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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Eskimo Up! 

Seen on a fan's sign at frigid Gillette Stadium. Heh. That beats "Cowboy Up" any day. Much more of a Boston flavor to it.

Hey, they just showed a second "Eskimo Up" sign. It's catching on!
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Friday, January 09, 2004

Away 

I'm off for the weekend, to a Naval Reserve training class out of town. Posting will be light to nonexistent. Get out and do something... unless you're where I am and the high temperature is in the single digits. (And to think I briefly toyed with the idea of going to the Patriots playoff game. Ha!)
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1,000 new jobs 

That's all. Forecasts had been in the 100,000 to 150,000 range. Ouch.
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Thursday, January 08, 2004

Forbidden Iran 

I just watched "Forbidden Iran" on PBS's Frontline program.

A Canadian journalist, Jane Kokan, went undercover in Iran to speak with members of the student democracy movement, and also to look into the death of fellow journalist Zahra Kazemi.

Most of the program focused on the student movement, and the repression they have faced--including torture, imprisonment, and execution. I was struck by two things: The ruthlessness of the regime in attacking the students, as shown by burnt dormitories, blood-soaked beds and clothing, hallways slick with blood, and protesters being savagely beaten; and the determination of the students in the face of it all. One man, facing a prison sentence, tells his mother, "I want [you] at that moment they're hanging me, to stand proudly and say, 'I'm proud of my son.'"

All freedom-loving people should be proud of people like him, willing to risk their lives to stand up for what they believe in.

They deserve our support.

The segment will be available online on Monday here.
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Has it or hasn't it? 

Tuesday: "If you look at overall data from nationwide surveillance, it doesn't look like it's peaked yet," said Dr. Scott Harper, a CDC flu expert. "Nationwide, influenza-like illnesses are still on the rise."

Thursday: "We are cautiously optimistic that, at least in some parts of the country, influenza may have peaked," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Federal court has secret docket 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on alleged secret court cases in Miami's federal court.

A secret docketing system hiding some sensitive Miami federal court cases from public view has been exposed and is being challenged in two higher courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We don't have secret justice in this country," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Washington-based journalists watchdog group is asking the appellate courts to open up two Miami federal cases it says were litigated in secret.

The group has filed briefs in the Supreme Court and in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Representing two dozen media and legal organizations, it is mounting the stiffest challenge yet to a practice legal experts say violates free speech rights and ignores established court decisions favoring open records and courtrooms.


Let's blame John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act! Right? Not so fast...

Bergonzoli was indicted in Connecticut for drug trafficking in 1995. Four years later his case, still open, was transferred to Miami. No record of it existed until Ochoa's lawyers were able to unseal parts of the file in May.


So, this has been going on at least since 1995, under the watch of Janet Reno and Bill Clinton. Nothing in the article suggests the involvement of either of them, but regardless of when this practice started, which administration(s) perpetuated it, or what justification is given for keeping entire court proceedings secret, it's just plain wrong. This is not how we do things in America.

Attorney Floyd Abrams highlights the problems of secret dockets as follows:

"Without public docket sheets, there is no way for the public to even know that a case has been brought or resolved. It's a significant infringement of the genuine public interest in knowing what is going on in its judicial system."


Exactly. All citizens have a right to know what any branch of government is doing in their name. Especially the judicial branch. There are legitimate reasons for withholding information, such as national security. But there is no excuse for keeping an entire case secret. Seal the records, impose gag orders on the participants... those things have their place. But you don't keep the very existence of a case secret. That goes against the public interest and violates the principles of open government upon which this nation was founded.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has several press releases, motions, and amicus briefs related to the secret dockets on their homepage. Scroll down--there are four documents between 12/23 and 1/6. (Will require PDF reader.)
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Democratic Underground has advance job info? 

A friend of this poster says tomorrow's job data will show a huge increase in jobs:

My friend works in finance on Wall Street, and told me the financial models are showing tomorrow's December jobs report is going to show a huge gain.

And that the rate will probably continue such that Bush will more than make up for the loss of 3 million jobs by November.

There goes any chance.


I don't agree with that last part... there are still plenty of ways for either party to win or lose the election. We've got 10 months to go.

But of course, leave it to DU to take an increase in jobs as bad news.

How much of an increase are we talking about? If the source is to be believed,

...we're looking at at least 150,000 jobs/mo, and more likely, 200,000+.


It's too bad that one's party affiliation determines whether this is good or bad news. Check out the ensuing discussion.

UPDATE: According to CNN/Money, economists are forecasting an increase of 100,000 jobs in December. If the DU poster's friend is correct, the report should give the market a good bump. And, more than likely, confidence in the economy will rise as well.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Bam - how to help 

It has been a couple of weeks since the devastating earthquake in Bam, Iran. But it is by no means too late to help. Mercy Corps was on the ground within hours, and they have now provided a way for people to donate an "Iran Earthquake Kit" consisting of blankets, water, and a heater for a family of five. What's more, The Hunger Site is teaming up with them to provide 50 cups of staple food for each kit donated. If you're in the giving mood, these are some people who could use your help.

Click here for more information.
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How many of these things are there? 

Another Bush/Hitler ad from MoveOn.org, Drudge reports...
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The Iraq tactics debate 

Billmon links to, and discusses at length, a Washington Post article describing the different tactics being adopted by the Army and Marine Corps in Iraq. He comes down heavily on the side of the Corps' "velvet glove" approach, as do I.
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Zimbabwe redux? 

Claimants seek 20% of SA farmland

South Africans who lost land during the apartheid era are claiming back 20% of the country's commercial farmland, a land claims official has said.

In some provinces, that figure may rise to as much as 50%, according to chief lands claim commissioner Tozi Gwanya.

Where owners refuse to sell, a new law will allow the government to move in.

But South Africa has said it will ensure that the redistribution of land does not lead to the problems seen in neighbouring Zimbabwe.


Let's hope not... The line I bolded above doesn't make me very confident in this policy's prospects, though.
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Immigration overhaul 

For the first time in a while, I am in complete agreement with Atrios.

At first pass this sounds good:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 — President Bush will propose a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws on Wednesday that could give legal status to millions of undocumented workers in the United States, senior administration officials said Tuesday night.


And his comment farther down is spot on:

I understand why some object to an amnestyish program which rewards those who "broke the law" while punishing those who obeyed the rules by putting them at the back of the line. Fine - put them at the front of the line!


Of course those who have worked legally within the system should be rewarded first. But Bush's overhaul of the laws isn't going to change much on the ground. The people in question have already been in the U.S. for a long time, they are (mostly) contributing members of society, and all this law will do is to make that situation permanent.

Heck, getting these workers documented will mean their wages will be taxed, if nothing else...

Some people are afraid of the impact on wages of all this "cheap labor," as if undocumented low-wage workers are better for the labor market than documented, tax-paying minimum-wage workers. Please.

If I lived in a border state, I might feel differently because the "problem" would be closer at hand and more likely to affect me personally. But it does not. (Well, I live in a Canadian border state, but illegal Canadians aren't flooding Maine.)
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Burying hatchets 

Will the good news ever stop?

A couple of these headlines would have been unthinkable in the pretty recent past. Let's hope this is a trend and not just a moment of false hope.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Slow day 

Has this been a pretty slow news day, or is it just me? (Not that I'm complaining...)
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Another Bush/Hitler ad at MoveOn.org? 

Buzzflash has a reader comment with this header:

I Think My MoveOn.org Ad Was One Of Them That Ticked Off The RNC...


The reader, Todd Mattson, describes his MoveOn.org ad, but it's not one of the two already caught by Drudge and the RNC.

(Videos here and here.)

Mattson provides the script for his ad, and it's not one of the two mentioned above. So that makes three contributions to MoveOn.org that compared the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler. Fortunately, it appears that Mr. Mattson's ad never made it to the MoveOn.org website. (Read the script; it's nowhere near inflammatory enough for such an organization.) However, the previous two did.

And I don't buy the line that those two ads "slipped through." A real live person had to make a conscious decision that the two Hitler ads were appropriate for the website, and then post them.

I think LT Smash is still waiting for Joe Lieberman to comment...
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Bashar on thin ice 

Syria's Bashar Assad, speaking to the Telegraph comes very close to admitting his country has WMD. (And gee, where on earth could they have come from?)

Syria is entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own chemical and biological deterrent, President Bashar Assad said last night as he rejected American and British demands for concessions on weapons of mass destruction.

In his first major statement since Libya's decision last month to scrap its nuclear and chemical programmes, he came closer than ever before to admitting that his country possessed stockpiles of WMD.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Assad said that any deal to destroy Syria's chemical and biological capability would come about only if Israel agreed to abandon its undeclared nuclear arsenal.


Nice idea. Only thing is, Israel is the only country in the region surrounded by racist regimes and populations that would like nothing better than to push the Jews into the sea once and for all. And who, by the way, have tried to do just that more than once. I can't blame them for wanting a bit of a deterrent. Without Israel's nuclear deterrent, there is no question that 1973 would not have been the last Arab-Israeli war. I can kind of understand why Syria would want their own deterrent, until I consider that Israel hasn't shown any inclination toward offensive warfare for a long time now. (And even Israel's offensive actions were primarily against Arab armies that just happened to be massed on the border.)

Bashar looked like he was going to be a change of pace from his ruthless, terror-supporting, and all around bad guy father. This kind of thing is not a step in the right direction. Syria has plenty of opportunities to join the ranks of good citizens, if not within its own borders, at least within its neighborhood. Bashar should take those opportunities, or else risk the fate of his Ba'athist neighbor.
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Monday, January 05, 2004

Out of touch alert 

For the record, I don't believe a single one of these and I'm a Republican.

"You know you're a Republican if you believe that..."

(Got the link from Democratic Underground. Don't get the wrong idea.) :)
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And on the other side of DU... 

I linked to a DU comment in the post below. Obviously, what that person wrote is a minority view, even at DU. And there is usually a comment or two that somewhat restores my faith in the left. Comment #77 in the thread hits the nail on the head, (no rhyming intended) in response to a previous comment. I'm posting it in full below. I'm glad someone at DU "gets" it.

Well written, but complete nonsense.

"It used to be that when you traveled around the country, every region looked different, not only in the physical features, but in the local architecture, cuisine, slang, music, what have you."

Yes, that was because the information age had not arrived. Now everyone can see what everyone else has and does immediately. Localities and regions mean less now because we are interconnected. And this phenomena is spreading accross borders. I spend a good deal of my time in Asian nations that once were exotic and absolutely different than the West. Now that is no longer true. People keep some of their culture, but now how the access and means to absorb that which they like about others. I hate seeing McDonalds springing up everywhere, but such is life. People want McDonalds whether we wish to admit it or not.

"and local businesses are being destroyed by the same mega-corporations putting up the same big box stores in every community."

I hear this whining about Walmart and big chains like it all the time. Bottom line, Walmart has everything people need in one place. It is just more popular than little local businesses. Walmart can undercut them pricewise, and have most everything people need in one spot. I am sorry to see Mom and Pop stores go, but I, like most people, will go where I can what I need at a good price. Bemoan this if you want, but that is life.

"Worst of all, this kind of development is unsustainable."

You don't know that. Nor do you know how people will adapt. At one time the "Population Bomb" theory had people believing the rapid increase in human beings on the planet would lead to our doom - most people would agree that this theory which was all the rage a few decades ago was horsemanure.

"Don't give me 'that's what the people want.'"

It is what the people want. They want cable TV, fast food, SUV's, gossip magazines, etc, etc. And they don't just want it here in the US, they want it everywhere.

"Are you going to tell me that in 1999 there were suddenly riots in the streets demanding WWF wrestling on three channels and constant promotion of the 'wrestlers' in every media outlet?"

This is just silly. There doesn't have to be riots in the streets to prove people want something. If people in say..Pittsburgh, PA didn't want to watch the WWF, the ratings for channels playing this sort of stuff in Pittsburgh would be awful. The WWF is popular. I think it is silly and I can't understand why anyone would watch it, but people do like it and who am I - or you - to complain about it.

"Did the public write angry letters to the editor demanding that their environment be uglified?"

Huh? People will tolerate the environment being "uglified" so long as they get something they deem more satisfying at the time. That is human nature, that is just the way it is. And if/when people find that losing the beautiful environment in their area was a mistake, they would vote for candidates who promise to do something about it.

"To me it seems more that Americans are genuinely ignorant of the alternatives, especially since we have now seen three generations grow up in suburbia, completely surrounded by this fake culture and taught to hate and fear the city."

Oh please. Taught to hate and fear the city? So you like the city and are bitching and moaning because many people don't want to live there? How ridiculous. I don't want to live in the city. I find the outerlying suburbs are a better place to live. You go live in a city, and I will stay in the suburbs.

Imajika


Since Imajika touched on the spread of our culture elsewhere, I will add my two cents. She (I'm assuming Imajika is female) said, to refresh your memory:

Yes, that was because the information age had not arrived. Now everyone can see what everyone else has and does immediately. Localities and regions mean less now because we are interconnected. And this phenomena is spreading accross borders.


Absolutely right. I've been to a number of foreign countries, including one with a completely foreign culture--Bahrain. Sure, it's among the more Westernized Gulf states, but fast food, chain restaurants, coffee shops, and specialty stores do not a culture make. Those are commercial entities. Culture is determined by the people themselves, and the people of Bahrain most assuredly have a very Arab identity, and they aren't ever going to let it go. Except for in the American or Western establishments, of which there are a relative handful--it's much easier to find a traditional restaurant where you pray for the best with the menu and have to specifically ask for utensils--I felt very much the foreigner. They are proud people. They're not going to let the golden arches or Radio Shack change them fundamentally.

Neither are we, as Americans, going to let imported culture change us as a people. It may not be on the same scale, but as the destination of millions of immigrants, and as a country connected to the world, it is inevitable that elements of other cultures will find their way into ours.

How many Americans a day drink a cappuccino? Or for that matter, coffee, that most Arabic of beverages? How many sushi places are there, in mall food courts alone? Is an American eating Japanese-style sushi somehow "better" than a Kenyan eating an American-style hamburger?

How many Indian or Thai restaurants do you think there were in my hometown in Maine before the age of globalization?

And I won't mention Ikea stores, Sony electronics, Volvo automobiles, Nokia mobile phones and a thousand other companies doing business in America that are not evidence of cultural imperialism, any more than a Pizza Hut in Paris.

It's a globalized world. We're all much more aware of what others have than ever before. We're all communicating more than ever before. And most importantly, we're all sharing more than ever before. People are free to accept or discard what they choose. We choose sushi and kebabs. They choose Big Macs. Where's the harm in that?
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Someone at DU forgot to take the Xanax 

Here's the link and here's the post ("America is cheezy"):

I'm sick of this industrial/corporate culture. I fuc*ing hate seeing "Enquirer" type mags at the checkout. Every 3.27 blocks is another fuc*ing "Walmart/RiteAid/BestBuy/McDonalds. Advertisements are fake "testimonial" type endorsements or silly beyond fuc*ing belief. The news is fuc*ed. I don't want to hear about Kobe, Scott, Brittany, Jacko fucking ever again. Everywhere people are driving big fuc*ing bloated cars and trucks. Las fuc*ing Vegas is ugly. I'm sick of "support our troops" and American flags fuc*ing everywhere. The black and white "good vs. evil" bullshit is for people who can only hold one concept at a fuc*ing time. If you see a pretty place to have a picnic, there is always a "no fuc*ing trespassing" sign. People laugh too loud at dumb shit to get noticed.

I could go on.

The only thing I do enjoy and respect are the folks here at du. Without du, I'd probably go for the dirt box early.

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Just as I suspected 

So much for the story about American soldiers desecrating a mosque in Iraq...

American soldiers on a weapons raid stormed into a Baghdad mosque, ducking behind pillars with rifles raised and ready to fire in a video edited by the U.S. military and shown Sunday to counter Iraqi criticism.

American authorities deny the charges and showed edited video footage at a news conference. The raid was an orderly affair, with soldiers neatly rolling up carpets in search of rumored secret tunnels, which were not found. Troops lined up hand grenades, stacked guns and hauled off what the military said was a sack of gunpowder.

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BCS 

Sorry, it's just me... but handing a team its second loss in a row shouldn't qualify you as "national champion." LSU can be called the BCS Champion, fine... go ahead and claim that dubious title if you want. But I think most people know who the best team in the land is. All USC did was win, including the Rose Bowl against a resurgent Michigan team. LSU beat a team on a serious decline in Oklahoma. (Did I mention Oklahoma lost two straight games? For the first time since their 7-5 season of 1999?) I don't even like USC, but it's obvious to me they're the real champions.

Just some random football thoughts... back to your regularly scheduled blog.
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Sunday, January 04, 2004

Stupidity feeds fanaticism 

At least that's my conclusion after reading this Boston Globe article.

The kind of ignorance that feeds terrorism is just as much our enemy as terrorism itself.
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Zimbabwe land grab failure 

Nick at The Agonist caught this Observer article that says...

A senior Zimbabwean Minister has admitted that the seizure of thousands of white-owned farms has failed to benefit large numbers of poor black farmers, many of whom have failed to take up the land that was grabbed.


A few paragraphs down, the article arrives at some shocking conclusions, such as the realization that...

The poor peasant farmers who were meant to benefit from land seizures did not have the money to buy seed, fertilisers or hoes, let alone redevelop the farmland to make it productive.

And without the title deeds, which are still held by their white owners, black farmers cannot obtain bank loans.

Critics say further problems were caused by members of the Zanu-PF elite - who often had no interest or ability in farming - seizing land and then leaving it idle. Mugabe's wife, Grace, is among those who have seized prime land.


Why does this sound familiar to me?

Looks like someone forgot the Seven P's while crafting their horrendous policies.
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