Tuesday, November 30, 2004

About framing, messaging, and history

Kevin Drum has a good post about how liberals have successfully redefined issues and terms in past debates. He also points out the distinction between "framing" (creation of ways of thinking, or cultural images) and "messaging" (coming up with pithy promotional quotes for those ideas). Good stuff.

(via pandagon)

Anecdotal evidence...

Have been waiting for a surge of analytical brilliance to attach to this story of the woman who regained her ability to walk after stem cell treatment. But really, it's just one case, and thus it's hard to conclude much, other than that the Reeve foundation must be over the moon. There's not much data given on her improvement, and she's got more braces and metalwork holding her up than muscle. But it's also hard to ignore that she had been paralyzed for two decades and is now moving.

(via Follow Me Here)

New credit honesty option coming...

Via a tip from Medley, this potential solution to unexpected credit denial woes: free annual credit reports, which appear to be being rolled out across the nation (with, sadly, a year still to wait in my area). There is already a website set up for combined reports from the three major companies.
A survey by the California Public Interest Research Group found that 25 percent of credit reports contained serious errors that could result in the denial of credit, such as false delinquencies or accounts that did not belong to the customer. It found that 54 percent of reports contained less-serious errors.
Consumer protection groups recommend checking your own credit reports with some frequency (to catch mistakes before they cause you problems, and to watch out for identity theft). It's about to become a whole lot easier...

Ya' don't say!

The Bush folks quietly let out a report on Wednesday (counting on it to get lost in all that fascinating coverage of shopping) that sharply criticizes their approach to the Muslim world and the "war on terror." It's headlined "They hate our policies, not our freedom," which seems to be more than the neocons can process.
In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity–--an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,'
You can imagine how well that goes over with the locals. What imperialism?
MSNBC notes that the report, in a comment that directly goes against statements made by President Bush and senior cabinet members, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have united otherwise-divided Muslim extremists and given terrorists organizations like Al Qaeda a boost by "raising their stature."
And remember, the authors of this report are an independent Federal advisory board. (or, at least until they can be replaced with party loyalists)

(via Mike S at the dailyKos)

Monday, November 29, 2004

This small human world...

Bob Harris has designed a spiffy clock which uses numbers taken from a swath of human languages, including Cherokee, Babylonian, ASL, Hindi, Roman, & Ethiopian. It looks pretty neat, and costs only $14.99 at Cafe Press. This holiday season could use a few reminders that the rest of the world is still out there...

A plea for sanity

In this week's Newsweek, George Will argues against the GOP temptation to eradicate the fillibuster:
The filibuster is an important defense of minority rights, enabling democratic government to measure and respect not merely numbers but also intensity in public controversies. Filibusters enable intense minorities to slow the governmental juggernaut. Conservatives, who do not think government is sufficiently inhibited, should cherish this blocking mechanism. And someone should puncture Republicans' current triumphalism by reminding them that someday they will again be in the minority.
This is an interesting formulation. I definitely agree that the filibuster, while sometimes overused, is an important valve for serious opposition. Voters can always resort to the boot for Senators that they think are exlusively or excessively obstructionist...

(via How Appealing)

Update: The NYTimes has an editorial/historical review on this same topic titled "Mr. Smith Goes Under the Gavel."

The co-evolution of science and law

Here's a new one: a serial rapist is about to stand trial in an unusual case in which his DNA was charged with the crimes before its owner had been identified (a strategy that has been tried in other jurisdictions since this case was brought in 1991). In part this was a way around the statute of limitations, once investigators realized that so many cases were linked.
When he filed the case, Kaufman said, he had to persuade a judge that a DNA profile of a rape suspect was a more specific identifier than a person's name and date of birth -- the standard identifiers listed on most criminal complaints.
They got lucky when he turned up on different charges and the match was made...

(via How Appealing)

Solar you can live with!

Here's a neat development: solar-collecting shingles! Instead of a big awkward solar panel marring the look of your suburban pad, you can get enough energy to make a significant dent in your electric bill (or run the meter the other way!), without any sacrifice of appearance. It's also light-weight, which means there are no limits to the age or structural characteristics of houses on which it can be installed.

(via a diary at dailyKos)

Some musings for the day

Found this little piece a while back on the Buddhist blog Ditch the Raft:
A pilgrim was walking along a road when one day he passed what seemed to be a monk sitting in a field. Nearby men were working on a stone building.

"You look like a monk," the pilgrim said.
"I am that," said the monk.
"Who is that working on the abbey?"
"My monks," said the man. "I'm the abbot."
"It's good to see a monastery going up," said the pilgrim.
"They're tearing it down," said the abbot.
"Whatever for?" asked the pilgrim.
"So we can see the sun rise at dawn," said the abbot.
from Thomas Moore, Meditation
That couldn't help but remind me of this classic haiku:
Barn's burnt down--
I can see the moon.
Masahide (1657? - 1723)
[translation by Lucien Stryk]

The revolution might just be exaggerated...

Via Atrios, this fascinating bit about the real or imagined "values vote":
The mainstream press, itself in love with the "moral values" story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties. It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).
The complete article by Frank Rich at the NYTimes includes interesting speculation about the football/Housewives scandal (and whether it was manufactured considerably after the fact by a few operatives on the right).

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Peace, y'all

Happy Thanksgiving to all, strangers and friends!

I'll be back on Monday -- be well until then.

Quote for the day

To love justice, to long for the right; to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember benefits; to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words; to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms; to love wife, and child, and friend, to make a happy home; to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind; to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world; to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy; to fill life with the splendour of generous acts, the warmth of loving words; to discard error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness; to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night; to do the best that can be done and then to be resigned: this is the religion of reason, the creed of science; this satisfies the brain and heart.
Our Creed
by Robert G. Ingersoll
(via galiel at dailyKos)

Oy indeed

Inspired or demented? You be the judge: Klezmer meets Christmas in the new CD "Oy to the World" by the Klezmonauts. The samples are actually quite intriguing . . .

(via a blogad at Talking Points Memo)


Many people who went to New York to protest during the Republican Convention this summer -- and many other people who just happened to be in the wrong place (can you say: sitting out front of the library?!) at the wrong time -- got swept up in the extreme police "protection" actions. The stories that came out of their detainment were the scariest thing I've ever heard from our own country -- many different people documented being held for 2-3 days without being allowed contact with the outside world, being kept in a facility that had previously been used to house hazardous chemicals, and generally being treated like subhumans. Introducing this one, we have this:
J. was released after 49 hours in custody -- charged with disorderly conduct. She had been walking down the sidewalk when the police closed in on everyone in that general vicinity, pressing them against walls and parking meters and screaming at them. Some of the others standing around ran away as the police approached, but because J. and S. weren't doing anything wrong, they didn't think running was necessary. The only time she even raised her voice was in the pressing when she yelled out "just tell us what you want, just tell us what you want."
And from another one (a reporter, well aware of his illegal arrest):
It was apparent that some time ago the sides of the facility were sandbagged to protect the Hudson River from the runoff of this facility. This meant that this buildup of pollution would serve as bedding for 1,800 people. Later I would witness fellow prisoners develop chemical burns and white pussy infections that I could only attribute to these conditions.
scales of justiceWell, it's taken three months to document everything, I guess, but now a federal case is being brought against the city. The only way to keep civil rights is to fight for them, but somehow I think that the people who got rounded up (protesters, tourists, and passersby), and their panicked families who spent days not knowing what had become of them, would rather that the city had taken the time to eductate their police force in advance on peaceful containment and to prepare for the inevitable need to house and process an unusually large number of people...

"Guantanamo on the Hudson," it was called.
"All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits," lawyer Jonathan C. Moore said.
Sometimes I think it's not just our economy that's looking more and more like the third world...

(latest news via Atrios)

Monday, November 22, 2004

More on the term "liberal"

Via digby at Hullabaloo, the World's Shortest Political Quiz, which does live up to its name, gives me this for a self-definition:
LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.
How did this ever become a term of disparagement?

Redefining the "brand"

Oliver Willis is undertaking a Brand Democrat project to generate logos and slogans reiterating the history and ideals of the Democratic party. Something to get the values associated with the party over the coming years.Get a shirt, catch the wave!
brand Dem
(via Follow Me Here)

Throwing their weight around

Not content with having majority control of all three branches of government, Republican legislators are changing rule after rule to marginalize party moderates and write Democrats out of the process of running the country.
  1. They are altering the process for Senate committee appointments, to give party loyalty more weight than seniority.
  2. They have already rewritten a rule to allow House leaders to stay in power even if indicted with a felony (and this involved unwriting a rule that they originally put in place).
  3. They are threatening to change the Senate rule that allows for filibusters (see more on this "nuclear option" here), probably as soon as the new (crazier) class is sworn in.
parties bumping head
Kevin Drum traces the history of the GOP's gradual unraveling of Senate rules:
Remember that the next time you hear one of them whining about the "unprecedented" use of the filibuster by Democrats. It wouldn't have come to this in the first place if it weren't for the unprecedented destruction of senatorial tradition ruthlessly engineered by Senate Republicans over the past six years.
It's hard not to see this as part of a GOP conspiracy to have complete control over the government, especially in light of DeLay's statement that his party now has a permanent majority . . .

Update: Seems that they're making the most of their majority for backroom dealings as well. Bills are being rushed through without discussion (and then provisions that were sneaked in in the middle of the night are repented at leisure) and the Rules Committee has become a secretive mechanism for stifling debate, preventing votes on much legislation, and unraveling wording that has been painstakingly crafted by bipartisan committees.
(via Rebecca's Pocket)

A very difficult thing

A heartfelt and pained letter from the journalist who shot the notorious footage of the marine killing a prone man in a mosque in Iraq -- explaining to the marines in that unit that he wasn't out for a "prize story" but trying to pick his way through the complicated forest of issues and interests in covering the war. He is clearly very sympathetic to the soldiers he was embedded with, and to the difficulties in maintaining civilized rules of engagement when in the midst of unpredictable combat, and there was much discussion about what to do with the footage before it was finally released.
So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.

The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.
I recommend reading the whole thing.

(via Medley)

Striking the first blow

The new congress hasn't even been sworn in, and already the GOP is leveraging its mandate to interfere with women's reproductive rights: the GOP has attached an anti-abortion rider to the current omnibus spending bill, which will probably pass because it funds all sorts of critical infrastructure and security agencies.
It expands to all hospitals, clinics and doctors a provision that currently applies to Catholic hospitals, which do not have to comply with a federal law that requires health care providers who receive taxpayer dollars to discuss the option of abortion with women if they inquire about it. The language also allows hospitals and health care providers to opt out of state and local laws that require them to provide abortions, abortion counseling or referrals.
Sen. Barbara Boxer intends to stand up against this, but she's unlikely to make much headway against the need to keep the government open during and after the holidays...

(via LaDiDa)

Update: Ms. Magazine has a follow-up on this. Apparently Frist has agreed to have a separate hearing on this provision "next spring"...

(via Talking Points Memo)

Friday, November 19, 2004

We re-elected *our* guy...

...but the British appear poised to impeach Tony Blair for his handling of the Iraq war. It's the first such parliamentary motion in almost 200 years.British flag

(via the Daou Report)

Leave my beverages alone

This is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

But is it more wrong because it ruins potentially good coffee, or potentially good beer?

(via WTF)

A poem for Friday

Before the Frost

I stopped watering the tomato plants
sometime in September. Here it is
a hand-made stone wall
November and they still wring from the soil
condensation, cat pee, the odd drop of rain.

They reach for the last scraps of sun
I know death is a degree away. They,

in their oblivion, hold out the hard
and small green fruit of hope.

-- Lorri Smith (12/98)

(from ancient days of rec.arts.poems, probably,
but definitely stored on my quiescent poetry page)

Quote of the day

There are books in which the footnotes or comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin are more interesting than the text. The world is one of these books.
George Santayana,
philosopher (1863-1952)
(via A.W.A.D.)

New science for creaky backs

dinosaur vertebraApparently the first artificial spinal disc is about a year from FDA approval -- it could offer an alternative to fusion of vertebrae for folks who lose their natural disc cushions to degenerative disease or injury.
“This is the first major breakthrough in back surgery since the 1940s,” says orthopedic surgeon Richard Guyer of the Texas Back Institute in Plano.
(via boing boing)

It's not the color of your state...

... but the content of your Christianity. By way of a lost referer (and I've looked and looked!) comes this touching story of a small Oklahoma town and its fundamentalist churches, with a new twist. When one of their own (a boy struggling with whether his homosexuality was an unforgivable sin) became the target of an intolerant Christian sect, the locals pulled together to defend both him and the wideness of God's mercy.
A burly man with a crew cut gave Michael a thumbs-up. "Man, you be who you are," Shannon Watie said, holding his Bible. "We got your back."
They're still praying that he sees the light, but they're not willing to throw him to the wolves (or to presume that they need to do all the judging down here). It's a place to start . . .

Culture quip

Tom Tomorrow nails the New Dialogue right on the head with this week's cartoon:

Out of Touch

(thanks to Elle at LaDiDa)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Fascinating process tidbit

stateFor those who like to peer into the back rooms of power, Kevin Drum points out this correlation between recent Administration promotions and the locations of their current offices in the West Wing...

Score one for the Conventional Wisdom and scorecard-keepers.

Say what?

A California man convicted of drug peddling is offered an alternative to his jail time: enlistment! Apparently this is a bit of a throw-back, but it's new to me!
(That nice judge, he must be worried about draft prospects too...)

(via Talk Left, at the Daou Report)

Off-kilter . . .

I got totally sucked into Digby's rundown/excerpting of a profile of this year's Undecided Voters. As he puts it, they aren't just stupid, but clueless in a number of unexpected and fascinating ways.
The undecideds I spoke to didn't seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. duh Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief--not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.
This blows my mind. Lots of other oddities too. (The original full-length New Republic article is here, for those wanting to jump directly to that; registration required.)

Unspoken agenda

Rafe has an interesting musing on the degree to which the division between Bush and Kerry voters reflects real differences in comfort with violence, even though this is something rarely, if ever, discussed.
I favored John Kerry because I knew he'd be more reticent about using violence than President Bush. It doesn't surprise me that the people I'm talking about opposed him for exactly that reason. . . . Bush may be incompetent, but he's not going to err on the side of caution when it comes to killing people.
Worth a read.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Telling it like it is

A set of stamps for the harried office-worker:
crap stamp

too funny!

(via LaDiDa)

More modest proposals

lightbulbdigby at Hullabaloo does an excellent job of pulling together a lot of recent recriminations suggestions about what message to take from this election . . .
I'm so relieved that we are having the discussion about which Democratic values we can safely shed early instead of waiting until closer to the next election like we usually do. I think we should get out ahead on these issues and put the Republicans off their game.
. . . and taking them to their inevitable conclusion: Let's jettison the Bill of Rights! (again, wait for the page to jump down)
Right of Assembly? That is so September 10th. Fuggedaboudit.
His tone is just right. Progressives need to relax a bit so that we can all get back to reality space and reclaim the real values of the American left.

Losing the global culture wars

An interesting article at Salon discusses the increasing coherence of the European Union and the degree to which it is gradually taking over from us as the example to the world of how moral values and economic success can coexist. Markos excerpts solid chunks and adds his own view that we've been lapped and will be so increasingly...
Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?
Too much to hope that we might still learn something from our onetime allies?

EU flag

Books as art

Via book-lover Craig from Booknotes, this fascinating story of a San Francisco bookstore that is allowing itself to be rearranged for a week -- from its usual topical arrangement to one by color. This blows my mind. I'd really like to see it, but I'd sort of hate to be looking for something specific (although maybe if their database includes cover images, you'd be ok).

The artist likes to experiment with "transgressive art," which jibes well with the squirms that I imagine from some of my more bibliophilic friends, most of whom have very strong feelings about the proper way to order a book collection . . .

I'll take hypocrisy for $200, Alex

In the early 1990s, the Republicans in Congress claimed the moral high ground over their Democratic colleagues when they introduced a rule to remove from leadership positions anyone charged with a felony. Goodbye, Rostenkowski!

But now, when Majority Leader Tom DeLay appears likely to be indicted along with his Texas associates for various campaign finance irregularities, they're racing to, um, change the rules (or is that, reclaim the low ground?)... Values indeed!
old elephant
(via Tom Tomorro and Booknotes)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The costs of war

This war will go on for some time. It will not be pretty; no war ever is. We will kill many innocents and alienate many sympathetic hearts. We will commit atrocities. Our troops will never be the same.

I cannot blog this every day. I can barely look at the photos. So I'm going to collect a big heap of angst and sorrow into one place, and that place is here.
Guernica section
I'll leave to the bigger news blogs the stories of our razing one major city after another. Or fleeing civilians, or defaced mosques, or the hateful glee of warbloggers watching it all happen. Instead I'll just leave you with these images clipped from Picasso's huge antiwar masterpiece Guernica, and with this poem by Harold Pinter, written for this war (in 2003):
God Bless America
Guernica face
Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.

The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn't join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who've forgotten the tune.
Guernica horse
The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.

(via wood s lot)

A frood who knows where his towel is...

I tend not to see movie adaptations of books that I really enjoyed -- at best, they reproduce something I've already read (when there are so many other great stories out there to read or see). At worst, they ruin the images and personalities that I spent a long time getting to know, or show no understanding of the nuances to the story.

Is it better or worse when the adaptation is a bit closer? I have indeed read Douglas Adams' Hitchiker books (or at least some of them), and a few years back I had the pleasure of meeting those characters in the original BBC radio dramas (loaned to me by pal Jer). Would I like the scenes as visualized through somebody else's eyes? The lines with new voices? Apparently I'll have to make a decision next spring about whether to see the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (see also here) on the big screen.don't panic

Can that much ludicrosity be captured on film?

(via Ghost in the Machine)

Feisty quote for the day

Eugene Debs, 23 May, 1908
(from "The Issue")
Do you know, my friends, it is so easy to agree with the ignorant majority. It is so easy to make the people applaud an empty platitude. It takes some courage to face that beast called the Majority, and tell him the truth to his teeth! Some men do so and accept the consequences of their acts as becomes men, and they live in history - every one of them. I have said so often, and I wish to repeat it on this occasion, that mankind have always crowned their oppressors, and they have as uniformity crucified their saviors . . .
Debs addressing a crowd

(Is it tragic that I fear for Barak Obama precisely because of his potential greatness?)

(quote via wood s lot, a little while back)

Photos for a mid-November morning

Unbelievable cloud pictures by Garret Vreeland:

(via wood s lot)

Monday, November 15, 2004

It was just a matter of time

Colin Powell, after having to work with one leg tied to his neck (or was that one foot in his mouth?) for the last few years, finally gives up the pretense and gets out of Dodge. Not much left of his reputation -- talk about wasting a rich resource! Those Administration guys sure don't value competence much, at least when it talks back. state

Will be interesting to see who takes up this post, and whether they can recover any credibility for the job . . . (Education and Energy secretaries have quit too.)

Update: Well, Condoleezza Rice is unlikely to strike a blow for credibility anytime soon. And so the trend of thumbing our nose at the world continues.

Update 2: An interesting argument from Kevin Drum that Powell really did have some impact on the neocon wall (and that Blair is now left "with no adults to team up with"...)

A new seal for the Justice Department?

In honor of Gonzales' appointment, uggabugga offers this grim vision:

Ends Justify Means

(via Atrios)

It's about making *somebody* safer . . .

Bush is purging the CIA. Because of intelligence failures, right? No . . .
The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."
(Or rather, the intelligence failures were just their insistance on telling Bush what he didn't want to hear -- that there weren't WMD in Saddam's possession, for example -- or trying to keep him from attributing facts to them that their work didn't support.)
spy vs. spy
(via Medley)

Updates: As MeteorBlades says over at dailyKos, "Does this sound like the behavior of a democratically elected leader of a free nation?" (No wonder Putin gets along with this guy!)

And DemfromCT offers more detail about the bull-in-a-china-shop method of "reform" being used to bring about change at the CIA . . . "Looks like being 'loyal' is far more important than being competent. America, do you feel safer yet?"

Josh Marshall summarizes the significance of this very well -- in a nutshell,
Another way to put it is that the folks who were always wrong and often catastrophically wrong are rooting out the folks who were often right and sometimes somewhat wrong. The answer to politicized intelligence, it turns out, is a more thorough politicization of intelligence and the elimination of those who resisted political pressure.

If you think this is just a Washington squabble or political debating point you'd be mistaken. Because your lives, and those of your families and friends, may very well be on the line.
And the second term hasn't even started yet . . .

Everything going smoothly, I see...

Carnage and chaos in Falujah over the weekend. A striking story here from an AP photographer fleeing for his life...
Hussein moved from house to house dodging gunfire and reached the river.

"I decided to swim … but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."
I just feel safer every day, reading these stories! We're really shining the light over there.

(via Hullabaloo)

Update: Bush continues to see this conflict through rose-colored glasses:
"Our forces have made significant progress in the last several days. They are taking back the city, clearing mosques of weapons and explosives stockpiled by insurgents and restoring order for law-abiding citizens," Bush said.
Um, is that the law-abiding citizens who are out of range?

(via Atrios)

Update 2: A grim take from WTF on the degree of slaughter . . .

Friday, November 12, 2004

A fascinating snapshot

Discovered a neat page that features a news-crawling algorithm. Every hour it scans a set of news feeds, performs a "weighted linguistic analysis" to determine the most frequently occurring words and phrases, and then links them to images from those same news stories. The results are made visual on a grid in Flash form, where you can click on images to see more of the stories, etc. Better for you to visit than for me to describe it more:
photo montage
100 Words and Pictures that Define the Time

A bit sobering to see all the weapons and scenes of conflict in the current display . . .

Am reminded, too, of this other fascinating resource: Today's Front Pages from around the world. The power of the Internet, indeed!

(original reference lost -- apologies!)

Update: Along the same lines, but even more sobering, is this amazing feature at the Washington Post: Faces of the Fallen. Among those pictured in August, 2003, is a friend and talented haiku poet, Lt. Kylan Jones-Huffman -- I was called for a comment on his death before I even knew he'd been deployed.

I've been waiting to have something more to say

. . . but I am just agog that we are using incendiary chemical weapons in Falujah.
Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns. Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
sorrowI don't know that much about this as a weapon, but the description above chilled me, and I couldn't help but think of this . . .

It seems we learn nothing.

(via Follow Me Here (via boing boing))

Waging peace where you are

Al at Breath by Breath is still angry about the election, as I am, still struggling to understand the folks who clearly approach the issues of the day from a different place and set of priorities. But he has a nice post on starting to let things go, getting back to the little things in everyday life that are what make us value it and fight for it in the first place.enso
This is what I need to concentrate on, to wage peace in my neighborhood, my work, my family, myself.
Yes indeed, slowly but surely . . .

One more take...

...on the red/blue/purple-ness of the U.S.
I like this one the most, I think, as it keeps the states in their undistorted geographic locations while still showing their relative electoral importance and leanings. Good work.


(I'm presuming that everybody's already seen these earlier views.)

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Update: Tom Tomorrow pulls together some interesting actual words about these cultural divides, for those looking for more analysis than visual representations...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Poem of the day

brown oakVia some comments at Velveteen Rabbi, this transcendant piece by Eugenio Montale, which resonates with my experience both of time spent in the woods and of the gardens of unknown neighbors...

The Lemons

Can Christianity be reclaimed from the right wing?

A group called Sojourners has proposed a different way to "confess Christ in a world of violence," to put Christian faith into action in a complicated world. This is a five-point statement which seems to me to get a bit closer to what the religion is really about than the viewpoint of Bob Jones. From its introduction:
Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.woodcut of Jesus with cross

- A "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.

- The language of "righteous empire" is employed with growing frequency.

- The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American "mission" and "divine appointment" to "rid the world of evil."

The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.
The subsequent list of principles has been signed by a deluge of eminent theologians and others studying and working on religious and human issues. I hope this is merely the first step in reclaiming fundamental moral precepts from the distortions introduced by their recent politicization... (Images like this one aren't helping anybody's long-term goals.)
(via BookNotes)

Afterward: Somehow I missed a lovely post over at Real Live Preacher from July called "There's Something About the Way You Use the Bible" that gets at my problem with the great Crusaders of Certainty in our modern age. I recommend it.
The bible is not a book for those who need a weapon. It is not a book for those who know where they are going and what questions they will ask. It is not a book for those who are in a hurry and looking for the shortest route.

The bible is a book for pilgrims and wanderers. It is a book for children and for those who wish to become children again. It is a book for seekers and searchers and dreamers.
Thanks, Gordon, for all the welcome you offer to wanderers locally and globally . . .

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Artifacts from the future

Wired magazine tries its hand at projecting what a voting receipt might look like someday... Pretty spiff!

(via boing boing)

When the intellect and levity meet...

...sometimes it's the Onion or The Daily Show. But sometimes it's "Rhymes With Orange," a most entertainingly random comic:

If Robert Frost Had Lived in the City

Putting the dark lining in every fluffy cloud!

Pleased to see Ashcroft go? Alberto Gonzales is the presumptive replacement.
Pluses? First hispanic Attorney General.
Minuses? Um, well . . .
  • there's that part about how he thinks it's okay to ignore US law and our international treaties against torture (see the memo here about how the Geneva conventions don't apply).
  • he is the architect and defender of the Guantanamo policies that have been systematically repudiated by mutiple federal judges.
  • and I guess it might be subideal that Gonzales was a partner in the law firm that represented Enron
But all of this certainly fits in with the Administration pattern of rewarding those who commit crimes for them at any level.

Update: galiel over at kos thinks that the AG spot was a bone to Gonzales since they want to pass him over for the Supreme Court. Of course, his corollary is the one most feared by everyone sane the left: that the court seat is being saved for Ashcroft. [shiver]

Update 2:
a limerick for the nominee (via Body and Soul)

It's all a matter of perspective...

Pericles over at dailyKos has a long but engrossing post called "Terrorist Strategy 101: A Quiz." It does a good job of showing the counter-intuitive way that many actions aimed at defeating terrorists actually makes them stronger.
The first and biggest obstacle to your victory is that the vast majority of the people who sympathize with your issue are not violent extremists. They may agree with you in principle. They may even sound like violent extremists late at night over their beverage of choice. But when the hammer comes down, they won't be there.
. . .
So your first goal as a violent extremist is not to kill your enemies, but to radicalize the apathetic majority on your side of the issue. If everyone becomes a violent extremist, then you (as one of the early violent extremists) are a leader of consequence. Conversely, if a reasonable compromise is worked out, you are a nuisance.
. . .
In radicalizing your apathetic sympathizers, you have no better ally than the violent extremists on the other side. Only they can convince your people that compromise is impossible. Only they can raise your countrymen's level of fear and despair to the point that large numbers are willing to take up arms and follow your lead.
(Of course, this sort of cyclical effect should be obvious to anybody who's been paying attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the last couple of decades. But "obvious" is in the eye of the beholder...)

You can probably imagine some of where this goes, but I really recommend giving the whole thing a perusal. How the logic links terrorist attacks in, say, Madrid with the overall strategy, and what it means about effective long-term response... Really good stuff there. Of course, part of the take-home message is difficult:
Most of all, we Americans need to keep a leash on our own radicals. They are not working in our interests any more than Bin Laden is working in the interests of ordinary Muslims.
Ah yes, if only the way to do this were so clear . . .

Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead!

Just in case anybody missed the news, John Ashcroft's resignation has officially been accepted. He exits with a Mission Accomplished-style claim:
elephant1“The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."
Oh, right then. All goodness and light going forward!

Update: Jeanne at Body and Soul speculates about possible replacements.

Abortion battles are just the tip of the iceberg...

Here come the real battles: do pharmacists have to fill precriptions that they don't agree with? Women are increasingly running into difficulty getting their birth-control prescriptions filled, as individual pharmacists refuse to dispense the pills or transfer the prescription elsewhere. Furthermore, a dozen states are considering legislation to allow this kind of front-line moralization.
"We have always understood that the battles about abortion were just the tip of a larger ideological iceberg, and that it's really birth control that they're after also," says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Bush's new "moral mandate" is only likely to add steam to this tactic -- backward we go again!

(via dailyKos)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More about maps and cultural divides

Digby over at Hullabaloo has a great reflection on what the correspondence between "red states" and slave-holding states (see here) does and doesn't mean about the divisions in our country.

A Very Old Story

(wait for the page to jump down).

It's long but really excellent, and hard to excerpt a representative bit. Let's just say that he shows that we have a history in which some groups have always resented having the values of other groups "imposed upon them," and the resentment has far outlasted any particular proximal issue. New Yorkers and Los Angelenos may not seem themselves as having much in common, but they have become identified as this "liberal elite" which is now the focus of that resentment:
This notion of two easily identifiable cultures is only held by the people who used to call themselves the confederacy and now call themselves "the heartland." That alone should be reason to stop and question what is really going on here.
Unfortunately, his solution involves introspection on the part of those who have carried this "historical pique" for 200 years, which leaves the rest of the country to fret on the sidelines. Perhaps targeted migration is the answer, although my understanding is that not all parts of the country welcome transplants...

One tiny score for human rights...

A federal judge has halted trials of Guantanamo detainees.
A federal judge ruled Monday that President Bush had both overstepped his constitutional bounds and improperly brushed aside the Geneva Conventions in establishing military commissions to try detainees at the United States naval base here as war criminals.
These are largely Afghanistani prisoners who have been held as long as two years since our initial actions in that country. Many of them don't know why they are being held, and the government has claimed the right to keep the evidence used against them secret. [sigh]
The judge also said that in asserting that the Guantánamo prisoners are unlawful combatants and outside the reach of the Geneva Conventions, "the government has asserted a position starkly different from the positions and behavior of the United States in previous conflicts, one that can only weaken the United States' own ability to demand application of the Geneva applications to Americans captured during armed conflicts abroad.

(via Follow Me Here)

Worried about germs? Get over it!

Amen to this New York Times article (just register already!) that argues against the current obsession with "antibacterial" soaps, wipes, sprays, and whatnot.
bacteriaThe makers of antibacterial products are fond of the word "germs." It is purposefully vague. Do they mean bacteria? Viruses? Both? Neither? Because the idea is simply to connote contamination. These products are as much about cooties as they are about viruses or bacteria.
This is appealing to many, of course, despite the fact that we personally are composed of (or home to) hundereds of thousands of benign or even helpful bacteria, which may outnumber our own cells. Beyond that, there are good reasons to think that using antimicrobials "just in case" is not without risks of its own -- not least that we can contribute to the troubling development of new resistant strains of bacteria (although there are much larger sources of this problem, why make it worse?). Antibiotic resistance will be one of the big problems of the 21st century, so we shouldn't trample into that area on the basis of a corporate-induced phobia.
According to Dr. Gerba's research, an active adult touches an average of 300 surfaces every 30 minutes. You cannot win at this. You will become obsessive-compulsive. Just wash your hands with soap and water a few times a day, and leave it at that.
(initial story via Follow Me Here)

These guys can find a silver lining anywhere!

A new report is out about global warming, commissioned by the US, Canada, Russia, and several Scandanavian nations. Prediction?
It predicts that over the next 100 years, global warming could increase Arctic annual average temperatures 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over land and by up to 13 degrees over water. Warmer temperatures could raise global sea levels by as much as 3 feet.

Such a change would threaten coastal cities, change growing patterns for vegetation and destroy habitats for some wildlife...
Is this the lede of the story? Of course not. The take-home message (and opening paragraph of the Reuters story) is about the terrific upside to all this climactic disaster---the opportunity to rape the earth even more:
Rising global temperatures will melt areas of the Arctic this century, making them more accessible for oil and natural gas drilling, a report prepared by the United States and seven other nations said on Monday.duh
I join August (from XOverboard) in his response: "Excuse me, I have to resume pounding my forehead into the wall."

They're also touting the short-cut northern shipping routes that would become available when all that pesky Arctic ice melted. Hooray! Maybe some (currently) inland cities could become thriving port towns for all the new business! idiots. (via BookNotes)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Today's escape

As fall slips slowly into winter, a last glimpse of the autumn wind:
original link lost; fall leaf substituted

(the thumbnails really don't do them justice)

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
-Rabindranath Tagore

poet, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter,
educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)

Words of optimism

...from Howard Zinn in The Nation, who writes of the grand promise inherent in the constancy of change/uncertainty through history:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
(via rc3.org)

Not so easy to get over...

I keep thinking that I'll get past my sense of dismay over this election, of shame and apology to the world that we couldn't see our way to treating everyone else better, to returning to our role as shining example. But I guess I am impatient. Am definitely not close to being there yet, although the weekend (and some sleep) did help.

Anyway, to my friends in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere, as well as to anyone looking with open-mouthed disbelief at our nation this week (and who I expect will demand an explanation the next time I am identified as an American abroad), feeling the need to vent one more time, I join in this Open Letter to the World...
In the last three and a half years, my government has made war on many of you. It squandered your good will towards us in September 2001, a graciousness which the country has since proved that it did not deserve but for which I am still personally grateful. ... It has declared that your opinion has no bearing on its opinions, even though its actions have made many of your homelands less secure at the expense of securing ours. And although many of you have suffered through unprecedented numbers of terrorist attacks and state-sanctioned acts of violence, most of my fellow Americans still view the one terrorist attack we have suffered to be so exceptional that it justifies the creation of global conditions in which we are likely to suffer more.
I will not wait for you to write me applauding the fact that we held an election without blood running in our streets, when the vote we made will most likely mean more blood running in many of yours. I would like to tell you that not all Americans support the things that are done in our name, that I do not support them, that today I now feel as powerless as you do to change them. But all of those things taste somewhat insincere in my mouth. An apology to you from me would be just as arrogant and self-centered, given what you have suffered, as a suckerpunch from my government. My dismay cannot approach the dismay that many of you must feel today... So instead of spouting more words, instead of asking for your forgiveness, let me simply mourn with you and weep for the world to which we belong. ouch, that hurt

I will understand, though, if you'd rather be left alone.

More ripples from Tuesday

(having nothing to do with either terrorism or "values" but real policy expectations)
money matters
America's economy takes on shades of Argentina, as the dollar falls against the Euro and China starts unloading dollar-linked assets...

(via Atrios)

Knee-jerk responses

There's been a lot of wailing among Kerry supporters about the ignorance of "red-staters" in voting their "values" even when they are clearly undermining their own interests in all other departments (especially their economic interests). Rafe at rc3.org provides a welcome reality check for liberals:
I don't vote for Democrats because it's in my own self interest. I'm a white male American citizen with an income above the median income in this country. I have no kids and am almost guaranteed never to have any. Economically speaking, the Republican party probably helps me out more than the Democrats. But I never vote for Republicans, because they don't share my values. It was then that it hit me that I'm a full fledged member of the liberal elite. That's what conservatives call people who vote for Democrats based on values rather than their own self interest. I feel special.
Oh! right. yes. In fact, liberals often take pride in voting against our own interests (esp. for tax hikes) for the "greater good." It's good to remember that that's what those people are doing too, even if their conception of the greater good differs from ours. It helps keep us from dismissing them as idiots, and may help keep us capable of the dialogue that the coming years will clearly require...

Friday, November 05, 2004

It just gets better and better

On the heels of Poland's and then Hungary's announcements that they're leaving the "coalition" in Iraq, now we get word that conditions are so bad that Doctors Without Borders are pulling out.

(link via WTF Is It Now>)

What history do we carry in our soil?

face of sorrowI like to think that we are one purple nation, with red and blue states merely signifying a momentary snapshot of the invisible and shifting lines of our many cultural divisions.

But then XOverboard pointed me to this map. And I am left to wonder whether we have moved forward at all in the last century and a half . . .

Poem for the day

Yes, obviously Blogger has been shutting me out all day, so I had a bunch of preformatted posts ready to go when they let me back in. Sorry for the deluge.

From a coworker, this excellent poem for the weekend ahead...
by Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night
at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down flowers
where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Do we really lack a message?

Lots of soul-searching among liberals has led to criticism that the Democratic party has no message. I agree that the message seems not to be getting across to the American people, but I think that's a failure of communication, not identity. This comment from The Poor Man seems right to me:
It is absolutely clear what the Democrats stood for in this election... Respect for the importance of time-tested international alliances, and for the system for resolving global issues through the UN and other international bodies which has evolved over the last century. A measured approach to dealing with foreign relations, a recognition that there are always many crises to be juggled at once, and a disinclination to overextend or rely on 'magic bullet' or utopian solutions. Striking a balance between business and labor which benefits both, and judicious use of the state to resolve problems for which the private sector is poorly suited. Fiscal responsibility. A tolerence of difference, a respect for ability and expertise, and a dedication to the ideals of the woman's rights, civil rights, and labor movements. An America like the America we grew up in and believed in, only maybe a bit better, which stands for and gains its strengths from these common values which are our heritage.
digby, at Hullabaloo, talks about that, and futher provides his own summary of the Democratic platform:
To protect and defend the citizens of the United States.
To preserve the separation of church and state
To safeguard the right to choose.
To provide a decent safety net
To preserve progressive taxation
To protect the environment
To advance civil liberties and civil rights
To govern transparently
To provide opportunity
To promote equality
To advance progress
To preserve the American way of life

These people [Republicans] aren't united by a common ideology or set of values. They are united by a common hatred of Democrats, fueled by a massive propaganda machine. They won this campaign by putting on a trash talking spectacle starring George W. Bush as Commander Codpiece. (Those who wanted to ban gay marriage got in two for the price of one.) The problem is that show biz conservatism has become the default channel for more Americans. It's about identity, not ideology.
I agree on all counts. We don't need a new list -- this one is great, and derives from the heart of American ideals -- but rather we need to claim this list, so that this is what the word "liberal" comes to mean again, and so that our fellow citizens see these goals as part of our mutual interest, rather than a threat from beyond their fortress walls. That's not a trivial goal, but it's the only thing that will get us where we need to go.

The view from abroad

Mirror cover

Much of Europe is as pained about our election results as I am, to judge from two days of cover pictures, black pages, and stories. They're battening down the hatches against our cowboy president, and trying to figure out just what makes this country tick.

Update: Yeowch! The Brits sure don't pull any punches, to judge by this editorial at the Mirror! "They say that in life you get what you deserve. Well, today America has deservedly got a lawless cowboy to lead them further into carnage and isolation and the unreserved contempt of most of the rest of the world."

Whose American values?

kismet does an excellent job of spelling out what many of us "want to be able to say about my country" which is why we voted the way we did and why the sense of genuine anguish now.
I am so sick of hearing that this election was won (or lost) on values. If one more (smug, gloating Republican) person says that to me, I will rip them a new one the size of Texas.

Because, you see, my vote in this election was totally based on values.
He hits all the right notes here -- it's longish, but worth the trip.
We are not murders. We are not aggressors. We are not torturers. We are not big-brotherish spies. We are not black hats. We are not suppressors of dissent. We are not thugs. And I voted on those values.
(via Medley)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

If you're asking the question seriously

...then here's a serious answer to what life is like in Canada. But I'm with the author in thinking we need the "best Americans to stay home and try to fix things."
However slowly.

(via rc3.org)

Update: DHinMI at dailyKos has a nice response to those looking for a better life through emigration: sit down . . .
We must remember that even though a narrow majority of voters chose Bush over Kerry, it does not follow that a majority want the kind of nation and government that Bush and his minions surely hope to create. Then, we must stand firm and hold our ground.
Update II: A Harper's reader offers a guide to practical considerations of expatriation, whether you might be considering the EU or an imaginary nation . . .

Because every day is better with a little Sid!

A little cheer for the day: the semi-smiling face of Sid!

Reclaiming the term "liberal"

Craig over at Booknotes has a nice (brief) summary of the definition and proud history of the word liberal (adjective and noun).


As he says, do you see anything wrong with that?

Bad news, good news . . .

A little cluster of observations and links, by way of my reactions to this difficult week. Obviously, a body-blow of an election for many of us who have been devoting ourselves to a different outcome. But perhaps a few glimmers of hope out there too.

Bad news: 11 out of 11 ballot initiatives against gay marriage passed. Many gays were bowled over by this national show of hatred. I recommend Andrew Sullivan's reflection on election day and the days ahead.

Good news: Every single Massachusetts legislator who voted against the Massachusetts anti-SSM amendment won re-election (despite an organized effort to "punish" them).

Bad news: The alarmists say a theocratic coup is underway.

Good news: We really do continue to look like one purple nation, despite election-day maps.

Pretty bad news: A crop of real crazies were voted into the Senate this year.

Really good news: Semi-moderate Arlen Specter of PA, who survived assaults from both his left and his right this year, and who now becomes the head of the Senate judiciary committee, warns President Bush against extremist right-wing judicial nominees (and even comments on the intellectual shallowness of the federal bench these days).

Random mapping insights: Here are a couple of alternative flip explanations of what might be signified by the distribution of red and blue states these days . . .

Just about right

I think that Barry at Alas nails the problem here:
The big mistake the Democrats, and most of the left, made was to believe that by winning elections we will change the country.

Just the opposite is true. It is only by changing the country that we will win elections.
It's time to stop playing to the imaginary middle and start redrawing the playing field. We need some real leaders willing to lead, to explain the ideas and values of the left that have sat for so long on the shelf that their vocabulary no longer resonates in the country. It needs to happen at federal but also local levels, so that these ideas become familiar and can't be labelled as "radical" when they come up in quadrennial campaigns. The American people agree with many of our principles, and are open to many of the others, so they should be easy to innoculate against the simple vilification of progressive candidates. We should be winning the culture wars, not running away from them!

Let's hope that the Democratic party does more than just licks its wounds, but learns something from the last few years . . .

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The courage to change the things I can . . .

A wonderful list of the 15 laws of life from Swami Vivekananda. A nice touchstone for the day.
2. It's Your Outlook That Matters
It is our own mental attitude, which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.
6. Don't Play The Blame Game
Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way.

8. Uphold Your Ideals
Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.
Worth a visit to read the rest . . .

(via whiskey river)

It's over

Kerry conceded Ohio at about 11:00 EST, and thus the election. There must not be enough provisional ballots to be worth pursuing. I trust that if there were any scrap to hold onto, they would follow it out. So we're done.

head butting parties

Rumors of a speech from Boston at 1:00, but I haven't seen it documented in the news. The website still expresses hope about Ohio, so nothing helpful there.

I'm likely to stop reading the news for today, at least. May post a few thoughtful distractions later, if I get enough work done meantime. Hang in there, y'all.

I can barely move

Put in an 18-hour day yesterday -- at the polls all day, signing in our voters, calling those who hadn't turned out, coordinating canvassers for addresses we never reached. Great experience, excellent feeling of being part of a community, unbelievable turnout in Philadelphia (around 70% at all the urban wards). And the city went 5:1 for Kerry, and we hoisted the state on our backs.

And by the time my body forced me to quit at midnight, all the day's hope and encouragement had been leached away. And I can barely face the prospect of a "normal day" today.

For those who share my disheartenment, I recommend to you this post by Meteor Blades at dailyKos, who reminds us why we got into this, cautions us from falling upon one another in our disappointment, and urges us to regroup for the many battles that the coming years will require...


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Don't sit there and read the web! Get out there!

big vote

record turnout in our ward so far. go, team!

Monday, November 01, 2004

For you nail-biters

A little history lesson: the tracking polls a few days before the 2000 election had Bush ahead of Gore by some 13 points, and we all know that that one came down to a few hundred votes. This weekend's polls put the current race within the margin of error. And they're not taking into account what looks like the most organized progressive get-out-the-vote coalition in a century . . .

Draw your own conclusions.
(or, uh, you can look to the stars...)

(history via Body and Soul; astrology via Follow Me Here)

Unexpected side-effects

Apparently in reponse to the rampant looting of historical and artistic treasures after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.N. has formed a rapid response force of "blue berets" to step in wherever art treasures are threatened by war or natural disaster.
According to a report in the newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday, the agreement provided for the involvement of engineers, architects, archaeologists, art historians, restorers, geologists, seismologists, book conservation specialists and experts in the illegal trafficking of art works.

Under the terms of the plan, the government of an affected country will contact UNESCO officials in Paris, who will assess the urgency of the crisis. They will then ask Rome for an emergency action group to be dispatched.
Well, perhaps something good will come of all that senseless loss...

(via Follow Me Here)

Identity theft is on the rise

A gripping article at the New York Times (sorry, registration required) details the ever-more-sophisticated schemes by which people assume the identies of other individuals (or even businesses) to get lines of credit and other financial leverage. It can take years for the victim to sort out the wreckage and restore their credit history.
In a report prepared by its consumer protection bureau, the F.T.C. said 27.3 million Americans had their identities stolen from April 1998 to April 2003 - with more than a third of them, or 9.9 million, victimized in the last 12 months of that period alone. The crimes ranged from the theft of a credit card number to more elaborate identity thefts used to secure loans. During those 12 months, the report said, businesses and financial institutions suffered about $48 billion in losses because of identity theft, and victimized consumers paid more than $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses to regain their financial identities.
There's little you can do about a corrupt employee at a company you do business with, but you can consider steps like shredding your records and using a made-up "mother's maiden name" for businesses that you are likely to call about account issues . . . And never trust an email that says that your ISP/phone company/credit card company wants you to reenter a bunch of sensitive information on their web site to keep your account active! Forward the email to the company's abuse department, and/or call to check into it. Suspicion is your best defense when it comes to your identifying information.

(via Follow Me Here)


Sometime this weekend, while I wasn't looking, the 500th visitor passed through this blog. Thanks for reading, linking, commenting, or even just rolling your eyes. I can't predict how the character of this site will change after the election (and/or ensuing melee), but I suspect there will still be things out there to fascinate and frustrate me, at least, so onward, ho!

Good news for a Monday morning

The Republican attempt to clog Ohio polling places with one eligibility challenge after another appears to have run head-long into the constitution, at least according to the U.S. District Court. Guess those pesky minority voters are just going to walk right up and exercise their democratic rights unintimidated . . .

Score one for the little people!
(via XOverboard)