Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas, residents of Fallujah!

Inspired by a New York Times article.

Merry Christmas, residents of Fallujah!
We bombed the shit out of your city, and now we're graciously allowing you to come in and check out your ruined houses and the sewage in the streets!

Yeah, guys, come on, don't you wanna move your families back in town? I know that with all the water purification and distribution systems destroyed, it won't be the same, but hey, it's your home! We'll give you food aid and you can fetch water to bring back to your house-- you know, if you still have one standing. You could run by what's left of your local mosque, too, see how that looks. I bet you may find a neighbor or two there, weeping over the destruction of God's house.
(Don't worry, maybe we'll rebuild your house of God, only this time, we'll show you the one, true God-- our God!)

I know it may seem a little inconvenient to have all men of military age have their fingerprints and retinas scanned, and be made to wear badges, but we'll be damned if we're not going to wipe out all the insurgents! It's a small price to pay for coming back home, isn't it?

Keep in mind that things will look a little different. After all, a city that once held over 250,000 people which has been turned into a ghost town and war zone isn't going to have quite the same ambience. Don't worry, though, we've buried more than 500 insurgents' bodies that lay in the streets for weeks. Soon we'll be done clearing for bombs and mines!

Are we still bombing in Fallujah, you ask? Well, yes, of course! We're breaking the back of the insurgency, silly, making it safe for you to come home. But we're bombing in another part of the city. You should be just fine.

It may be several months until we have electricity and water going again, but we'd really like you to be home in time for the January 30th elections. Tell everyone you know that's been living in tent camps or in relatives' homes to come on back and get ready to vote. This is your new democracy, remember!

Bush Administration releases new environmental regulations.

Yesterday the Bush administration announced a loosening of rules concerning national forest administration and management.

As summed up by Everything,

The new plan gives regional forest managers more discretion to approve logging, drilling and mining operations without having to conduct formal scientific investigations known as environmental impact statements.

Forest Service officials say the idea is to make forest planning more responsive to changing conditions by eliminating unnecessary paperwork and relying on assessments by local and regional managers rather than one-size-fits-all federal requirements.

Some think that this streamlining is long overdue. Many conservationists, however, are up in arms, afraid that endangered species will suffer and that logging will increase from this 'corporate style management.' It was pointed out in this New Zealand Herald article that the announcement was timed two days before Christmas, when Congress will be out of session and news coverage will be almost nonexistant.

The idea that forests' management will be decided by those who work in the forest itself and presumably are more knowledgable about its inner workings than bureaucrats else is an appealing one. The part that worries me that when individual forests' management presents the 15-year management plans, they won't be required to include an environmental impact analysis, or prove that "viable populations" of wildlife exist. This has great potential for being abused outrageously.

This blog discusses some great arguments for both sides, and I am glad to see that others have taken notice of the issue. Rock on, dudes and dudettes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Yahoo reports a media blitz is imminent. RUN FOR THE HILLS, SOCIAL SECURITY IS FAAAAAILING!

Most people understand that Social Security is in trouble of some sort. They've been telling us that for years.
We're hearing now that Bush is going to wage a media "blitz" campaign in the near future, telling the American people that the crisis facing Social Security is dire and is RIGHT NOW. Immediate reform is necessary. He will also be deliberately vague on what is needed for an effective rescue of Social Security.

However, a lot of people will be telling you that this is wrong-- Social Security can remain solvent for several more decades. (And that you know, maybe we should be dealing with other economic issues. *twitch*)

Example 1, Bush's news conference on December 20, 2004. (if you don't feel like reading it all, then skip to my summary)

[This is CNN's crappy coverage of the conference. Check out the HILARIOUS picture of Bush on the right. HAH. But don't read that story, read the excerpt below or my summarization after that.
( Excerpt from news conference. )

What basically happens here is that a reporter asks a good question, a question many of us have:
Reporter asks: Mr. President, what the hell are you proposing be done with Social Security?
President Bush responds: That's a nice question, John. But there are other issues we want to talk about as well, like tort reform and strengthening "No Child Left Behind." But yeah, Social Security... I don't duck it like some people have. We need to work together. But it will be difficult. But I will not negotiate with myself. I will stand by my principles. (And then this gem) "You were the one that asked me whether the payroll tax, if I'm not mistaken, will not go up. And I know there's the big definition about what that means. Well, again, I will repeat -- don't bother to ask me. Or, you can ask me. I can't tell you what to ask. That's not the holiday spirit."

And that is what President Bush has to say to our nation about what he wants to do with Social Security. I can only imagine the look on that reporter's face.

In this interview with Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times and professor of economics at Princeton University,

What Paul has to say is basically this:

Social Security is actually doing ok. We fixed it up pretty well in the 80s and it's due to keep on running on its own as it is. Among people who know what Social Security is and how it works, there is no consensus that there is a crisis. Kind of like, well, the threat of Iraq. Erm. Maybe Bush is trying to distract us from other, real crises.

"So, to just say, look, this is where -- this is a phony solution to a phony crisis, and hope that at least we can get some traction. But I have to say it's pretty frustrating. You cannot get the alternative view -- which happens to be the majority of view that people who have actually studied the subject -- just cant get it on the air."

So then Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, asks: What's up with this dollar being devalued shiznit? What's the real budget crisis, my homie?

Paul says: Well, it's like this. The US fed. govt. is borrowing $1 billion a day for operations (in Iraq) and the US as a whole is borrowing $1.5 billion for imports. This can only last for so long. We've gone from surpluses to deficits, and a quarter of that can be attributed to extra defense spending. The rest can be attributed to a plunge in revenues as a direct result of Bush's tax cuts.

Essentially, we're not bringing in enough tax revenue to pay for our current government operations.

Amy Goodman: Yo, so what's the invasion of Iraq done to the economy?

Paul: Well, the tax cuts are the biggest thing, actually. We lost about $270 billion there, and so far only $70 or 80 billion with the Iraqi War. The big tax cuts for people with very high incomes is, fiscally, the primary source.

I'm not alone here, with these people. I am not pulling this out of my ass.

Poll Suggests Skepticism On Bush Social Security Overhaul

John M. Berry at thinks that Bush will fix nothing

Guy from the Congressional Budget Office wigs out over military spending, points to Medicare and Medicaid as areas needing improvement

Daniel Gross of Slate says Bush is plundering Social Security to close the deficit.

Do a Google News search. People are shitting their pants over this.

I'll close with a noteworthy quote from the illustrious leader of our great nation:

"I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things."-- George W. Bush, Aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003

New Gallup Poll Raises Questions About Media Focus on 'Values'

It is really encouraging to finally hear someone say, "Look, moral values were NOT the only deciding factor, ok? What the hell are moral values, anyways?"

Unfortunately, that leaves the other deciding factor as the war in Iraq...which meant that more voters believed that Bush was the better choice in continuing our crusade for freedom. [Not that Kerry was a great choice either but...ugh.]

Anyhow, here's the new poll that helps stomp on the idea of what a pivotal role "moral values" played in the election. Bout time.

New Gallup Poll Raises Questions About Media Focus on 'Values'
Published: December 14, 2004

In the aftermath of the Nov. 2 election, the press and various political partisans jumped on exit polls that seemed to suggest "moral values" was the top issue in voters' minds as they re-elected President George W. Bush. Some analysts have questioned that notion, but a new nationwide Gallup Poll, released Tuesday morning, could deal a death blow to the whole idea.

Asked what they consider the most important problem facing this country today the issue of values was tied for fourth place with unemployment/jobs, with only one in ten of the Gallup sample choosing it. Far ahead, with 23%, was the war in Iraq, followed by terrorism and the economy in general, both at 12%, only then followed by unemployment and values.

The modest vote for values is all the more surprising because it was broadly define to include a wide range of concerns including ethics, moral, religious/family decline, dishonesty, and lack of integrity.

This 10% total could also be compared to the 29% who named some aspect of the economy as the top issue, along with the 35% who mentioned Iraq or terrorism.

A Few Rather Discouraging Tidbits

I urge you to read Thom Hartman's "When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History." It is long but many find it overwhelmingly compelling.

Speaking of overwhelming...

A Warrior for God, Army Lt. General William G. "Jerry" Boykin, deputy undersecretary of the Defense of Intelligence, believes that our army is a Christian army, and that his god is a real god, while Muslims' god is an idol.

He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as "a man who prays in the Oval Office."
"George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States," Boykin told an Oregon congregation. "He was appointed by God."

Why Fox News Really Is Evil
: It spreads ignorance and hate.

Eighty percent of Fox viewers were found to hold at least one misperception, compared to 23 percent of NPR/PBS consumers. All the other media fell in between...

Among Bush supporters, those who said they follow the news "very closely", were found more likely to hold misperceptions. Those Bush supporters, on the other hand, who say they follow the news "somewhat closely" or "not closely at all" held fewer misperceptions.

Conversely, those Democratic supporters who said they did not follow the news very closely were found to be twice as likely to hold misperceptions as those who said they did, according to PIPA.

Quiet Dissent Surfacing Amongst Families of US Soldiers in Iraq

I would love to show articles like this to people who claim that those who protest the war are anti-American. Are the families of those who have given up their loved ones to this 'just war' anti-American?

Dissent on the Home Front: Families of US Soldiers in Iraq Lead Anti-War Protests

"I am not against President Bush but it gets very aggravating the way he is ruining all these young people's lives," Barbara Willis, mother of a reservist in Iraq.

Adele Kubein, whose daughter is a National Guard mechanic serving in Iraq, says of the soldiers, "They're changing. They have dehumanised the Iraqis. They call them 'hajji' now - that's like 'gook'. I am old enough to remember the Vietnam war, and I remember."

On one occasion, her daughter telephoned her, sobbing. "She said, 'Mom, I have shot people. I am never going to be able to come home and live a normal life again. How can I come home and live a normal life when every second I am trying to be alert to see if I will be shot?'"

Are we still so afraid that even our criticism and outrage must be veiled? "I am not against President Bush but...?"

The Evangelist Avengers

Was perusing blogs idly one day when I came upon this entry and the following excerpt:

“In your re-election,” the Rev. Bob Jones wrote to Bush on November 3, “God has graciously granted America--though she doesn’t deserve it--a reprieve from the agenda of paganism…. Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.”

A former major league pitcher turned radio evangelist named Frank Pastore wrote in an LA Times op-ed, “In the weeks and months to come, we will hear the voices of well-meaning people beseeching the victor to compromise with the vanquished. This would be a mistake. Conservatives must not compromise with the left.”

The utter horror those passages evoke is powerful. To be accused of 'despising Christ' because I do not hold 'conservative' or 'Republican' views is bewildering. The liberals I am closest to all hold Jesus Christ in high esteem, as a teacher of wisdom and a person with noteworthy mercy and compassion. We all find his example of kindness worth respect and emulation. (For that matter, all of us at one time followed the doctrines of the Church before becoming disallusioned with their faith and ultimately separating from the Church.)

And the idea that compromise of any kind is a mistake is equally terrifying. What will compromise mean now to people like that-- listening to the ideas and opinions of others? Valuing input from someone who doesn't follow the same political or religious credo? Treating those 'others' equally?

Altering the "His Dark Materials" Series on account of the Christian Right

From an article in the British Times:

Chris Weitz, the director, has horrified fans by announcing that references to the church are likely to be banished in his film. Meanwhile the Authority, the weak God figure, will become any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual.

The studio wants alterations because of fears of a backlash from the Christian Right in the United States. The changes are being made with the support of Pullman, who told The Times last year that he received a large amount for the rights.

I was unspeakably furious when I read this. Not only are they going to gut one of the major themes and plot girders of the series, the author is SUPPORTING this? This seems like a complete and utter sell-out. This reminds me of the controversy surrounding the Sci-Fi Channel's TV adaption of
Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea books, when nearly every single non-Caucasian major character of hers was made Caucasian for the TV mini-series (thanks to the producers completely cutting the furious Guin from the production). Guin intended those characters to be who they were, dark skin and all, just as Pullman intended the Church to symbolize the corrupt, powerful institutions in our world that restrict the freedom of individuals. To remove these subtly or not-so-subtly significant portions of the books for a TV or film adaption is a foolish and disrespectful move, both to the authors and the fans. I hope that the outrage from long-time fans of both series teaches producers a lesson. Censorship for the sake of political correctness or placation of an interest group is a troubling sign that we live in an increasingly-Orwellian world.