Progressives Take Note

A lot of progressives (and Democrats) were very upset when John Kerry threw in the towel early on November 3rd. I think our disappointment can be linked all the way back to Al Gore capitulating to the GOP howling in 2000 – they say they want “every vote counted”, but in the end it seems like they just don’t want to rock the boat.

Gahhhh.

Why can’t we learn? It isn’t about reality, it’s about perception. And now in Washington State, Dino Rossi is not just asking for (yet again) another recount, he’s asking for a re-vote. His people are pulling a Ukraine right here in the good old U.S.!

And don’t think this isn’t a well calculated move, fully financed and blessed by the national GOP. The results won’t change, and in the end there won’t be another election, but that doesn’t matter. Rossi is squishing sour grapes (after the GOP tried unsuccessfully to suppress votes in King County). The results of the governor’s election in Washington will forever be in question.

Yes, it’s an instructive political slice.

There’s many a lesson to be learned here, fellow progressives…

Thursday, December 30th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

If You Haven’t Switched…

Totally non-current events related…

I highly recommend Firefox browser, particularly if you’re running an older machine. It out performs IE and Netscape by a mile in every possible way. You can download Firefox at: getfirefox.com

And for current Firefox users, here’s a neat little page with some instructions that will let you speed up Firefox even further…

Thursday, December 30th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

The Lathe of Heaven

I’m still engaged in life. And I’m still here, but I’ve been letting my significant others at ASZ hold down the fort. I’ve been remiss. I have a keyboard with a bum space bar, but I’m still here. I’ve been living and reading Ursula Le Guin, and watching how the world responds to the earthquake and tsunami in SE Asia. In her novel The Lathe of Heaven she quotes a Zen master:

“Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. (Chuang Tse: XXIII)

Yesterday I found this in the LA Times. It’s in direct oppostion to my worldview, to a zen way of viewing, but it’s an interesting quirky read, and easier from Common Dreams than from the source: Reelection Honeymoon With Voters Eludes Bush, Polls Say It’s almost impossible for me to blog “politically” on US issues when we’ve had Iraq and now we have the global issue of SE Asia’s earthquake and tsunami. I am a child of the Happy Planet. True, the US government is killing people in Iraq at a Texas rate… still …we have our mother The Earth saying, “I was here first”.

If you’ve not already enjoyed Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, I cannot recommend it more highly.

“Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (exept the mind of the pedant), perfection is the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being.” H.G. Wells, “A Modern Utopia”

The political fluff-stuff-nonsense-white noise in the print media AND the Internet sources make me fucking nuts in trying to nurture a “still point” in my life. I don’t ever want to hear what Mr. Blinky is saying OR doing in Crawford or DC. He is insignificant and irrelevant to me. I have me, my husband, my children and my sister and parents to worry about. Those and the tsunami victims are enough to keep my mind-soul occupied for now. I don’t know that that is what you all do, but we all have to do– something and I must do something to stay sane… every now and then.

More from Le Guin:

“He was aware that in thus relegating to irreality a major portion of the only reality, the only existence, that he in fact did have, he was running exactly the same risk the insane mind runs; the loss of the sense of free will. He knew that in so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void. But the void was there. This life lacked realness; it was hollow; the dream, creating where there was no necessity to create, had worn thin and sleazy. If this was being, perhaps the void was better. He would accept the monsters and the neccessities beyond reason. He would go home, and take no drugs, but sleep, and dream what dreams might come.”

Sleep well, anticipating the turning of the year….

Thursday, December 30th, 2004 by Kate Storm |
Category: Uncategorized

Warning – Too Much Education Causes (gasp!) Liberalism!

In the weeks and days leading up to and following the election there were a flurry of postings about how the Red States stack up against the Blue States as far as IQ and education. There have been several recent stories about religious groups pushing “Intelligent Design”, which is creationism decked out in a dress and lipstick, in public schools. Health textbooks are being rewritten to define marriage as a lifelong commitment between “one man and one woman”, instead of between loving partners. The list goes on.

Is this over-reaching by a small group of zealots, or is there a concerted effort to purge the educational system of “liberal” ideas? From Smirking Chimp:

It’s Happened to a Lot of Good Christians

By Dr. Teresa Whitehurst, CounterPunch

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to a conversation I overheard at Starbucks in Nashville last winter. I was distracted from my work on that cold and rainy night by two young men who sat down in upholstered chairs next to my table. One was talking and the other was listening, in what appeared to be an informal college orientation.

“The only trouble with Lipscomb [a conservative Christian college nearby] is that old man Lipscomb made a rule that the college couldn’t have a football team, so that’s a bummer. But it’s a great school, and you’re gonna love it.

“Now you do have to be careful about one thing,” he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones, “My professor told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values.”The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.

“If you get a bachelor’s degree,” the seasoned student reassured, “you’ll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master’s, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn — LIBERAL. He’s seen it happen to a lot of good Christians.”

The young men paused for a moment, shaking their heads at the dangers that lie ahead…

The article goes on…

Justin Pope describes the anti-liberal movement to “balance” college courses with the politically correct and religiously correct rightwing views (justified by research or not), but not just on conservative Christian college campuses:

“Leading the movement is Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a onetime liberal campus activist turned conservative commentator. The group posts student complaints on its website about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors – often in classes.

“Instructors “need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion,” Horowitz said. “You can’t get a good education if you’re only getting half the story.”"

One thing that the “liberal, leftists” don’t do is take these groups seriously and offer a counter measure – until it’s too late. There has been plenty of reaction on blogs and newspaper opinion pieces to each, individual article that has hit the wire about school boards instituting some measure of censorship or discrimination. There is plenty of outrage over censorship issues, or teaching that slavery was “a good thing”. But as one incident fades and another one takes its place it is treated as an individual event instead of a series of events that may be connected. What is lacking is a coordinated effort to investigate what and who is behind this “movement” to undermine public education.

Thursday, December 30th, 2004 by sukabi |
Category: Uncategorized

Another Day in Paradise: Part 1,324


12/29/04 Aljazeera: Dozens killed, wounded in Mosul fighting

US troops backed by warplanes have clashed with anti-US fighters in the Iraqi city of Mosul, after being attacked by bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

12/29/04 KUNA: ?Iraqi police find dead body of Al-Anbar”s deputy governor

Iraqi security forces found Wednesday the dead body of Al-Anbar’s Deputy Governor Moayad Marwan who was kidnapped Tuesday and killed hours later in Al-Ramadi town, Iraqi police said.??

12/29/04 FEZA: Turkish Truck Driver Killed in Northern Baghdad

Police sources report that a Turkish truck driver was killed by armed people south of Samarra. US army sources said that two people working for the US army, one a female engineer, were killed and their corpses were found near Tikrit.

12/29/04 Reuters: Two Lebanese kidnapped in Iraq

ARMED men burst into a house in the upscale Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansour overnight and seized two Lebanese businessmen, police said.

12/29/04 Reuters: US army kills 25 insurgents in Mosul

American troops battled insurgents in the Iraqi city of Mosul, killing around 25 guerrillas in clashes after being attacked by suicide bombs and RPG’S. 15 U.S. troops were wounded in the clashes, none of whom had returned to active duty.

12/29/04 Aljazeera: Clashes in Mosul after massive bomb attack

Witnesses said a fuel truck exploded next to a building in southern Mosul that US troops have occupied since last month. After the blast, heavy machinegun fire could be heard in the area and warplanes flew overhead. There was no word on casualties.

This is just a small window for today – links from here.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

Wanna Buy an Airline? Cheap?

Oh, Yeah. This will work.

On the heels of their Christmas debacle, USAirways is asking employees to work for free over the New Year’s weekend.

USAirways is sooooooo toast.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bankrupt US Airways on Wednesday said it is asking nonunion employees who are not scheduled to work over the New Year’s weekend to volunteer to work for free at its Philadelphia operations.

And of course, most of my frequent flier miles are on USAirways. Story of my life.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

Meanwhile, in Iraq…

…a few pounds of that missing 380 tons of RDX high-explosive has surfaced:

A powerful blast destroyed a house in western Baghdad during an overnight police raid that turned into a devastating ambush. It flattened nearby buildings and killed at least 28 people, including seven Iraqi officers.

…An Iraqi police official said the attack was evidently an ambush and that massive amounts of explosives were used.

The attack happened late on a day that had already seen about two dozen police and other Iraqi security force personnel killed…

July, 2003:

“There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “My answer is: Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.”

Indeed.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

A Little Tsunami Linkage

As you’re probably aware, the toll keeps climbing in the Asian tsunami disaster. Without telling you something you don’t already know, ASZ isn’t the best place on the web to get a sense of what’s going on over there. However, here’s a quick guide to some up-to-date information that I’ve found over the past few hours:

Unfiltered, non-American-centric news update: BBC News – Asia Quake Update

Raw video footage: here, here, and here. (Warning – not terribly dialup friendly, as these are fairly large Windoze media files.)

Best ongoing disaster blog commentary: Steve Gilliard

Best commentary on commentary from a fellow Garden Stater, and how you can help: Brilliant at Breakfast (also, click through to the B@B main page for more…)

Sixth Sense: The animals knew something was up

Stingy: A great article on opportunitic “journalistic” hackery. I mean, we already know the fringe-right wingnuts want to get rid of the U.N. How’s a disaster that kills scores of people sound like for an excuse?

If anyone has more links (timely and newsworthy) to add that aren’t covered in the above, leave them in the comments and I’ll hook ‘em up.

Update, 10AM: My own comments – we’re getting to the point where numbers are both meaningless and devastating, in terms of human impact and relief efforts. I just heard the number 71,000. It’s hard to process that — a death toll equivalent to the entire population of Venice, Italy. No amount of relief effort is going to help such a wide area of the globe recover anytime soon.

Update, 12:40PM – Caveat Emptor

A quick word of warning (like any of you smart people need it anyway…)

In situations such as the disaster in Asia where we have little to no individual direct control of events, it’s natural to heed the call for donations and assistance. Opportunities to donate for tsunami / earthquake relief are sprouting like mushrooms after a summer rain. But like any distaster of any magnitude, the charlatans and ripoff artists abound. Someone will try to make a buck out of someone else’s misery.

Before you click that “donate” button, conduct a little due diligence on the organization you’re funding. If you’re at all unsure about the legitimacy of an organization, heed your bullshit detector, and stick with credible relief efforts being organized by outfits such as American Red Cross / Red Crescent or OxFam International.

Also, on TV I’m seeing people collecting toys, food, clothes, etc. Use your brain. Even the most well-intentioned individuals who are spearheading such relief drives don’t know what they’re getting into. It will be months (if ever) before any of these hard goods make it to the affected area. These items are still well available in the affected areas — it’s the money that’s critical.

Just some unsolicited advice from someone who’s been there before…

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

L-Dopa for Understanding the War on Terra™

-

Jonathan Raban has written a stunningly succinct article, The Truth About Terrorism, for the January 13, 2005 New York Review of Books. When I use the word “succinct” in the context of describing this article, I’m not trying to impart that the article is short (it’s not) or a great soundbite type of report (far from it). I’m trying to convey that even in its length, the article gets to the point so much faster than reading Against All Enemies, or Imperial Hubris, the 9/11 Commission Report, or a biography of Osama bin Laden.

The Truth About Terrorism is the Cliff Notes of the Bush/Cheney faux war on terror.

There are a couple of passages that simply slam home the concept of duplicity being exercised by the Bush Administration. The first example that Raban brings to the table is the case of Bush advisor Richard Pipes. Back in September, Pipes seized on the Beslan school massacre in Russia thusly in a NYTimes op-ed:

The attacks on New York and the Pentagon were unprovoked and had no specific objective. Rather, they were part of a general assault of Islamic extremists bent on destroying non-Islamic civilizations. As such, America’s war with Al Qaeda is non-negotiable. But the Chechens do not seek to destroy Russia, –—thus there is always an opportunity for compromise.

This is the kind of bullshit that America’s being fed. It’s quite OK for another country (not of our own basic liking) to negotiate with terrorists. In fact, Pipes was almost going overboard in saying that the Chechen rebels who caused the massacre had legitimate grievances that the Russians should consider. As opposed, of course, to the U.S. and Osama bin-Laden. Pipes continues the lie that al Qaida and bin-Laden just hate freedom: they don’t like us or our way of life. Raban then blows this theory all to hell with bin-Laden’s exact demands and words:

There’s no mention of American values in bin Laden’s call for the removal of US bases from Saudi Arabia (a demand that has since been quietly met) and for an end to “the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post,” or in his indictment of the American “endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.”

Michael Scheuer, the recently de-cloaked author of Imperial Hubris, receives a great deal of attention in the article. Chillingly, Raban recounts a warning from Scheuer that sounds amazing like what transpired in Fallujah – and consider that Scheuer’s opinion was being committed to the written word some 18 months before the November blitzkrieg of Fallujah occurred:

Scheuer warns of huge body counts on both sides that “will include as many or more civilians as combatants,” “a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure,” land mines to seal borders and passes, “displaced populations, and refugee flows.” “This sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America’s only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world.”

Scheuer’s al-Qaeda is more frightening than the versions offered by ideologues like Norman Podhoretz or by dot-connecting terrorist hunters like Richard Clarke because it is an entirely rational enemy, motivated by causes just as dear as those that drive Americans. It is bent, as we are here, on defending its own liberties in its homelands; it is amply armed, and is equipped with a better understanding of the strategies of fourth-generation warfare than Americans yet possess.

What Raban is saying is that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. U.S. strategists haven’t even started to assimilate the learning curve in 4th generation warfare. By the time they do, the body count is going to be higher, much, much higher. 4GW? Haw! The U.S. military is still married to many of the same tactics that George Patton used in order to get to Bastogne sixty years ago! Shock and awe, indeed.

Now, link the concepts conveyed above with the words expressed by Saddam Hussein in an alleged recent interview, which ran today in the Egyptian and Tunisian press (hat tip to regular ASZ reader “Uncle $Scam”). Whatever cold thoughts you previously harbored will become even more chilled. When I first read the “Saddam interview”, my initial reaction was that it was great Islamic propaganda, probably played well on al-Jazeera, but was filled with a lot of boasting half-truths. Here’s a snippet:

Doule�mi: In this context, there are remarks of Kofi Annan who said that this occupation is illegal.

Saddam: This is something important , it is necessary to keep it for the History. Kofi Annan cannot take any more of the American lies. If God wants it, Bush will be lonely after the whole world will know that he is a liar. He will leave Iraq by the small door because Iraqi Resistance is well prepared. It was prepared quite ahead of war. I had joined together the military and political commands and we had prepared this new page of the war against the Americans. What arrives today is not the fruit of chance.

But after reading Raban’s article, the big picture starts to coalesce a little more, all of a sudden the light flickers on, and…

“Fuck! BushCo knows this shit. They’ve known this shit all along!”

Yes, gentle reader, they do. And yet the Bush cabal continues to play the “freedom is on the march” card. They’re pretending to gamble with house money, while sneaking back to the credit window at the world casino again and again, hoping to pull to an inside straight to cover their debts. Trouble is, they’ve built enough plausible deniability into the whole scam to escape relatively unscathed when the markers are finally called in.

Submitted for your approval: the bottom line of Jonathan Raban’s article is that 9/11 was not about American “values”. 9/11 was fundamentalist Muslim response to U.S. government imperialism and meddling in the internal affairs of the middle east.

And now, the War on Terraâ„¢ doesn’t (or can’t) wind down until Mesopotamia becomes the fifty-first of these United States.

Postscript: I chose the title for this posting in honor of Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose seminal work with L-dopa in “awakening” catatonic patients was portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie, –“Awakenings–”.

Ed. note: For those of you who originally read this posting Tuesday night, I re-wrote the ending Wednesday morning because it just didn’t flow right. Like all of my postings here, this one is a work in progress.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized

Surfing the Ministry of Truth

I’ll confess it’s been awhile since I watched the cable news nets – nearly two months. This afternoon, I was actually hoping to get an update on what was going on in Asia. Slap me and call me silly. Here’s what I saw in roughly 1/2 hour of channel surfing:

CNN: Judy Woodruff was gushing over Bush being picked as the “most admired American“. I didn’t stick around to see what the hell was up with that. As I clicked the remote, my head was swimming: most admired for what? For skipping out on his National Guard duty? For smirkingly executing hundreds of prisoners on death row during his term as Texas Governor? For eschewing “nation building” in his first presidential run, knowing full well his administration was planning to do just that if he was elected? Turning a major government budget surplus into a historic deficit in less than 3 years? (Yes, he did that in 2003, and again in 2004.) Sending over 1300 American men and women (and countless thousands of Iraqi civilians) to their untimely deaths for a lie? Yeah, I guess there’s a lot to admire there, Judy.

CNBC: I’m not familiar with the blow dried bimbo who was anchoring Closing Bell this afternoon, but she had economist and op-ed guy Paul Krugman on the show. Krugman was trying, over all of her protestations, to explain in simple, clear terms why potential Social Security issues were, at best, a distant third in terms of priority if BushCo was looking at the big picture. The deficit was number one, followed by Medicare / Medicaid, and then (maybe) Social Security. The bimbette kept trying to trap Krugman into saying that SS was a problem, using old figures and absolute worst case scenarios, but Krugman was having none of it. He took the bimbette to school, basically. She asked repeatedly why he didn’t think the deficit could be halved in 4 years. He kept telling her to do the simple math. When the segment was over, it was like she finally gave up – Krugman did a stellar job of bitchslapping the bimbo.

MSGOP: Does anyone still watch this network? Why? They were prattling on and on about this past weekend’s airline woes, and how sucky the airlines have become. Yeah, I think that justifies the (at least) five minutes worth of my life that I wasted watching Fox-verylite. 50,000+ people dead, and I’m watching folks whine about lost luggage.

Fox: Neil Cavuto’s on vacation, so the heavyset dude with the Aussie accent was doing the show. He was worse than Cavuto; unfortunately, no barf bags were immediately available in my kitchen. He and a panel of UN-bashers weren’t discussing the calamity of 50,000+ killed in the tsunami, and the obvious humanitarian crisis that builds by the hour, but spent their time lambasting the U.N. spokesperson who said the U.S. was “stingy” in it’s relief response to the crisis. It was all well planned – the charts and graphs that compared (basically) apples to oranges in terms of relief efforts had obviously kept some graphics guy up all night last night. I’m betting that the later Fox shows actually lay total waste to the unfortunate U.N. spokesperson.

Now you know why I haven’t even thought about watching broadcasts from the Ministry of Truth for a couple of months. It may be even longer before the next time that I chance surfing through Maximum Leader’s cable outlets.


Ok, after all of that, I still came back to the web to search for updates on the disaster. The death toll is up over 52,000 right now, and word is that the toll could easily double in the coming days. I’m hoping that tonight’s BBC newscast gives me some real info.

And I couldn’t let this commentary pass without at least one more parting shot — as I kind of expected, the “end-timers” are picking up on the tsunami theme as another indicator of the approaching apocalypse (google “Luke 21:25″ if you don’t believe me). They’re waiting for the mothership to arrive at any moment. You can peek into the end-timers take on this event here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and just in case you were wondering: the Rapture Index is now at 155. Ahem.

Jack Van Impe’s show this weekend promises to be a high-octane, olde tyme fire and brimstone gas. (For those of you unfamiliar with Van Impe, he’s one of the original four horsemen of the apocalypse, and is only about 1/2 step to the left of the late Marshall Applewhite.)

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 by Richard Blair |
Category: Uncategorized
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