Friday, December 31, 2004
Dubious Achievement Awards: 2004
Here’s a chance to record for posterity the lowest of the highs of 2004. There are just so many from which to choose that it seemed to make the most sense to open it up to everyone to post their own personal favorite. BushCO alone could fill tomes. Hell, just Rumsfeld’s numerous missteps would suffice. But don’t limit yourself to politics; everyone and everything is fair game, from Paris Hilton to Bill O’Reilly.
More from me in the extended.
Here’s my choice, mostly because it’s just so telling and because it’s one of my special soapbox issues: money in politics. This year special interest groups will break all records for money spent on lobbying. Lobbying groups spent $1.1 billion (yes, that’s a “b” as in BILLION!) in just the first half of 2004.
Political Money Line predicts that lobbying at just the federal level will easily surpass $2 billion for the entire year. The full report for the year will come in February, but considering that the big money legislation happened at the end of this session, it’s pretty likely the second half of the year will see more money spent than the first.
Let’s break it down a little. The average monthly spending by lobbying groups (again, just at the federal level) was $176 million. One hundred seventy-six million dollars a MONTH. That’s $5.9 million a day, counting weekends!
According to Political Money Line, here’s where some of it went:
Lobbying during the first six months of 2004 coincided with several major legislative efforts and appropriation bills. These included the following efforts:
- Regulation of tobacco through the Tobacco Buy Out and FDA Regulation bill that passed the House in June.
- Overhaul of Class Action Lawsuits that passed the House in June.
- Consideration in the Senate of the Asbestos Claims Compensation bill.
- Overhaul of corporate taxes that passed the House in June.
- Consideration of stock option accounting rules.
- Energy policy overhaul that was adopted by the conference committee in June.
- Highway and Mass Transit Reauthorization that passed House in April and whose conference committee began in June.
The biggest spenders? Health “care” interests at $163 million in the first six months. Pharma led the way, spending $45.7 million. In second place, the communication and tech sectors, at $138 million; finance and insurance show at $135 million. Insurance carriers spent $41 million to make sure that they don’t have to spend more on you.
And here’s a fun note: the Asbestos Study Group was the client that shelled out the most money in the first six months of 2004. They paid their lobbying firm, Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman $5.5 million. I’m sure all that is going to make sure that asbestos claims by America’s workers are treated fairly.
I suppose that Congress really should share this Dubious Achievement Award for 2004 along with the lobbyists. So it’s a tie. Congratuations, folks, we’ve been screwed again, but this year more than ever!
Elections 2004-08 • Political Marketing • Pure Snark • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
[A light note of a fairy tale to break the gloom and depression of previous posts and offer some distraction from our sordid reality!]
A well-connected drug company comes up with a new wonder drug called Neoconide that researchers were confident would make people happy and live longer, as well as make the company a lot of money for a long time to come. Definitely a good idea and a noble cause!
This company manages to get the FDA approval to test this drug on California. Why not? Everything looked so good on paper. There was also a lot of what looked like historical evidence that made sense.
California was ripe. It was decadent. People were dying of over-indulgence in decadence. It was even governed by a manifestly violent person - who sometimes even acted as a weapon of mass destruction. There was a danger of the disease spreading to other states.
The drug was administered in shock therapy to the whole population en masse.
Unfortunately, this drug had some nasty side effects and led to the death of thousands of Californians: 15,000 â€“ 150,000 â€“ maybe more. No one knows for sure. The FDA didn’t bother to monitor. What is the significance of a few 100,000 deaths when you are trying to save a whole state? Those people were dying for what we believe to be a good cause and an important experiment.
Life of other, surviving Californians became truly miserable. Everyone was affected: police, people in charge of power supply, hospitals, schools, businesses, factories, trafficâ€¦ Criminals, now free from police harassment, went on a rampage. Others poured across the unattended borders into California to join in the free-for-all festivities.
Californians were naturally angry and many demanded an immediate stop to the campaign. Some sought to stop it through violent means. They targeted FDA paramedics and Californians who collaborated with them.
The FDA, prodded by the company, decided to fight back hard. They were convinced of the ultimate success of their drug. The Texas Cowboy Cavalry were called in. To them, all those Californians looked so much alike in those flowery shirts. They started shooting everybody that crossed them. They made matters worse.
The State was in a state of total chaos.
Texans were divided. Some felt what the Californians were going through and sympathized with them, but they were a minority and were helpless. Some were good people who knew in their hearts that what was happening was wrong, but had faith in the FDA’s intentions and abilities to pull the thing through. Some simply did not care; California was so far away. But many, perhaps a majority, endorsed the actions of the FDA and did not understand what those stupid Californians were whining about.
Didn’t they realize that they were living in hell before that drug?
Medicine is always bitter. Didn’t they know that “Cure was Hell”?
All medicines have some side effects.
Yes, mistakes were made. But mistakes are always made whatever you choose to do!
If those mistakes were not made, others, probably worse, would have been made.
Did Californians expect the FDA to be God?
Good Texans were risking their lives to help them.
Didn’t these people know what was good for them?
They are not worth it. Let’s leave them to their misery.
Better still, let’s nuke them!
Californians are so impatient and ungrateful for all the effort, the expenditure, the inconvenience the FDA and other Americans have gone through to help them.
But then again, Californians were always like that, some were quick to point out. Weren’t they always decadent? Didn’t they even willingly allow movie actors to govern them?
Stupid, ungrateful Californians!
[I hope that Californians are not be offended by this post. It is only a fairy tale, written under the influence of Neoconide.]
Happy New Year!
The Official Exile_lsf 2005 Predictions Thread
What the hey. Time to get out the tarot, crystal ball, bones, entrails, tea leaves, Magic Eight Ball™, or other soothsaying implement of choice. What do they tell you?
What does 2005 hold in the realms of politics, sports, entertainment, science, and miscellaneous? Give it your best shot!
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Jeb's 2008 presidential campaign begins January 2
Bloomberg is reporting that Jeb Bush (not the fucking sitting, two-term, resident moral leader, political capital spendin’, and compassionate Christian president, mind you) will accompany Colin “yesss, suh” Powell on a tour of tsunami affected regions.
Dec. 30 (Bloomberg)—Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush will travel to the areas of Asia and Africa most affected by the tsunamis to survey the damage, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.
The delegation will leave Jan. 2 to meet with regional leaders to assess what additional aid can be provided by the United States,’’ Duffy told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where President George W. Bush is vacationing.
The U.S. will also join the European Union at a proposed conference to gather international aid for victims of the tsunamis in Asia and Africa, the State Department said.
I’m gonna puke.
Does Affirmative Action Still Matter?
One of the real hot-button issues of the 1990s - especially here on the West Coast - was affirmative action. Conservatives stoked a white backlash to the policy, resulting in ballot initiatives that limited or eliminated racial preferences. California and Washington were among the leaders of this movement, which resulted in court cases and anguished political discussions across the nation.
But it’s been a few years since the first wave broke. And, in fact, there have been efforts, some of them successful, to move back towards an embrace of affirmative action as a policy. At the same time, courts have been willing to uphold the policies of affirmative action, if not completely.
What is the status of the issue now? How has affirmative action repeal impacted education on impacted campuses? What, if any, are the prospects for a renewed commitment to affirmative action? I hope to answer these questions and more in this post.
During the mid-90s, there was a lot of abstract discussion about discrimination and unqualified applicants and such. You all know the drill - whites were being denied spaces in schools so that ‘some unqualified black woman’ or whatever could go. And, to hear the conservatives tell it, that person would simply flunk out due to their inherent incompetence.
Other, more ‘compassionate’ conservatives would claim that America should be some sort of meritocracy (which is fine by me - reinstate the inheritance tax and eliminate legacy admissions) and that any form of racial discrimination was wrong. They argued that in a pure meritocracy, skin color wouldn’t matter and everyone could have an equal chance of success and achievement. Thus, affirmative action was cast as discrimination, and the language of civil rights was employed to attack it. You saw Prop 209, the California anti-affirmative action ballot measure of 1996, cast as the “California Civil Rights Initiative” and Martin Luther King’s voice used in the TV ads supporters of 209 aired. Similar things happened in Washington State when I-200 passed in 1998.
Such thinking is patently ridiculous, but it was also quite effective, as voters repeatedly backed anti-affirmative action efforts.
In recent years, momentum against affirmative action and related outreach efforts has slowed significantly. In 2003, California voters rejected a “Racial Privacy Initiative" that would have barred the state from collecting ANY racial statistics, effectively gutting the remaining civil rights efforts in the state. What was significant about that defeat was that it was on the same ballot that saw Gov. Gray Davis recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger elected in his place. Clearly, Californians were unwilling to turn the anti-affirmative action thing into a full-scale assault on civil rights.
The defeat of Prop 54 was not an isolated incident. Two years earlier the University of California - which had initiated the recent movement against affirmative action by discontinuing that police in 1995 - repealed that ‘95 act and instead directed admissions officers at its nine undergraduate campuses to implement a “comprehensive review” of applicants - which could include, though not be limited to, ethnoracial or socio-economic factors. As a result, the initial decline in numbers of students of color that had occurred in the late ‘90s was slowly reversed, at least systemwide. There remains a problem at the elite UC schools - Berkeley and UCLA’s numbers haven’t risen along with the rest, and much of the UC’s diversity has been directed to schools like Davis and Riverside - good UCs, but neither are they Berkeley (Go Bears!)
This sort of halfway covenant - where some efforts at diversity are accepted, but full acceptance of affirmative action remains distant - typifies the situation across the nation. Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan Law School’s ‘narrowly tailored’ affirmative action policy was constitutional. However, the UM’s more rigid undergraduate points system was thrown out in a sister case, Gratz v. Bollinger.
The case reveals that an essential part of the current halfway covenant on affirmative action is the notion that race not be the basis of admissions - and that the entire thing is a temporary effort. When looked at this way, the status quo that allows some affirmative action in education is a holding pattern at best.
So where do we go from here? There are voices - some of them surprising - that are calling for a reversal of the 1990s anti-affirmative action efforts. The Seattle Times, a moderate Republican rag that endorsed John Kerry for president and Shithead for governor, recently called for the repeal of Washington’s I-200 in response to a 9th Circuit Court decision in favor of the UW Law School’s affirmative action program:
If the three have been victims in any regard, it is of a political campaign to undo racial progress in Washington state. They were used to drive forward the dishonest Initiative 200, which outlawed state preferences for women and minorities in education, hiring and contracting.
Virtually every court has now spoken. Affirmative action can be used to craft thoughtful policies of inclusion and equal opportunity. Everywhere, that is, except this state. I-200 remains the mean-spirited law in Washington.
With significant court rulings on their side, it is time for the state Legislature to dismantle the law.
I-200 is a barrier blocking women and minorities from the aspirations most of us take for granted. Two years after the initiative became law, minority attendance at schools across the state was down. Most significant was the reduced presence of people of color at certain professional schools, including the UW’s School of Law.
The same trend holds in state construction contracts.
The courts have spoken. What says the Legislature?
[every once in a while, the Seattle Times gets it right, bizarrely enough]
The key here is that affirmative action can craft “thoughtful policies”. The devil may be in the details, but this seems to go along the lines of the halfway covenant I mentioned. Of course, the Times thinks we have a chance to go further and more completely embrace affirmative action as a policy.
But is this possible? My feeling has always been that affirmative action can be a crutch for a civil rights movement that lacks a bigger, broader strategy. This isn’t to criticize either affirmative action or the civil rights movement - I support both - but I don’t think affirmative action can be defended without rebuilding a stronger framework of civil rights language and action.
In the end, affirmative action won’t succeed in its mission - which is to improve the educational and economic fortunes of groups of color in this country - unless it is part of a bigger effort to revive the civil rights movement, especially K-12 education. Of course, education can’t be fixed on its own - one would also have to improve the lives of the parents, get them better jobs, etc.
I guess I’m more of a system-focused person. Without broader change, affirmative action will remain a contested issue. So long as the white middle-class feels squeezed, they will take it out on people of color in pursuit of cheap, immediate gains. Either we can work to redirect that desire - to get the white middle class to again see their problems as the result of business exploitation and governmental inaction - or we can work to change the system and revive our cities, reinvest in everyone’s education, and attack wealth-based privilege - privileges that hurt everyone, but especially people of color.
I don’t know which is the right approach, and it may well be that the two can be combined. But I do know this - simply defending affirmative action without contextualizing it in a renewed language of civil rights or populist, racially progressive economics will not provide any positive change.
Civil Rights • Education • Minorities Focus • Political Marketing • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Tutu on Bush "Religion is Morally Neutral"
(Insert Bush in a leotard joke here.)
It never ceases to amaze me when I consider how much Americans are willing to give up when they’re frightened. We allow ourselves to be frightened into submission on a daily basis. Patriotic Americans? The people who voted for George W. Bush are not patriots, they are pussies. If they were patriots, they would stand up for the ideals that this country was founded on. Instead, they hide behind the petticoat of the Boy King Who Acts Tough When He Has the World’s Strongest Military at His Disposal. The kind of violence we are perpetrating in Iraq is violence begat by hatred, which was begat by fear, and has nothing… nothing to do with defense, disabling a potential threat, or liberating the oppressed. The people who voted for George W. Bush are chickenshit little punks who can only make themselves feel less vulnerable by killing as many faraway little brown people as they can, at any cost. They’re more than willing to forsake both their purported morals and everything that country used to stand for.
Has our country always been involved in shady regime changes around the world? The answer is yes, but we usually do it from the shadows. Rarely have we dispensed our wrath so publicly--from the tippy-top of some sun-drenched “moral high ground"--with unlimited blind support from Joe Average and oodles of misguided patriotic fervor.
NEWSWEEK: You said George Bush should admit that he made a mistake. Were you surprised at his re-election?
[Laughs] I still can’t believe that it really could have happened. Just look at the facts on the table: Heâ€™d gone into a war having misled peopleâ€”whether deliberately or notâ€”about why he went to war. You would think that would have knocked him out [of the race.] It didnâ€™t. Look at the number of American soldiers who have died since he claimed that the war had ended. And yet it seems this doesn’t make most Americans worry too much. I was teaching in Jacksonville, Fla., [during the election campaign] and I was shocked, because I had naively believed all these many years that Americans genuinely believed in freedom of speech. [But I] discovered there that when you made an utterance that was remotely contrary to what the White House was saying, then they attacked you. For a South African the dÃ©jÃ vu was frightening. They behaved exactly the same way that used to happen here [during apartheid]â€”vilifying those who are putting forward a slightly different view.
Then you’ve got the South Africans. Those that chose to fight apartheid could very well find themselves with a spot on the South African Chuteless Skydiving Team, but it didn’t stop them from bringing down their dangerous and corrupt leaders. Americans are so spoiled and gutless… so oblivious to the fact that we have the power, the right and the moral obligation to change things when they get out of hand.
Things are out of hand.
Did you go and read the entire interview? Go back and do so.
Happy New Year, over and out.
American Nosedive (Cont): Fun With Figures. Everybody Die... Laughing.
GROWING IRONY #1
The New York City budget is about $40 billion. My argument a week ago was that Manhattan is a truly awesome value creator, as cities (and national locomotives) go, and in effect very well worth this level of investment. A fair proportion of the city budget goes for development (schools and universities etc) and some for services (transport subsidies) and some for, well, keeping down the local risk premium (police).
So, believe me, folks, I am not looking to chip anything away from New York when I point out this huge irony: that all of the budgets combined for all the arms of the United Nations worldwide - the global hub of development; the first port of call if you want the pressures driving terrorism to subside - amount BETWEEN THEM to only ONE QUARTER of the budget of New York City....
A word of explanation. The World Bank and the IMF are pretty well self-funding (under member-government guarantees); and the food-aid you are now reading about is a contribution in kind (one, by the way, of enormous benefit to certain farming constituencies).
The funding the global hub of development does receive covers all UN Agencies other than the World Bank and IMF PLUS all development benefits delivered to member governments PLUS all the relief aid delivered as crises require to member governments like those that, well, you are now reading about.
Now within this considerable irony there is an even bigger irony. Let me see if I can describe it for you. The countries of the world divide into four neat groups, in terms of how much they contribute to the United Nations, and how much of the, ah, colossal pile of goodies they receive in return.
(1) A group of about 40 least-developed countries, mostly in Africa (Haiti is also one) which are net recipients and pay little except for a few local costs. (For the record their development loans are also in effect free, via the International Development Association arm of the World Bank.)
(2) A group of well over 100 countries (included here are China, India, Brazil, Saudi, and so on) known as net contributors who pay all of their own UN costs (on balance) and quite often contribute beyond that to helping some other countries along.
(3) A group of something under three dozen â€œmatureâ€? or â€œadvancedâ€? or â€œdevelopedâ€? or â€œindustrializedâ€? economiesâ€? most easily referred to as the membership of the OECD in Paris, who get their own shares of benefits in-kind and in a small way in-cash out of the United Nations, and who contribute most of that $10 billion. Per-capita the largest donors to the UN System are the northern and central Europeans and Japan.
(4) And one country - to repeat, only one country - which makes a rather gargantuan profit out of the United Nations. This mystery country (let us call it Country X) makes its money out of:
(a) huge organizational and staff spending by the UN in City A,
(b) huge organizational and staff spending by the UN in City B,
(c) huge spending on the very many (very fine) nationals that Country X has working throughout the United Nations,
(d) huge spending on equipment procured from Country X; and
(e) considerable local payback as the World Bank and IMF use the markets to reinvest their liquid resources.
A bad situation? Kind of a no-fault situation? Either way, not a very nice on, you might agree?
GROWING IRONY #2
One of our many excellent spotters of irony here on Exile_lsf offered us this insightful comment under my post one week ago on Manhattanâ€™s new value prospects:
Another factor to consider… is the projected $41 trillion intergenerational transfer of wealth to begin taking place between now and 2052. I’ve also read estimates that purport figures as high as $70 trillion.
Letâ€™s see. That unfortunately makes for (1) a swelling population of older people, being granted (2) more and more of the national pie. Now everybody means well. And I donâ€™t necessarily see a lot of lavishly over-funded older people. But as that fine agency UNICEF repeatedly points out there are already an awful lot (and more are added daily) of under-funded younger people. And the United States seems to have stuck itself with one of the more dismal older-people to younger-people investment imbalances.
A bad situation? Kind of a no-fault situation? Either way, not a very nice on, you might agree?
GROWING IRONY #3
In The High Success Economy Described two weeks ago I presented for you the following diagram as a handy way for you to â€œpositionâ€? all the enterprises out there, according to their level of economic profit performance. Position 2 is the value sweet spot.
The trends now to be found in all economies, and increasingly worse-so in the â€œmatureâ€? or â€œadvancedâ€? or â€œdevelopedâ€? or â€œindustrializedâ€? economies, are, unfortunately, these:
(1) for there to be more and more enterprises at Positions 3 (not so bad) and 4 (quite bad) and 5 (very bad) in proportion to the number of firms that emerge at Position 1 and struggle to hold on by their fingernails at Position 2.
(2) for there to be more and more of your tax dollars making their way (as corporate welfare) to the Position 3, 4 and 5 enterprises (gasp) in proportion to the tax dollars being directed to creating lots of Position 1’s and sustaining lots of Position 2’s.
A bad situation? Kind of a no-fault situation? Either way, not a very nice on, you might agree?
the politics of charitable disaster relief
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported today that “Just days after the December 26 catastrophe, US-based charities had received contributions totaling more than $30-million.”
For those keeping score, that’s equal to the amount recently pledged by the Bush Administration. Millions of generous Americans are digging deep to help others half a world away within days of the worst natural disaster of our lifetimes. While the “compassionate” leader of the wealthiest and, arguably, most powerful nation in the world can’t even manage to set the pace for his own country’s philanthropy. That’s some determined moral leadership, for ya.
More below the fold…
The article further states that “The scope of the disaster is making it difficult for aid organizations to set fund-raising goals. Hours after the earthquake and tsunamis struck, Islamic Relief, in Burbank, Calif., sent out an e-mail appeal to 30,000 donors asking them to contribute toward a $1.35-million goal the organization set for relief efforts. But as the number of people affected by the emergency became clearer, the organization realized it would need more money. So a few days later, the organization sent another appeal with a new goal of $5-million.”
Well-known international relief agencies with US operations like CARE USA, OxFam, and others, have raised millions of dollars and were having difficulty keeping up with the demand of millions of Americans to contribute.
“During the same time, the U.S. Fund for Unicef, in New York, raised $2.5-million. In a single day, the charity took in $1.5-million online and $500,000 in corporate grants. “The amount of money that’s been raised already exceeds the money we’ve raised by this time in response to any other emergency we’ve fielded,” said Jeffrey Towers, Unicef’s vice president for marketing and development.”
Private foundations have also stepped up their giving during the crisis. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged a total of $3 million to be distributed among five international relief groups. The Pew Charitable Trust gave $1 million to the American Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies received $1 million from the First Data Western Union Foundation of Denver.
Giving credit where credit is due, ONE of the major corporate contributors to the 2005 Bush inaugural festivities has stepped up:
Exxon Mobil has pledged $5 million for air transportation of medical personnel to the affected regions and needed relief effort supplies. The company will match charitable relief donations of its employees and retirees worldwide.
No word yet on relief effort support from the other top-level $250,000 inaugural contributors Dell Computer, Stephens Group, Occidental Petroleum, United Technologies, and Sallie Mae.
Meanwhile, the Operation USA asks the $64,000 question:
“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” said Richard Walden, president of Operation USA, in Los Angeles. “Our phone-answering devices are maxed out. I wish I knew what the formula was that makes this disaster so compelling versus, say, a famine in Africa.” He suspects the holiday timing might be causing people to be more generous.
Econ, Biz, Devel • Family Values • International Focus • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
American Nosedive (Cont): Official Exile_lsf Position? Pro A Strong Dollar
Okay, okay, I made that up. Arriving at an official Exile_lsf position would surely be like herding cats… right? Still. Some of you taking note of this, one of the really great value migrations of history (outward variety), might like to ponder this para below from The Economist, Oh and thanks for the hint Mr Snow. Are you by any chance THAT Mr Snow?!
...the hard men of hard money believe that weak currencies make life too easy for firms and politicians. Devaluing the currency provides an unsatisfying alternative to deregulating and restructuring the economy. An overvalued currency, on the other hand, leaves uncompetitive firms and tentative politicians with â€œno place to hideâ€?, as Eric Chaney of Morgan Stanley puts it. They must reform or perish. â€œYou cannot devalue your way to prosperity,â€? says John Snow…
Ukraine: Back to Square One
We’ve all admired the Ukraine’s Yushenko orange-festooned supporters for toughing it out for three weeks in frigid temperatures in the Kiev’s Kreshciatik square to demand fresh elections. Sunday’s re-vote handed a victory to Yushenko byan incontestable margin of 2,000,000 votes. But it’s not over. Yushenko supporters have been summoned back to the streets once again.
This afternoon, Viktor Yanukovich has announced that he won’t step down, “out of principle”. [And what would that be? That he’d be charged with attempted murder?] Not only that, but earlier today he wanted to preside over a Cabinet meeting--at least until Yushenko’s supporters again blocked access to government buildings. Yanukovich has appealed his departure from office to Ukraine’s Supreme Court, which cancelled the result of the first round of voting marred by colossal fraud.
The “forced” suicide of mover and shaker Heorhiy Kirpa, Transportation Minister and CEO of the national railroad, Ukrzaliznytsia, is obviously an intimidation notice to Yushenko’s supporters. Yanukovich’s backers in Parliament have the gall to insist Kirpa shot himself out of remorse for having shoveled money into Yushenko’s campaign. These are crude and dangerous people.
Viktor Yanukovich also forwarded a stack of official complaints yesterday to the Electoral Commission, claiming fraud by Yushenko supporters. The Commission is bound be law to examine all complaints, including an astroturf telegram campaign of reported ‘irregularities’ by Yanukovic’s supporters in the region of MykolaÃ¯v. Commission Chairman Iaroslav Davidovitch is aware that the complaints are merely part of a political maneuvre by Yanukovich to hold on to power. Nevertheless, the review of allegations will take some time.
I think we may actually see a politician frogmarched out of office. Yanukovic is becoming more and more isolated, even if the December 1 parliamentary vote of no-confidence and removal from office was voided by his pal, President Leonid Kutchma. I think we will find out that Yanukovich holds some very dirty secrets, including murder and poison plots.
We can expect to see a few more weeks of drama. It’s clear that Putin has distanced himself from the pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians. The fact that Putin doesn’t hold the trumps over Ukraine that he does over Georgia are a deciding factor. Yet Ukraine remains an historic Russian strategic asset. I think the likely scenario is that the power struggle will end in partition.
65,000 and counting and counting and counting
It’s not over. Not by a long shot. And it’s awful, everywhere. If Colin Powell thinks $15 million is going to make a dent, he’s delusional.
Like a giant dance macabre, the very, very rich and poorest of the poor and their possessions are swept away by an act of God. It should be a time to step back, realign priorities and offer generous help. But in the middle of all this appalling tragedy, with unbured corpses from Aceh to Sri Lanka, processions of tens of thousands of refugees, stranded folks on atolls with no fresh water, smartmouth Adam Ereli is threatening war on Syria. Imagine, a State Department third echelon punk is threatening more mayhem amid this staggering loss of life.
The current death toll is an approximate beginning. It’s going to get much worse, heaven help us. All those billions we wasted terrorizing Iraq might have been used to save thousands of lives now. Instead, the United States assumes observer status in what may be the first of a series of 21st century global catastrophes. The US government is caught with its pants down and its wallet dry. It’s up to you and me to fill the void and clean up the mess, because the superpower with the supersize ego and the super duper weaponry is busted and flat broke.
I’ve gathered a few recent glimpses of impossibly large cataclysm that is gripping south Asia. Unfortunately, there is no one in the villages doing the narrating, just returning European vacationers and aid workers.
Khao Lak, Thailand. Khao Lak on north Phuket Island, Thailand, hosted twenty luxurious 5-star hotels, which were packed solid by European New Years’ vacationers. The Sofitel Magic Lagoon, the Meridian, the Merlin, the Paragan Blue Village are now all a heap of air-conditioners, mattresses, downed palms, unburied corpses and sand. Most guests were in the ocean and were sucked out to sea. Knowing the guests were wealthy, scavengers have helped themselves to expensive personal effects from the dead and emptied out the champagne locker.
I hit my head on the ceiling; the water was up to my chin. I believed I was going to suffocate. Everyone was crying, begging for help and shouting in French, in Swedesh, in German.-- Jurgen Kosian, Germany.
I know I look like a monster now, but we were saved by blind luck. I don’t want to talk...I want to forget about it. We will never return to Thailand.--Mrs. Kosian, Germany. Disfigured with deep facial lacerations.
We had boarded a bus, at the head of a long convoy of buses. All of a sudden I heard people shouting. I turned around and saw a huge wave 100 meters away and on the crest was a bobbing automobile. Our driver floored the accelerator and we made it to the top of a hill. But all the other buses were swept away.--Christiane Laurent, Bordeaux, France.
All those bus passengers, those babies swept away, broken bones, the elderly in shock, that girl with a factured skull.-- Anne-Marie Bugnon, Switzerland.
It was so strange, not even the slightest breeze, nothing to indicate what was coming. --Bernard Bugnon, Switzerland.
When we left, the air on the island was heavy. You could breathe death. The Thais were wonderful. The locals did everything they could to help us and quell our desperation. There were children without parents. Some of them were reunited with their families but most didn’t know what happened to their parents.--Alessia Filippozzi, Italy.
Andaman and Nicobar is an archipelago of 572 islands off the coast of India, most of which have been submerged following the tsunami. There are estimates that 30,000 lives may have been lost.
We came here to celebrate our first anniversary. We were on the beach when the water began to roil and rise. We ran. We never ran so fast in our lives. We survived. But we want to leave this hell as soon as possible.--Lucy Henderson, UK.
There is no water, no electricity and no food.--Manish Shah, Manager of the 5-Star Sinclair Hotel.
On Chowra Island there are 500 survivors. The other 1,500 inhabitants were swept away. --Indian Reporter.
Sri Lanka, where there are so many dead it’s impossible for the living to handle it all. In Colombo, 20 000 tourists have converged on the city looking for a flight out.
The hospitals are begging for plastic bodybags. We tell the survivors to carry their dead to the temple, we can do nothing.--Patrick Campbell, UNICEF, Batticaloa.
This is a combination of a giant traffic jam and a Biblical exodus, says a reporter in Galle. There are corpses everywhere and people just walk on by.
I didn’t do anything special, I just own a satellite phone. The only phone that still worked.--Barbara Avossa was able to call the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, which despatched a rescue plane.
My child hears me. She’s crying for Mommy. Look! Here she is, I recognize her hand.--Bejkhajorn Satong, Thailand, gone mad looking for her child.
My God, why did you do this? What made you so angry? This is worse than death.--Faizal, Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.
There are unburied corpses everywhere. We don’t have enough body bags.--Budi Santoso, Banda Aceh.
It was incredible. We lost everything but they gave us shirts and sandals. Sri Lankans are most generous people in the world.--Joerg Dietrichs, German, Sri Lanka.
I have never buried so many people in one day in my life. These destitute fishermen have lost what little they had. They will never recover. Hundreds of thousands of homes were washed away in a single instant. And we’re now facing a possible epidemic which may claim more victims than the tsunami. --Jan England, UN official, Sri Lanka.
Update 1: Well the cuckoo has come out of the clock to say that the US has put together a coalition of republics, Australian, India, Japan and the US, to respond to the tragedy. Note the absence of any mention of European Union, which has lost thousands of its nationals. Meanwhile, more craziness:
Sri Lanka has asked for a halt to incoming aid flights because there is nowhere to warehouse everything and not enough trucks to transport it. Besides the 14+ hour overland journey from Colombo to reach the devastated areas, many roads and bridges leading to the coast are knocked out.
India says it does not want anything from anybody. Even though the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have received no relief. It also rejected aid after the Gujurat earthquake.
Thousands are fleeing Banda Aceh in Sumatra, while 80,000 corpses still need to be collected. This seems to be where aid is needed most.
Tens of thousands of offers of adoption of tsunami orphans have been made to UNICEF.
Thailand needs bodybags, coroners and refrigeration trucks. Thousands of European tourists have perished but cannot be identified except by DNA becuase of the hot weather and its consequences.
Update 2: Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson has announced that the tsunami is “the worst catastrophe for our country of all time”. 3,000 Swedes were in the hardest hit costal areas and most are reported missing.
Update 3: Always travel with your cat.
Not one animal in Thailand was killed in the tsumani. They all got the hell out of there thanks to their smaller brain but superior ability to detect bad vibes.
Update 4. Above is not true but for some reason was carried in today’s dispatches. Survivor narratives mention seeing pets swirling in the watery debris.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Pens to the Pentagon
Is the pen mightier than the sword? Let’s put it to the test!
First, all credit for this idea goes to dKos user Sheba. I think she’s come up with an idea that is right up the blogosphere’s alley, and something the netroots can do to help jumpstart creative antiwar activism.
By now we’re all familiar with the “auto-pen” which Rumsfeld was using to sign the death notice letters to the families of those who have died in action. He has since announced that in the future he will sign all such letters himself. Donald Rumsfeld needs a new pen. Sheba’s idea? Let’s help him out with some pens!
The campaign showed me some of the strengths and weaknesses of the blogosphere. On the one hand, it’s largely useless when it comes to moving majorities in electoral politics. It has however shown the impact that thousands or tens of thousands acting in a coordinated fashion can have. This idea goes right to that strength, and makes a vivid antiwar, anti-administration statement. What if Rumsfeld started receiving thousands or tens of thousands of pens? Would that sow some confusion at minimum in the Pentagon? Would it send a message that there is a new, sharper-edged antiwar movement emerging? A united netroots could make a statement that the administration is going to face coordinated mass opposition to its Iraq policies from here on out, and do it right in Rummy’s face. Moreover, if the idea caught fire, it could jump into the media and start a felt-tipped cascade on Washington.
Anyone can stick a pen in an envelope and send one off tomorrow. The pen could be sent anonymously, or the sender could choose to make a statement and identify themselves, either is fine. Personal statement pens are good, too! But the point is the ballpoints, drown the Pentagon mailroom in pens. And every pen is a direct whack at Rummy.
Another thing I really like about this idea is that it broadens the range of tactics for the antiwar movement. Antiwar activists have used demonstrations and electoral politics, and that’s just about it. We need to be more creative and inventive in ways that allow us to keep the pressure on the administration on an ongoing basis.
For these reasons, I consider Sheba’s idea to be well worthy of consideration--and action. If you agree with me, here are some steps to take:
1) Send a pen to Rummy!
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
2) Help publicize the idea through blogs and email groups. Spread the word as widely as possible.
Exile_lsf-ONLY PREMIUM CONTENT!
For my own analysis of this tactic, I’ve run this idea through the Alinskyizer. I’m posting the above as a dKos diary, but since I’vbe been doing the Alinsky series here, I thought I’d share my analysis by the 13 rules here.
1 ) Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
This action sends a message that there is a coordinated antiwar network able to employ innovative tactics. At the present, the administration has the antiwar movement pigeonholed, and largely correctly, I believe. We’re seen as cautious and sporadic, that if they just brush us off, we’ll go away. If we want them to think we have more than they currently assume, we need to stay on them like white on rice.
2 ) Never go outside the experience of your people. It may result in confusion, fear and retreat.
All this requires is for a person to put a pen in an envelope and drop it in a mailbox. The blogosphere audience is pretty familiar with sending mail to government officials. The idea of direct action tactics are new to everyone once, and there’s no getting around that. This is a very easy start.
3 ) Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear and retreat.
I can’t recall any direct action like this in recent years, so it’s unlikely they’d be prepared for it. If enough pens start arriving at the Pentagon, that should at minimum stir some confusion. Thousands of pens and maybe more than confusion.
4 ) Make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules.
Those men and women gave everything Rummy, and you can’t even be bothered to sign the notification letters yourself?
5 ) Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
Poor Rummy, See (4).
6 ) A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
Well, we’ll see. That’s what I’m trying to find out, will the netroots enjoy this kind of action? It’s the kind of thing that should be the netroots forte, simple but effective in the thousands of participants range.
7 ) A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
Pop it in the mail, done. If this works, it’s because it catches an internet wave, which time themselves out pretty quickly.
8 ) Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
This certainly takes a cue from recent news, and it allows for antiwar action between major events.
9 ) The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
The threat this action makes is very nebulous, but real. It says there is an antiwar movement that is alert and becoming more active. This has to be the biggest fear for their war policymakers, because the entire structure is based on the American people willingly swallowing imperialism.
10 ) The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
The antiwar movement needs ways to keep the pressure no the administration. This tactic provides an opportunity to do so, and could open up thinking for other creative tactics as well.
11 ) If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.
I’m not sure this applies to the tactic at hand.
12 ) The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
13 ) Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.
This tactic does all four of the above to Rummy.
On balance, this tactic appears to meet the large majority of Alinsky’s axioms, and so I’m enthusiastic about it. It would have to happen now, so the autopen thing doesn’t fade any further. But I think it’s an idea at least worthy of discussion, and as for myself, I’m sending Rummy a Papermate from a box I received as a Dean Meetup host.
ACTION ALERT • Political Marketing • War on Terra • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Amaze your friends, confound your enemies
I haven’t got anything particularly topical to post about today except to say thanks to our other Tuesday poster, Dancing Larry, for his musings on Saul Alinsky these past few weeks. They’ve been a great little campfire in the midst of the cold winter, much colder after Nov. 2.
This week I was reading a story about hopelessly deadlocked state officials. The article said, “These officials know that important people â€” business leaders, editors, good-government groups â€” think they’re corrupt. But it doesn’t cost them anything â€” so they don’t change.” Notice the implicit statement: Voters like me and you aren’t to be counted among the important. On the face of it, this is something easy to feel miffed or outraged about. On the other hand, we implicitly believe this all too often.
Already I often feel as if I have to apologize for myself. I continually refer to painfully local history and mythology to make my various points. I suppose I shouldn’t apologize for that any more. None of the people to whom I frequently refer (either as role models or cautionary tales)—ie Jesus, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, the Secret Six, Hiawatha, the architects of the Grand Canal, or our neighbors in New England, or specifically Vermont, among others—were apologetic types. If there’s any one unifying characteristic to these personages, it was that these were people who saw great opportunities and acted accordingly. They did not hang back and demur because it appeared they were not important. They believed they were. They cared little for what their neighbors thought.
Ironically this is precisely the way the neocons act. So actually what Dean really meant when he said “you don’t win by being like them” isn’t true. By now, Howard Dean’s “you can’t beat Republicans by being like them” and has become a bit of a cliche. What does this mean exactly? You do win by being like them—not by being shocked, shocked at their audacity. Indeed, we are still seeing Democrats and other sympathetic parties spending most of their energy sitting around being shocked and outraged even at this late date.
I happen to come from a locale where people seem to always be embarrassed that they come from, for some strange reason I can’t fathom. So I think I would like to stop this nonsense and so begin to conduct my affairs in such a way that when I am finished (all in good time), the good and the great will remember where I am from. Seriously—nothing is ever going to get done if people refuse to amaze their friends. I almost think that is the hard part.
I really enjoyed reading about Alinsky’s rules because, as I said before, this is ancient knowledge, and not only was I raised by parents who both knew and used these rules instinctively in their workplaces, but I also discovered them for myself much later on in my own adventures. I think another of the things that’s really been forgotten in all this talk about organizing and beating the neocons (and yes, Osama Bin Laden too), is the sheer pleasure of throwing wrenches into the plans of the important. Greater minds can, must, work out the ideology of anti-neoconservatism and anti-fanaticism, of the blueprints for the future of the Democratic Party and all Americans everywhere. I am not one of these great minds, I must confess. Basically I would just like to see neocons, religious fanatics and their allies (all over the world) with their pants down. I would like to throw them into confusion, making them wonder, as did the Pharisees, what important could possibly come from Nazareth.
Why? Because it would be amusing. And indeed something Alinsky understood was that this possibility of amusement was, in itself, a crucial piece of the puzzle.
And in the end, this is what I see as the basic problem. Those who are heartset against the neocon agenda, against the agenda of Bin Laden or the scarier fanatics in the shadows behind him (not too hard for me to be against that agenda, which wants me barefoot, pregnant and in a burka, not to mention silent)—they don’t seem to understand that it’s about amazing your friends and confounding your enemies. Or, to put it another way, it’s about having personal courage to be unapologetically who you really are, and also about actively outsmarting the people you can’t stand.
Exile_lsf marks 200,000 page hits today
In honor of this crowning achievement (er, I have the flu, my brain has turned to gooey green snot, and I can’t come up with anything more substantive to say), let’s celebrate the number 200,000.
This year, 200,000 people will be hospitalized for influenza-associated respiratory and heart conditions.
Sony’s Portable PlayStation sold 200,000 units in its first day in Japanese stores this month.
The US Department of Energy estimated that 200,000 people died over a five year period as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
According to NYC police, more than 200,000 people packed Seventh Avenue to protest against the Bush Administration and Republican National Convention on August 29, 2004.
A Corralitos, CA farmer donated 200,000 Fuji apples to Second Harvest food bank to help feed the needy this Christmas.
For just $27.95 you too can buy a stun gun that emits a 200,000-volt charge. Free leatherette carrying case included!
Last year, General Eric Shinseki told the Senate armed services committee that the Bush Administration would need a force of 200,000 troops to curb ethnic tensions and provide humanitarian aid in Iraq.
Google your own amazing “200,000” fact and ‘splain it here.
Art Of Blogging • Getting Personal • Pure Snark • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Monday, December 27, 2004
Oh, My Word! Volume 8
. . . & Dollar Signs
I trust everyone’s had a nice little break. Our thoughts, though, are with those in Asia and Africa affected by the tsunami (I am glad to see that gong has been posting). But nearer home, those of you with new goodies to play with, I hope you’re enjoying them. Those of you looking forward to a better new year, I wish that for you. Me? I’ve eaten so much ham this weekend I think I’ve grown a curly tail . . . But it’s nice to be back to the blogging.
Blogging has so many advantages I don’t know where to start. For one, you can do it whenever: sitting by the fire in your jammies; at work when you should be, well, working; over coffee with your New York Times in one hand and your cat in the other. You get to write at your leisure, take the time to do your research, spell-check.
The downside to that--if you could say there is one--is that sometimes our blogging doesn’t get done when we want it to. Or when we need it to. Every day I see eight or ten things I want to write about, but I just never get around to it. So, I’m about to go all Seven-Habits on you all, but, yes, my advice this week is to set deadlines for yourselves.
Deadlines, the one thing traditional bloggers lack (now that’s an oxymoron--traditional bloggers!) is possibly the most difficult thing that those, whaddyacallem, reporters labor under. (That’s up for debate; I could see how, given all the evidence we’ve seen lately, you might think that telling the truth is too hard for them these days. I could talk about blogging and the truth, but . . . that’s another show.) I mean, is it any wonder that the only professional columnists worth reading these days--Frank Rich, for example--write but once a week?
Of course, the best bloggers turn out a billion words a week; but let’s face it--we’re not all the best bloggers (or bloggers who are paid to just blog). A gig like this, where I have to churn out a column a week is nice; it keeps me on my toes, always thinking about what to do and what to write about. And I have to get it done, no matter how many in-laws I have in the house or how much iBook time my wife needs since her Dell died. (I could also be writing about where to get your ideas from, but . . . you know.)
In fact, I took the Monday slot here at Exile_lsf because it gave me an easy timeline: Read the blogs all week, figure out what needs elucidating, and throw the column together in the spare bits of time I can squeeze out of the weekend. It doesn’t always work that way--like when the weekend is a big holiday--but the self-imposed deadline is still there, pushing me to get it done.
So here’s your assignment: Figure out when you can reasonably set deadlines for yourself for your blog. (If you don’t have a blog, start one; goodness knows you must be the only person left on the planet without one.) Then set them. Write them down. Staple them to your forehead if need be. Hold yourself accountable to them.
And your bonus tip for the day: I can hear the chorus of “But I don’t know what to write!” through the pixels. So be it. When I teach writing, and that chorus arises from the seats in front of me, my advice is simple. Start writing (in your case, maybe, typing) I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write until something meaningful comes out. It works; it really does.
"Oh, Your Word!"
OK, here is my question: Whatever happened to the use of the possessive with gerunds? As in, I canâ€™t stand the thought of Kerryâ€™s running again.
-- the inimitable Exile_lsfer Meteor Blades
This also allows me the opportunity to answer a question from many moons ago, perhaps in jest, by our own em dash, who wanted to know “What the hell’s a gerund?” If you think back to your heady high school days, you maybe remember that a gerund is a verb form which acts in a sentence not as a verb, but as a noun--and it’s always the -ing form of the verb. Note the subject of this sentence: Walking is a good form of exercise. To walk is clearly an action, a verb, but as the subject of the sentence, walking must be used as a noun.
Now if we want to attach that action word, as a noun, to someone (or even something), we have to use, as Meteor Blades indicated, the possessive. In his sentence, above, the running is a noun that belongs to Kerry. (One has to wonder about the choice of sample sentence there, eh?) So adding the apostrophe-s is appropriate in this case, to show that possession. The problem is that most of us, in our speaking, at least, leave the possessive off. It sounds jarring, even to me, to hear it used on the occasional TV show whose writers care about that sort of thing, because it just doesn’t happen in the vernacular anymore.
But we can hold the line here in the written world, even if in the spoken part of our lives that inflection is eroding away. So when we might naturally say I don’t like him speaking ill of Kerry, we should really write I don’t like his speaking ill of Kerry. It hurts the first few times you try, but, with practice, it’ll become second hand.
I look forward to your using the possessive correctly.
Oh, My Forbidden Word!
This week I’m forbidding this part of the column. It just isn’t working the way I thought it would. Maybe every once in a while it will make a special guest appearance. Until then, I will recommend Jeffery Feldman’s “Frameshop” series, which does much the same thing but far, far better than I do it.
Confused? Of course you are. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns, complaints, comments, or kudos. Remember, I’m here to help, and no topic is too arcane. Please include with your question whether you’d like to remain anonymous, and how I should refer to you, since some of you have blogonyms.