Thursday, May 22, 2003

This was posted here by chas_m at The Chasbah recently.

I am shamelessly lifting yet another graphic found via The Chasbah. This one is too good and also higly relevant to my recent thoughts (see below) I only wish I knew where Chas found all those good .gifs so for once I could beat him to it, instead of resorting to using his blog content for inspiration for my own.

About a year ago my friend Key forwarded this very theory, that the cutting of education by the GOP is all actually orchestrated. It's not just another stupid exercise in free market idealism or a lashing out against federal spending. It is done for this very reason - the GOP cuts education spending so often because it makes the people who have passed thru the American educational system easier to persuade and court as voters. Don't question authority (unless they're a dumb liberal) Liberal idealogy is more nuanced and generally more cumbersome than "taxes are bad" or "big government is bad". After he said it my reply was "That's awfully cynical - I'm not that cynical yet".

About two months ago I officially became "that cynical". I also think it's interesting that the GOP is all for tax credits for religious education. If kids these days actually do get a decent education, it'll be with a healthy dose of religious indoctrination, making it even more likely that the very same kids that are able to take advantage of the tax credit will be more likely to vote Republican. In the words of the Church Lady I can only say one thing - "How Convenient!"

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

As much as I dislike and distrust this administration and it's policies, I am beginning to wonder how the hell anyone would address the North Korea situation sanely, even handedly and/or intelligently. It's a bloody mess no matter how you add it up.

Trying to reason with Kim Jong Il is like trying to have a logical conversation with someone in a mental institution. They keep threatening their best ally and chance for hope, South Korea. That whole regime seems totally insane. Or they’re panicking and rightfully paranoid, according to some sources, since we’ve been threatening to nuke them into the stone-age for the past fifty plus years. That doesn’t help of course, but I’m more than a little tired of the “blame the US for everything that’s wrong in the world” as if the actions of the rest of the nations on this planet exist in a vacuum, except for ours.

I digress. Bush's biggest mistake on this issue, at least in my estimation, was not so much recently but rather the fact that he blew off the North Koreans off when he first took office. I think it was part of Bush’s “We’re going to do the opposite of everything Clinton did” phase. The Axis of Evil thing didn't help either.

Whenever I hear some of the more liberal commentary on the issue it seems like an awful lot of what has been said is to, on some level, give in to the North Korean government to alleviate this very real and imminent threat. I really wonder if an agreement where we give them more conditional aid in exchange for their pulling back on their recent nuclear proliferation (bribing them) is really the best was out of this mess.

You may not know this, but the US, along with a number of other countries, send huge amounts of food aid to the North Koreans every year - so much so that they rely heavily on it, at least for the average NK citizen. FYI - This is unconditional aid, without any ties to UN weapons inspectors, treaties or otherwise. I have wondered recently “Would completely cutting off food aid to North Korea in the long run help this situation?” As terrible as this thought sounds, and as much suffering that it will inevitably cause, is this the worst path considering the outcomes of all of the possibilities? It's just that I don't know if cutting them off is the worst of the bunch.

Before you think I've crossed to the Dark side hear me out. While the NK are not rich in resources, their famine problem would not be as severe as it is, were it not for the fact that the North Korean Government has been diverting most of the small amount of resources it has toward it’s military. This is why the North Korean civilians are starving. If you're inner liberal is still having doubts, think about this - A bribe to the Kim / NK Government will mean they can continue to divert it’s resources to the military, and it will in effect (a) lengthen the life of this horrible regime AND (b)allowing yet another generation of North Koreans to suffer the same terrible fate. When we supply Kim Jong Il with food, we are taking the North Korean Regime off the hook for what they should be doing themselves. It’s like a twisted hostage situation, where Kim has a gun to the head of the people he claims to represent (abuse) and for our own immediate safety and alleviate our own guilt we give in to his demands. It’s probable that the people we feed would starve unless we fed them, and no matter how many people in North Korea die of starvation it might not affect the actions of Kim. But it’s difficult to deny that any significant aid, at least without more conditions, essentially extends the life of this government, and allows Jong Il to stay in power. Is there any chance the regime’s collapse might be hastened if we cut them off? The hard part is getting others to participate - China and South Korea might cave in if they see the resulting suffering.

It should be noted that there have been eyewitness accounts, the NK people are so deprived that, while the military and government feast on the small bounty the nation provides, the rest of the population has been forced to eat grass from the lawns of public parks. It's their own government inflicting this punishment. Knowing how to use this situation to his own advantage, Kim use this sullen imagery to guilt the world into supplying food for the poor suffering souls with international food aid, and therefore allowing the North Koreans to contimue to do what they do.

If we pay them off to not produce Nuclear Technology then they know they can throw a tantrum whenever they want more aid, economic or food or whatever. It also means the total lack of human rights by the Government will continue and no real change will take place, meaning we're propping up an abusive regime and giving them more aid to perpetuate it's horrible practices.

If we ignore them completely it means they'll continue to sell weapons, nuclear or otherwise, to terrorists. It is not far fetched that an Osama or someone like him could someday purchase WMD and try to launch an attack against the US. That's not even mentioning the heroin North Korea has been know to deal in.

It goes against my humanitarian ethics, and my desire to see no one suffer needlessly, but I don't know what else you do? It looks like all options suck. If anyone in government could someone how get the North Korean Government to agree to some kind of deal, where if they get food and economic aid they have to guarantee more than just not to sell WMD, and not to bomb us. It should be something more substantial, like human rights monitors or diverting some of their own resources towards their own people or allowing outsiders to communicate with North Korean citizens or something, anything other than just a stop gap solution. Otherwise we are indirectly giving aid to a repressive government, allowing it to continue it's terrible actions for many years to come.

Of course I doubt anyone in the current White House will do anything even remotely like that - a hostile North Korea with less than a handful of nuclear warheads and a couple of long range missiles gives Bush an excuse to fund a missile defense shield that still does not work.

I wanted to touch on the bombing overseas in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, but it’ll have to wait till later. Time to go home - what the hell am I still doing here?

While we're at it here's what I've been reading online lately;
GOP outspends Democrats in states

Paul Bremer: Can he bring peace to Iraq—and the Bush administration?By Chris Suellentrop. Posted Thursday, May 22, 2003, at 3:09 PM PT

Cal Pundit always is worth reading.

BMA was listed here when I update, though I'm not sure how we made the list. I'm certainly not against new link sources, but I have no idea who put us here.

A red headed ex-pat living in the UK selling computer games - I dig the illustration on the site too. I can't remember how I got to her site, although I suspect it was something she posted elsewhere, and I clicked her link. That sounds vaguely kinda dirty... I clicked her link.... yet another euphemism for sex, as if there weren't enough already.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Ari finally leaving! What a gift, and it wasn't even my birthday!

Of course it won't change a damn thing as far as what this administation actually does, but I am sick of Fleisher and am glad to see him go.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I've been meaning to blog in depth about this particular subject recently, and I still might one of these days. But since someone who knows way more than I do on this subject, you might as well check out what this most recent Salon article had to say which discusses the new book by Eric Schlosser has to say. There's also an interview with the author as well;

Hypocrisy is one of the indictments Eric Schlosser levels against America in "Reefer Madness," his smart, levelheaded look at the unpleasant truths that emerge when you turn over the rock of mainstream American business and check out what's underneath. The other is that our worship of the almighty free market leads us to ignore injustice -- because, as he points out in his discussion of illegal laborers, "giving unchecked freedom to one group usually means denying it to another." It's hard to argue with these conclusions. But Schlosser's analysis takes a back seat to the vivid portrait he paints of three funny-money zones where punitive moralism, venality and Puritanism grow as luxuriantly as 10-foot-high Humboldt County sinsemilla. Although Schlosser is a meticulous reporter who rakes the muck with the best of them -- his bestselling "Fast Food Nation" emptied out the grease trap of the fast-food industry -- "Reefer Madness" is more of a guided cultural tour, by turns infuriating, depressing and weirdly entertaining, than a polemic. "If the market does indeed embody the sum of all human wishes, then the secret ones are just as important as the ones that are openly displayed," he writes. "Like the yin and yang, the mainstream and the underground are ultimately two sides of the same thing. To know a country you just see it whole."

Face it - all that mumbo jumbo about the free market, supply and demand and the heart of capitalism is is conflict with "Family Values", or at least the Family Values the Religious Right would impose on the nation if they had their way. People like violence in movies, Marijuana (and other drugs), Pornography and a slew of other so called sinful things. These items do quite well in the underground economy. When are some of those who advocate the free market is the answer to everything (except what they don't like very much) going to realize the flaw in their argument? The idea of completely free markets are in direct conflict with the family values that those same politicians claim to want.

Here's a link that is jaw dropingly stunning and yet not surprising at all at the same time - CONGRESSIONAL FAMILY DRUG OFFENDERS ESCAPE MANDATORY SENTENCES, GET FAVORABLE TREATMENT:

TODD CUNNINGHAM--SON OF U.S. REP. RANDY "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM (R-CA): In Boston, Todd Cunningham, 29, was sentenced on November 17 to 2-1/2 years in federal prison for marijuana smuggling. Rep. Cunningham, who has supported the death penalty for drug traffickers, made a tearful plea to U.S. Judge Reginald C. Lindsay for leniency for his son. Prosecutors supported the sentence, which is half the mandatory five-year term for such an offense, because Cunningham provided information about other offenders involved in the smuggling operation. It was Cunningham's first conviction (Bill Murphy, "Son of lawmaker sentenced to prison," SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, November 18, 1998).

Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a 14-to-18-month term in boot camp and a halfway house for Cunningham, but the Representative's son tested positive three times for cocaine while released on bail. On the day of the third failed drug test, Cunningham tried to escape authorities by jumping out a window onto a restaurant roof, breaking his leg. He is scheduled to participate in drug treatment while in prison, which, if successful, may reduce his sentence by as much as a year.

Todd Cunningham was arrested on January 17, 1997, by DEA agents for flying more than 400 pounds of marijuana into Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover, Massachusetts (see "U.S. Rep. Cun­p;ningham's Son Charged With Drug Trafficking," NEWSBRIEFS, February 1997, p. 30).

On August 14, 1997, Cunningham pleaded guilty to possession and conspiracy to sell marijuana. He also admitted to helping smuggle two other shipments of marijuana out of California (Bill Murphy, "Law­p;maker's son pleads guilty," SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE,, August 15, 1998).

CLAUDE SHELBY--SON OF SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): On July 24, authorities at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport arrested Claude Shelby, the youngest son of US Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), for possession of 13.8 grams of hashish. Claude Shelby, 32, is married and has one child. Sen. Shelby is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ("Drug Charge," USA TODAY, July 29, 1998, p. 6A).

U.S. Customs Service inspectors found the hashish in Shelby's possession using a drug-sniffing dog. Shelby, who had arrived on a flight from London, was issued a $500 fine, which he paid on the spot. He was then turned over to the Clayton County Sheriff's Department for state prosecution.

Responding to the incident, Sen. Richard Shelby said that he and his family were "shocked and saddened" by the charge but that he would "stand by him through this difficult ordeal." The senior Shelby added, "My position on fighting drugs is well known. It continues to be a priority for me regardless of personal circumstances."

"The senator may find it hard to be stoic if his drug-fighting colleagues in the House have their way," said Monica Pratt, communications director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, in an op-ed in the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Pratt was referring to the "Drug Importer Death Penalty Act" (HR 41), introduced by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), which would mandate a life sentence without parole for offenders who import "100 usual dosage amounts" of a controlled substance, and a death sentence for such offenders with a prior conviction for a similar drug offense. The measure does not define what amounts constitute "100 usual dosages." Pratt said, "Under this broad definition, Claude Shelby's 13.8 grams of hashish could be enough to qualify him for life imprisonment (Monica Pratt, "Congress Comes into the Courtroom," ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, August 12, 1998). The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines provide that 1 gram of hashish is the equivalent of 5 grams of marijuana and that 1 gram of marijuana is two doses.

"Luckily for the senior Shelby, he will not know the pain of visiting his son in prison for the rest of his life. . . . Perhaps his son's brush with the law will convince the senator that life-and-death sentencing policies are not trifling matters to be bandied about during election-year politicking," said Pratt.

DAN BURTON II--Son of U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN): In January 1994, Dan Burton, Jr., was arrested in Louisiana for transporting nearly eight pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Rep. Burton is the chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Six months later, Burton was arrested again, this time at his Indianapolis apartment, where police found thirty marijuana plants and a shotgun with ammunition. Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute the case; Indiana prosecutors recommended dismissal of the charges against Burton; and a Louisiana judge sentenced him to community service (Associated Press, "Congressman's Son Arrested With 7 Pounds of Marijuana," GARY POST-TRIBUNE, January 14, 1994, p. B5; Eric Schlosser

The link just has more of the same kind of info on Reps and Senators with relatives who got lenient terms with drug convictions. And aint it interesting that so many of these elected government officials are Republicans?

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The FCC is currently reviewing it's policies of limiting ownership of media outlets. With the GOP in charge they plan to -big surprise- DEREGULATE the communication industry, allowing media conglomerates to own (almost) as many media outlets as they want in the big markets, with some minimal limits on ownership on smaller markets.

A question for those here in America whose synapses have not been rendered completely useless by your television -

If the American Media is really so overwhelmingly "liberal", then why the hell aren't conservatives going apeshit about the fact that, with the potential removal of regulation by the FCC limiting ownership, all those so called liberal media conglomerates will merge into one big liberal media mouthpiece?

Could it be, just maybe, that the conservative ideologues that have cried "the liberal media" every time they hear something reported that they don't like, are in fact licking their lips at the prospect of the media merging even further because they know that the media ain't really all that liberal? The deregulation (that word just keeps coming back now, doesn't it) of the communications industry will effectively shut out the diversity (try not to laugh when you read that one) of voices out there. Spare me the spiel about GOP BS about deregulation and free markets being the answer to every question. Even GOP stalwart and deregulation proponent Dick Armey lost his cool when the media borg in his home town ganged up and subsequently torpedoed his son's bid for the US House Seat that Armey was retiring from.

The only media outlets that I've heard that have questioned the logic of this move, much less covered the damn story, are those so called independent sources like NPR, and the barely heard, often shut out, low on the radar true liberal media sources like Free Speech Radio News, Pacifica and their ilk.

It's not that I'm surprised that the big media companies haven't covered this story. I expect them to be this negligent on something like this. They have no interest in bringing it up on the Nightly News - The GEs, The Rupert Murdochs, Disneys of the world, and all their fellow corporate beneficiaries, all have so much to gain from the FCC ruling that to give this story any negative publicity, or even any publicity at all, would be a no-no. Better to have it slip under the radar. It's just that if the media were in fact really as liberal as the conservative ideologues would have you believe they'd all be having a collective conniption fit, veins bulging from their throat and fists slamming on tables in unison on every Sunday Morning Talk Show Roundtable discussion, every single one screaming bloody murder about the dominance of the liberals on the airwaves.

The truth is they're probably thrilled at the prospect of fewer and fewer media sources because they know what will happen - the Nightly News will concentrate on fluff and stupid pityful stories, letting the big fishes go. They'd rather have that than see those pesky muckraking lib'rul journalists poking their heads under a rock and discovering that in fact really bad shit going down.

It's cheaper to cover stories like how the Government is wasting your tax dollars by spending $33,567.32 on a study to measure the efficiencies of dishwashers rather than it is to research that the Osprey airplane wasted countless billions (over 10 Billions by the way, but whose counting?) while officers inside the Pentagon have been falsefying records to keep this doomed aircraft project afloat. That's right America, throw a hissy fit and express outrage about that Tax and Spend Liberal Congress spending less than $33,000 on a Government study, never mind the 10 Billion the Pentagon blew while trying to protect you, even if it didn't protect the pilots that flew the damn aircraft! Don't you feel safer already?

We can all look forward to in-depth coverage stories about spam and get helpful hints on how to block it, instead of scratch below the surface reporting on how the National Missile Defense Shield doesn't really work, but the President is completely willing to hand over $240 Billion to the people who will sell it to us. You don't think someone like GE, the parent company of NBC and a corporation with huge investments in defense contracting, would shy away from a story like this? It might be at cross-purposes with their business interests, but that wouldn't influence their journalistic ethics now, would it? And hell, I think their audience would rather watch an interview with some celebrity or hear about some domestic murder/suicide/adultery story anyway.

The only real issue the media has a tendency to be liberal about is civil rights, be it racism, sexism or Gay rights. Other than that they pretty much are in line with what corporate America wants or whatever gets ratings (i.e. sex, or something equally as titillating). I've heard a ton on the news about spam, cell phones, and all kinds of stupid meaningless shit on the news. Yet I have no idea what just happened this past weekend in Springfield in the Illinois State Congress, the bill that was recently rammed thru the House and Senate and the Governor signed within hours of passage - it was supposed to be a bill that changed the way our phone service regulation works. All I know is I think the company from Texas, SBC, won in this legislative fight. Like Texas hasn't had enough of it's way with Miss Liberty and Uncle Sam for the past 2+ years. The local news media hardly touched this complicated story, maybe because those competing TV ads SBC, AT&T and Sprint were all running on a regular basis (and paying for just in case you forgot) were so much more informative than anything the local news could have provided. All this has been happening while I've been taking notice at just how bad our local media is now. Just how much worse can it get?

Being that I live in Chicago the local news can't stop itself in the beating of this dead horse story that is that hazing incident at Glenbrook High in Northbrook Illinois. Even if you live somewhere other than Chicago, you may have heard a little about this story since it made national news (CNN, CBS, FOX etc.) but then faded away. Locally however, this story refuses to die.

I watch the local news on a regular basis (I'm beginning to wonder why) and since this whole thing came to light it has been the lead story of every local television news broadcast, almost without failure. It's also talking head's wet dream, to get to beat this story in to the ground, considering it's about Rich High School Girls rolling around in the mud and throwing feces in the face of Juniors, but I think even the O'Reilly's and Hannity's of the world have grown weary of this stupid debacle. Of course I can't be sure since I don't have cable. This whole debacle would have barely make a wave, were it not for the videotape.

Unfortunately the bloodsucking leeches here in Chi town, the ones that we call our local television news coverage, have not yet drained this lame limping dog of a news story of it's last drop of blood. See this guy to the left? After his daughter was suspended, he went to speak at some school meeting, complaining about the punishment levied against his daughter. Afterwards some mother, who was at the meeting as well, confronted this guy in the hallway, saying his daughter got what she deserved. Keep in mind this woman wasn't related to anyone involved, victim or perpetrator, she was just there to give her opinion. And of course, the TV cameras gladly gave her face time. Hi fives all around for her, from all her friends who can now celebrate her brief appearance on the evening news, immortalized forever on the TV telling that guy off. I'm so glad Chicago's fantastic television media was there to capture this incredibly important, poignant and earth shattering confrontation! The reason I know for a fact that all of the local TV networks here covered the conforntation was because I desperately tried to escape the story, but every time I changed the channel, there it was. News coverage is a joke.

Oh, but it gets better - Last night on one channel I came across (I think it was our local ABC affiliate), instead of starting the broadcast with yet another story about the hazing incident, they decided to cover the fact that the police and fire department had closed off an intersection on the West Side of the city because - get this - someone came across an abandoned drum of .... well they didn't know what was in it. All the local TV field reporters converged on the same point to report what was essentially nothing. I haven’t heard another thing about this stupid non-story since they made it the headline on the 10 O’Clock Nightly News. I guess they had to give viewers their daily dose of fear. I am beginning to think Michael Moore was right on in his editorial/movie in Bowling for Columbine.

And after all, I mean, it's not like real news isn't going on in the world, like say a post war occupation or a peace process underway in the Middle East, or a terrorist attack against American targets overseas in a country that our President claims to be our ally, but really hates us. It's not like we're cutting services for the poor or giving corporate welfare away, it's not like we're running our trade deficit straight to hell, or busting our budget but still trying to give rich people tax cuts or anything like that. No, the most important thing you need to know is some out going High School Senior Girls in suburban Chicago beat up the Juniors in a hazing incident, and you need to know every sexy, sweating, muddy gory detail.

I work in a relatively conservative office. I try to steer clear of discussing politics (and sex and religion, one of the best pieces of advice my stepmother ever gave me) but I recently bitched about how bad our TVis. These very same, relatively conservative people, pretty much agree with my criticism. I know there is the tendency of one political side to lump the oppostion into one big stupid crowd, but I'd like to think that if you spoke to the average hard working man on the street, someone who hasn't been instructed on what exactly what to believe (i.e. the GOP party line) most of these people would agree on how they can't stand how bad our television news media is. The people that direct this administration where to go are the that are remaining silent or actually pulling for this to happen - the ivory tower conservative ideologues, the ones that are totally out of touch with reality, like the ones that write for The National Review and The Weekly Standard. The average Joe, conservative, liberal, moderate or otherwise, has no idea that this is happening, but knows our news media sucks.

Hey, maybe we want to be lied to. Maybe no one cares, and no one will care until it gets horribly and terribly worse. I am thinking that it may take something that is severe and domestic, something as bad as another great depression for people to start caring enough to do something about it. Or maybe we're all just idiots, from TV execs to the journalists to the viewers, myself included.

Quite frankly the local affiliates should have done at least a little coverage about the SBC phone law, at least more than what they did,(which was essentially nothing) if for no other reason than for their own profit interests. Every day that bill wasn't passed would have meant more advertising dollars. Someone with half a brain over at one of the local networks should have put 2 and 2 together and figured out that if this was allowed to drag on ad nauseum it would mean additional revenue for the networks. But now it's over, and there will be no more excuses for SBC and AT&T to run any more ads, no time to debate the pros and cons of this legislation, and therefore no more advertising income. Maybe our media sucks because it's run by idiots. A media for idiots, by idiots, about idiots.

I linked some news stories I've read lately;

New FCC regulations to rock media world - Critics fear dominance by a few giants, TV station ownership cap under pressure. By Jim Kirk and Steve Johnson. Tribune staff reporters, published May 11, 2003.

Ease media limits, FCC urged Critics contend proposal would hurt competition. By Jim Kirk Tribune staff reporter, published May 13, 2003.

FCC Staff Said to Back Easing of Media Caps - A commission report recommends allowing a company to own up to three TV stations and one newspaper in major markets, sources say. By Edmund Sanders, Times Staff Writer, published May 10, 2003

I listed some of the FCC articles I've been reading at lunchtime at work lately. The Chi Trib wasted paper covering the hazing story, but to their credit, especially considering that their editorial page is so conservative, they did cover quite a bit about this whole FCC ruling. The Trib does own more than just a few papers; they own WGN in Chicago, a couple of WB affiliates in other major cities like NY and LA. They potential stand to gain from this ruling whether they buy or sell - although I didn't see anything on their own TV news broadcast.

Well I can say this - At least when it comes to the print media you can turn the page and read about more important stuff instead of being inundated by crappola like this;Glenbrook senior fights suspension in hazing. By Mickey Ciokajlo, Tribune staff reporter. Published May 13, 2003, 2:43 PM CDT

Sorry about the lag in blogging - read Salaam Pax cuz he's blogging again too! The world isn't going to hell in a handbasket - yet.

Friday, May 09, 2003

I can completely relate to your hectic schedule. Mine has been awful. Why did I want to go to a brand name university? Especially one with rumors that if your roommate commits suicide, you get an A? Anyway, I had to take a minute and post this link. Surprise surprise, Halliburton has been giving bribes: