being fired from her job as CEO of HP-Compaq, there are only 7 remaining females leading Fortune 500 Companies. That means female CEOs are 1.4% of the top level positions in Fortune 500 companies.

You might try to tell me that's because women haven't been in the workforce as long as men. Which is a bunch of hogwash, but even if we're only referring to paid work, women have been in business as long as they've been in the legal field, correct? And if we assume the Supreme Court is the height of power in the legal realm, than the fact that two of nine Supreme Court Justices are female equals 22.22% female inclusion in the upper echelon of power in that field.

I can't debate the merits of letting Fiorina go. I can direct you to the extremely well researched article in the NYT by John Markoff with contributions by Laurie Flynn and Gretchen Morgenson. I believe that the management style that got Fiorina the job ultimately caused her to be let go. I don't believe she was hired or fired because of her gender, and I believe that's a good thing.

I remember when Fiorina got the job - she was a true inspiration to me and my fellow college seniors. After all, she started out not knowing what she wanted to do with her life - had some odd jobs, went to law school and dropped out after a year and went back and got an MBA and a Master's of Science. She was MIT's class of 2000 commencement speaker, a fact I rued bitterly since my commencement speaker was my class dean. (I felt we deserved another speaker. After all, the class dean always speaks at Swellesley graduations. According to the college, our dean was being honored because she was retiring.)

I'm rambling off point. My real point is that I wish Fiorina the best in her future endeavors. I think her $21 million severance package is lower than other CEO severance packages, but clearly enough that I'm not worried about her going hungry. And I hope to see more female CEOs of major corporations in the near future.

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February 2, 2005

SOTU 05

Live blogging, via slow modem connection. (DSL connected within the week.) ABC looks great - NBC looks terrible - on this non-cable teevee.

In other news, someone thought I was a Republican because I want to watch the SOTU. Sigh. Just to clarify - Not in the least. Ever.

Count the frees, freedom, democracy, and Iraq in his speech. You could get drunk on a very simple drinking game....

Screw You! High Stakes Testing Does Nothing But Teach Kids How to Pass a Multiple Choice Test! It DOES NOT create a better educated secondary school student body!!! ........

Small businesses....apparently they're helping me get ahead. Junk law suits? You mean when consumers get together and hold you and your capitalist cronies accountable?!?!

JOHN MCCAIN CAUGHT CLOSING HIS EYES - he looked like he was sleeping - ON ABC!

Advances in medicine...did you hear about the Harvard study that the majority of bankruptcies every year are caused by medical bills? And the majority of people forced into bankruptcy by healthcare costs are middle class folks with health insurance? Great advances he's makin in healthcare...

Our society has NOT changed that much since SS started. In fact, it's gotten worse - less guaranteed pensions, more insecurity for seniors...

Personal Accounts...ruining the good idea of SS by lying and telling ppl to trust the stock market. Anyone heard of the Great Depression? Caused by a stock market crash? The actual reason for SS?!?!

Grolsch, back rubs, and seeing Orrin Hatch sleeping is keeping me sane..

I HATE HIM AND HIS BULLSHIT SACK OF LIES.
Culture of Life?
Is that why you invade other countries with your imperialist army and kill innocent people?!?!

mi chavo says FLOTUS is in charge of Getting More Black Boys into Basketball Programs

what the hell does the Force of Human Freedom mean?!? I guess it's intentionally vague enough to force the Dems to stand and clap like monkeys.

Women voters in Afghanistan and fishnet stockings. Who would've thunk they would've come together in SOTU? Evil Rice will head to Palestine and Israel to tell the Palestinians to get in line and cower in the face of Israel.

I'm bored and need to pee...

Where exactly is Tay Rahn on the map? The blue finger is really over-played....they look foolish...

Casting a vote does not a democracy make.
Now I'm really falling asleep.
What a great challenging party we have. They continue to clap like monkeys, including the Great One who distinguishes his position on Iraq by....clapping at Shrub's clap lines.

I couldn't have missed much in the last twenty minutes...Dems responding...how interesting could that be?

Turns out I didn't miss the Dem response. Good thing I woke up to hear about lil Devon...

Posted by cj at 8:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2005

random article for a cold friday

Today's Papers pointed out this WaPo fashion alert from Robin Givhan. Apparently, at yesterday's gathering of world leader's to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz, "The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."

The picture is truly priceless.

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January 23, 2005

This Week, This Week BLOWS

The chattering class just got done chattering about Harvard President Summers' recent comments that women can't learn math and science as well as men. They laughed at each other's quick turn of phrase. And they chided the liberal mob for being so harsh on the poor president that he was forced to issue several "Soviet-style" apologies. Gee, it's so nice that even the FEMALE commentator couldn't stand up for the abilities of her sisters.

Again, I ask you - if these "scientists" were saying that Asian folks have a greater innate ability at math and science than white folks would we all roll over and agree simply because they're scientists? Give me a frickin break. The great scientific brains of America can't even figure out how the drugs they pump into us fix depression (nor will they even admit the fact that those drugs might cause you to kill yourself) so how the hell can we trust them to figure out how male and female brains differ? And does that mean that queer brains don't fit in their neat little dichotomy? Then, what makes a brain queer? Flagrant homosexual relations? Or maybe just intense homoerotic desire? Please, stop standing up for bad science.

Posted by cj at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2005

Kerry: A Good Sport in Defeat

From CQ's Midday Update:

There's no more painful place to be for a losing presidential candidate than the inauguration of his rival. But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., appeared to be in good spirits today as President Bush took the oath of office for a second time.When the crowds spotted Kerry as he emerged from the Capitol onto the stage, a chorus of boos and jeers rang out -- punctuated by a scattered cheer or two. Kerry grinned, then paced along the edge of the stage, leaning over to chat with a group of high school students from Hattiesburg, Miss., who had the best seats of the entire assembled hordes. "Who'd you vote for?" he called out. "We're too young to vote," they called back. "We're going to convert all these kids for the future," Kerry told reporters.
I'm sure the assembled masses in DC are happy to know that a bunch of high school students from Mississippi had the best seats in the house. Clearly, that was a politically good use of prime real estate. Looks like the only political upswing from that placement choice was some nice quotes for Kerry. Way to go, Shrub.

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Black Outs and Spending Stops

Many of my fellow left wing bloggers took their sites down today in protest of Shrub, Take Two. P! decided to join the blackout, a decision I agreed to through the consensus process. Here's the thing: I'm not morally opposed to blog blackouts (hence agreeing to let P! go down). I personally think it's absolutely pointless and self-defeating.

The point of my blogs is to allow me an outlet to discuss current events and culture. I also consider myself a voice for change, pointing out news you might not have heard, from a perspective you've never seen. It only helps my adversaries if I stop talking for a day.

Regarding "Not One Damn Dime" today. What the hell's the point? Why didn't y'all take that much concerted action in registering people to vote and getting them to the polls? Frankly, it is impossible for me to work and not spend a dime - I pay $1.75 each way to take the El to work. Did you want me to stop working in honor of your protest? And what about the other 364 days of the year? Do you just continue eating Big Macs and gulping down Coke while lamenting the state of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Posted by cj at 1:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shrub Wants to Shove Freedom Down Your Throat

I just finished reading the text of Shrub's inaugural speech (written by Michael Gerson). Apparently, it's America's job to ram freedom down the throats of the rest of the world. Not just any freedom - freedom that capitalism and democracy create. (That ownership society crap is code for pure, unmitigated capitalism.)

And in a nod to protestors everywhere, he said:

When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.
What the hell is the "Freedom Now" movement?!?!

I do love that my fate has been cast by Shrub's G'd. Apparently, the proof of this is that Shrub believes in Him.

Also note that our duty to Shrub and his G'd is to use our military to destroy "outlaw regimes." But nevermind that, because intelligence work is harder and more important than dying in Iraq or Afghanistan. Note the order in which he speaks of sacrifice in this graph:

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause - in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy ... the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments ... the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives - and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.
Maybe you think that second sentence emphasizes the sacrifice soldiers make. Pshaw. Where's the nod to the thousands maimed by this useless war? Why is intelligence aka spying listed before diplomacy aka dialogue amongst equals? "Ideaistic work of helping raise up free governments." Funny thing about that - I believe in the 70s and 80s we called that covert CIA ops to suppress the desires of free people around the world.

I could go on, but there's no need. We all know where Shrub stands: with his religious beliefs firmly upholding his ability to destroy the world in search of pure capitalism and corporate ownership of politics and culture. I pray that people will see through his lies and that big media will do more today than simply praise Gerson's turn of phrase. I also hope they show protestors along with blabbing endlessly about ball gowns and ball protocol. It's going to be a long day, I know. I suppose I should be grateful that I've got lots of work to keep me busy.

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January 18, 2005

Krugman Shines Again

The man can write a good op-ed column. This week, he takes on Shrub's perennial lying regarding Iraq and Social Security. Read all about the accountability moment in the NYT.

Posted by cj at 2:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2005

Nuclear Sub Crashed Into Undersea Mountain

This NYT article by Christopher Drew doesn't mentioned whether any nuclear material leaked from the sub when it crashed into a huge underwater mountain. It does tell you that one seaman died and 23 were seriously injured. And oh yeah, the map the sub was using didn't show a mountain in their way, just more water.

The problem is that the deep sea is the last unexplored area on earth.

Chris Andreasen, the chief hydrographer for the Office of Global Navigation at the intelligence agency, acknowledged in an interview that on the chart, "there's nothing shown that would be a hazard" at the crash site. ...

Mr. Andreasen and other scientists said that while commercial shipping interests had helped chart the most common transit routes, large areas of the ocean depths remained little charted.

Dr. David T. Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said that about 40 percent of the oceans were "very, very poorly charted, and those areas are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere."

Apparently, the nuclear-powered sub was also speeding when it crashed. Oh, and the Navy started stationing a significant number of subs around Guam in 2002 but never requested updates for its charts of the area. (The chart that failed to show the mountain was created in 1989.)

This story fascinated me for several reasons: first, because with all the technology we have, there are giant swaths of the Earth that we absolutely, completely don't understand. The deep sea is the original breeding ground for all life on Earth and yet we haven't taken the time to understand it. Instead, our scientists expend energy trying to figure out what's going on on the surface of a Saturn moon. Wouldn't you expect scientists to first completely understand their own planet before moving on to the far reaches of the solar system?

Second, it left out so many crucial details about the nuclear energy on the submarine. I know that anti-nuke activists hate the fact that nuke-powered submarines exist and I am personally concerned about whether or not that Navy sub left a trail of nuclear waste in its wake.

But I guess I should care more about whether a bunch of reckless, rich white people got caught in an avalanche on a clearly marked deathly area of a ski resort mountain than I should about the fate of the Pacific Ocean. At least, that's the impression I got from the news today on NBC's "Today Show" and MSNBC's news program. They both had plenty of reporting on that stupid avalanche in Colorado and zero on the sub crash.

Posted by cj at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2005

Proof Shrub Went AWOL

Perhaps this isn't the most important news story of the day. I can't even read about all the ways he lied and got out of serving in the military.

Here's Daily Kos' round up of the evidence.

Here's the Salon story based on AP FOIA findings.

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January 11, 2005

Get Ur Ticket to Shrub's Inaugural

Strangely enough, Democratic lawmakers aren't getting tons of calls from constituents for tix to the Inaugural Bash on 1-20. Perhaps because all of their constituents who like them are participating in the "Not One Damn Dime" Boycott (don't spend a dime on 1-20 is the gist of the message).

On the other hands, Republicans are clamoring all over themselves to get a seat. And Shrub has graciously offered to be the first president ever to not repay the District of Columbia for the millions it will spend on security for the event.

More deets on the ticket scramble from the NY Post.

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SS Quote and a Small Rant

From Today's Papers, by Eric Umansky:

The WP fronts what it says are a few dozen House Republicans who are against Bush's officially unannounced SS plans. "Why stir up a political hornet's nest when there is no urgency?" asked Rep. Rob Simmons (Conn.). "When does the program go belly up? 2042. I will be dead by then."
Indeed. Instead of wasting millions of dollars on a propaganda war designed to create panic in the heartland, why doesn't Shrub deal with the cost of his tax cuts for the rich and the healthcare crisis in this country? My heart goes out to the Tennessee residents who just lost their TennCare coverage. We must come together and fight Shrub, his cronies, and Big Pharma for the healthcare we all deserve.

Posted by cj at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 9, 2005

SS Privatization is Wrong, Healthcare Needs to Be Fixed

Molly Ivins rocks! Have you ever heard her speak live? She's hysterical. In her most recent column, she explains how big business fat cats are the only people who'd benefit from privatizing Social Security and exactly why the healthcare system needs to be fixed.

A few choice graphs:

And for robustly ignoring reality, you can't hardly beat spending $50 million to $100 million on a propaganda campaign to convince America there's something seriously wrong with Social Security while you ignore the collapse of the American health care system. It is common to begin all discussions of American health care with a complete lie, uttered in this example by President Bush: "We live in a great country that has got the best health care system in the world, and we need to keep it that way."

The peerless investigative team of Donald Bartlett and James Steele reports in their new book, "Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business - and Bad Medicine," one of our most enduring myths is that we have "world class health care."

"To be sure, it does offer the very best of care to some folks," they write. "It does offer world-class high-tech surgery and some space-age medical procedures. But these benefit 2 or 3 percent of the population at most, along with the richest citizens of other countries who come here for the highly specialized treatment. ... Many countries around the world take far better care of their people, achieve better results for their health care system and do it all with far fewer dollars. ... The statistics are even grimmer when life span is counted in years of healthy living. ... By this measure, the United States in 2002 ranked a distant 29th among the countries of the world, between Slovenia and Portugal."

It's always good to know I'm not crazy - that other people recognize the Shrub's scheme to "fix" SS really is meant to break it. And just imagine what the $50-$100 million they're raising for a propaganda campaign could do for starving genocide victims in Darfur, Sudan. But when a millionaire like Shrub only gives $10,000 to tsunami relief, how can you expect his administration to prioritize humanitarian crises?

Posted by cj at 8:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 7, 2005

Drug Adverts

South Knox Bubba wrote an excellent post about pharmaceutical advertising. I fully agree with him, especially his last point: there's enough money in the system to provide healthcare for all Americans. It's a violation of human rights to continue denying us this basic right.

Posted by cj at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 4, 2005

Krugman on Social Security

Paul Krugman has taken it upon himself to school us, the American people, in the fine art of understanding SS and the b.s. the administration is trying to feed us on the subject. Juicy bits from today, his first installment in a series:

There are two serious threats to the federal government's solvency over the next couple of decades. One is the fact that the general fund has already plunged deeply into deficit, largely because of President Bush's unprecedented insistence on cutting taxes in the face of a war. The other is the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

As a budget concern, Social Security isn't remotely in the same league. The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. The botched prescription drug bill passed in 2003 does more, all by itself, to increase the long-run budget deficit than the projected rise in Social Security expenses.

Full op-ed in NYT.

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In Fighting Abounds in the World of Unions

SEIU Prez Stern and AFL-CIO Prez Sweeney continue to duke it out over the future face of labor and face in charge of labor's union. (The AFL-CIO is not a union; it is an organization of unions.) WaPo has some hairy deets, including this gem (which is used as justification to get SEIU organizers to work overtime with no days off):

Some point to disturbing trends in union membership: The percentage of workers represented by unions has dropped from 15.5 percent in 1994 to 12.9 percent in 2003. In 1955, when the AFL and CIO merged, 33.2 percent of U.S. workers were in unions.

In a more threatening development, the percentage of the private-sector workforce represented by unions dropped to 8.2 percent last year.

SEIU's promotional blog about this and other labor topics.

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December 28, 2004

Interior Security Whistleblower Fired Abruptly

Clark Kent Ervin was basically fired from his job as inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security when Republicans failed to confirm his recess appointment and Shrub failed to renominate him. He was an outspoken critic of the crumbling, wasteful bureacracy, which is obviously why he was canned.

"Ex-official tells of Homeland Security failures," by Mimi Hall, USAT

Two gems from Ervin's inspections:

---The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) gave executive bonuses of $16,477 to 88 of its 116 senior managers in 2003, an amount one-third higher than the bonuses given to executives at any other federal agency.

---The TSA spent nearly $500,000 on an awards banquet for employees in November 2003. The cost included $1,500 for three cheese displays and $3.75 for each soft drink.

Could you imagine getting a $16,477 bonus? Could you imagine working for the government and getting that bonus? How bout drinking a $3.75 can of pop?

Posted by cj at 3:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2004

Big Pharma Is Afraid of Michael Moore

Dude, this is sad. From CQ Midday Update:

The pharmaceutical industry has issued an urgent warning to its work force: Be on the lookout for a scruffy-looking fat guy in a baseball cap. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least six of the nation's biggest drugmakers have alerted employees to steer clear of filmmaker Michael Moore, whose previous targets have included General Motors ("Roger & Me"), the gun lobby (the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine") and President Bush ("Fahrenheit 9/11"). Moore, it seems, is taking aim at the health-care industry, including drug companies. The companies told employees to refer all questions to "corporate communications," the Times reported. The Moore epic is tentatively titled "Sicko," and will probably be released in the first half of 2006. The movie, Moore said, is only in its early stages "and already people are freaky-deaky."
See, I'm one of those strange aberration lefties who hates Moore. I despise anyone who screws up a perfectly valid point with lies and manipulation. Someone other than a rich white guy should be this country's star political documentarian.

Posted by cj at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Ill Tidings for Xmas

NBC sent me an email today announcing their *exclusive* guest this Sunday. Guess who it is? No, it's even worse than Katty Kay. It's Dr. Phil. Why should political junkies be forced to watch the Mr. Obvious Advice / Preach What You Don't Practice Man? Why, because it's the day after Xmas of course!

Perhaps I should go back to an old habit and get to those Dec 26 sales wicked early...after all, I do need to find a long coat.

Randomly, a good friend felt bad for me today because I have nowhere to go for Christmas. When I pointed out that I'm Jewish and used to not having plans (other than to go to the movies) on Other People's Religious Holiday, she realized how silly she was being. In one respect, she's right - Friday (an official holiday at my office) and Saturday will be lonely days for me. Oh well. Guess I'll find a good book to read...

Posted by cj at 8:00 PM | Comments (0)

Social Security

I should probably find some info on the origins of Social Security. My understanding (read memory of history class) is that SS began as a response to the CRASH of the stock exchange. I'm really unclear why so many people put so much faith into that big guessing game / legal gambling system. You don't have to be a socialist to be wary of the stock exchange. You simply have to be poor. Personally, I doubt I'll ever make enough money to be able to own a significant amount of stock in any company, nor would I ever want to. Right now, I don't even make enough money to pay my bills; forget about saving any of it.

Right. So, I look at SS as guaranteed income when I retire. Just the way I expect most employers to offer a true pension: guaranteed money not tied to the stock exchange or employee participation in a savings plan. I can't do anything about forcing private employers to provide pensions (other than encourage people to join unions), but I have a voice in how SS works. Here's the thing: if there's a problem with funding SS, that should be worked on. Personal Savings Accounts cost trillions of dollars and aren't a cure for the future funding problem. They also put people's money in jeopardy since there's no frickin guarantee your money will be there if you put it in the stock exchange. I know from familial experience: my rents put their money in an aggressive mutual fund because they were behind the eight ball on saving for retiring and the recent serious slide in the market cut out a huge chunk of their retirement fund. They're both over 60 and I don't know when they'll be able to retire.

In conclusion, my stance on SS:
1. It should be guaranteed and completely separate from private business. My tax money should not be used to line the pockets of any Wall Street fat cat.
2. Pushing money out of the current system and into accounts where the money is poured into the stock market will NOT fix the impending discrepancy between the amount of money SS brings in and the amount it doles out.
3. It's all well and good for an upper middle class white guy to tell me that SS was never intended to be a person's sole income during retirement. Exactly what are you planning on doing with the thousands (millions?) of grandmas and grandpas who are penniless without SS? Throw them in jail? Euthanize them because they're no longer pulling their weight? What is this, a brave new world?

Posted by cj at 6:16 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2004

Shrub's Social Security Evading in Print

I recognized yesterday that Shrub's refusal to answer a Social Security question head on was News. So did Dana Milbank at WaPo and Edwin Chen at LAT, both of whom attended the "news conference."

Dana Milbank on Shrub's answers:

President Bush, an old F-102 pilot, showed at yesterday's news conference that he has not forgotten his evasive maneuvers.

As he fielded questions on everything from Iranian nukes to presidential personnel, the often blunt and plainspoken president employed the full range of artful dodges. ...

For all the bobbing and weaving, yesterday's news conference hinted at an emerging new style for Bush. In his first 45 months in office, he had 15 full-fledged news conferences, fewer than any other postwar president. Bush, a stickler for discipline, didn't want to make unintended news, or to be embarrassed by an unexpected question, as when he was asked what his biggest mistake had been. But since his reelection, Bush has had two news conferences in as many months.

Ain't the Prez grand?

Actually, although he has a terrible way with words, he actually has a decent stance on immigration (for a Republican). From Edwin Chen:

On immigration, the president displayed no inclination to retreat from his desire to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States as guest workers — despite mounting opposition from conservative Republicans in Congress.

"First, we want our Border Patrol agents chasing crooks and thieves and drug runners and terrorists, not good-hearted people who are coming here to work," he said.

"And therefore, it makes sense to allow the good-hearted people who are coming here to do jobs that Americans won't do a legal way to do so."

Gee, I guess now I should be proud Shrub's prez.
On second thought - nah.

Posted by cj at 4:48 PM | Comments (1)

Something You Already Knew

From the WSJ World-Wide News Box:

A minimum-wage job is enough to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment in only four counties in the U.S., an advocacy group says.
Yeehaw. A lil economic cheer for your Christmas stocking.

Posted by cj at 1:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Public Debate Not a Necessary Part of Bush Social Security Plan

See, there's no need for Bush to disclose the details of his plan to destroy Social Security, because ultimately any change will be written by Congress. At least, that's his logic according to CQ Midday Update:

President Bush today again declined to disclose any details of his proposal to create private accounts as part of Social Security, saying he will provide such information to Congress at a later date. At a televised news conference, Bush deflected a question about the benefit cuts, increase in retirement age or other painful steps that may be necessary to restore the long-term solvency of Social Security. "I'll propose a solution at the appropriate time," Bush said. "But the law will be written in the halls of Congress. And I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress." The president said "the first step in this process is for members of Congress to realize we have a problem." But Senate Democrats, in a two-page "perspective" released this morning, said "Social Security faces challenges, but is not in crisis." They said Bush's proposed private accounts would do nothing to address the system's solvency.
Were you surprised that a president who doesn't bother to have press conferences or show up to work would deem you unworthy of knowing the details of his plan to ruin retirement?

Posted by cj at 4:25 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2004

LA Top Cops Might Be Next BS Dept Secty

First, my bias: I abhor the name "Homeland Security." I think it reeks of jingoism and as a former poli sci student, I understand the problems with nationalism. I also think domestic security is inherently linked to the intelligence community and that the two ideas should be linked into one department. The whole reason the FBI and CIA were left out of this bogus department is because Shrub didn't think he could actually reform those parts of the problem.

Right. So it seems like the outgoing Head of BS, Tom Ridge, believes the top cops of my native land deserve to be tapped to replace him. The grand Police Chief, William Bratton, (brought in when the LA Mayor got sick of the last chief), used to work in NY and has been married five times. (Not clear why that last bit is important, but someone at the NY Daily News did.) Another cadidate is I've Been Sherriff Longer Than Many Residents Have Lived in L.A., Lee Baca. In the city of LA, his department doesn't do squat, but I suppose their duties have risen with the population increase in horrid, dusty towns like Lancaster.

The internal favorite in this horse race is Robert Bonner, customs commissoner and former head of the DEA (also formerly a judge in L.A.).

Full Deets at NY Daily News from News Wire Services.

Posted by cj at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

Spot The Pork: Is A Million Enough to Say Happy Independence Day?

The latest unsurprising budget news from CQ Midday Update:

Ah, the omnibus -- the gift that keeps on giving. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., slipped a provision into the 2,900-page spending bill directing $1 million to the Norwegian American Foundation to honor the 100th anniversary of Norway's peaceful independence from Sweden in 1905. The head of the Seattle-based foundation didn't know the funding had been secured until Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained publicly about it, the paper said. Sabo said it is "common for nations to commemorate the anniversaries of their friends and historic allies." Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek first learned of the money from an e-mail about McCain's protest, the Star Tribune said. "The embassy has not lobbied for this, by no means," Vollebaek said. "We do not interfere with the budget processes of other countries. But we are very grateful to Congressman Sabo."
Nevermind the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the uneducated in the US. Let's use our hard earned tax money to celebrate the peaceful history of Norway!

Posted by cj at 1:28 PM | Comments (1)

DNC Chair Horserace

Alas, it appears that Dean is the front runner. I'm disappointed because (a)he's not that liberal, (b)he's not that interesting, (c)he uses leftie passion to his own benefit and (d)he doesn't have a winning track record. Can you tell I was never a Deaniac?

Other people (lots of other people) agree with me.
One of them is Bob Novak at the Chicago Sun Times.

Posted by cj at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2004

Even Conservatives Wanna Dump Rumsfeld

I'll admit it. I have a slightly warmer than ice cold place in my heart for Don Rumsfeld. Wherefor you ask? Simple - he's the only Famous For DC Type I ever saw on the street while living in DC. And he even talked to the peeps I was with. (For the record, I was at the annual dinner of Women's Information Network, a Democratic, pro-choice, younger women's networking group. We were moving from the keynote address location to smaller dinner parties across the city and he was walking towards the Capitol with his wife.)

At any rate, the fact that I was fascinated with how short he is and how gracious he was to the "enemy," doesn't change the fact that I hate his war and think he's an incompetent leader. Apparently, even the extremely conservative founder and editor of the Weekly Standard agrees with me.

Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld. ...

All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?

Amen. As a famous WILPF poster proclaims, It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

Posted by cj at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Digitized Books Will Soon Be Available for Free

The NYT lead today with news that Google inked a deal with major research libraries to scan their books and make em available online. Older books that aren't copyright protected will be available in their entirety and people will be able to view a few pages of newer, copyrighted books. Can you imagine not having to pay for a copy of Shakespeare for your college lit course? In the future, I see colleges full of students wasting printer ink, printing out entire books. At Harvard, I think they have an honor system - you're supposed to pay a certain nominal fee per page printed. At my alma mater, printing is free in the labs, and you pay a nominal fee when printing in your dorm computer lab.

People often say digitized information means the end of its commercial counterpart. (See Napster, digital music, and cd sales.) In reality, nothing beats something you can hold in your hands. Case in point: the 9-11 Commission Report was available for free download from the government and various news outlets. Neverthless, people forked over ten bucks to buy a paper copy at their local bookstore.

Posted by cj at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

depressing tale of elder abuse

Sunday's NYT front pages a Nominate Me for a Pulitzer Piece on elder abuse. It is a heart breaking tale about two sisters who are used and abused by their crack head nephew. People who are close to addicts sometimes take a long, long time before getting away from the addict. And most people simply can't stay away from the charismatic nature of users. Read about Lillian and Julia - it'll make you wonder if (a)children are really needed to help you in your twilight years and (b)what you would do if your aunts were being abused and (c)how they could possibly still allow Frank in their lives.

Posted by cj at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)