Friday, December 31, 2004

U.S. to Pledge $350 Million for Tsunami Aid

To put this news in proper perspective, this latest amount of aid equals what we are spending in Iraq in just TWO DAYS.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

When is a rule not a rule?

Or a regulation not a regulation? Or 'faith' in rules and regulations not 'faith' in rules and regulations? Well duh, it is when we do it!

It is quite obvious from this article European Laws Place Emphasis On the Driving, Not the Drinking that the U.S. places it's faith in drinking age restrictions whereas Europeans try to remove driving from the equation altogether. But that's not how it is described:

"a fundamental difference between U.S. and European approaches to drunk driving among young people: Americans have raised the drinking age to 21; Europeans keep it low but put faith in stiff rules and regulations."

I guess all those laws probiting anyone younger than 21 -- including members of the armed services, who can die for their country -- from enjoying a brew are really not rules and regulations after all.... I wonder what they are? Supervised suggestions for freedom living?!?

Priorities priorities...

Bush 'stingy' on disaster relief aid?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

the so-called liberal media in action

Libel Suit Takes Aim at Print Reporter's Words on TV:

"...[Judge] Murphy [has] filed suit against the [Boston]Herald and four of its writers for a 'malicious and relentless campaign of libel unprecedented in the history of this Commonwealth.' In court papers, he said the Herald 'set out to sensationalize' a story that never happened. As a result, he said, his life had been threatened, his reputation had been ruined, and two of his daughters had been threatened with rape on a Herald-sponsored chat room. In August of this year, a Boston judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit.

The case, set for trial next month, is significant because it uses the rambunctious exchange on a talk show to try to prove the malicious intent of a newspaper reporter....

It took three weeks before Murphy fought back in print. When the Herald had asked him to comment, the day after Wedge's 'Murphy's Law' story ran, he declined, citing rules on closed judicial discussions. But when a Boston Globe reporter called him in early March 2002, when the case was closed, he talked.

'I deny that I ever said anything critical of, or demeaning about, the victim,' he said. 'Every single quote that has been attributed to me about that has been fabricated out of thin air. The real truth is 180 degrees. I was extremely concerned about the welfare of the victim, and I made that position apparent to everyone.'

Indeed, the prosecutor, David E. Frank, said in a sworn affidavit that during the only conference related to McSweeney's sentencing: 'Murphy expressed concern for the victim. He asked counsel about the defendant's ability to pay for counseling for the victim.' He added: 'I never heard Justice Murphy say 'Tell her to get over it.''

So where did the quote come from?...

[Herald reporter] Wedge said he stands behind what he wrote but acknowledged the quote may not have been exact. 'I know he said the judge said either 'She's got to get over it' or 'Tell her to get over it,'' he said in an interview. Murphy maintains the conversation never occurred.

Two defense lawyers who were present, Anton B. Cruz and Joseph Harrington Jr., said in sworn statements that they did not see a confrontation or hear Murphy say anything about a 14-year-old [statutory] rape victim.

Wedge acknowledged in an affidavit that the 14-year-old girl, who he wrote had 'tearfully' read her 'heart-wrenching' statement in court, in fact never spoke in court nor took the stand. And although his story referred to 'several' courthouse sources, he confirmed in a deposition that he had talked with only one person who had allegedly heard Murphy make the comment.

But for a public figure, simple untruths are not enough to win a libel lawsuit; there must be 'reckless disregard' for the truth. That is one reason it is almost unheard of for a judge to sue over reporting on his official conduct.

But Murphy's attorneys seized on Wedge's comments on 'The O'Reilly Factor' on March 7, 2002. O'Reilly asked Wedge, 'Are you absolutely 100 percent sure that Judge Murphy said that the rape victim should get over it?' Wedge answered, 'Yes. He made this comment to three lawyers. He knows he said it, and everybody else that knows this judge knows that he said it.' Murphy's attorneys contrasted these statements to Wedge's statements under oath, when he repeatedly answered 'I don't know' or 'I don't recall' to questions about the reporting and writing of his story.

Wedge also 'upped the ante' by suggesting that Murphy had made disparaging remarks not only about a victim but 'to victims,' and by telling Fox viewers that Murphy was 'coddling defendants,' they claim in their briefs."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Fatal Attraction

Saw the old (1987) film Fatal Attraction for the first time last night. A first rate thriller, but also one that derived a lot of its social impact at the time because it fed seamlessly into the "red-blue" dichotomy with which we are so familiar now. This aspect of the film was even addressed, albeit glancingly, in a little short included on the DVD entitled "social attraction."

For those of you who haven't seen it due to youth or lack of interest, here's the rough and tumble synopsis. Man married with child in crowded NYC apartment; man goes to business event with wife (who is not too shabby looking) and encounters exotic 'other'--the career woman. It turns out that man must attend weekend meeting where he meets, yet again, the exotic other. They get caught in a downpour and end up sharing a cab, a dinner and then a night of randy romance, since wifey and the kid are visiting her folks in the countryside for the weekend. He considers the one-night stand over, she does not, tells him she's pregnant and then tries to terrorize and eventually kill the family. Mom ends the terror in a brief outburst of traditional righteous violence straight from Shane.

This brief synopsis doesn't alert you to all the subtle not-so-subtle signals that dad is 'whupped': he is thwarted in his half-hearted attempt to romance his wife by the family dog and his daughter (who spends the night in bed with the parents), his umbrella won't open and when it does it is not a very big or effective one, he fails to get a cab on his own, he fails to get the waiter's attention at dinner etc etc etc. He is the male emasculated by the bonds of marriage.

The career woman, on the other hand, at first alluring and exotic, is quickly exposed as deranged and psychotic. The only innocent people are mom-and-baby, who function as a complete unit for the most part. So, although the thriller is deftly executed, the movie derived a lot of its over the top media coverage due to the fact that it fit so well into the 'morality tale' that was being pushed by certain elements in the Reagan administration, a tale that has since been elevated to the status of article of faith in the Dubya coalition.

What are the aspects of this tale? Working women threaten the family. Sexuality is dangerous. Men (or more precisely, male sexuality) needs to be controlled. The city is full of corruption and temptation. The country is the 'heartland of America.' The only innocence is in the bond between mother and child.

Why do these themes resonate... so far so as to drown out the bad news from the economy and the world at large? They play into a dynamic that is particularly strong in the US (we could argue why that is another time) that leads those who are least able to compete in an increasingly difficult work and social environment to cast blame upon those who are perceived successful. But not those who inherited wealth, after all they couldn't help that. I'm not talking about class warfare here, I'm talking about the cultivation by key elites within the GOP establishment of 'cultural' resentment of those have used education and opportunity to make themselves better off--the so-called 'liberals' that are so often the target of unreasoning hate. 'Liberals' are the one who seek to rise above their 'proper station' through education or deferred child-raising -- 'liberals' who opt out of the traditional sexual social compact of containing sex through early marriage and reproduction, and therefore also supporting a stay-at-home mom.

It is not surprising the Glenn Close was dubbed the "most hated woman in America" for her portrayal. Not only was it an excellent portrayal of a seriously mentally ill individual seeking to control others in order to compensate for deep hurts she suffered long ago (however, no longer a victim, no matter what the actors say about it, but a victimizer) but by adoping a severely mentally ill person as her model -- despite the trappings of success -- she was also able to depict the career woman as utterly alien to motherhood and apple pie. And what put the deranged career woman over the top was her inability to have a normal domestic relationship with a man.

You don't have to be Dr. Freud to understand why this resonates with the roughly half of the population who find it more and more difficult to find success in our increasingly cut-throat and insecure economic and social environment. These people, be they stay-at-home moms dependent on a husband or males who lack the qualifications to compete successfully in a constricted labor market, blame those who succeed in school and in business and also succeed in taking advantage of the new opportunities for intimacy without the sexual blackmail afforded by the sexual revolution.

They blame 'liberals' for destroying the traditional values by taking away their job opportunities and their potential spouses, because if they were 'responsible' (i.e., getting married and not striving to get ahead of their proper station in life) there would be more jobs for down and out palookas, there would be fewer temptations in the workplace, and there would be a larger pool of marriageable partners (men and women) for those who hew to traditional values (sexual division of labor and sexual scarcity to secure the bonds between partners).

This is why abortion, sex ed, and IVF are such a hot issues in this country. These issues not only offer control over reproduction to women who can then choose to pursue a career, but they also offer an 'out' to the wandering male (tellingly sought by Michael Douglas' character). It represents a means by which those who are a success in the the new economy/new sexual society can have their cake and eat it too.

Many stay-at-home mothers view career women as a threat to holding onto their man and as a threat to their man's livelihood. Traditional males view career women as not only a threat to their livelihood but also as unattainable -- a inversion of nature, where women should be subject to men and all women should be potentially 'available.' Both groups view liberated/educated males as effeminate and yet oversexed; effeminate in keeping with the anti-intellectual tenor of American culture, and yet undeservingly oversexed in part due to their presumed ambiguous sexuality but also due to their presumed willingness to exchange their virility for sex with powerful, promiscuous females.

All in all, the 'traditional critique' of liberalism centers on the lack of control of sex and the presumed corrosive effect this has on the economy and mores of society. This Weltanshauung is the core of the appeal of Dubya's creed for millions of 'red' Americans. In this respect Dubya's visceral appeal is not all that different from Franco's or even Hitler's: it is rooted in the (manufactured) fear of socialists, sexual libertines (including gays and lesbians) and rootless cosmopolitan intellectuals eroding the traditional -- yes, even the kitsch -- forms of life familiar to those who must struggle to survive the raw capitalism unleashed by the GOP over the past 35 years.

PS: Another interesting fact about the film is the difference between the ending originally shot and the ending on the theatrical release. The original ending (Glenn Close commits suicide and in so doing frames Michael Douglas) represented a perfect thriller ending, because it was unanticipated twist without being unrealistic or out of the blue and because it preserves the tension between the characters right to the very end. Yet audiences hated it. Why? for the same reasons that made the film a social phenomenon. Audiences wanted cleansing, righteous violence in defense of the traditional family.

By the end the film was no longer merely a thriller as originally intended, it had become the embodiment a large segment of the population's vision of a modern 'morality play.' The fact that those involved with the film couldn't see this supports their contention that they were not purposefully crafting an ideological film. And I believe them. It was only after preview audiences that they decided to reshoot the ending. However, just because the studio was not intentionally crafting an ideological film does not mean that the film was void of ideological resonance, a la Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry films.

Glenn Close was especially opposed to changing the ending, and it turns out she was correct in her reasoning. She feared that the new ending would reduce her character to a caricature of a knife-wielding psycho -- which it did. But it was a caricature that resonated with sentiments that are now associated with 'red Amurika' -- and the changed ending made the difference between a blockbuster and a cultural event. The actors from Fatal Attraction did not end up on the cover of Time magazine simply because they made a good and profitable movie. They were put there as part of an effort to push an agenda, or at the very least to document the mounting success of that agenda.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Big Bro's little buddy

The surveillence society is being put into place as you read this... trust, freedom? who needs 'em when you have electronic monitoring around the clock?

Once again, Eschaton has the goods: "Retired Gen. Tommy Franks has signed on to be the spokesman for a company that uses global positioning system technology in teens' cell phones to let parents know how fast they're driving...."

America's suppressed secular history

My my, wonder how Scalia and his professed "strict constructionist" beliefs will square with the fact that America was far more secular in certain respects back in the horse and buggy days than it is today?

Eschaton has the goods: "...Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.... In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870."

Big Bro's secret police

...Hard at work protecting us from OSHA?!?:

"May 5, the day that changed Aliakbar and Shahla Afshari's lives, began like most others. They shared coffee, dropped their 12-year-old son off at Cheat Lake Middle School here, then drove to their laboratories at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency that studies workplace hazards.

But that afternoon, their managers pulled the Afsharis aside and delivered a stunning message: they had failed secret background checks and were being fired. No explanations were offered and no appeals allowed. They were escorted to the door and told not to return."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Ho ho ho | World economy: "...Many American policymakers talk as though it is better to rely entirely on a falling dollar to solve, somehow, all their problems. Conceivably, it could happen--but such a one-sided remedy would most likely be far more painful than they imagine. America's challenge is not just to reduce its current-account deficit to a level which foreigners are happy to finance by buying more dollar assets, but also to persuade existing foreign creditors to hang on to their vast stock of dollar assets, estimated at almost $11 trillion. A fall in the dollar sufficient to close the current-account deficit might destroy its safe-haven status. If the dollar falls by another 30%, as some predict, it would amount to the biggest default in history: not a conventional default on debt service, but default by stealth, wiping trillions off the value of foreigners' dollar assets.

The dollar's loss of reserve-currency status would lead America's creditors to start cashing those cheques--and what an awful lot of cheques there are to cash. As that process gathered pace, the dollar could tumble further and further. American bond yields (long-term interest rates) would soar, quite likely causing a deep recession. Americans who favour a weak dollar should be careful what they wish for. Cutting the budget deficit looks cheap at the price."

What an arrogant....

"Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, which is made up mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the war started.

'Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?' Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense...."

Click here for Rummy's 'answer': Daily Kos :: Rummy feels their pain

More on Galloway

Here's a good take on a story reported earlier, the vindication of former MP George Galloway, who was subject to a smear campaign via forged documents: A Hero for Our Time

The money quote? "And why don't we have any politicians in this country making the same roar?"

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Some badly needed common sense

Inventing a Crisis: "Privatizing Social Security - replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts - won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse. Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.

I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis....

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it."

'Tis never the season...

...for bad ads like this: Farting Elves Promote Pepto Bismol

Holiday cheer: Boston style!

Get Wrapped

Monday, December 06, 2004

Your Xmas bonus is on its way...

That was the caption to one of the funniest holiday cartoons I ever saw. It had Santa sitting on the chimney making a deposit. Too often that is exactly how it feels in the workplace, particularly after the accession of the Chimposter and the resulting implosion of the economy. Employers are now using their 'leverage' to cut benefits unilaterally and to essentially squeeze their employees to fatten their profits. Of course, the squeezing is not simply done at the economic level, as the article below demonstrates:
When the Boss Is a Bully: "Hard times sometimes bring out the best in people, but anxious times can also bring out the bullies lurking in corporate ranks. There are several flavors of bad bosses, but bullies are the ones who misuse their power over others. They verbally abuse you, humiliate you in front of others....

Bully bosses overcontrol, micromanage, and display contempt for others, usually by repeated verbal abuse and sheer exploitation. They look over your shoulder. They constantly put others down, with snide remarks or harsh, repetitive, and unfair criticism. They don't just differ with you, they differ with you contemptuously; they question your adequacy and your commitment. They spew on people in support functions, on competitors, perhaps even their own bosses...."
The best advice in the article? Don't try and psychoanalyze the bully, focus on specific behaviors you would like to see curbed. As if that matters any....

Sunday, December 05, 2004

MiniTruth at work

Army Spun Tale Around Ill-Fated Mission: "...The Army's April 30 press release was just one episode in a broader Army effort to manage the uncomfortable facts of Pat Tillman's death, according to internal records and interviews.

During several weeks of memorials and commemorations that followed Tillman's death, commanders at his 75th Ranger Regiment and their superiors hid the truth about friendly fire from Tillman's brother Kevin, who had fought with Pat in the same platoon, but was not involved in the firing incident and did not know the cause of his brother's death. Commanders also withheld the facts from Tillman's widow, his parents, national politicians and the public, according to records and interviews with sources involved in the case...."

Friday, December 03, 2004

rule of law triumphs

Ukraine court annuls poll result: "Ukraine's Supreme Court has annulled the second round of the presidential election - upholding opposition claims that it was fraudulent."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Galloway wins libel case

"Former Labour MP George Galloway has won his libel action against the Daily Telegraph and been awarded 150,000 [pounds] in damages.

High Court judge David Eady said the allegations that he was in the pay of Saddam Hussein were 'seriously defamatory' and said he had no option but to award the Scottish MP, who was one of the most outspoken critics of the war compensation of the upper end of the scale awarded in a non-jury libel action."
Galloway was and is an ardent anti-war politician who was taken out of office by a combination of smear by Conrad Black's Telegraph and party chicanery directed by a vengeful Blair. Nice to see the Telegraph get a little 'pay back;' it will be even nicer when Blair gets his....

dinosaur's demise

Good Night, Tom: "...Brokaw's exit is indeed significant, though probably not for any of the reasons fawning and toadying NBC personalities have stated.

With Dan Rather, anchor of 'The CBS Evening News,' set to follow Brokaw out the door next spring, abdicating a job he once said was the most important at any network, the whole idea of the anchor as a network's top gun and flag-bearer is looking shaky and frail, and perhaps irrelevant. Jennings will be the only veteran in an anchor chair after Rather leaves, and instead of the earth shuddering at that prospect, there's a disheartening aura of 'so what?'..."

Your tax dollars at work

"Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals 'can result in pregnancy,' a congressional staff analysis has found...."

Shinseki Was Right

"...Well, at least we can take comfort in the fact that Rumsfeld is not Secretary of Education. In that Department they demand standards, accountability and results. Unlike the Department of Defense, at Education they are not satisfied by the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Leave no incompetent Secretary of Defense behind."

but big brother is just keeping you safe...

ACLU: FBI spying on religious and protest groups: "In Freedom of Information Act requests filed in 10 states and Washington, D.C., the ACLU sought information about the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and local police for what it called political surveillance.

It pointed to some documented examples of task forces' involvement in the investigation of environmental activists and anti-war protesters."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Move over, Tiger

Adrants: Golfer Sexes Up Image, Marketers Salivate: The LPGA now has its own Anna Kournikova. Natalie Gulbis has sexed up her image in a recent FHM spread and those in the golfing world don't seem too concerned.... Posted by Hello

AP Wire 12/01/2004

Writer describes dangerous Iraq highway: "The driver barreled down the road from Baghdad International Airport, his eyes darting from side to side for signs of trouble. A few hundred yards ahead, a convoy of U.S. contractors stopped on an overpass. Armed men jumped from the vehicles - weapons at the ready.

Three vehicles from the Iraqi National Guard had been struck by rocket-propelled grenades and the contractors stopped to help. Not so the rest of the cars. Fearing the gunmen may still be around, the driver and dozens of civilian cars and trucks crowded onto an exit road for a quick escape.

It is a scene repeated with alarming frequency along the white-knuckle 10-mile stretch of highway - known to U.S. troops as 'RPG Alley' - which links the center of Baghdad with the airport on the western outskirts of the city...."

DoD News

Department of Defense Announces Troop Extensions for Iraq: "Today the Secretary of Defense approved a request by the Commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF(I)) to extend two Army brigades and a Marine Expeditionary Unit operating in Iraq. The Secretary also approved the Commander's request for two additional infantry battalions to deploy to Iraq."

AMERICAblog: Because a great nation deserves the truth

"Today's Washington Post has obtained a copy of a report describing the torture of prisoners all across Iraq and Guantanamo as 'technically illegal.' Torture was widespread and often committed against people who weren't even suspected of being insurgents. This effectively puts an end to the 'a few bad apples' crap that we suspected was false...."

who needs any stinkin' freedom of speech?

"The United Church of Christ (UCC) plans to run a major ad campaign in December to raise public awareness of the denomination. One of the ads is meant, in the words of a UCC press release, to convey the message 'that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation...' Yet, according to a press release out this evening from the UCC, both CBS and NBC have refused to air the ad because the subject matter is 'too controversial.'..."


"A slow news week really brings out the circle jerk instincts in the press. Not that such an instinct is ever dormant, but usually it's done in private...."