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andee's world: November 2004

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Revision Marches to Social Agenda --by Scott Gold

Revision Marches to Social Agenda
By Scott Gold Times Staff Writer

SPRING, Texas - Outside the Spring Church of Christ, a large roadside sign
says a lot about the prevailing sensibility in this cordial town. It reads:
"Support New Testament Morality."

This is the home and powerbase of Terri Leo, a state Board of Education
member representing 2.5 million people in East Texas.

At the urging of Leo and several other members - who describe themselves as
Christian conservatives - the board this month approved new health textbooks
for high school and middle school students after publishers said they would
tweak references to marriage and sexuality.

One agreed to define marriage as a "lifelong union between a husband and a
wife." Another deleted words that were attacked by conservatives as
"stealth" references to gay relationships; "partners," for example, was
changed to "husbands and wives." A passage explaining that adolescence
brings the onset of "attraction to others" became "attraction to the
opposite sex."

Leo said she pushed for the changes to combat the influence of "liberal New
York publishers" who by "censoring" the definition of marriage were
legitimizing same-sex unions.

Some education advocates have criticized the board's decision.
"This was never about defining marriage," said Samantha Smoot, president of
the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit that opposes what it
calls religious "extremism." "It was an effort to get anti-gay propaganda in
the books."

Gilbert Sewall, director of the New York-based American Textbook Council -
an independent organization that reviews textbooks - also criticized the
Texas-approved books' promotion of abstinence-only sex education.
Such programs are "naive and confused," said Sewall, who described himself
as an "educational conservative."

Research, much of it conducted by the federal government, has raised a host
of questions about the effectiveness of abstinence programs in preventing
disease and pregnancy. Teenage girls who are taught in the programs do wait
longer before having sex, many experts believe, but are less likely to use
protection when they do - causing them to contract sexually transmitted
diseases at the same rates as those who have sex earlier.

"I have very little use for this religion-driven curriculum," Sewall said.
"This confuses sex and moral education."
Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the nation, after
California. Books purchased here wind up in classrooms across the nation,
because publishers are loath to create new editions for smaller states.
As a result, five social conservatives on the 15-member Texas board,
frequently joined by five more moderate Republicans, have enormous clout -
and often control the content used to teach millions of children.
Publishers have no choice but to heed many of the group's wishes, said Don
McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher and Texas Board of Education

"They've got to sell books," he said. "It's business."

Conservatives' efforts over the years to edit textbooks are legendary here.
In a nod to those who believe God created the Earth 6,000 years ago, a
sentence saying the ice age took place "millions of years ago" was changed
to "in the distant past." Descriptions of environmentalism have been
attacked as antithetical to free-enterprise ideals; a passage describing the
cruelty of slavery was derided as "overkill."

The pace of such efforts to alter curriculum is expected to increase because
Christian conservatives are "emboldened" by the Republican gains on election
day, Leo said.

The board's stance on the health texts, some observers said, speaks to a
critical factor in the GOP's recent success: a recognition by evangelical
conservatives that all politics is local.

The political ascendance of Christian conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s
was fueled by their coordinated effort to win seats on school boards, city
councils and other local bodies. A leader of the Christian Coalition said at
the time that he would be willing to train an evangelical to run for

Conservative forces began targeting the Texas Board of Education in the
1990s. Some, including Leo, ran for election unopposed.

Success at the local level has been used as a springboard to national power,
said Robert Simonds, president of California-based Citizens for Excellence
in Education; the group, which helped train the first wave of Christian
conservative candidates, recently has lobbied for the withdrawal of
Christians from the "secularist" public school system.

"It's like an athlete," Simonds said. "If you want to be a top-level
baseball or football player, first you have to learn to run. So we ran.
"The secular world has jumped on it, but only after seeing so much success
in Christian education and the like."

But Evan Wolfson, director of Freedom to Marry - a New York group that seeks
marriage rights for gays and lesbians - said that the conservatives' drive
to control local and state political boards might not look smart in the long
run if their agendas were seen as mean-spirited.

"It does not help our kids to use them as pawns for divisive social
agendas," he said. "It might be astute in the short term, but not in any
meaningful sense for our kids or our country."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Was it an Honest Election? writes,

"Questions are swirling around whether the election was conducted honestly or not. We need to know -- was it or wasn't it?

"If people were wrongly prevented from voting, or if legitimate votes were mis-counted or not counted at all, we need to know so the wrongdoers can be held accountable, and so we can prevent this from happening again.

"Members of Congress are demanding an investigation to answer this question. The decision on whether or not there will be an investigation could come as soon as Monday. Join us in supporting the call for one now, at:

"We're all hearing the stories and wondering what's true and what isn't. But at least two cases of serious problems are accepted beyond doubt:

In Broward County, Florida, electronic voting machines counted backwards: as more people voted, the official vote count went down. [1]

In one Columbus, Ohio suburb, election officials have acknowledged that electronic voting machines credited Bush with winning 4,258 votes, even though only 638 people voted there. [2]

"These are just cases where we know something went wrong. There were also lots of reports of people being denied ballots on Election Day. So far, these reports remain anecdotal, but they must be compiled and examined. And the Internet is abuzz with theories about why the official counts were so different from the exit polls."


If you care about our democracy, then you will want answers. If the voting process itself is corrupt, then what are we left with?

Please sign the petition and invite your friends to sign, as well. Congress needs to know that hundreds of thousands of Americans are serious about protecting the integrity of the vote.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

This Is Easy

"Naturally the common people don't want war, but after
all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the
policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people
along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist
dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist
dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be
brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All
you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and
denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and
exposing the country to danger. It works the same in
every country."

Hermann Goering. Hitler's Reich-Marshall
At the Nuremberg Trials after WWII

Value-added Victory --by Pepe Escobar

Value-added victory
By Pepe Escobar

Ohio is settled. Now let's flatten Fallujah.

"Islam" is just a code word. The Bush armies view the world as a supreme menace. Realpolitik practitioners who dream of the return of post-World War II alliances are flawed: George W Bush's US and Western Europe are now two separate universes, as much as the blue (Democratic) states of the US west and northeast coasts, plus the industrial Midwest, are confronted to the alternative universe of the red (Republican) states of the Confederacy and the Old West.

Considering the Bush administration's track record and the way strategist Karl Rove's negative campaigning was conducted, there's no reason to believe in Bush II's new mantra of "reaching out" for "broad support". The Rove-Cheney-Bush machine simply does not need it. The proof: Vice President Dick Cheney, in his introduction to Bush's victory speech, claimed a broad mandate. A 51% majority is not a broad mandate. It's a narrow mandate - because it excludes the wealthy and progressive northeast and the west coast plus the industrial Midwest.

I'm a believer
During the long, bitter presidential campaign there was never a national debate over an economic program - only the obsession with security, the logic of fear. The Rove-organized machine smashed any possibility of unity by bombing the electorate with its usual weapons of mass destruction: fear, ignorance, intolerance and religious righteousness. The US corporate media played along with this strategy and are now repeating the mantra that "moral values" gave the election to Bush. There's no effort to analyze how cynically these values have been instrumentalized.

William Faulkner wrote that in the American south the past isn't dead; it isn't even past. The south would never elect a Yankee president to begin with. That's a key reason for the Democratic defeat, apart from John Kerry not deciding what he really stood for and his campaign doing nothing to counteract the Bush machine.

As the much-documented negative campaigning worked its marvels, it also managed to convince millions of farmers, factory workers, carpenters, shop clerks and waitresses all over the dreary wasteland of rural red states to vote for Bush - against their own economic interests. It's a remarkable feat, to persuade the poor working class and the struggling lower middle class to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. How to fool them? Simple: by promoting "moral values".

In Ohio for instance, a number of sources have confirmed to this correspondent that support for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage - included in the ballot - was essential in drawing the "values" armies to the polls, thus carrying the state for Bush. The amendment was approved in all 11 states where it was submitted.

With approximately 40% of Americans declaring themselves evangelicals or born-again Christians, according to a series of Gallup polls, the heartland and this composite of the Confederacy and the old West is a right-wing wet dream: God, guns, gays. The Democrats never stood a chance in rural, working-class areas - even though these people would benefit from the Democratic platform on taxes and better health care. But as this correspondent recently saw in Arkansas, Oklahoma and northern Florida, for instance, they all see Democrats as an arrogant East Coast elite. The perception of course has been mercilessly reinforced for years by the Republican machine and its media surrogates.

God, guns, gays
The Republicans bet that in the battle to win the cultural war, ordinary people don't relate to issues (it's too abstract, it requires reflection) ... they prefer "values" (it's so reassuring in such a complex world). God, guns, gays. That's it. The environment is also a no-go in the heartland: most ordinary people view it as another elitist game. Game, set, match. Oregon's governor, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, may have touched the heart of the matter when he said the Republicans have created " ... these social issues to get the public to stop looking at what's happening to them economically. What we once thought - that people would vote in their economic self-interest - is not true, and we Democrats haven't figured out how to deal with that."

Rove was right when he confidently predicted - based on field data collected by his formidable regimenting machine - that the high turnout in this election would concern most of all the evangelical right. The church-regimented Bush armies literally stormed the polls. So the evidence seems to be clear: by applying a brilliant diversionary tactic of mass manipulation, you can make people vote for "values" against their own pockets. Especially when they fear a world they cannot understand.

Even on a purely technical level Rove had the upper hand. He calculated that the demographic shift in the US population from 2000 to 2004 represented seven precious, additional electoral votes to the red states. So to start with Bush only had to keep the states he won in 2000 - which he essentially did. Kerry started with the disadvantage of having to capture at least one significant red state. It could have been Ohio - but the Rove "storm the polls" machine was prepared.

As Bush is on a self-proclaimed mission from God, the Bush armies in the red states just had to transfer from the churches to the polls. Political scientists will spend generations analyzing how a mobilized God-fearing minority managed to take over a major political party, marginalize Republican moderates and capture 51% of the electorate - even while the economy is going down, there's no end in sight for the Iraq disaster, and al-Qaeda is openly acknowledging its long-term strategic goal of bankrupting the US. "Fear" is the unifying theme. Fear of "terrorists" - and fear of gays.

The new 'civil war'
The 51% majority who voted for Bush fully deserve what they're going to get. But not the other 48% - and much less the rest of the world. Among the overwhelming output of the news networks and the blogosphere, among the torrents of e-mails circulating the world and examining every single angle of the most crucial election in the post-modern era, one voice seems to stand out. He describes himself as Aris, a solitary American face-to-face with his computer - and himself:

The unavoidably obvious explanation is that Americans are by and large morons. Simple-minded, uninformed and under-educated, intellectually lazy and proud in their ignorance to boot, self-important and self-righteous, arrogant and benighted idiots. They are a reflection of George W Bush, and in him they saw themselves. That's why they love him and trust him so. Their reality is the faith-based myth that America is blessed and always right and great and perfect and freedom is handed down by God and not man-made constitutional governments and cultures of tolerance and inquiry. They are certain that the "real" America is in the unpleasant, xenophobic, homophobic, red states in the middle, where everybody has a white picket fence in the brain and they don't seem aware of their own squalor and the fact that they make ends meet only because the far more prosperous blue states continue to subsidize their light-beer guzzling.

But of course the 51% is not totally made of "morons". As this correspondent has seen first-hand - the standard greeting: "You're not from around here, are you?" - they learn about the world "out there" from fake news, staged events and sound bites. They might even suspect something is wrong with their alienation, but they are too scared - too lazy? - to contemplate the implications. And most crucially, they are often decent people who want to do the right thing. But they are not provided the instruments for it because nobody, certainly not America's corporate media, is showing that they have been taken for a painful ride by the Rove-Cheney-Bush machine.

There's a form of a new "civil war" going on in the United States. It's up to the rest of the world and world institutions to give full support to the 50 million-plus American voters - plus the millions of forgotten, invisible faces of America who didn't even bother to vote - who are now engaged against Bush's "jihad". Bush's "jihad" terms are well known. The matter of Ohio has been dealt with. Now it's on to the flattening of Fallujah - and then the bombing of Iran, Syria, the whole hit list. That's exactly what al-Qaeda - and the neo-conservatives - want. That's a jihad our world cannot afford.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Red Zone --by Maureen Dowd


With the Democratic Party splattered at his feet in little blue puddles, John Kerry told the crushed crowd at Faneuil Hall in Boston about his concession call to President Bush.

"We had a good conversation," the senator said. "And we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing."

Democrat: Heal thyself.

W. doesn't see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.

The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule. He doesn't want to heal rifts; he wants to bring any riffraff who disagree to heel.

W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq - drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or "values voters," as they call themselves, to the polls by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Mr. Bush, whose administration drummed up fake evidence to trick us into war with Iraq, sticking our troops in an immoral position with no exit strategy, won on "moral issues."

The president says he's "humbled" and wants to reach out to the whole country. What humbug. The Bushes are always gracious until they don't get their way. If W. didn't reach out after the last election, which he barely grabbed, why would he reach out now that he has what Dick Cheney calls a "broad, nationwide victory"?

While Mr. Bush was making his little speech about reaching out, Republicans said they had "the green light" to pursue their conservative agenda, like drilling in Alaska's wilderness and rewriting the tax code.

"He'll be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now," one Bush insider predicts. "He'll raze Falluja if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war." Never mind that the more insurgents American troops kill, the more they create.

Just listen to Dick (Oh, lordy, is this cuckoo clock still vice president?) Cheney, introducing the Man for his victory speech: "This has been a consequential presidency which has revitalized our economy and reasserted a confident American role in the world." Well, it has revitalized the Halliburton segment of the economy, anyhow. And "confident" is not the first word that comes to mind for the foreign policy of a country that has alienated everyone except Fiji.

Vice continued, "Now we move forward to serve and to guard the country we love." Only Dick Cheney can make "to serve and to guard" sound like "to rape and to pillage."

He's creating the sort of "democracy" he likes. One party controls all power in the country. One network serves as state TV. One nation dominates the world as a hyperpower. One firm controls contracts in Iraq.

Just as Zell Miller was so over the top at the G.O.P. convention that he made Mr. Cheney seem reasonable, so several new members of Congress will make W. seem moderate.

Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma, has advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions and warned that "the gay agenda" would undermine the country. He also characterized his race as a choice between "good and evil" and said he had heard there was "rampant lesbianism" in Oklahoma schools.

Jim DeMint, the new senator from South Carolina, said during his campaign that he supported a state G.O.P. platform plank banning gays from teaching in public schools. He explained, "I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend should be hired to teach my third-grade children."

John Thune, who toppled Tom Daschle, is an anti-abortion Christian conservative - or "servant leader," as he was hailed in a campaign ad - who supports constitutional amendments banning flag burning and gay marriage.

Seeing the exit polls, the Democrats immediately started talking about values and religion. Their sudden passion for wooing Southern white Christian soldiers may put a crimp in Hillary's 2008 campaign (nothing but a wooden stake would stop it). Meanwhile, the blue puddle is comforting itself with the expectation that this loony bunch will fatally overreach, just as Newt Gingrich did in the 90's.

But with this crowd, it's hard to imagine what would constitute overreaching.

Invading France?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Idiots Rule

Well, here we are. America has signed on for another four years with this team of maniacs at the helm of our country.

George W. Bush -- a reckless, dull-witted frat boy who somehow slipped past the guard in 2000 and became the President of the United States. In four years he has nearly run this country into the ground and yet we've decided to bring him back for more.

Nobody was crazy about Kerry. In an election, we are forced to pick the lesser of two evils. Seems that America wanted the guy who truly is evil. Or maybe we're just not paying attention. Maybe we're too busy watching dozens of reality TV shows and obsessing over Paris Hilton, Kobe Bryant and what Martha Stewart has to wear in prison. Maybe we don't have enough imagination to visualize what is really going on in Iraq. Maybe we are a little too cozy for our own good, even in these post-9/11 times. Maybe we just keep getting softer and slower every year, and if Fox News tells us everything is A-OK, then it's probably just easiest to believe them. Maybe we deserve whatever we get.

Maybe I'm just being cynical. I know it doesn't help to be negative and I don't disrespect all of the people who voted for Bush. But I'm angry at them. I am angry at those of you who will always pull the lever for your party no matter how fucked your candidate is. Screw political parties. I consider myself a very progressive person, yet I have voted for, at different times, Democratic, Libertarian, Independent and, yes, Republican candidates. Vote for the best guy. Bush hasn't done anything right -- would it kill you to give another guy a shot?

But what really galls me is the implicit politics of hate and division that Bush, Rove, et al have used polarize this country. The Bush campaign has rousted all of the worst factions of right wing America: the homophobes, the militant fundamentalists, the sexist, racist dumbfucks; the kind of people who still salute the confederate flag; the kind of people who want to put abortion doctors in the electric chair, the kind of people who beat up fags. The last thing we need to do is encourage these people -- but by electing Bush, we have legitimized them, and today is their day.

It is way past time for this supposedly progressive nation to rise above the platforms of ignorance, bigotry, class division, intolerance and recklessness that characterize the rotten-to-the-core Bush administration -- and to elect this nutjob again (again?) is to endorse and perpetuate all of these attitudes when we should be burying them.

Four more years.