Saturday, November 13, 2004

Cheney's Heart

This is the headline of Reuter's article about Cheney's recent hospital visit because of shortness of breath:

Cheney Visits Hospital for Tests, Heart Is Fine

On reading this I immediately imagined Cheney marching in and going to the laboratory where his heart is kept in a glass jar. After checking its condition, he marched away equally heartless.

So naughty of me. But one has to take ones pleasures wherever they're found these days.

Saturday News

Just reminding you that I rant and rave on the American Street on Saturdays, the day with the lowest readership figures. If you have extra time on your hands you could go there and read all the erudite posts and then my rants. And no, they don't pay me. Yet, anyway.

In fact, nobody pays me and that's starting to cause some problems. I have some plans to start selling cute stuffed snakes with mine own embroidery on this blog for a pittance of, say, a thousand dollars per snake. And you could decide what the name of the snake is and there would be real adoption papers and stuff!
Or maybe t-shirts with snakes slithering around the shoulders and peeking at you from the armpits? Or my memoirs, written on parchment that's made to look like freshly-tanned hides of Karl Rove and his ilk with ink that's as red as some states supposedly were. And if you lick the paper you die.

Or I could just do more real work and less scribbling here. Choices, choices. Why are they almost always between two unpleasant things?

Although I have to decide whether to bake my famous peasant cookies or my infamous walnut cookies today, and that's a nice type of choice. Probably the walnut cookies as I have some batter ready frozen.

More Wacko Conspiracy Stuff from Lefty Bloggers (Drat Them)

Or, rather, more odd patterns in the elections, perhaps. This time in North Carolina, and yes, the link is to the Democratic Underground, not the most academic of sources. But the analysis is quite interesting. What it consists of is comparing the results based on absentee ballots only, the results as exit polls predicted and the actual final election results. The pattern that appears to hold is this: absentee ballots predict the same as exit polls as the final elections in all elections, whether about people or issues, except for two: the choice of a U.S. Senator and the choice of the U.S. president: in these two elections the final results were considerably different from both the absentee results and the exit polls, though these two agreed. Note that in North Carolina a very large number of people used absentee voting.

Many here agree that there were problems with the elections without any implication of fraud. I think that transparent elections are the very foundation of democracy, and this may explain why I feel it is so important to keep studying the results and their legitimacy. This makes me into a conspiracy-theorist wacko, but what do you think having half of your body human and half snake makes me into? So I don't mind that too much. To repeat, I'd rather that we are all weirdos this way and find that there is no reason for concern than the opposite alternative where we offer more tea and cucumber sandwiches to each other while tut-tutting all that is wrong with the Democratic party, and all the time, maybe, just maybe, the elections are completely unreliable.

This is the one thing that I could not live with. Just to explain why I flog what so many consider a dead horse (not that I'd ever flog any kind of horse, of course).


Hank here! Hiya! Posted by Hello

Sorry for the quality of the pictures. I scanned actual paper pictures so the outcome is fuzzy. I'm going to get some digipics next time.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Henrietta the Hound

This is me. Am I not perfect? Posted by Hello

California in Jesusland by 2008?

That's what this Guardian article speculates:

Bush Sr called it the "Big Enchilada" - the giant, rolled tortilla shaped state on America's left coast that carries a whopping 54 electoral college votes. He was the last Republican president to win California - a state that has gone essentially uncontested in every election since 1988.
This year it stopped Bush Jr from recording an out of sight landslide victory over John Kerry. But Kerry's margin of victory in what both parties have considered safe Democratic territory for well over a decade was uncomfortably thin.
While Clinton and Gore took the state by double digits in their attempts at the presidency, Kerry beat Bush by only nine points, and strategists from both parties are thinking the unthinkable as they plan for 2008: Is the "Big Enchilada" back in play?
The unavoidable answer is yes and it should have Democrats worried, for if California slips back into the Republican column, it would likely thrust the Democratic party back into a wilderness that would make Britain's third placed Liberal Democrats look relevant.

Just in case you were getting used to the idea of a divided country, as long as your side was doing ok. I don't know how probable this would be as I'm not that well versed with California politics. Much depends on what happens in the media in general. If we don't get a more neutral media in place of this conservative-biased current one we can kiss our rights goodbye in most of the country. Or that's what I think right now. Talk me out of it, please.

Abdominal Pain?

Bloating? Discomfort? Constipation? Grinding of the teeth during the night? Raised blood pressure? Nightmares?

Are you a Kerry-voter? If so, don't worry, all this is perfectly normal for this time of the year 2004. You are just imagining things. Take two aspirins and call me in the morning. Provided that you have some health insurance.

Your health care provider
Echidne of the snakes and leeches


First snow: You run out without a coat or anything and you raise your face to the sky. The snow on your lips tastes like vanilla, and the way it melts on your eyelashes feels like someone else crying for you. Then you stick out your tongue to savor it properly, then you whirl around with your arms outstretched, then your neighbors call the ambulance for you.

Henrietta the Hound got on her hindlegs to look out through the window, and she got so excited. She had to run to the other side of the house to see if it was snowing there, too. When I let the dogs out in the fenced yard they ran around sticking their tongues out and whirling with their tails outstretched. Then they made dogangels in the snow. Conclusion: to go crazy about the first snow is a general survival instinct that has been hard-wired into us through millennia of harsh rooting-out of all those who shudder when it gets a little bit chilly.

Meanwhile, in Iran

A crackdown continues against pro-democracy forces, including those who advocate equality of the sexes:

11/9/2004 - Two leading female journalists were arrested this past week as part of the Iranian government's crackdown on pro-democracy journalists and websites. According to the New York Times, Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the Farzaneh magazine and an outspoken women's rights activist, was arrested on November 1. Fereshteh Ghazi, who writes about women's rights issues in a daily newspaper, was also arrested last week.

For your information, really. There's nothing to comment that I haven't said before.

Ed Gillespie Wants No More Exit Polls


After early exit polls in Tuesday's election inaccurately suggested that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry would trounce President Bush, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is recommending that major news organizations pull the plug on the prognostications.
In remarks Thursday at the National Press Club, Mr. Gillespie said he is among those who were stunned by exit poll reports, which leaked widely on the Internet. "I would encourage the media to abandon exit surveys on Election Day and do what we do in the political profession -- look at the precincts and the turnout, see who's turning out to vote," Mr. Gillespie said. "Don't build a model that you try to, you know, build your own thoughts into of what you expect it to be."

Why is this about the worst idea anyone has ever uttered? Because without exit polls and with a voting system that doesn't allow proper recounting where would we be? We are almost there already, but note that exit polls are regarded as very important in developing countries as a way to measure the likelihood of election fraud. Also see the next post below.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Some Statistics on the Exit Poll Mystery

Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania has written an interesting little study about the exit polls (a pdf file here). What he does is ask and answer the following question: If the reported election results were correct in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, what is the likelihood that from this true population of votes we would draw the three samples of exit polls in the same three states that we actually drew? This is how statisticians test hypotheses or theories. The idea is very simple: if it is extremely unlikely that the exit polls in those states reflect the same population of data as the reported election results, then our conclusion should be that they do not come from the same populations. In other words, either the exit polls were rigged or the election results were.

Freeman does the required calculations and finds that in each of the three states the test rejects the possibility that the exit polls describe the same universe as the final results (at p=0.01 level). Also,

The likelihood of any two of these statistical anomalies occurring together is on the order of of one-in-a-million. The odds against all three occurring together are 250 million to one. As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.

So. I really enjoyed writing this, because statistics happens to be one of my many specialties! But if you didn't enjoy reading it as much, what it really says is that it's impossible for the exit polls to be so much off for the usual reasons that polls are off.

Instead, two other explanations need to be analyzed: Either the exit polls were wrong for some reason that biased them all towards Kerry (such as rigging by Democrats to stop Republicans in the West from voting or some odd refusal bias in answers by Republicans etc.) or the election results themselves are incorrect. Or both, I guess.

Added: After thinking about it I believe that we can discount the refusal bias of Republicans as a possible explanation. For why would they refuse in only these states and not in others? It doesn't make sense. That leaves the theories that the Democrats rigged the exit poll or that the results themselves are wrong.

I also don't know if Freeman's use of a random sample model is justifiable. The exit polls use some kind of clustering. But it's hard to see how the figures would change enough to change his conclusions. Though who knows.

Cuyahoga County, Ohio, again

Is this true? If it is, the goddess will go purple in the face:

Are the provisional ballots in Ohio being thrown out? A new rule for counting provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio was implemented on Tuesday, November 9 at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, according to election observer Victoria Lovegren.

The new ruling in Cuyahoga County mandates that provisional ballots in yellow packets must be "Rejected" if there is no "date of birth" on the packet. The Free Press obtained copies of the original "Provisional Verification Procedure" from Cuyahoga County which stated "Date of birth is not mandatory and should not reject a provisional ballot." The original procedure required the voter's name, address and a signature that matched the signature in the county's database.

If this isn't true, then I have wasted another precious minute or two of your lives. But you probably would have used that minute to eat another Twinkie or to bite your nails or something equally immoral, so I'm not feeling any shame.

Counting the Votes?

This article summarizes the current state of affairs fairly well about the possibilities of recounts in New Hampshire. It is also rumored (via a Kos diary) that the third parties are going to ask for a recount in Ohio. I have followed all the evidence available in the blogosphere and on other websites with great care, and so far the few interesting data sets all have other possible explanations than the failings of the voting system. Though much is written about inaccuracies and even possible fraud, when you follow the references back to their beginnings you go back to those same few cases. And referring to Olberman's television program doesn't really help, because his sources are the same few cases, too.

This doesn't mean that everything is on the up-and-up, and clearly there were some obvious problems of vote suppression in traditionally Democratic areas in many places (long lines, fewer machines allocated this year than in 2000 despite much higher voter registration levels). But to talk about something else requires data which is hard to get hold of given the HAVA and its effects.

By the way, did any of you see Bush's Brain? Not that this movie has anything whatsoever to do with the topic of this post.

An addendum: It seems that Kerry-Edwards lawyers are also looking at Ohio, though they say they are not trying to change the winner of the elections.

Dr. Bob Jones III

has written a letter of congratulations to George Bush (via Salon):

The media tells us that you have received the largest number of popular votes of any president in America's history. Congratulations!
In your re-election, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Aren't you beginning to feel that there is a concerted effort to turn our attention to the wingnuts at this time? So that we won't talk about what else Bush is doing right now or what he may have done in the recent past? Or maybe I'm just really turning paranoid, but the Bob Jones people never really ruled this country before and I doubt that they do right now, either.

Still, he does point out that the country successfully averted the rising threat of Echidneites: the Skin Shedders who are rising everywhere with their chocolate ice-cream spoons raised high above their heads in salutation to all that is fair, just and good-tasting!

Correlation is Not Causation

Honest. All sorts of things correlate and many of them are not related to each other in the cause-and-effect sense. Correlation does not prove causality:

from The Daily Oklahoman, Oct. 23rd, 2004 ...
Dobson warned those attending the Friday afternoon rally at Oklahoma Christian University that the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman must be protected.
He cited examples of countries such as Norway that have allowed same-sex couples to marry as proof that fewer men and women get married. Dobson said 80 percent of children are born out of wedlock in Norway.
"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage," Dobson said.
"It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."
Dobson urged rally attendees to reach out to homosexuals and "bring them to Jesus."

Mr. Dobson knows nothing about the Norwegian society, but that doesn't stop him telling us lies. An equally likely explanation for the demise of marriage in Scandinavian countries is that marriage can't take extreme cold or eating a lot of fish. Norway, like the other Scandinavian countries, in fact regards living together the same as marriage, or rather as a prestage of marriage. If Dobson's 80% figure of births outside marriage is true (which I haven't checked) it still doesn't mean that 80% of births are to women living alone. The fathers are mostly there, the couple hasn't just gotten around to getting married, and the community treats the parents as a couple. In other words, for all practical purposes these people are married.

Where could I find someone as wonderfully out of his mind as Mr. Dobson, but on our side?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

On Raking Leaves

Here comes another trivial story with a deep hidden message...(You know, sometimes I hate my own smart-aleckiness):

Leaves fall from the trees this time of the year and if you live in the suburbs your neighbors will shun you unless you get rid of them. This is one of the banes of my life. I love trees and plants in general, so my yard is packed with stuff which means that the leaves get stuck in dead plants and have to be removed with a fine comb and tweezers. But I try to be a good (and quiet) neighbor so I rake and pick and rake and pick. Never enough, though.

As a consequence, my neighbors cross the street when they see me. I am shunned! My morals are bad; I don't hire those people that come in and spend half an hour sucking everything that is not nailed down into the mouths of the extraterrestial machines which SCREAM. I also don't kill the weeds during the summertime, and that's another big minus in my morals report.

The condemnation of the Snakepit Inc. and its bad morals is pretty general in this neighborhood, and the strident voice of Henrietta the Hound doesn't help. So we usually slink in and out holding our collars high over our faces.

Anyway, I have witnessed the following event three times this autumn: the leaf-blower crews that my neighbors hire finish their job by blowing all the leaves along the edges to my side of the hedge. This is why I have about three times as many leaves than anyone else.

The deep moral of the story is obvious, I hope. The only remaining question is whether I should poison my neighbors slowly with some weedkiller or suck them up into one of those extraterrestial maws.

News from Gilead*

The first shining piece of news (praise God!) is this: Our righteous brother Jerry Falwell will lead the country to a new moral awakening:

From the AP: "Falwell, a religious broadcaster based in Lynchburg, Va., said the Faith and Values Coalition will be a '21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority,' the organization he founded in 1979.
Falwell said he would serve as the coalition's national chairman for four years. He added that the new group's mission would be to lobby for anti-abortion conservatives to fill openings on the Supreme Court and lower courts, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and the election of another 'George Bush-type' conservative in 2008."

The Bible is the only source of law! Let us all study what Jesus said on abortion and gay marriages! Let us rejoice!

But this, my sisters and brothers in Christ, is only the tip of the iceberg, the theoretical formulation of our goals. Real work is being done among the sinning masses! Hear this:

Women seeking abortions in Mississippi must first sign a form indicating they've been told abortion can increase their risk of breast cancer. They aren't told that scientific reviews have concluded there is no such risk.
Similar information suggesting a cancer link is given to women considering abortion in Texas, Louisiana and Kansas, and legislation to require such notification has been introduced in 14 other states.

Praise be! The Devil knows how to play with science and true believers will reject such heresies. We must punish the sinners!

And we must educate the children in Christian ways. In Texas the seeds are being sown:

The Lone Star State adopts school health texts that say nothing about contraception -- even though the state has the highest birth rate among high school students in the nation.

*Gilead is the country in which the events of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood take place. Trust me, you don't want to live there.


Is this for real? Who knows, but it's an interesting synopsis of the values debate:

Jesus speaks through the Republicans

I hope the election of George W. Bush is seen as a wake-up call to all the liberal Democrats who oppose God's will.

It is His doing that George W. Bush is still our president. Millions of born-again Christians helped win this election through our prayers and votes. Jesus speaks through the Republicans.

The Democrats will not be able to win elections until they renounce their sinful ways and stop encouraging abortions, gayness, and trying to take away our guns.

Name (deleted by Echidne)

Address (deleted by Echidne)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What Ails Us

I was walking in the woods today with the dogs and jumping into the piles of yellow leaves everywhere. They crunch most satisfactorily under the boots. It was quiet, except for my crunching and the dogs darting through the underbrush and the everpresent sounds of trees slowly breathing. Nary a wingnut anywhere!

While walking I psychoanalyzed myself and the rest of the liberals that I know, and my conclusion is that we suffer from an utter feeling of powerlessness right now. We worked so hard and achieved so much in a very short amount of time. Many of us gave more money and time than we really had, many of us spent time persuading others to vote or writing letters to the media. Unless one is as old as I am (thousands of years, actually), it may be hard to even remember another era when the liberals were rising. And the signs seemed to support us: the expressions on the faces of Bush and his henchmen, the way the sleek opportunists in the media suddenly started talking our talk, even many polls and exit polls, the voter registration news. Also, the facts were on our side: Bush decided to avenge 9/11 on people that had nothing to do with it (Iraq) and made a mess of it. This cost hundreds of thousand of lives. He has lost more jobs than any president for decades, and he has brought in laws which might limit our freedoms except that we don't even know if this happened. He has condoned torture and illegal imprisonment, he has increased the income inequality in this country and even abortion rates rose during the four years of his presidency.

All this seemed so obvious that it was hard for anyone still trusting in the idea of democracy not to be optimistic, despite the knowledge we had that the Republican machinery is everywhere, that the media are scared of its very shadow (except for the parts which are openly pro-Bush) and that the Democratic party is a wimpy shadow of courage inside a bloated pro-corporate facade.

When you regard all this, the election results amount to a total disempowerment: a reduction of every chance we had into nothing. Either the majority in this country did not care about the facts at all or it decided that keeping a wartime president, however terrible was more important than anything else or it is too ignorant to bother with learning anything and votes for whoever has more sound bites or the fundamentalists have indeed started a theocracy which will run our lives from now on. Or the election was rigged.

It doesn't matter for the emotional purposes which of these took place: all of the reasons will result in this feeling that we don't matter, I don't matter, our values and our striving and the facts don't matter. Not only that, but the media conclusions about the election results are the exact opposite: that we do matter but only in the sense of being immoral, depraved and extremist, in the sense of presenting a suitable target for all the hatred of the fundamentalists and free-marketers.

It is human to feel as if having been run over by a tank. Even goddesses feel some pain here. And just like after any major trauma thinking about the issues doesn't really help the pain. Only time will tell what actually happened, if anything ever will be known. But in the meantime, while we are holding our pain and trying to breathe the wingnuts are goosestepping on with renewed vigor.

I have no solution to any of this. It's natural to feel horrible right now, but I'm not sure if we have the time that would be needed for this. So I alternate between bouts of activity and bouts of making holes in the walls. Maybe you can find your own patent remedies.

The Post-Roe Era

What will happen if the fundamentalists force Bush to appoint enough anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court? Some people at the Planned Parenthood Federation have been thinking about it in some detail:

For the past four years, Williams and her group's 13 other members have explored the post-Roe challenge on many fronts.
Among other options, they've looked at maintaining services by strengthening state laws and the possibility of providing abortions in places where federal laws don't apply.
To prepare for what would likely be a health epidemic, they've urged physicians to get special training so they know how to treat infections, uncontrolled bleeding and other life-threatening complications caused by botched abortions.

The ideas they toss around are trying to see that states have clear pro-choice laws in their books and looking into alternative sites for abortion providers such as offshore facilities and Native American reservations.

The major problem will face the poor women who now have 57% of all abortions in this country. They would be unable to go abroad or to a nice, discreet provider that daddy or mummy golfs with. It is among this group that we are most likely to find the dead in a post-Roe era. If you don't believe that there will be deaths, consider this:
Abortion rates were higher in the United States before the procedure was legal, Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has said.
More than 200 U.S. women died each year from the complications of illegal abortions in the decade before Roe vs. Wade, Stanley Henshaw, a senior fellow at The Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, has said.


So many things today are like Catch-22 or like 1984. An interesting one concerns the recent seizure of some Indymedia servers in London, England:

The facts of the matter are scanty. On Oct. 7, Rackspace Managed Hosting, an Internet service provider based in San Antonio, was served with a subpoena ordering it to hand over two Indymedia servers physically located in London. Rackspace immediately fired off an e-mail to Indymedia informing them about the servers and noting that it was required to comply, according to something called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an international agreement that sets out "procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping, and money laundering."
In the e-mail, Rackspace noted that it was "acting as a good corporate citizen and is cooperating with international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter."
And that was that. Rackspace refused to provide a copy of the seizure order to Indymedia. Noting that it was under a federal gag order, it refused to even discuss the contents of the order. Indymedia was left wondering which government seized its servers and for what purpose. To this day, the group has no idea what was done to the servers before they were returned, what was being searched for, who did the searching, or why. All they know is that for nearly a week somebody, somewhere, with the assistance of the FBI, had a peek, and maybe more, at their machines.

What you don't know about can't hurt you? This seems to be the very motto of both the Bush administration and those who vote for it. But I can't help feeling that we have strayed quite far from the narrow and difficult path of democracy. Even from the path of freedom that Bush so advocates, although it's true that he never specified who exactly would be free under his rule.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Some More Irregularities In the Election

This is a very interesting website. It links to the sources for the data as well, and the data comes from proper state sources. If these original data are correct, then clearly something is wrong. Who knows?

Added: As many of you can't read the file I linked to (though I can, for some reason), I'm copying a little of it here:

There have been several emails regarding this page. I will be inquiring to Cuyahoga County in the coming days. It seems that the precinct/ward differences may be where the problem is as the official summary report does not show these spikes in turn-out.
The summary, however, does not report on the number of registered voters for precincts or wards, whereas the referenced link does. I am using the referenced link data below (more complete totals), not the summary report, which only reflects total districts.
Each precinct in Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Highlighted areas represent 90% (very VERY unlikely) and higher (up to 1160.78%) voter TURN-OUT! 30 are above 100%
Calculated from data on county page -
(Ballots Cast/Registered Voters) * 100 = % turn out.
Ballots Cast SHOULD NEVER be more than Registered, thus % should NEVER be higher than 100%
This amounts to 97,489 EXTRA votes beyond 100% in those precincts! This is just for ONE county!

As an example or two:

The number of registered voters in Beachwood was 9943.
The ballots cast in Beachwood were 13, 939.
This gives a turnout rate 140%

The number of registered voters in Bedford Heights was 8,142.
The ballots cast in Bedford Heights were 13, 512.
This gives a turnout rate of 166%
What this means I don't know, except that the files are wrong, obviously. Whether it's because voter registrations are not correctly reported or because votes are not correctly reported or something else, I have no idea. But I do smell a skunk, somewhere.

No Comment

I sometimes go to to find out what the enemies have to say. Their boards are especially enlightening to those who believe misogyny doesn't exist. This time I just looked at the main page, though. Among ads for screensavers which showed an extremely big-breasted woman with two strips of material across her nipples and an ad for singles dating showing a woman with a bare stomach was an article about the election results. Some snippets:
A lot has been written since the election about how Democrats just don't get it, but the truth is that it is not just Democrats but liberals, regardless of party affiliation, who are befuddled by the recent repudiation of their agenda. Two statements following the election results prove the point.
The first is Sen. Arlen Specter's "warning" to President Bush not to send any "out of the mainstream" judges to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. We'll get back to that one.
The second statement came from washed-up New York pol (now an analyst for Fox News) Geraldine Ferraro. In the typical, dismissive fashion of a liberal analyzing why the "progressive" agenda lost — again — Ms. Ferraro look at that sea of red across America and said, "But look at those blue states! The country is nothing without them!"
Could there be a clearer expression of Northeastern liberal elitism than that? She went on to say that the blue states have all the great universities, cultural centers, business interests, etc., implying that we who populate the red states are backward, uneducated morons who reside in flyover country.
The visceral disdain of elites toward traditional conservative values informed by a Christian worldview is as blatant as we have seen it in our lifetime. Even after being soundly defeated at the polls, American liberals in both parties still believe that only those who share their "enlightened" point of view need apply — especially when it comes to the judiciary.
As Democrats strategize themselves into political oblivion trying to learn "the language of faith," liberal Republicans like Specter present a two-fold problem. First, they can create real obstacles in the president's efforts to defend traditional, pro-family values; and second, Democrats love to quote them. How many times have you heard Chuck Schumer say things like, "Even respected, moderate Republicans like Arlen Specter think the president's agenda is too radical"?

Heh. Not only is the idea of moral values a little confusing on this website but now the wingnuts are beginning to feast on their own. Well, that was the next predictable step anyway: to cleanse (term chosen on purpose) the party of those who are not wingnuts.

You know, this would be fun to watch if real people didn't die and suffer as a consequence. Other than that little problem, the next four years can provide me enough material to write satire until the cows come home.

A Short Explanation

To those of my readers who come here for feminism more than political cud-chewing. Right now the two are the same thing in my boiling brain and have everything to do with the U.S. elections. In a day or two I'll probably be able to write something on just feminism, but not yet. So my apologies.

The same apologies to those of you who want to hear more about my dogs or my snakes or the very hot sex I always promise I'll write about. All this will be forthcoming, but not today.

Today's deep thought:

Ambrose Redmoon: "Courage is just the realization that something else is more important than your fear."

The Grassroot Effort of the Right

Heh. It's hard to beat the pulpit they have for their grassroot energizing. While our side has to knock on doors and beg for a slot in the media programming (so hard to fit us in, what with all the advertizing form Republican firms), the right has both the Fox News and ready-made community-based centers for this:

The Post also describes how thousands of clergy received guidelines from the conservative American Center for Law and Justice for how to talk politics from the pulpit without running afoul of tax laws. "Such entreaties appear to have worked. [Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for ACLJ] said he believes that thousands of clergy members gave sermons about the election, and that many went further than they ever had before. The Rev. Rick Warren, author of the best-selling 'The Purpose Driven Life' and one of the most influential ministers in the country, sent a letter to 136,000 fellow pastors urging them to compare the candidates' positions on five 'non-negotiable' issues: abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, human cloning and euthanasia."


Taking Back Some Power

The "winner-takes-all" principle of American politics leaves the loser without any power at all. All the votes for Kerry are null and void now, not only those in the so-called red states, but also those in the states that Kerry won. Almost half of all votes were for Kerry, but none of these votes matter now.

This idiotic rule leaves the opposition pretty much without any political influence. The administration will not push any of the policies that almost fifty percent of us wanted, and the administration will not listen to us. The people that have their ear are the corporations and the radical fundamentalist Christians.

So how can we get some of our power back? There is not much one can do about the fundamentalists. They live in a world of Rapture and if I approached them with the view of a friendly debate they'd most likely burn me on a stake. That leaves the corporations. We can't talk to them, either, but what we can do is make sure that our money doesn't go to corporations which guaranteed Bush for another four years.

What I'm advocating is selective shopping. Stop supporting those who got us into this mess. At least cut out the worst of the firms and let them get their money from the fundamentalists. I know that this will not be easy to do, but whenever there is a good Democratic alternative we should support it, especially in larger purchases.

Here is one good link to get the idea going: spending liberally. I'm going to look for more lists of corporations that love Bush.

A Slightly Different View...

To cheer you up!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

What the Democrats Did Wrong

You can read all about this in almost any newspaper this weekend or you can hear it on the radio or watch it on television. You can even find it on the net. So I'm not going to bore you with my amateur interpretation of how the Democratic campaign could have been more efficient.

Instead, I'd like to point out that it takes two to tango. Somehow we have decided that the proper view of political engagement is similar to an ardent wooer going after someone uninterested. It is as if the politicians must not only inform the voters about what is at stake, but also personally get them out of the house and into the voting booth. The voter appears to have no responsibility, no obligation whatsoever. The voter is also seen as a buyer, a reluctant consumer, and the onus is for the political firms to sell their products by clever advertizing. In either of these metaphors an uninvolved voter is seen as blameless.

This is not what democracy is all about, of course. We have a responsibility to be involved, to educate ourselves about the issues and to vote. If we accept this view of voters as passive lumps to be manipulated by the right message, even against their will, we have no democracy but a system in which politicians manage the voters. It should be the other way round.

I'm just now hearing on the radio that voters can't get informed or involved because they are so busy with their lives, their children, their work. Fine. I'm too busy to have my teeth checked, too, but if I don't get them taken care of regularly I will end up with no teeth. In the same manner, those who are too busy for democracy will end up without it.

This is not to say that the pressures on people's time today wouldn't be real. They are, and we need to do more to make voting easier. For one thing, the election day should be a national holiday so that the poor don't have to choose between a paycheck and voting, and there should be daycare facilities and free buses to the site. It wouldn't cost that much for one day every few years, and paying the money would show real respect towards the voters. But it is still true that even if voting is a hard chore it is a necessary one for anyone who wants to live in a democracy.

The Democrats probably made many mistakes in their campaigning. Given that really atrocious and mortal errors didn't matter for Bush's chances of getting another four years, mistakes don't seem to matter too much. To be quite honest, I am much more concerned with the hidden message in all the articles that talk about how the Democrats could have done better, because the hidden message is that the voters are objects, passive lumps, to be manipulated at will by others. Politics is not consumerism, whatever the corporations try to tell us.

It's time to treat democracy seriously. This means making the voters understand not only their rights but their moral responsibility. It also means making sure that every vote counts, even the votes of minorities.

On Moral Values

Moral values is a religiously correct (R.C.) term for defining rightwing values (no gay marriage, no choice for women, a certain kind of hidden racism)as the Good Values. If you don't share these moral values you are a person without any values. You want to kill babies and appease terrorists, where the former is defined to include embryos and fetuses and the latter is defined to include any individuals of Arab countries and/or Muslim religion.

Many have pointed out that even a polite interpretation of the rightwing moral values only includes private values: those that apply to an individual's sexuality or family arrangements. R.C. values appear not to include public values. This may explain why the wingnut politicians are often the most shameless manipulators, liars and crooks. It suffices to sigh deeply over terrible tales of same-sex love or the butchering of innocent zygotes, whereas the deaths of Iraqi civilians from babies to the elderly can be passed over as just one unfortunate side-effect of the holy fight against terrorism. It is acceptable to tell the Americans that the country attacked Iraq to keep terrorists away from the United States, and nobody asks why it is ok to move our terrorist problems into the backyards of people who had nothing to do with causing them. Better that they be killed than someone here, perhaps?

The other interesting thing about these R.C. moral values is the odd mix of extreme duality and fuzziness. The wingnuts accuse the rest of us for fuzzy morals, and point out their extreme good versus evil values as the clear and correct ones. Everything must be totally right or totally wrong; thus, the so-called 'partial birth abortion' is totally wrong, even if the fetus is dead in the womb or rapidly dying. But the extra deaths of Iraqi civilians caused by our invasion (as many as 100,000, perhaps) are something fuzzy in value terms: lamentable, yes, but necessary. At the same time, the deaths that Saddam caused during his reign are totally wrong. No ifs and buts about that part. And it is R.C. to argue that anyone who thinks the world is not a better place without Saddam Hussein in power is a treasonist or even a terrorist. God help you if you try to explain that this comparison shouldn't be made as if the choices are 'Saddam in power' and 'perfect Eden', given that perfect Eden is not what is happening in Iraq right now. Then your moral values are terrible and you deserve nothing better than being called a Saddam-lover.

In reality most people have moral values, not just religious people. There is something extremely insulting in the R.C. assumption that only the fear of gods can make you act nicely. I have heard more than one wingnut commentator argue that I can't have any values if I don't believe in the Christian god; after all, what would keep me from acting totally selfishly if there is no eternal punishment? This tells a lot more about the wingnut than it tells about me.

Maybe the right wingers should take stock of their own moral values and consider lengthening their lists with a few more: honesty, compassion and justice. These are not R.C. right now, but they are real values nevertheless.


This is from the Salon:

A lieutenant in the New Jersey National Guard -- sent home after she was allegedly raped on a Mississippi base -- has been declared absent without leave in an attempt to force her to return to her old unit, her lawyer charged.

She does not want to return to her old base, because that would bring her into direct contact with her alleged rapist who is also an officer there. She had asked to be reassigned to another base while she is beginning her preparations for leaving the military.

The powers-that-be appear to have no knowledge of the psychological effects of acts on violence on their victims. Especially when the violence comes from someone you are supposed to regard as a fellow soldier, someone who was supposed to get your back when things get bad. Of course, this is assuming that she told the truth about the rape.