Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Troll Smack Du Jour

I have nothing productive to add to the conversation today, except possibly to entertain you with the email I just sent to the postmaster of Evergreen Park High School in Illinois, in response to the latest troll comment on the blog, which seems to have been left by a student of that institution:
Dear Postmaster:

I received a rude and, more to the point, poorly-worded comment on my blog yesterday at 3pm EST, which originated from an ISP registered as belonging to Evergreen Park High School ( The comment was signed "David Covey" with the email address

I wouldn't bother to bring this to your attention except that the comment seems to have been written on school time and language skills exhibited were embarassing.

You can read the comment here.

I would be greatly obliged if you would be so kind as to forward this message to any of young Mister Covey's instructors as he seems in need of both instruction in the niceties of written English communications as well as a primer in social etiquette.

Warmest regards,

Shaula Evans

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rest in Peace, Oldman

I found out this afternoon that Oldman, one of the regular contributors at BOP News, passed away last week.

Despite his name, he was young--younger than me, I think. He died after a short illness over the holidays. As far as I know, his death has come as an unexpected shock to everyone.

Oldman and I got off to a rough start, with a few voluable spats, actually. From there, we developed a respect for each other that ultimately grew into a friendship.

It really is one of the miracles of our age that one can make friends through the Internet with people on has never "met." I didn't ever have the pleasure of meeting Oldman in person, although we have corresponded by email on occasion and we've spoken on the phone once or twice. Although we really only knew each other online, and through the BOP community, I am absolutely jolted by his death, to an extent I am at a loss to express.

Oldman was one of the core economic writers that form the backbone of BOP News. He was greatly respected for the quality of his thought and his writing. He was a pleasure to know and to write with.

If you weren't acquainted with him, I encourage you to read his writings on BOP, as well as on his own site, Oldman's 1787 Blog.

Stirling Newberry put up a public post about Oldman's death on BOP, which I believe Oldman's family is reading. If you would like to leave your condolences for them, you can find the thread here. (Stirling has also added a more formal obituary here.)

I will miss Oldman as a colleague and as a friend. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and readers.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

I just realized I haven't posted since Saturday. A migraine took me down over the weekend and I have been gently tired ever since, in a not-unpleasant way.

Here at the Tsuredzuregusa house, we are thankful that we don't feel compelled to observe today's secular holiday in a ritual of overconsumption. We have a low-key day planned of some household projects, perhaps a movie, and most of all enjoying the bonus of a mid-week day together.

Blogging will resume when Mia, Muse of Blogging, whispers in my ear, I suppose.

In the meantime, many wishes to you all for a happy, thankful, digestive, and stress-free day.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

All the cool kids are doing it

Ampersand has a great post up at Alas, A Blog on why people vote, and more importantly, why they don't.

A study in Switzerland has shown that, contrary to expectations, a new vote-by-mail program often decreased voter turn out. The study suggests the change in voting patterns may be due to the social desirability factor: Swiss want to be seen to perform their civic duty; no possibility of social payoff means no vote.

Switzerland, who knew you were so shallow?

In contrast to Switzerland, California's vote-by-mail program is heralded in Democratic field campaign circles as a great success. In practice, that success is partly due to the tremendous Get Out The Vote-by-Mail drives--it tells as much about how campaigns work as how voters behave "in the wild."

Without more data on US voting behaviours [it may exists but I don't have it in hand], I don't know how the Swiss study would translate to the US. Do people here vote to impress their neighbours? Do Americans earn social capitol by being seen to perform their civic duty? Do absentee voting programs therefore decrease turnout? (I'm using "absentee" as an umbrella term for any alternatives to in-person voting). Clearly, the answers will vary with specific demographic and geographic groups. From the perspective of contemporary American values, I wouldn't expect the study to prove universally true here, but, I'd sure love to see it replicated so we could know for sure.

1. Let's review our own data. Does equivalent or similar data to the Swiss study exist about the instigation of absentee voting programs in the US?
2. Let's collect new data. When we implement new absentee voting methods, let's adopt the model of the Swiss study: proceed with caution, implement gradually, collect data, verify how voting tools affect turnout.
3. Let's compare data, to identify different local cultural factors, towards understanding how much of the Swiss study results are about Switzerland and how much about universal voting behaviors; and, whether voting methods that depress voter turnout in some parts of the US can be used successfully to boost turnout in other locations.
4. Let's make sure we're not supressing the vote. When it comes to advocating for Internet voting, let's proceed with our eyes open, and make sure the data supports our well-intentioned assumptions about how and why people vote.

Be sure to read Ampersand's post and the interesting discussion that follows. On the other hand, you may want to skip Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt's cynical panegyric on the futility of voting in the New York Times.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Play the Partisan Game To Win

I just want to point out, gently but firmly, to all the well-intentioned progressive bloggers who are flogging the TortureIsNotUs site in favour of McCain's anti-torture amendment, that you're not opposing torture. You're opposing the 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate and supporting Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain.

Rove and McCain and Mehlman held out the bait and you took it, hook, line and sinker.

You're setting McCain up as the anti-torture hero, when yet again, Dems couldn't muster the backbone to stand up effectively against not just bad policy but absolute evil.

So, big Democrats: could you take a break from hanging John Murtha out to dry to co-opt the anti-torture issue back from McCain and give us something to be proud of?

And progressive bloggers: could you think twice before you campaign for the Republicans?

UN Torture Inspectors Reject Rubber-Stamp Tour of Guantánamo

"We deeply regret that the United States government did not accept the standard terms of reference for a credible, objective and fair assessment of the situation of the detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility," [the UN's panel of experts] said in a statement.

Special rapporteur Martin Nowak said that the US's stance compared poorly with that of China, which had allowed unrestricted access to its jails.

Amnesty spokesperson Neil Durkin said the absence of full scrutiny at the camp heightened the risk of abuse.

"If the Americans say they're running a clean operation why do they not allow the UN specialist on torture to visit?"
[Bolding added.]

The rejection of the US's proposed visit terms by United Nations special rapporteur on torture Martin Nowak followed just days after Bush exhorted China to meet "the legitimate demands of its citizens for freedom and openness" at a press conference in Japan. (Jon Stewart, are you getting this?)

Wouldn't you just like to be a fly on the wall when Bush meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday. I wonder if "freedom and openness" or comparitive human rights records will come up. I bet it will be a real friendly chat. Real friendly.

Detention by the Numbers

83,000 - foreigners detained as enemy combatants by US military in the past four years--in most cases without charges or access to legal counsel.
5,569 - detainees held for more than six months.
3,801 - detainees held more than a year.
229 - detainees locked up for more than two years.
108 - detainees known to have died in U.S. military and CIA custody as of March 2005.
26 - deaths investigated as criminal homicides.
400 - criminal investigations of military personnel
95 - military personnel charged with misconduct.
75 - military personnel convicted.
100 to 150 - foreigners believed to have been seized by CIA officers and sent to countries that sanction torture ("extraordinary rendition"), including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
2 - guilty pleas to lesser charges, by Americans Yaser Esam Hamdi and John Walker Lindh.
1 - guilty plea to charges of terrorism, by Zacarias Moussaoui.
83,000:1 - detention to conviction ratio

These numbers do not reflect numbers of prisoners detained in the network of known or suspected "secret" CIA facilities, some of which have been located in places including Thailand, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, whose existence the CIA continues to officially deny.

Via Washington Post.
Flogging the Simian also has an excellent roundup of international press coverage.

This Week in Voter Suppression


Beijing Duck not Constantinople

I vaguely remember when the capital of China changed from Peking to Beijing overnight in 1979. To be more precise, the actual capital city didn't change, nor did the chinese characters for its name (北京, meaning "northern capital"). Rather, the government changed the official romanization system (the way of writing Chinese in the roman alphabet) to Pinyin, which represents the name as Beijing. The name of the capital's eponymous culinary masterpiece doesn't reflect the changes, or else today afficianados of Chinese food would be dining on Beijing Duck.

Sometimes geographical names change because of politics. Sometimes because of linguistics. (And many people would argue that the root of linguistic changes are still political.)

The APEC summit is being held this week in Pusan, Korea. But, I was surprised to read in the Toronto Globe in Mail that Paul Martin is at the APEC summit in Busan.


I did some digging and discovered that while the city I've alwasy knows as "Pusan" is often referred to as Pusan, is is now officially named Busan. How did I not know this? I have travelled and worked in Korea and I've been to Pusan several times. Most notoriously, I've even taken the Kanpu Ferry overnight from Shimonoseki to Pusan, possibly the world's largest floating ashtray. (Everyone was chain-smoking, but in September it was too cold to go out on the deck at night. A cold and oxygen-less experience.) Everyone in Korea called the city "Pusan" when I was there. How, and when, did it change to Busan?

The culprit seems once again to be different romanization systems.

The McCune-Reischauer system transliterates the city's name, 부산, as "Pusan." McCune-Reischauer was created in 1937, and it remains one of the two most frequently used romanization systems. Technically speaking, McCune-Reischauer does not transliterate Hangul, the Korean writing system; rather, it represents Hangul phonetically.

This may sound like the splitting of linguistic hairs, or at the very least sound confusing, but students of languages that don't use the roman alphabet will understand. I'll illustrate with an example from Japanese, where I'm on more familiar ground:
You may have seen adzuki beans in the canned goods aisle of your grocery store (or at least your health food store). The name of these beans in Japanese is written with three "letters," (or more properly "kana"): あ (A) + づ (Dzu) + き (Ki). Romanizing the first and last kana is easy; there's not much room for error, at least if you are romanizing for English-speakers (Portuguese-speakers, for example, use a very different romanization system). There's a one-to-one relationship. However the relationship between づ and the roman alphabet is a one-to-many relationship. When romanizing づ, you have to make a choice between transliterating the way the writing symbols equate with the roman alphabet, or representing the pronounciation accurately. The two don't always line up.

"Dzu" is an accurate representation of how Japanese people pronounce づ. Going back to our neglected can of beans, they are most likely to be labelled "Adzuki," and you are correct to pronounce the word just the way it looks.

づ is a combination of つ, which is pronounced "tsu" (as in tsunami) and can be transliterated as tsu or less commonly as tu (the pronounciation doesn't change in either case), and a "dakuten" or "ten ten," the two little strokes which indicate that a consonant is voiced.

"T" is an unvoiced consonant. "D" is a voiced consonant. Hold your hand to your throat and say "tip" and "dip." Feel the buzz in your throat when you say the D in dip? Your vocal chords are active when you produce a voiced consonant. You don't feel the buzz when you make a "t" sound because your vocal chords are passive.

Therefore, when we transliterate づ, we need to get around the fact that there is no tenten in the roman alphabet. The roman alphabet assigns different letters to represent voiced and unvoiced consonants. So, starting with the transliteration of つ, which is tsu or tu, we then change out those unvoiced consonants with their voiced equivalents, arriving at dzu ("z" is the voiced partner of unvoiced "s") and du.

While づ can be correctly transliterated as dzu or du, it is always and only pronounced dzu. No Japanese person would ever say "aDUki." On the other hand, some western food companies label their beans as aDUki. This is a technically accurate choice, but it will mislead non-Japanese speakers as to the pronounciation. And yes, when you work as a translator, these are the issues you wrangle over.

Why is this a big deal? Look at the Japanese sound "ji." It can be written two ways in Japanese, じ or ぢ. If my starting point is a romanized word, and I want to work back to a Japanese script, when I look at "ji" I don't know if I need to write it with じ or ぢ. Your choices for transliterating じ for English speakers are limited, but ぢ can be transliterated as "ji", more accurately as "dji," or rarely and less helpfully as "dzi." However, if I see a "dji" or "dzi," I know that in Japanese it definitely came from ぢ. So, the big deal comes when a technically accurate transliteration disconnected from the actual pronounciation takes on a life of its own in other languages. The classic example is the famous Japanese movie monster ごぢら: the name is pronounced Go-Ji-Ra, but you are more likely to know him by his misleading transliteration, Go-Dzi-La. (Keep in mind that Japanese does not make a distinction between, as they say, "the L in Rome and the R in London;" the sounds can be romanized using either letter.) Yes, ごぢら is how you write Godzilla in Japanese. We are all victims of crummy transliteration on that one.
Back to the the McCune-Reischauer system: if McCune-Reischauer had been in charge of bringing Japanese movies to the West, we'd know that monster as Gojira today, but we wouldn't be able to know with accuracy how to write his name in Japanese. Romanizing Korean hits similar snags to the ones we've examined in Japanese, because the pronounciation of a consonant can change depending on its position in a word.

McCune-Reischauer is widely used outside of Korea, and it was used as the official romanization system in South Korea from 1984 to 2000. It was the system of the day when I visited and worked in Korea, which is why I know the city in question as Pusan, not Busan.

In 2000, South Korean authorities replaced the McCune-Reischauer system with the Revised Romanization of Korean as the official Korean language romanization system. (A variant of McCune-Reischauer is still the official system in North Korea.) The new system makes it much easier to work backwards from the roman alphabet to Korean script, but, is less accurate in indicating how a word is pronounced.

If this all sounds like Istanbul not Constantinople, keep in mind that it is really more like Beijing Duck and Godzilla. Pusan is still Pusan, phonetically, but as of 2000 is officially romanized as Busan.

Reading international news coverage of the APEC summit, I found that Pusan and Busan both show up, and both are even used by English-language media in Korea. I am suprised at the variation: surely the professional, courteous, and diplomatic thing to do is to follow the romanization standards set by the government in question. Just as we all learned to say Beijing instead of Peking, we need to learn to write Pusan as Busan.

Or else Godzilla and the Beijing Duck may come after us.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Canada is an evil regime least, according to Michelle Malkin.

Watch out, America! Because when our evil regime topples, the detritus will rain down on you in an avalanche of evil toques, evil toboggans, and evil maple syrup. Not to mention evil same sex couples, evil health care, and an evil, evil social welfare net.

I've never felt quite so nefarious. (Or evil.)

Via Liberal Avenger and Malkin Watch.

Learning from Liberia

Helene Cooper in the New York Times on the historic election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf [via feministe]:
In Liberia, when their sons were kidnapped and drugged to fight for rebel factions, and when their husbands came home from brothels and infected them with H.I.V., and when government soldiers invaded their houses and raped them in front of their teenage sons, these were the women who picked themselves up and kept going. They kept selling fish, cassava and kola nuts so they could feed their families. They gave birth to the children of their rapists in the forests and carried the children on their backs as they balanced jugs of water on their heads.

These are the women who went to the polls in Liberia last week. They ignored the threats of the young men who vowed more war if their chosen presidential candidate, a former soccer player named George Weah, didn’t win. “No Weah, no peace,” the boys yelled, chanting in the streets and around the polling stations.

The women in Liberia, by and large, ignored those boys and made Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is 67, the first woman to be elected to lead an African country.
Amanda has a great post up today at Pandagon how Democrats play politics with women's rights and expect women to suffer for the team in the name of a party political gain that excludes our interests. She writes that Rule#1 of Politics 101 is "If you want people to vote for your party, you should try to persuade them that if you win, you will fight for their interests when you are in office." Only, I'm afraid she's thinking like a voter, not a politician, and she has the formula backwards.

Politicians don't care about people, they care about power. And they don't care about policy, they care about winning. Rule#1 of Politics 101 is actually "If you want a party to pay attention to you, convince them that you can deliver the money/activists/votes to put them in office, in exchange for favours once they get in." Right now we are begging for attention. Bad strategy. Instead, we need to make Democrats understand that the price for ignoring us is too high.

Women need to get organized politically. (Sure, there are a handful of organizations out there doing hard work, like Emily's List, but there's not enough, or we wouldn't be having this conversation in 2005.) We need to recruit, support and run our own candidates against deadwood Democrats. We need to give our good candidates landslide victories. And, to do that, we need to turn out to vote like Liberians.

Women constitute over half the population. If women registered and voted in this country, we could have real progressive government. We have the numbers, we just need the political will and organization.

Democrats have made it clear that they are not going to come to us on choice or any other issue. We have to take the fight to them.

Republicans vote against their own self-interest all the time (that's how George Bush was re-elected), and Democratic strategists chide them for it. I say, let's take a lesson from those high-priced Democratic pros. Don't vote like a Republican, sisters: vote like a Liberian.

Koizumi's Lesson to Bush

I admire the Prime Minister's political courage. I haven't had a chance to publicly congratulate him on winning his election. But he did so, and he did so in a way that confirms the great strength of democracy. He said, I'm going to take my message to the people, and we'll let the people make the decision as to whether or not there ought to be reforms here in Japan. And as a result of your courageous decision, Mr. Prime Minister, you prevailed. And I want to congratulate you for that."

-- President George W. Bush
Kyoto, Japan
November 16, 2005
Actually, George didn't get that quite right.

The message the Koizumi took to the people was a cry to "reform," that is privatize, the Japanese postal system, a solution he manufactured to a non-existing problem. And he won by getting in bed with the religious vote.

Due to the peculiarities of the Japanese election system, Koizumi's LDP party only won 48% of the vote, but received 73% of the seats:
Elections since 1994 have been based on a system that replaced Japan's old multi-member electoral constituencies with a mixture of 300 single-member, first-past-the-post seats and 180 filled by proportional representation. Koizumi's LDP won (in the proportional section of the election) the votes of 25.8 million people (38.18 per cent of those that did vote, roughly three points better than Tony Blair a few months earlier). Overall he gained 61 per cent (296) of the seats, and his coalition partner, the Buddhist Komeito (Clean Government) Party, with 8.9 million votes (13.25 per cent of the electorate) took an additional 31 seats, giving his government a two-thirds majority, 327 seats in a 480 seat House. Despite the national swing to the LDP, however, without the support of Komeito's religious votes, few of the LDP candidates would have had sufficient support to carry their single-member urban constituencies. By contrast, the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), despite its 21 million votes (likewise in the proportional representation section) or 31 per cent of the electorate, saw its representation slashed from 177 to 113 seats. Its share of votes in the single member constituency section declined by only one per cent, from 37 to 36 per cent, but its share of seats was halved, from 35 to 17 per cent.

If the overall number of votes was simply translated into seats on a proportional basis, the LDP in 2005 would have got 183 seats to the DPJ's 149, and the JCP and DSPJ would have won 35 and 27 seats respectively.
It is easy to see why Japanese electoral math appeals to Bush. The majority of "the people" did not "decide" they wanted Koizumi's so-called reforms. In fact, the majority of the people rejected Koizumi.

Koizumi used the elections as an opportunity to purge his party of people who didn't support his right-wing militarism. He took out incumbents from his own party with hand-picked candidates, whom the Japanese press called "Koizumi's assassins" or "ninjas in lipstick." His assassins included a number of high profile, glamorous women, with no political experience but loyal to Koizumi and his agenda. (Think Harriet Miers with looks. Or Anne Coulter with brains and looks.) The image-driven campaign set a new Japanese standard for style over substance.

Koizumi successfully convinced (48% of) the Japanese people to vote against their own self interest. During Koizumi's administration, the economy contracted from a GDP in 2000 of 510 trillion yen to 506 trillion yen in 2004; national debt spiraled from around 540 trillion yen in March 2001 to 780 trillion in March 2005, or over 1,000 trillion if all public liabilities are included; and working people's wages fell steadily over 7 consecutive years. The lifetime employment system has been demolished, with an increase in an exploited casual labour class (called "freeters") and the offshoring of jobs. Unsurprisingly, suicide rates also increased.

Koizumi's real lesson to Bush is: screw the workers. Gut the economy. Distract the electorate. Say one thing and do another. Run a campaign on glamour, not issues. Eliminate dissenters. Promote a handful of token women in exchange for policies that ignore women's needs. Get in bed with religion if that delivers the votes. Rule viciously without a majority mandate.

Clearly, Koizumi has nothing new to teach George Bush. On the other hand, I'm sure Bush's congratulations were the most sincere words he has uttered as president.

Further Reading
For an excellent, in-depth analysis of Koizumi's re-election, see Gavan McCormack's October 19 ZNet article "Koizumi's Kingdom of Illusion."

The Great White Hero Rides Again

After Bush's pitiful performance at the Summit of the Americas, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Bush left "with his tail between his legs", Bush is now blundering through East Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Pusan, South Korea.

At his Kyoto press conference yesterday, Bush lectured Asian countries on how to get it right and be a cool country like America. Among his unsolicited advice:
Bush described communist-run China as an example of a society that had taken steps towards more openness but had "not yet completed the journey". Bush then proceded to step squarely into a steaming pile of US foreign policy on "One China," by praising Taiwan to the detriment of the mainland PRC. Beijing, which Bush visits on Saturday, is not expected to be amused.

Bush also criticized Myanmar for "rape, torture, execution and forced relocation," and had harsh words for North Korea. In fact, Bush had the gall to moralize that Myanmar's troubles began when the government failed to recognize the validity of legal election results.
Pot. Kettle. Etc. Bush clearly has no sense of irony--and it is long established that he has no sense of hypocricy.

Perhaps when Bush's America "completes the journey" to openness and ends the practices of rape, torture, and execution, the world community will take more kindly to these hints from little George.

In the meantime, Bush can expect the same kind of welcome at the APEC summit as he received at the Summit of the Americas: riots in the streets and resistance from world leaders.

My kingdom for a pot

I am shopping for a new set of cookware, and I would love your suggestions. (I know we have some real gourmet's around here. And yes, Melanie Mattson, I'm talking to you.)

We have moved on average of once year, sometimes more often than that, during our not-quite 5 year marriage. A combination of under-paying campaign jobs, contract jobs, relocations, and my uncertain immigration status put us in a range of temporary accommmodations, including short term leases, extended-stay motels, and friends' and strangers' couches. With each subsequent move, we've done our best to divest ourselves of unnecessary belongings.

Ghandi got rid of half of his belongings every year--a great practice, and I highly recommend it. It is amazing how much junk you're still left with.

In a fit of enthusiasm, on our last major move, we got rid of our bed, our television set, and all my cooking pots.

That may seem a bit over-zealous. We were putting our belongings in storage for an indefinite period of time, and weighed the transportation and storage costs against the actual value of the items. The pots lost.

We've made do with some corningware and visionware we picked up second hand, but now that the weather is getting cooler, I am itching to make soup. Alas, my EasyBakeOven-proportioned cookware is not up to the task.

I probably won't buy pots and pans again for at least another 10-20 years, so I am happy to make do for the moment, save up, and invest in good quality cookware.

I have to admit, I covet Le Creuset. Their enamel-on-cast-iron pots are works of art and excellent tools all rolled into one. They are also as heavy as hell, and once chipped they are ruined.

I had resigned myself to a life sans Le Creuset, because I couldn't see hauling their cannonball cookware through our peripatetic gypsy lifestyle. (Nor did I wish the hefting of those pots on my poor husband, who literally and metaphorically performs the heavy lifting during our moves.) But, my husband is now in an excellent permanent job with a steady employer, and it looks like we won't be budging from either Richmond, Virginia nor even our very comfortable apartment for the foreseeable future. Hence, it is time to play house. We are gradually replacing our hand-me-down and make-do-for-now housewares with quality items, as well as continuing to get rid of what we don't need, and real cookware is at the top of the list. I'm running out of excuses not to by Le Creuset.

I still have a lingering reservation about their weight, from a day-to-day perspective (or, le quotidien, as our friends at Le Creuset headquarters would say). My hands, wrists and arms aren't particularly strong after extended years of illness. I am worried about my ability to lift a full pot of soup off the stove. My concerns might sound silly, but I won't want to invest hundreds of dollars in a set of cookware I can't use.

Thus, I am asking you, my far-flung team of Experts On Everything. Does anyone use Le Creuset? How onerous is the weight? What other kinds of cookware do you recommend?

I'm very interested to hear what you have to say. I'll keep you posted on how the research adventure and eventual purchase turn out.

Now that's a pedigree

I dreamed last night I was the direct discendant of a long line of competitive Prussian mini-golf players.

I kid you not.

And the pecking wars begin

Last week John Edwards stated publically that his vote for the Iraq war was a mistake.

And yesterday...Democratic presidential-hopeful Joe Biden was taking pot shots at Edwards for his honesty:
"I think he did make a mistake. He voted for the war and against funding it, I think that was a mistake.

"The only regret I had voting for the war is that I never anticipated how incompetent the administration would be in using the authority we gave them to avoid war."
Shorter Biden: "I screwed up when I voted to trust Bush. John Edwards sucks. Vote for me."

I have a modest suggestion for Senator Biden: could you be so kind as to save your talons for the Republicans? Right now we have a prime opportunity to point out the Republican patterns of cronyism, incompetence, and corruption to the voting public. Do your party and your constituents a favour: postpone shredding your fellow Democrats and focus on the real bad guys for just a little while longer.

I've long maintained that Democrats don't really need Republicans. We do a good enough job of destroying each other all by ourselves.

Further Reading
Pittsburgh Post Gazette Interview with Biden
Great analysis from DavidNYC

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

If humour is the best weapon deflate bullies and tyrants, then this is a WMD.
Don Knotts as Jesse W. Heywood in 'The Shakiest Gun in the West'"One man was chosen,
and only one man could play him."

Don Knots

Click on the picture to see the Dubya Movie.
Enjoy this stroke of viral-marketing genius. (And put down your coffee first. Seriously.)

Hack Watch: The Ellen Sauerbrey Reader

[Posted: Oct 31 Updated: Nov. 16 8:33 am] Ellen Sauerbrey represents one of the most egregious examples of Bush's corrupt cronyism. For the benefit of Readers following Sauerbrey's confirmation hearings, or the larger issue of Bush's unqualified Republican ideologue nominees, I have compiled an extensive bibliography on Sauerbrey, including blog, news, and editorial coverage of her nomination to the Department of State as Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM); the transcripts of her Oct. 25 confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and background information dating back to 1998. Please let me know as you find bad links (I'm sure there will be a few), and likewise, of any other resources that should be added to the list.

Bush is on the defensive right now and the Republican spin machine is going into overdrive. Sauerbrey's nomination provides a great and timely opportunity to point out the patterns of cronyism, corruption, and incompetence. Thank you for whatever you can do to make Sauerbrey a high-profile story.

Primary Sources

Senate Hearing Proves Sauerbrey Is Unqualified: Concerned Women Call for Defeat of Sauerbrey Nomination
, Center for Gender Health and Equity Press Release, Nov. 1 [pdf]
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on the Nomination of Ellen Sauerbrey, October 25 [Click on the "Nominations" link video of hearings; Sauerbrey interview starts at approx. 35:55]
Excerpts from Sauerbrey Senate Hearing, Oct. 25 [PDF document]
Crowley Calls on Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Vote Down Ellen Sauerbrey Nomination, Office of Rep. Joseph Crowley Press Release, Oct. 25
Population Action International Urges Close Senate Consideration in Sauerbrey Hearing, Oct. 24
Women's Groups Call on President Bush to Withdraw Nomination of Ellen Sauerbrey as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Center for Health and Gender Equity et al Press Release, Oct. 19
Population Action International to Congress: Take a Close Look at Sauerbrey Before You Confirm, Oct. 3
Refugees International Statement on the Nomination of Ellen Sauerbrey, Sept. 1

Blog Coverage
Ellen Sauerbrey and the UN Population Fund, Alas, A Blog, Nov. 16
Bush's Nominees, Echidne of the Snakes, Nov. 15
Save America from the Next Michael Brown, The Blogging of the President, Nov. 15
UNFPA and the United States, Revolution in Progress, Nov. 7
Population Politics, The Carpetbagger Report, Nov. 7
Action Alert: Stop Ellen Sauerbrey, The Blogging of the President, Oct. 30
Another Inappropriate Bush Nominee, The Huffington Post, Oct. 28
The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey, The Blogging of the President, Oct. 26
And you thought Miers was scary?, Broadsheet, Oct. 26
A Man's Best Friend, The Blue Voice, Oct. 26
A Slighted Hack, The Plank, Oct. 26
Two and One-half More Cronies, BraveNewWorld, Oct. 25
Democrats Question State Department Nominee's (Lack of) Experience, Journalists Against Bush's B.S. (JABBS), Oct. 25
Quiz: do you know your nominees?, Lightbulb Bakery, Oct. 25
Bush appoints anti-reproductive rights crony with no experience to oversee Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Democratic Wings, Oct. 24
More Cronyism From W, Got the Red State Blues, Oct. 12
Why Does Bush Appoint So Many Cronies?, On The Contrary, Oct. 12
The cronies are coming, the cronies are coming..., The "Bush"-Whacked Administration, Oct. 11
Wall To Wall Brownies, Mark Maynard, Oct. 11
Cronyism and Competence, Joe Scott: The Body Politic, Oct. 5
Bush Nominates Political Cronies To Key State Department, Homeland Security Posts ..., Journalists Against Bush's B.S. (JABBS), Oct. 4
The Racket of Mutual Back-scratching, Limbo, Oct. 2

Google Blog Search results for Ellen Sauerbrey
Technorati results for Ellen Sauerbrey

An Unfit Nominee, Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 16
Bush Nominates Another Crony, Capitol Hill Blue, Nov. 14
Sauerbrey Fails the Test, Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 12
Bush Nominates Yet Another Crony, Oakland Tribune, Nov. 12
Find Qualified Nominee, Miami Herald, Nov. 10
Sauerbrey a Poor Pick for Humanitarian Post, Modesto Bee, Nov. 9
A Questionable Appointment, Harford Courant, Nov. 9
Consider Maryland, Providence Journal, Nov. 8
Another Bush Crony Deserves Rejection, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nov. 7
A scandal is brewing far under the radar, Albany Times Union, Nov. 7
Wrong Message About Women, Des Moines Register, Nov. 2
Here we go agian: A Register-Guard Editorial, Oregon Register-Guard, Nov. 1
Another Crony Appointment?, San Antonio Express, Nov. 1
Here We Go Again, International Herald Tribune, Nov. 1
Michael Brown, Redux, New York Times, Oct. 31
A Novice for Refugees, Washington Post, Oct. 31
Loyalist not right choice, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Oct. 31
Sauerbrey Nomination Another Example of President's Cronyism, The Delaware News Journal, Oct. 30
Another Michael Brown, Palm Beach Post, Oct. 30
Briefly Put..., Editorial, Roanoke Times,Oct. 27
Friends of Bush, Baltimore Sun, Oct. 24
State Department Vacancy Another Worriesome Pick, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 22 (requires registration)
Cronies; Another bad choice, Charleston Gazette, Oct. 20
Another Bush Disaster Nominee Assailed, International Press Service News Agency, Oct. 18
Cronyism, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oct. 15
Inexpert Selection, New York Times, Oct. 11

Abortion Advocates Will Attack Pro-Life UN Nominee This Week, Lifenews.Com, Nov. 14
Sisterhood vs. Sauerbrey, National Review Online, Nov. 14
Sen. Mikulski Questions Nomination For State Post, WJZ Baltimore, Nov. 9
Sen. Mikulski Questions Sauerbrey's Qualifications for State Post, WJLA DC, Nov. 9
Mikulski voices doubts on Sauerbrey, Baltimore Sun, Nov. 9
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Delays Vote on Bush Nominee Sauerbrey, Ms. Magazine, Nov. 2
Despite foes, OK likely for nominee, Washington Times, Oct. 31
Sauerbrey says U.N. work readied her for refugees; Senate Democrats question her qualifications, opposition to abortion, Baltimore Sun,Oct. 26
Democrats Zero In On Another Nominee; Ability to Run Refugee Program, Washington Post, Oct. 26
Bush Nominee for Refugee Issues Draws Heat, Reuters, Oct. 25
Dems Question Bush's State Dept. Nominee, Fox Neww, Oct. 25
Bush's Pick for State Post Criticized, ABC News, Oct. 25
Democrats rap Bush's pick for State Department job, Reuters, Oct. 25
Bush nominee for refugee issues draws criticism, CNN, Oct. 25
Democrats take aim at Bush's pick for State refugee office,, Oct. 26
Sauerbrey expected to be confirmed, Baltimore Sun, Oct. 25
Bush's Pick for State Post Criticized, Associated Press [via Yahoo! News], Oct. 25
Cheers and Jeers of the Week: Bush Names Pro-Lifer, Women's eNews, Oct. 22
Sauerbrey's nomination to State post is opposed, Baltimore Sun, Oct. 20
Women urge U.S. president to withdraw nominee for top refugee and population post, Associated Press,Oct. 19
Another Bush Disaster Nominee Assailed, Inter Press, Oct. 19
Opposition Grows to BushÂ’s Population Office Nominee,, Oct 19.
Shades of FEMA's Brown in Bush Pick, by Ken Silverstein, Los Angeles, Oct. 1
President Bush Nominates Pro-Life Woman to Key Population Post, LifeNews, Sept. 1

Google News links for Ellen Sauerbrey

Who is Ellen Sauerbrey?, Planned Parenthood, Oct. 5, 2005
Sauerbrey remarks to Heritage Foundation, Sept. 7, 2005
Editorial: Shameful Women, The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), March 11, 2005
U.S. Disputes Reproductive Rights at UN, Associated Press, March 11, 2005
Ambassador Wrong for Women's Rights, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 9, 2005
US Tells UN Gathering that Beijing Declaration Did Not Include Right to Abortion, Indy Bay, March 8, 2005
Women Unanimously Reaffirm U.N. Blueprint For Women's Equality After U.S. Drops Abortion-Related Amendment, WHDH 7 Boston, March 5, 2005
U.S. Draws Jeers for Abortion Comments at UN, Reuters, March 4, 2005
Radical Right Goes Abroad, Think Progress, March 1, 2005
US presses UN on abortion. The Bush administration has insisted that a UN document on female equality clarify that abortion is not a fundamental right,, March 1, 2005
U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey Visits Howard Center to Speak on U.N. Family Policy, U.S. Newswire, Jan. 20, 2005
A Family Affair. The Illinois-based World Congress of Families wants governments to decide what's natural, Ms. Magazine, Fall 2004
Sauerbrey Remarks to United Families International Defend Marriage Family Conference, Nov. 21-22, 2003
Our Girl at the U.N. Something New Blows Through The Halls, The National Review, March 21, 2002
Latest trick for fundraising: the check swap, The Baltimore Sun
Sauerbrey and D'Amato swap checks in campaign, Baltimore Sun, Dec. 22, 1998
For Sauerbrey, Past vs. Present, Washington Post, Oct. 12, 1998
Maryland's Thatcher: a Reagan conservative runs against America's most unpopular governor - Ellen Sauerbrey; Parris Glendening, The National Review, Aug. 17, 1998
Washington Post Q&A With Ellen Sauerbrey, June 2, 1998
Sauerbrey Answers Education Questions, Washington Post, June 29, 1998
Center for Health and Gender Equity's Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Sauerbrey's Nomination (.pdf document)
Sauerbrey remarks to World Congress on Families
Maryland for Bush Campaign Chairperson Ellen R. Sauerbrey Profile, Maryland for Bush 2000 website
Oppose Sauerbrey Nomination, Center for Gender Health and Equity
Progressive Government on Sauerbrey
SourceWatch on Sauerbrey
State Department biography
Wikipedia on Sauerbrey

Articles by Shaula Evans in the Same Series

Part 1 The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey
Part 2 Hack Watch: The Ellen Sauerbrey Reader
Part 3 Hack Watch: Ellen Sauerbrey Action Alert

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Desperately seeking matrimony

Advertisement placed by William Corder in The Morning Herald, November 13, 1827

MATRIMONY--A Private Gentleman, aged 24, entirely independent, whose disposition is not to be exceeded, has lately lost the chief of his family by the hand of Providence, which has occasioned discord among the remainder, under circumstances most disagreeable to relate. To any female of respectability who would study for domestic comfort, and willing to confide her future happiness in one every way qualified to render the marriage state desirable, as the advertiser is in affluence, the lady must have the power of some property, which may remain in her own possession. Many very happy marriages have taken place through means similar to this now resorted to, and it is hoped no one will answer this through impertinent curiosity, but should meet the eye of any agreeable lady who feels desirious of meeting with a sociable, tender, kind, and sympathizing compaion, they will find this advertisement worthy of notice. Honour and secrecy may be relied on. As some little security against idle applications, it is requested that letters may be addressed (post-paid) to A.Z., care of Mr. Foster, stationer, No. 68 Leadenhall Street, which will meet with the most respectful attention.

As quoted in "Time to Be in Earnest," by P.D. James
They sure knew how to write personals back then. Beats the hell out of "SWM seeks SWF." [Victorian language and sentence structure absolutely delightes me.]

Of course, Corder neglected to mention in his advertisement that he was on the prowl for a new girl because he had just murdered Maria Marten, his pregnant fiancée, and buried her body in the Red Barn in Polstead, Suffolk, then fled to London.

According to P.D. James, the advertisement worked. Corder set up a private school with his new wife, and after Marten's body was eventually discovered, Mrs. Corder remained devoted to her husband through the trial and up until his execution.

Let this be a lesson to you: if you date through personals, always check out their barn.

Applebees 2.0

The NYT is making a big deal out of the fact that Michael Bloomberg's mayoral campaign talked to hundreds of thousands of invidual voters and listened to their answers--instead of targetting campaign messages by race or party affiliation. (It's amazing what $75 million can buy.)

Hey, Democrats! If you want to win, here's the Bloomberg Method On A Shoestring:

1. Set up precinct captains and grassroots volunteers.
2. Walk your precincts.
3. Listen to your voters.
4. Manage your data.
5. Micro-target your messages

The real story here is that no one on either side of the aisle talks to or listens to voters. The industry norm of polling a 2% sample doesn't constitute understanding voters any more than does "hanging out at Applebees." What makes Bloomberg's campaign tactic remarkable, fundamentally, is that it shouldn't be remarkable at all.

Save America from the next Michael Brown

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes this week on the confirmation of Ellen Sauerbrey to head the state department program on population, refugees, and migration. She's another Republican hack/Bush crony in the mold of Michael Brown, and the job is essentially FEMA on an international scale. If Sauerbrey's nomination is confirmed, the consequences will be disastrous, particularly for the fight against AIDS in Africa. On the positive side, Sauerbrey is so obviously and grossly unqualified that there's real ammunition to block her confirmation...if we raise enough hell.

Just think ofhow many deaths could have been prevented if we'd been able to save FEMA from Michael Brown's appointment. Let's seize the chance to make up for it.

Please take action now. And, thank you for whatever you can do to raise attention to this story, while there's still time to make a difference.

More Resources
The Next Chapter in the Hackocracy: Ellen Sauerbrey
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ellen Sauerbrey
Action Alert: Stop Ellen Sauerbrey

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Doing Robocalls the Right Way

Let's recap: Matt Stoller hates robocalls, those annoying, pre-recorded campaign phone calls. Matt's not alone: a lot of other people hate robocalls, too. But, in campaigns, robocalls can be a necessary evil. The trick is to use robocalls sparingly and well.

1. Use a reliable phone vendor.
2. Use a well-targetted list.
3. Time your calls strategically. Make sure you are not calling too early, too late, or during the big football game.
4. Make sure your staff and volunteers are not entering cell numbers into your voter file, so you don't accidentally send a robocall to a cell phone number.
5. Make the highest-quality call you can. Your own volunteers phone banks are more effective than paid calls (if they are run well, volunteers are well-trained and supervised, and you give them good scripts). Live calls are more effective than robocalls. Interactive calls are more effective than passive calls.
6. Celebrity endorsements are NOT effective in any other field of advertising (if you don't believe me ask David Ogilvie), yet the campaign world is obsessed with Big Name Robocalls. If you're going to get a Big Wheel to record a call for you, make dead certain that the association is going to help you more than hurt you. And make sure that the hassle of coordinating with the Big Wheel's schedule and staff is worthwhile to create a call that in most cases would be more effective coming from the candidate or a candidate's family member.
7. Coordinate with other campaigns in the area. If every race on the ticket is sending calls to the same voters, people will start tearing their phones out of the wall. (Yes, I have horror stories.)
8. Use GREAT call scripts. If you can't write them, get your phone firm to do it. If your phone people can't write them...get outside help and also reconsider your choice of phone firm.

For more on Robocalls, please see Why Robocalls Are Here To Stay.

Doing Robocalls The Right Way is also cross-posted at The Blogging of the President.


Why Robocalls Are Here To Stay

Robocalls (pre-recorded, automated phone calls) are spam, plain and simple. I hate them as much as I hate direct mail (=snail mail spam) or yard signs (=public space spam).

But here's the first problem: effective direct voter contact is a trade-off between effectiveness and coverage, or your ability to persuade people vs your ability to reach people. Put in other words, the critical resources in any campaign are time, people, and money. Sometimes that equation makes robocalls your best option.

The examples I'm giving here are simple, and I've omitted reams of information on other related field techniques, because this is a post and not a field textbook. (I'm also hoping a few of you make it all the way to the end of the post before you die of boredom.) I'm always happy to answer questions about "field stuff." In this case, the choice to keep this post focussed on robocalls vs their opposite, time-consuming but effective canvass programs, is a deliberate choice in the name of brevity, clarity, and compassion for the reader.

On a campaign, if you have enough volunteers, paid field staff, and/or a willing candidate and candidate surrogates, you can run a powerful canvass program knocking on doors and talking to voters one-on-one. The logistics are a bit of a juggle, and you need good field staff and a good voter file manager to target your program, as well as great volunteer recruiters and managers to make sure you have enough boots on the ground. One-on-one voter contact takes a small amount of money but it takes a huge amount of *time.* Plus, because people are not always home, even a grade-A canvass program will not reach all voters.

In contrast, robocalls are available just by cutting a check. And, they don't take much time. They are FAR less effective, but they are *easier* for campaigns to do. Robocalls are limited by: the phone matches on your voter file (seems to be around 60% in most places), the number of people home when you call, and the number of people with answering machines or voice mail. But, in a matter of hours, you can reach the same number of voters with robocalls that it would take months and hundreds of people to reach with a canvass program.

Grassroots campaigns are hard work. All other factors being equal, a ground war (grassroots strategies such as canvassing) will beat an air war (paid media and direct mail). But, the trend in campaigns is to do the easy and comfortable thing--write the checks, and spam out the robocalls, direct mail, and tv and radio ads.

Speaking of which, here's the second problem: the BIG campaign consultants don't make money off of grassroots campaigns. So who pushes for spam techniques--why, the DC parasite class, naturally. Their financial gain is more important than the Democratic win.

[At this point I need to make a disclaimer. The notable exception to my statement above, in my personal experience, has been Marty Stone at Stone's Phones. I've actually worked on campaigns where Marty has said, "There's a less expensive way to do that," "There's a more effective way to do that," and "You don't need that round of calls. Cut it from your budget." I have an abiding respect for him because he puts his clients first and he does tremendous work.]

Let me present this to you as a case study: you are running a campaign. You've had a great field team, huge numbers of enthusiastic volunteers, but it is one week out and you've only managed to hit 6,000 households and ID 4,500 supporters out of an expected turnout of 20,000 people. You can't safely run GOTV (get out the vote) with those numbers. Your volunteers also aren't going to be able to hit another 14,000 households or 5,900 supporters in the next week. (4,500 + 5,900 = 10,400 supporters, or 52% of the expected turnout, a standard GOTV win margin target.)

Your only reliable option is to do a round of phone ID's to hit a targetted list selected from the remaining 14,000 households to try to pick up another 5,900 voters. And, unless you have a bionic volunteer phonebank available, in most cases, the only realistic way to process those phone ID's is through a paid phone vendor.

Likewise, come Election Day, your time is running out, your quantity of people depends on your candidate and how you've run your campaign, and you are throwing money at any problem that pops up. You need to remind all of your ID'd supporters to vote on election day. Depending on the specifics of your district and election, you may need to makes sure some of them get the reminders before election day itself (e.g., commuter districts where people may leave the house before polls open and return after polls close--you need to get a message to those voters in time to persuade them to vote). You have a variety of field techniques at your disposal for your GOTV program, but the technique that requires the least time and people are GOTV phone calls. If you can do all of your calls out of an effective, in-house volunteer live phone back, you'll spend less money and get better results. If you don't have the phone lines or the people to make a volunteer GOTV phone bank are back to robocalls.

Now, I don't disagree at all with Matt's original thesis, that robocalls are as annoying as hell. My strong suggestion to Democrats is to use robocalls sparingly and well.

I'll pursue those thoughts in a separate post.

For more on Robocalls, please see Doing Robocalls the Right Way.

Why Robocalls Are Here To Stay is also cross-posted at The Blogging of the President.



I've been reading through Canadian quotations while brainstorming on a name for a new (non-blog) project. I've come across several quotes that were new to me and I thought I'd share them here:

Who knew Churchill was such a fan?

Canada is the linchpin of the English-speaking world.
- Sir Winston Churchill

There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people.
- Sir Winston Churchill

The full text of the famous Trudeau quote of which one more commonly sees only an excerpt:

Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Canada is a country whose main exports are hockey players and cold fronts. Our main imports are baseball players and acid rain.
- Pierre Trudeau

If I were President of the United States, I'd wake up in the morning and probably look at the events around the world - Americans under attack here, acts of terrorism and violence - I'd look at all that and I'd look up at Canada and say, 'Thank God I have Canada for a neighbour. Now what can I do for Canada today?'
- Brian Mulroney, 1984

A prime minister has a unique duty to preserve the integrity of the office. It is not about power. It is about responsibility.
- Jean Chrétien, 2002

The art of politics is learning to walk with your back to the wall, your elbows high, and a smile on your face.
- Jean Chrétien

Davies is one of my favourite authors, and "Ornamental Knowledge" would be a great name for...a blog. Wish I'd thought of that sooner.

Well, allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.
- Robertson Davies

Be sure to choose what you believe and know why you believe it, because if you don't choose your beliefs, you may be certain that some belief, and probably not a very creditable one, will choose you.
- Robertson Davies, 1972

In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations; it's cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.
- Stuart Keate

Canada is not so much a country as a clothesline nearly 4000 miles long. St. John's in Newfoundland is closer to Milan, Italy, than it is to Vancouver!
- Simon Hoggart

It's going to be a great country when they finish unpacking it.
- Andrew H. Malcom

Canada is not a starting point, it's a goal.
- Jean-Claude Falardeau, political scientist, (1977)

We have the Mounties. They have the FBI. Can you imagine the FBI doing the Musical Ride?
- Dave Broadfoot, comedian, 1989

We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor.
- Bobby Clarke

When I'm in Canada, I feel this is what the world should be like.
- Jane Fonda

I don't even know what street Canada is on.
- Al Capone

There are few, if any, Canadian men that have never spelled their name in a snow bank.
- Douglas Coupland

"Canada is like an intelligent 35 year old woman". America, on the other hand, is a "belligerent adolescent boy" and Australia is "Jack Nicholson".
- Douglas Adams

And finally, a personal favourite:

A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe.
- Pierre Berton

Quotations courtesy of Canada4Life, ThinkExist, Canadian Quotes of the Week, Canadian Athlete Quotes, and Canadian Connection.

The exercise turned out to be a dud as far as brainstorming goes, but it has at least served to pleasantly pass some insomniac hours.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A final word for Remembrance Day

Patriotism is not dying for one's country, it is living for one's contry. And for humanity. Perhaps that is not as romantic, but it's better.

- Canadian Member of Parliament Agnes McPhail

Don't be suprised if this is news to you

Today seems to be officially the Tsuredzuregusa Homesick Remebrance Day Edition. Therefore it feels appriate to reproduce the following article, which contains many facts I've wished I had at my fingertips when discussing Canada's role in world affairs with Americans.
Salute to a brave and modest nation
Kevin Myers
National Post

Friday, April 26, 2002

As our country honours the last of its four dead soldiers, we reprint a remarkable tribute to Canada's record of quiet valour in wartime that appeared in the Telegraph, one of Britain's largest circulation newspapers.

- - -

LONDON-Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.

It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again. That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated-a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality-unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers. Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves-and are unheard by anyone else-that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth- in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace-a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit. So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.

It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This week, four more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.
Via The Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace

Congratulations All Around

My sleep is messed up, yet again, so blogging has been light. But, in response to a kind compliment from DBK in a post below, I want to set the record straight on who the giants are around here.

Here in Virginia, aside from the obvious suspects of the candidates, staff, volunteers, and candidate families (who really are unsung heroes in the world of politics), I want to thank and recommend the local Virginia bloggers who did an exceptional job of monitoring, fact-checking, and adding cogent commentary and levity to this year's election, most notably Lowell Feld and his crew at Raising Kaine, Waldo Jaquith, Kenton Ngo, Alice Marshall, Watchdog VA and Liberal Rage.

To my own great frustration, I've been spectacularly sick throughout the political year. I wasn't able to do much in the way of local Virginia blogging, and I didn't muster up much campaign work beyond some light consulting work this year.

I am also coming slowly to the conclusion that my health at this point pretty much precludes any future employment in the high-stress, 12-hour-day, 7-day-week world of campaign jobs. (Although, to be honest, if I am healthy enough in time I would still love to work on Mark Warner's presidential primary.) The consolation is that it is still possible to consult without killing myself, and instead of playing a hands-on role for one campaign, I can make a positive impact in a smaller consulting role on 2 or 3 at a time--and through holding trainings and workshops, enable vaster numbers of people to excel in hands-on roles. I am certainly very proud and excited about the great political work performed this year by many of the students I mentor. I still do miss the immediacy of campaign jobs, though.

Big congratulations to DBK and his New Jersey blogging colleagues, as well as the local bloggers around the country who plays important roles in the big Democratic wins this week.

I am extremely excited to see how together we can carry this momentum into 2006.

Rather than let the day pass without comment

Many things I wanted to write today, but my sleep cycle is severely disrupted, and while my spirits are good, my brain is too foggy to handle much in the way of writing. (That's why I'm behind on email, too, and responding to comments here; my apologies.) Most of all I just wanted to say that today is one of the days of the year that I feel the most alien in the US, and the most homesick for Canada.

In Flanders Fields
by Colonel John McRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I know Colonel John McRae's poem off by heart. I suspect many Canadians do, from year after year of exposure to it through the school system. I happened to learn it early: my first-ever voiceover gig was about the age of 9, when I read the poem for a Remembrance Day broadcast on the local tv station. After multiple takes to get the timing right down to the second, the poem was engraved on my brain. Thus, the poem also evokes fond memories for me of CHBC-TV in Kelowna, which played a huge role in my childhood.

Yes, I'm definitely very homesick today.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Virginia bloggers - pass it on!

The Virginia GOP's Dirty Money by Max Blumenthal, in The Nation online right now. Great article. No time to comment at the moment but wanted to bring it to your attention.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Follow the Tamiflu Money

We've written frequently on The Blogging of the President that the key to understanding Republicans is that they run government as their personal profit center. We've also looked at the specific pandemic politics behind the US's lack of avian flu preparation: a plan based on profits, not prevention or containment.

Meet next step in the human tragedy for profit plan:
The Bush administration's avian flu plan forces state governments to buy "31 million of the 81 million doses of antiviral drugs intended for the national stockpile.... Under the administration's plan, states will have to pay 75 percent of the cost of those drugs."
And where does all the money go?
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that's now the most-sought after drug in the world.

Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.
The kicker: the Department of Justice, the SEC and the federal Office of Government Ethics all apparently have no problems with Rumsfeld holding the shares, according to the "senior Pentagon official" quoted in the CNN article. In the past six months those shares have risen from $35 to $47 and earned Rumsfeld at least an additional million dollars.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rule of Law is a Partisan Issue

That's the message that Texas courts sent today when they removed Judge Bob Perkins from Tom Delay's conspiracy trial...because of his donations to Democratic candidates and causes.

Note, in contrast, that Republicans were not concerned that the partisan fundraising and campaign contributions of card-carrying Republican Ken Starr made him an inappropriate prosecutor against President Bill Clinton.

Republicans want you to believe that all judges are created equal, but some (Democratic) judges are *less* equal than others.

In a sense, this is a revisit to Ontario's recent consideration of Sharia Law--only Ontario made the right decision, and rejected the notion of "special justice for special people."

The American justice system, in theory, is not a partisan system. There is one set of rules for everyone. There is one judiciary for everyone. There is one set of consequences for everyone.

Now of course, anyone who pays attention knows that the playing field of the justice system is not level. Factors of race and class play a huge role in the injustice of how law enforcement is practiced and justice is meted out. However, adding partisan discrimination smacks of McCarthyism.

If law-breaking Republicans don't want to be tried by a judge with Democratic sympathies, they have two options. Number 1: don't break the law. Number 2: pursue a legislative constraint, similar to the Hatch Act, to forbid all judges from any kind of political activity.

Today's small victory by the Delay conspiracy-trial legal team is a loss for Americans, an assault on the legal system, and a jackbooted step forward in the political polarization of the country.