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Molly Ivins had an interesting commentary posted on which she states a few facts about Bush demogoguery. She examines the methods by which the Bush campaign machine suck up to women for their votes, and details the credible gap.
The National Women's Law Center released a study in April, called "Slip Sliding Away," on the erosion of women's rights. It found, under Bush:
- The Labor Department has refused to use tools at its disposal to identify violations of equal pay laws.
- Labor repealed regulations that allowed paid family leave to be made available through state unemployment funds. Now it's unpaid leave only. Labor has proposed new regulations that deprive millions of workers of the right
to overtime pay -- and even gives tips to employers on how to avoid paying overtime when the law still requires it.
- The Department of Justice has weakened the enforcement of laws against job discrimination and abandoned pending sex discrimination cases.
- Among the Bush budget cuts affecting the lives of millions of women are:
- cuts in Head Start and other early childhood education programs,
- after-school programs,
- K-12 education,
- housing subsidies,
- child care,
- career education,
- services for victims of domestic violence,
- the nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC)
- and Pell grants to help pay for college.
If so called safer sex practices and condoms really worked the epidemic would be over.
If condoms and safe sex practices didn't work the rate of HIV infection and AIDS deaths would be a damned sight higher than they are now.
For so called safer sex practices and condoms to work they need to be used diligently. Such diligence is not within human nature.
I will stipulate that safe sex requires diligence, but chastity is also not within human nature. We are sexual creatures. Get over it.
Where are the stats proving your little process works?
The stats go the other way. The stats actually show that condom use, learned as part of a system of comprehensive sex ed, keep rates of STD transmission and unwanted pregnancies way down. But only in Europe. These stats do not apply within the jurisdiction of the United States government, of course, because they do not support the a priori assumptions of the ultra-self-righteous.
In many European countries, where teens have as much sex as in America, sex ed starts in the earliest grades. It is informed by no-nonsense, even enthusiastic, attitude toward the sexual; it is explicit; and it doesn't teach abstinence. Rates of unwanted teen pregnancy, abortion, and AIDS in every Western European country are a fraction of our own; the average age of first intercourse is about the same as in the United States. --Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors, pg 101/102
Kids should be made aware of all the options, from chastity to using protection. I think kids should be encouraged to abstain from sex while in their teens, not because I'm a prude or sexually conservative, but because I think they're not mature enough.
Ah, but that is society's fault. Consider this:
Sexual pleasure is one aspect of self-knowledge and personal power. While parents and teachers emphasize restraint in the teen years, the threshold years surely offer opportunity for a broader discussion of feelings. This is a time when young people want to process their experiences and put it in a wider human context: "Which of my experiences are shared by others and which are unique to me?" they ask. "How do I handle my sexual feeling when they seem at odds with my emotional bond to someone?" they wonder.
In engaging in new discussions with our young adult sons and daughters, we should stand back to assess how we usually engage in sex talks with them. Teenage and thresholder sex is usually presented as full of impulse and passion, recklessly driven by hormones. The assumption that young people are in danger of being swept away by passion leads to a bias in what they are taught. They are warned to be safe and careful and restrained. They are told of their right to say no but not told how to identify the desire to say yes. --Terri Apter, The Myth of Maturity, pg 123
Then, to, we don't bring them up to be mature enough; au contraire, North American society does everything possible to ensure that children do not mature into adults. In her book, Apter cited a longitudinal study of some thirty thousand adults which showed they had an average emotional age of sixteen in middle age.
The upshot of it is, our systems of "childhood" and of "education", and Abstinence-only Ignorance even more so, violate concepts of biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. In short: they are well-intentioned but societally self-destructive behaviours.
It seems the accepted, standard refrain since Dr. Elders tenure as Surgeon General has been "If you're going to do it, then use a condom." I've never understood this rationale.(for teenagers that is)
Tomeboy, what conservatives don't like is not that teenagers are having sex nearly so much as the fact that those teenagers are not under the oppressive thumb of some dogma. Here's a clue: in a free country like the United States is supposed to be: It's not your life, it's not your choice, it's none of your business.
You don't have to like the choices somebody else makes for his- or herself, but if you unilaterally appoint yourself as being responsible for that person then you reduce that person to the status of chattel.
And define your terms. One of the obfuscations of the ultra-conservatives is to use the term "teenager" even when the age of majority is 18. Eighteen and nineteen year olds are legal adults in many jurisdictions for all that they are still teenagers. If you're going to talk about minors then call them that. (And yes, there are "religous" groups who attack teenage legal adults for their behaviour.)
Let's be honest. The price for sex (teens) can be emotionally destructive, if not deadly.
Can be, yes. But for whom? Those whose parents raised them to maturity and taught them how to make choices for themselves? Or for those who were raised in ignorance? How about those who were lied to and led to believe that using condoms is a waste of time anyway because condoms don't work.
In the Netherlands, where celibacy is not taught, contraception is free through the national health service, and condoms are widely available in vending machines, "teenage pregnancy seems virtually eliminated as a health and social problem," [...]. Fewer than one percent of Dutch fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds become pregnant each year. [...]
There may even be an inverse relationship between abstinence education and declining rates of pregnancy. For one thing, because many abstinence programs teach kids that refraining from intercourse is the only surefire way to prevent pregnancy and vastly exaggerate the failures of contraception and condoms, sutdents get the impression that birth control and STD prevention methods don't work. So they shrug off using them or don't know how to use them. Contraception education, on the other hand, works: teens who learn about birth control and condoms are 70 to 80 percent more likely to protect themselves if they have intercourse than kids who are not given such lessons. --Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors, pg 112
Let's all hear it for Abstinence-only Ignorance.
Condom campaigns implicitly reinforce the decision to have sex for the unitiated.
That's an egregious piece of bovine scatology. You are parroting one of the biggest lies in the U.S. today. See the Levine quote from pg 101/102.
Teen sex is a bad and potentially life changing decision.
Dreck. This is such a load of crap. Your life changes every day. You get older, you learn new things (or, at least, you are supposed to), and you have new experiences. Nobody is the same person toda they were yesterday. Losing your cherry is part of life. Fucking is part of life. Getting knocked up can be part of it too. It might not make for the best circumstances, but it is still a life.
Change it? From what? You ever know anybody besides George Bailey who went running around saying how an angel showed him how everybody's life would different from one small change? Nobody's life goes backward and changes and they get to live a different life. Your future is plotted from what you do today, and you are stuck with it, but it is still a life.
Over the past two centuries, the moral judges have moved from the pulpit to the clinic. As the medical historian Peter Conrad put it, "badness" has been rewritten as "illness." The process has not been thoroughgoing. Alcoholism, once a moral failure, is now treated as a disease, while drug addiction is still punished as a transgression, with harsh prison sentences mandated for anyone who even posseses illegal drugs, whether or not they've committed an act of violence to pay for them. The category of childhood "sexual behavior problems," with its healers' obsessive atttention to excess and its dire predictions of future misery, is a reincarnation of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century "disease" of masturbation insanity, crossed with the Progressive Era criminal designation "sexual precociousness" and the late-twentieth-century crime of sexual abuse, with a dollop of the popularly designated affliction "sex addiction" thrown in as well. --Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors, pg 66
walk away from titillation, become a pop culture dropout
Try it sometime instead of just parroting bankrupt dogma.
"Nunneries, chastity belts"? Why are the girls being singled out for this coercer abstinence? Boys are half the problem! ;)
Only half? You are too kind. :-)
"Women need an excuse to have sex, men just need a place."
To treat your question as other than rhetorical, however, it is the nature of oppressive conservatism to single out women. Such movements are typically patriarchic in nature, and male sexuality and expression is considered "safe", whereas the expression of female sexuality is forbidden. In Islamist regimes, it is men who lust for women, but women who must wear the burqa and avert their eyes from the gaze of men. In "christian" regimes their reproductive faculties are enslaved.
Sociologist Maria Mies explains the invisibility of reproductive labor this way: "All labour that goes into the production of life, including the labour of giving birth to a child, is not seen as the conscious interaction of a human being with nature, that is a truly human activity, but rather as an activity of nature." In other words, women are assumed to be in the grip of forces beyond our control, even though we are expected to be individually responsbile for the consequences of our reproductive acts -- the worst of both worlds. It's one more motive for women to control our own bodies. Only the ability to say "no" forces others (as well as ourselves) to experience "yes" as a conscious act.
This is the deep economics of patriarchy: the valuing of male-style "production" but not female-style "reproduction." Women aren't supposed to be free agents who can bargain with our reproductive cartel. That's something patriarchal politicians recognize every time they vote against their own monetary self-interest by refusing to spend a small amount on contraception and abortion as part of the health care system in the U.S., knowing that unwanted births will cost hundreds of times more in the long run. For women to have the power of choice, the power to decide if our bodies will reproduce, would mean that we had taken control of the means of reproduction -- and this control is the bottom line of patriarchy. --Gloria Steinem, Revaluing Economics, and reprinted in Beyond Words, pg 221
Probably, hanging on to the past brings more destruction than any other single cause. It's the strict constructionists who prefer a literal U.S. Constitution to the mechanisms for change that were the greatest creation of its framers. It's the Muslim fundamentalists who worship the past and ignore the reformist spirit with which Muhammad viewed women. It's the backward-looking Christian literalists who interpret religious teaching in a way that consolidates their power. It's the fearful politicians who cite the "good old days" and tell us we're going to hell in a handbasket. Nostalgia may be the most tempting and deceptive form of opposition to change. In truth, no day or situation is identical with any other. To resist this constancy of change is to be as ridiculous as I was when I sat in front with a New York taxi driver. It's to be as dangerous as fundamentalists who bring glorification of death out of the past and into a nuclear present.
Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the solution.
--Gloria Steinem, Doing Sixty, and reprinted in Beyond Words, pg 274
I used to think I would be rewarded for good behavior. Therefore, if I wasn't understood, I must not be understandable; if I wasn't successful, I must try harder; if something was wrong, it was my fault. More and more now, I see that context is all. When someone judges me, anyone, or anything, I ask: Compared to what? When I see on television a series about children of divorce, for instance, I find myself asking: What about a series on children of marriage? When a woman fears the punishmements from calling herslf a feminist, I ask Will you be so unpunished if you don't? When I fear conflict and condemnation for acting a certain way, I think: What peace or praise would I get if I didn't?
I recommend the freedom that comes from asking: Compared to what? Hierarchical systems prevail by making us feel inadequate and imperfect, whatever we do so we will internalize the blame. But once we realize there is no such thing as adequacy or perfection, it sets us free to say: We might as well be who we really are.
--Gloria Steinem, Doing Sixty, and reprinted in Beyond Words, pg 282-283
And if anybody wants a good giggle, try this on for size; some of these are hilarious:
[Here, according to the popular conservative-Christian-authored Sex Respect, are a few of the hazards of nonmarital sex:]
Pregnancy, AIDS, guilt, herpes, disappointed parents, chalmydia, inability to concentrate on school, syphilis, embarrassment, abortion, shotgun wedding, gonorrhea, selfishness, pelvic inflamatory disease, heartbreak, infertility, loneliness, cervical cancer, poverty, loss of self-esteem, loss of reputation, being used, suicide, substance abuse, melancholy, loss of faith, possessiveness, diminished ability to communicate, isolation, fewer friendships formed, rebellion against other familial standards, alienation, loss of self-mastery, distrust of [other] sex, viewing others as sex objects, difficulty with long term commitments, various other sexual transmitted diseases, aggression toward women, ectopic pregnancy, sexual violence, loss of sense of responsibility toward others, loss of honesty, jealousy, depression, death. --Sex Respect, and repinted in Harmful to Minors, pg 105/106
If Voltaire is not to your taste, how about Kennedy:
The effectiveness of democracy as a form of government depends on an informed and intelligent citizenry. --John F Kennedy, 35th U.S. president, 1961
Oh, wait. He was a papist; no, he couldn't possibly be any kind of authoritative source even though he the one of the great presidents of this century. The Supreme Court?
[A] state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nationâ€™s citizens. --Justice Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor, Hamdi v: Rumsfeld, 29 Jun 2004
Oh, no, that's no good either. Everybody knows that the Supreme Court is a wrong-wing institution hell bent on rewriting laws and the constitution, even though it has been proven to be entirely too friendly to this administration and generally contemptible of First Amendment rights.
The administration has treated the rule of law as an inconvenience in the war against terrorism. In response, the Supreme Court has sent a powerful message that the end does not justify the means, and that it will not sit on the sidelines while the rule of law is ignored. --Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU national legal director, 28 Jun 2004
Well, of course we can't go with the ACLU, that bastion of unAmerican and unpatriotic bleeding heart librul, commie-pinko faggots who absolutely insist on silly things like the sanctity of civil liberties and human rights along with personal security.
Gee. I guess when it comes right down to it, there's really no end to the way to discredit those philosophies that espouse the rights of the individual or which denigrate warfare, is there?
Summed up the rationale behind religious crusades rather nicely, I thought.
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. --Voltaire
From the First Amendment Center front page for 29 June 2004:
''It used to be, a librarian would be pictured with a book. Now it is a librarian with a shredder.''
--Barbara Gail Snider, library branch manager, 2003
You bushites want to snivel about how we free speakers are picking on Bush for being so nazi like? Well go to his campaign web site and click on the advertising entitled This is not a time for pessimism and rage and get an eyeful of Republican hypocrisy in action. When you're done that, think about this comment from a poster at morons.org. (Yeah, go ahead and laugh and sneer, I'm sure you'll appreciate the chance to make a straw man argument.)
After you read the comment here, you can go and see what I had to say about this kind of vile and repugnant behaviour eleven months ago.
If only Godwin's Law applied to elections...
Six months after the Republicans went apoplectic over a video contest submission to MoveOn.org that compared Bush to Hitler, the Bush campaign has a video ad on their web site comparing Democrats with Hitler.
Note that the MoveOn.org ad was just a contest submission from a random visitor to that web site; the Hitler/Bush video did not even make it into the top ten for voting on that site. Yet the video associating liberals (including Democrat Dick Gephardt, Independent Michael Moore, and Democrat presumed presidential nominee John Kerry) with Hitler is featured on the official George W Bush re-election campaign web site.
The hypocrisy is overwhelming. The comparison is unimaginative and cheap. It was equally unimaginative and cheap in the MoveOn.org submission, but at least then it wasn't the official position of a presidential candidate. Yet this time (at least at the time of this writing), there's not a word about it in the "liberal media."
Thanks to Randi Rhodes for pointing this out on her show. We love you, Randi!
You also might want to note that the so-called Librul press seems to consider this event to be a non-story.
Date:Tue, 22 Jun 2004 12:57:43 -0700
Subject:Fox News Spins 9/11 Commission Report
From:"FAIR" View Contact Details
FAIR-L Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting Media analysis, critiques and activism
ACTION ALERT: Fox News Spins 9/11 Commission Report
June 22, 2004
The Bush administration's long-running attempts to link Iraq and Al Qaeda were dealt a serious blow when the September 11 commission's June 16 interim report indicated that there did not appear to be a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, and that there was no evidence that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks.
But if you were watching the Fox News Channel, you saw something very different, as the conservative cable network eagerly defended the Bush administration and criticized the rest of the media for mishandling the story.
On Fox's Special Report newscast (6/16/04), anchor Brit Hume charged that the media were mischaracterizing the report: "The Associated Press leads off its story on a new 9/11 commission report by saying the document bluntly contradicts the Bush administration by claiming to have no
credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11 terrorist attacks." Hume maintained that the AP story was inaccurate: "In fact, the Bush administration has never said that such evidence exists."
In fact, it's Hume that is misrepresenting the AP story-- quoting from the story's lead, but then changing its meaning through an inaccurate paraphrase. The story actually begins: "Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission investigating the September 11 attacks
reported Wednesday there was 'no credible evidence' that Saddam Hussein had ties with Al Qaeda."
Hume changed the allegation, from Hussein having ties with Al Qaeda to his
having ties to the September 11 attacks, in order to knock it down, claiming that the Bush administration never linked Iraq to September 11. But that is not accurate either: Bush's letter to Congress formally announcing the commencement of hostilities against Iraq (3/18/03)
explained that the use of force would be directed against "terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." In his "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln (5/1/03), Bush declared that the invasion of
Iraq had "removed an ally of Al Qaeda."
And during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press (9/14/03), when Vice President Dick Cheney was asked if he was "surprised" that so many Americans connected Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, Cheney responded:
"No. I think it's not surprising that people make that connection.... You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn't have any evidence of that. We've learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW [biological weapons and chemical weapons], that Al Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the Al Qaeda organization."
Clearly, Cheney was describing exactly the sort of "collaborative relationship" that the September 11 commission now says that Iraq did not have with Al Qaeda, and stating that this relationship makes it "not surprising" that people would connect Iraq with the September 11
But Fox kept advancing the notion that the commission's report actually backed up what the Bush administration has been saying. Hume explained that Bush has long denied a connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, while maintaining that "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties." This is, according to Hume, "an assertion the commission's
report actually supports."
The report indicates several meetings between Iraqi intelligence and bin Laden, who was attempting to set up training camps in Iraq and procure weapons. The Iraqis apparently "did not respond" to those requests. This is a far cry from what most people would call a "tie" or a
And Cheney and Bush have long argued that Iraq/Al Qaeda "connections" included weapons training and other "high-level contacts"; Bush has said directly (11/7/02) that Husssein "is a threat because he's dealing with Al Qaeda."
The commission's report does not support those allegations. The report also indicated that the supposed meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague probably never happened. That meeting has been cited by Bush officials, most notably Cheney, as evidence connecting Iraq to Al Qaeda and specifically to the 9/11 plot.
Fox reported on the report's implicit contradictions of administration claims as if they were an invention of the media. On Hume's Special Report show (6/16/04), the anchor got the ball rolling: "There were a lot of media reports today that said that major, new cold water had been
tossed on the administration claims about Iraq and Al Qaeda. What about it?"
Pundit Jeff Birnbaum of the Washington Post answered: "Well, I don't think that that's true.... The Bush administration did not claim that there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. That was not the claim. That was not the claim. What, in fact, the staff report indicates is that there was considerable interaction between bin Laden and Iraq. It may not have produced all that much, but it was clear that they're fellow travelers."
NPR correspondent Mara Liasson continued: "I agree with Jeff. I mean, the fact that the administration's arguments for going against Iraq was not because it caused 9/11. Now, it's true that a lot of Americans did conflate the two and did think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with it." (In fact, a poll found that Fox viewers were the most likely news consumers to believe this unsubstantiated claim--PIPA, 10/2/03.)
On June 17's Special Report, guest anchor Jim Angle claimed, "The 9/11 commission staff concluded there was no collaboration between the two to attack the U.S. But critics suggested that meant no ties at all." The commission actually said that there was no "collaborative relationship" at all, not just on the question of attacking the United States.
When the White House struck back at the media over its coverage of the report, some at Fox seemed enthusiastic. "The Bush administration strikes back against the deceptive media," cheered Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, before playing a clip of Cheney appearing on CNBC (6/17/04)
characterizing a New York Times headline as "outrageous."
O'Reilly did not air another portion of Cheney's interview in which he lied about a previous statement he had made. When host Gloria Borger mentioned that Cheney had previously described the meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence as "pretty well confirmed," Cheney interrupted: "No, I never said that... Absoutely not." But he had said just that, on NBC's Meet the Press (12/9/01): ''That's been pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.''
But for O'Reilly, it was other media that were deceptive: "Cheney has a right to be angry, and so does every American who wants a truthful media," he explained. "Anti-Bush zealots are hurting the fight against terror by misleading Americans about what's actually happening. That puts all of our lives in danger."
It's not surprising that the Bush administration would try to parse the meaning of words like "link" or "tie" in order to spin the commission report in its favor. But journalists should challenge official spin, not promote it.
ACTION: Ask the Fox News Channel why it sought to defend the Bush administration, instead of reporting the facts about the interim report of the 9/11 commission.
CONTACT: Fox News Channel
--Special Report with Brit Hume mailto:email@example.com
--O'Reilly Factor mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please send a copy of your correspondence to email@example.com.
What deliciously appropriate timing for ChuckB to whine about us free speakers picking on the Republican National Guard of Amerika, since I've just finished
another commentary about the Christian Taliban. This one is at my site (and is a special screening; this commentary won't be accessible to the public until the fifteenth or so), and it ranks up there with my comparison of Bush with Adolf Hitler. And it is equally appropriate, because in both cases the issues are intrinsically the same.
The Republican Sniveling Guard can't stand the heat and hasn't got the brains to get out of the bitchin', so they are trying to silence criticism by creating a chilling effect.
Really, people, if the RNG of Amerika and its drones don't like these comparisons, then why in the name of all that is holy do they so dogmatically insist on drawing such obvious parallels between themselves and such odious specimens? For that matter, in what way is the RNG of A not the Taliban?
Harken back to your first day of algebra class. Teacher comes in and draws a large circle on the blackboard, and follows that up with two smaller circles, both inside the larger one. "This circle," teach says, "is a set. Both smaller circles are also sets, and at the same time they are subsets of the larger set."
Label those smaller circles. Call one: Christian fanaticism. Call the other: Islamic fanaticism. Call the larger one: The Set of All Religious Intolerance and Fanaticism.
See where I'm going with this?
Fanatics of the various subsets, of course, don't see themselves as members of that larger set, they see themselves as belonging to a separate set which is outside the larger one. They say to themselves, "I am of Set A, therefore I cannot possibly have anything in common with members of Set B." This is an artificial distinction. The rational person makes distinctions thusly: "That is of the Set of Religious Intolerance; subcategory: Christian. That is of the Set of Religious Intolerance; subcategory: Islamic."
At bottom, all fanaticism is fanaticism. The ideology driving it is simply a specious excuse for bloodyhandedness.
Surf the chronology at my site. Read Jan Goodwin's article about life under the Taliban, and you will be able to find numerous parallels between the Islamist Taliban and the Christian Taliban. About the only thing for which I don't have a parallel at the moment is attempting to regulate the length of hair and beards by fiat and then jailing people for not seeing a barber. But I'm willing to bet that beating women for exposing their ankles in the streets of Kabul started out with an idea analogous to the anti-butt crack legislation of Louisianastan. Certainly, the "morality" behind both movements is the same.
In the meantime, I for one refuse to allow the self-righteous sniveling of the Republican National Guard of Amerika, and its drones, to stop me from calling a spade a spade.
Rory Litwin doesn't strike me as one of the greater thinkers of this age. In fact, right about now the most charitable thing I can think of to say about him is that he is a fool. Many LISNewsterz are familiar with his criticism of Blake's asking if it would be worthwhile to open a forum dedicated to conservatist discussion of library issues. A number of those members disagreed with Rory with varying degrees of courtesy to discourtesy. Rory attempted to defend himself, but in my estimation he didn't do a very credible job of it. Then, on 28 May, he put his foot in his mouth a second time with a criticism of the LISNews community. In between the two events, the realization came out that the ruggedly individualistic curmudgeons and old farts who patronize the LISNews board had coalesced into an online community. In fact, this coalescence derived directly from Mr. Litwin's attempt to defend himself and his first criticism. This community is the focus of Mr. Litwin's second kvetch. What makes Mr. Litwin a fool to my mind is that he obviously didn't learn anything from his first go around.
What's worse, I wrote him a little note in which I told him that the first rule of digging holes is: When you are in one, stop digging. He insisted that he had not dug himself into a hole and that he was right in all of his points.
Well, Mr. Litwin is wrong in all of his points, and the reason is that he cannot think beyond an examination of superficialities.
Blake Carver loves what he is doing with LISNews. Having a fairly simple site of my own, and taking into consideration the amount of time I spend on keeping up with censorship and free speech issues, I have no doubt that Blake lavishes an inordinate amount of time and energy on the LISNews board. (And cash; it has to be paid for.) It is clear to me, that Blake takes a great deal of pride in his work. Moreover, Blake is a civil libertarian. Despite calls for greater editorial constraints on
what material can be accepted, he refuses to implement such restraints, and allows for a wide range of stories that deal with civil liberties and human rights which are not directly library-related. Basically, Blake Carver is on the political left-wing. You'll note that Mr. Litwin complained that Blake was worried about the board becoming too left-wing, and wanted to "adjust" the balance toward the conservative. Stuff and nonsense.
Blake's overriding purpose in maintaining this board is to provide a milieu for a wide diversity of viewpoints. Blake's concern is that the preponderance of liberalism was overwhelming the conservative viewpoints and creating a chilling effect. His idea to create a preserve for such viewpoints was an effort to circumvent this chilling effect. In other words, he simply wanted to level the playing field.
I'm considering a new section @LISNews. I'm wondering if anyone might be interested in contributing to a Political Librarian Weblog. I don't think the intelligent-right gets enough press and that just ain't right. Those with view points that differ significantly from the usual library line should have a place where these views can be aired, shared, and discussed. I can think of at least 2 LISNewsterz that would be perfect for this, so I'm hoping for at least a yes or no vote from
Furthermore, Mr. Litwin ignored Blake's concerns and definitions of his position in asking about starting a forum for conservatist discussion. Which rationale was posted along with his question; to whit:
FAQ: 1. Why aren't you asking for people from the left? I think we already have them. I don't want this to be a left wing echo chamber, I want both sides to be represented, and I want both sides to be smart.
2. How are you defining right & left? I'm not, I leave that up to you.
3. What's your plan? A section devoted to political discussion.
4. What's political discussion? Discussion on laws that may or may not pertain to the LISWorld. Discussion on elections, politicians, constitutions, political parties, etc. For the most part stories posted to our index page tend to be related to libraries, and not often very political. This new section would be all about the stuff we all argue about.
5. Have you really thought this through? Doesn't LISNews already do just that? Yeah, maybe, but I think best when I get ideas from others. This may be a dumb idea, and no one will care to participate, but the idea is to get some feedback to see if there's any interest out there.
Now, this point is middling important. It is important because in Library Juice 7:11, Rory made the statement:
My brief editorial comments about LISNews in the last issue generated a heated response from "members of the LISNews community," much of that response consisting of personal attacks, innuendo, false accusations, etc. [...]
Golly-gee! -- if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black. For my money, Rory was projecting his shadow here. What, pray tell, is the act of putting quotation marks around members of the LISNews community if it is not an innuendo? The very clear implication being that we do not constitute a community, and that description of the group as such is somehow misrepresentative.
And false accusation?
Additionally, I pointed out that Blake's justification for calling for more conservative bloggers - that LISNews was a "left wing echo chamber" - was based on his own definition of the "political center" in librarianship, [...]
This despite Blake's written statement (above), in plain and simple English, that he was not making an effort to define political right from left, but would leave that up to the participants, and the very clear implication that he was simply polling the group to see if establishing such a preserve would be worth the time and effort.
Mr. Litwin even acknowledged that point while ignoring it. He alluded to it and then mentioned about his writing there was no need for Blake to intervene. Which brings me to my next point. There was no intervention of anything or any plans to intervene. It is not intervention, in the context involved, to grant access to a greater number of viewpoints. In this context, intervention would mean:  interfere; come between so as to prevent or modify the result or course of events
(Oxford Canadian Dictionary). That would necessitate editorial restraint, and as I have already pointed out, Blake has refused that option. Now, you've got to understand that Blake could tighten those criteria and it would not at all be prior restraint to do so. Every artist creates a work with a certain vision in mind, and every editor sets the editorial direction of a publication along the lines of his or her vision for that publication. As part of the editorial direction for this board (not
web log, thank you very much), Blake allows for the inclusion of stories that are only peripherally related to librarianship instead of requiring they be directly related.
Next we get to all the complaints about political leanings. I've never been able to get all that left-wing/right-wing claptrap. My touchstone for politics is right/wrong, where "right" means correct and is a move which fully respects the human dignity and the rights of the individual. Whether it is a conservative move or a liberal move is irrelevant. Still, I can grapple with the concept of wrong-wing as an intellectual exercise. And one of the plaints expressed in the Litwin fiasco of 7:10
is that LISNews had become too conservative. Strictly speaking, that could not happen unless Blake did actively intervene to block stories of dissent and opposition to the conservative agendas of filtering and USAPA. Amusingly enough, some of the conservatives seem to be agree that LISNews is too liberal. What Rory and most people haven't considered is the solipsistic nature of personal beliefs. Each and every person always considers him- or herself to be perfectly rational and quite moderate;
dead center, politically speaking. As a result, we do not judge the political position of others by their relationship to any objective criterion, but by their relative position to ours.
This is irrelevant to the board, which is not the message, but the medium by which messages are transmitted. Accusing LISNews of political bias is like executing the messenger for bad news. LISNews participants have political bias, and it is this which colours one's perceptions of the board in general, but the board itself, as Blake stated, is neutral. This point of difference, I'm willing to chalk up to an equivocation. Rory seems to be using the term to describe the political
atmosphere of the board, while Blake seems to be using it to describe editorial (read: collection development) policy.
So the question arises: what is the political leaning of the LISNews community?
Off the top of my head, I would say that the majority of librarians tend to be civil libertarians. Considering that the entire purpose of having public libraries is to make information accessible to the general public. Of course, librarians come from the general population, and as individuals they have a wide range of political viewpoints.
Narrowing down the focus to LISNews, how would that range of viewpoints affect the perception of this board's political stance? Well, I think that one of the driving forces behind liberalism is a laizzer faire attitude, and that liberals tend to not be as vocal and as active as conservatives do. For one thing, the mainstream is liberalist; we have the upper hand. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be much more vocal; they have to work a lot harder to promote societal conservatism. As a
result, conservative LISNewsterz post more frequently.
The second part of the complaint is that the political tilt has been increasing over the last several months. Has it? I'll say, unequivocally: Yes. And I believe that I know why.
"So, what is it?" you demand. "Cosmic rays? Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds? A commie-pinko left wing agenda? What?!"
I am a five hundred pound gorilla in cyberspace.
(Where does a 500 pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants to.)
It's not that I deliberately move into a board and take over, but as I have said elsewhere, "I have strong opinions and I'm not afraid to bludgeon someone with them." Plus, I don't do things by half measures. As a participant at LISNews, I moderate, metamoderate, suggest stories, comment, post an occasional entry to my journal, read the journals of others, and even use the FRIEND/FOE/FAN/FREAK icons. More to the point, I frequently make an effort to be deliberately provocative. My primary
purpose in doing so is to get other people all excited over what they believe. Usually I'm provocative enough just by questioning my own beliefs.
The fall out from this, correlated with my viewpoint about conservatist participation, means that more conservative LISNesterz reply to my comments and stories than do the liberal. If this reasoning holds up, that would explain the percieved tilt and supposed conservativism of the board in general.
But to say that LISNews is a force for conservatism is silly on another level. If the whole point of the board is to make accessible the widest possible diversity of viewpoints so as to allow participants to make up their own minds, the board is necessarily a liberal force, as personal choice is generally antithetical to conservatism. The neutrality, then, is not a political neutrality, but is analogous to a chemical neutrality (Ph 7.0). This nuance is the equivocation behind the
ultra-conservative complaint that libraries serve various liberal agendas. It creates an oxymoronic condition in which liberalism serves conservative movements.
One last point, and while it's a minor one, it drives home the final nail in the coffin of Rory's credibility. His complaint about unfair moderation. I have a journal entry in which I explain how moderation works in general, and I remember that when Rory complained about his messages being moderated downward, someone explained to him that messages from anonymous users are not automatically accorded a bonus point. Personally, I do not
moderate messages posted anonymously (unless they are especially well crafted or informative), although, as I point out, there are those who moderate maliciously; or so I believe. This feature is easily circumvented: sign up for an account and adjust your COMMENTS page to surf at -1. Yet, even after being told this in plain English, Rory misrepresented the state of affairs in his latest attack against LISNews, and still will not avail himself of this feature while attempting to defend his
In the free-for-all about Rory Litwin's editorial, conservator (2775), complained:
This is it: disagree with the LISNews moderator, you're a "troll." (#5998)
This is his second such complaint in a week. His first complaint was about a message that had been moderated as FUNNY, and he didn't seem to find anything funny in his comment. And said so, slamming the "moderator" then as well. Let's make something perfectly clear: there is no single, individual, LISNews moderator. Everybody who has an account and who participates on the board and accumulates karma points is eligible to moderate through the apportioning of moderator points. Assuming they have selected to option to do so on their LISNews homepage.
Now, there is a curious phenomenon I have observed in the moderation of LISNews comments. Let's call it the equivalent of "Contagious Gunfire". Imagine a tense stand off with a group of armed men attempting to arrest a suspect. They have their firearms out and pointing at the suspect. Suddenly, a shot rings out. Maybe it's a real gunshot and maybe it's a car backfiring, but in any event, the armed men respond by opening fire to the last man, and each one tends to keep firing as long as the others do. Each man is shooting simply because the others are.
The first moderation of a comment tends to establish the pattern by which a comment will be moderated. Call a comment FUNNY, and others moderators will tend to follow suit. Call it TROLL or a FLAMEBAIT, and it will generally be further moderated as such.
I would think that a poster would rather have a message moderated as FUNNY (up) instead of as a TROLL (down). And I really don't see why anyone should complain about a FUNNY moderation, even if the comment was not meant to be humourous. At any rate, complaining about being moderated is not going to endear you to any of us who do moderate. Whining about being picked on will not garner any sympathy, and whining about how moderators are not allowed to moderate your messages as FUNNY will almost certainly lead us to assume that you take yourself too seriously. In both cases, you will only prejudice people against you.
Now it just so happens that I think I have a legitimate beef when it comes to being unfairly moderated. Judging from what I've seen, there are participants who seek out comments I have posted just as soon as they have moderator points burning a hole in their accounts. I will sometimes log on to LISNews to find that I have had two or even three moderations of FLAMEBAIT or OVERRATED, and when I get the e-mail listing for those moderations, I will see that the comments are three or four days old; by which time the story link will have been long gone from the front page.
I find this situation as funny as all get out.
I just have to ask myself, "How small and petty can this/these people be, that they have to go back several days just to moderate down my comments?"
Moreover, it's entirely a wasted effort on their part. Mostly. Moderating really has only one impact: by moderating a message up or down, you assign or remove points by which the individual message is ranked by the Slashdot code, and by which participants can find the comment more easily, or have it blanked out, depending on what setting they have on their COMMENTS customization pages. There is a secondary impact, but that one is of no consequence to me at all.
Moderating a message also assigns or removes karma points to the person who posted it. And this is what makes it so funny when somebody seeks out my comments to moderate them down simply because I posted them. After Blake transferred the site to the Slashdot system, I became the first participant, or at least I am certain I am, to max out his karma points at 100. And I keep them there. With ease.
There are at least three ways to win karma points, you see. One is through being moderated or metamoderated, one is by metamoderating (I think), and one is by suggesting stories. And I do a lot of the second two. So I can log on during one part of a day, find that I'm down a couple of points, and then log on later to find my karma back up to one hundred.
So really, there isn't any reason why anyone should complain about being moderated down. If it troubles you, then you can make an effort to improve the quality of your communications.
Here is a link to a few Tips and Tricks on how to better present your arguments. The best advice I would give is to stop being accidentally provocative. If you're going to use rhetoric, then do so to be deliberately provocative, not out of simple ignorance. That way you can laugh at the negative moderations and blow off the person who did it as being too simple-minded to properly interpret your inciteful and brilliant logic.
t r u t h o u t - Thomas Oliphant | I Watched Kerry Throw His War Decorations
I Watched Kerry Throw His War Decorations Thomas Oliphant Boston Globe Tuesday 27 April 2004
Washington - On the way to the fence where he threw some of his military decorations 33 years ago, I was 4 or 5 feet behind John Kerry.
As he neared the spot from which members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were parting with a few of the trappings of their difficult past to help them face their future more squarely, I watched Kerry reach with his right hand into the breast pocket of his fatigue shirt. The hand emerged with several of the ribbons that most of the vets had been wearing that unique week of protest, much as they are worn on a uniform blouse.
There couldn't have been all that many decorations in his hand -- six or seven -- because he made a closed fist around his collection with ease as he waited his turn. I recall him getting stopped by one or two wounded vets in wheelchairs, clearly worried that they wouldn't be able to get their stuff over the looming fence, who gave him a few more decorations. Kerry says he doesn't remember this.
It is true that Kerry was one of the veterans group's "leaders," but in this eclectic, aggressively individualistic collection of people who had been through a pointless war, there were no privileges of rank. Kerry was in the middle of a line of perhaps 1,000 guys -- only a third or even less of the total who had assembled on the Washington Mall that astonishing week.
At the spot where the men were symbolically letting go of their participation in the war, the authorities had erected a wood and wire fence that prevented them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol, and Kerry paused for several seconds. We had been talking for days -- about the war, politics, the veterans' demonstration -- but I could tell Kerry was upset to the point of anguish, and I decided to leave him be; his head was down as he approached the fence quietly.
In a voice I doubt I would have heard had I not been so close to him, Kerry said, as I recall vividly, "There is no violent reason for this; I'm doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all."
With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice. Nor did he drop the decorations. He sort of lobbed them, and then walked off the stage.
Some people have written secondhand accounts of that day stating that Kerry at that moment also threw "medals" that had been given to him by a couple of vets who were not there. I remember Kerry doing that later in the day after the event had broken up. He was in the company, for part of that time, of a small group of Gold Star Mothers (who had lost sons in the war). In addition to the events involving the military decorations, the veterans also held a tree-planting ceremony near the Capitol
and attended congressional hearings on civilian casualties of the conflict.
From what I could observe firsthand about Friday, April 23, 1971, Kerry did not make even the slightest effort to pretend that he was throwing all of his military decorations over that fence. He did what he did in plain view, and in my case in the view of someone close enough to kick him in the shins.
It was clear to me that Kerry had arrived here with only the ribbons he wore on his shirt -- which, by the way, were referred to as "medals" by the late Stuart Symington of Missouri, one of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members present for his famous antiwar statement.
While the idea of turning back decorations had been talked about prior to that week, there was no clear plan when the veterans arrived. The night before, the men had had a long, loud argument about whether to throw their stuff or simply place it on a long table in front of the Capitol. I watched Kerry argue for the less dramatic approach and lose.
It was clear from our conversations back then and ever since that Kerry made no distinction among his various decorations, though others have. Some in the military don't either. I remember once asking my father (who was awarded a Bronze Star in the Pacific during World War II), what he called the ribbon and lapel ornament he received in addition to the star; he said they were all the Bronze Star.
I have always found the political junk served up by Kerry's detractors to be undignified as well as largely inaccurate.
I write now because the political junk is much higher profile now, though no less misleading -- and not, by the way, because in her fourth job in the public arena, my daughter just joined Kerry's staff. I just happened to be there that long-ago day. I saw what happened and heard what Kerry said and know what he meant. The truth happens to be with him.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. t r u t h o u t has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is t r u t h o u t endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)
What is it with people anyway? Why are there so many idiots who insist on blowing things so ludicrously out of proportion they create . . . oh, hell, call it a Magnificare Ad Absurdum.
So some birds are eating fermenting berries and flying into the windows of a building and hurting or killing themselves. And a bunch of people want to cut down the crabapple trees producing the berries and replace them with disease resistant American Elms. Were these idiots hiding out in the barn when God was handing out brains? Is this just more of the hysteria that gave the U.S.A. the Nineteenth Amendment; the ill-fated and spectacular failure of prohibition? Are they running around screaming, "We must protect the birdies!"? I dunno, the article didn't say.
I also doubt seriously that anybody told those people that fermentation is a natural process that happened well before the advent of Homo Schleppiens and continues to happen even without Homo Schleppien intervention. We use the process ourselves, sure, but it doesn't take laboratory conditions to initiate it. And birds have been getting intoxicated on fermented berries almost certainly from time immemorial, and anecdotal evidence suggests they know enough to seek out such fruit. How many birds do survive without ill effects? What negative affect can drunk birds possibly have on the Avian Economy? Are they neglecting their hatchlings? Abusing them? Taking too many sick days from debilitating hangovers? Not catching their quota of worms?
And what do the chuckleheads propose? Cutting down the trees producing the fermentable fruit and replacing them with safe, non-alchoholic, politically correct Elms. In a time when literacy is under savage attack by wholesale budget cutting, five thousand dollars will be diverted that could have been used for building maintenance and collection development to replace those trees. Why?! Why insist on addressing this issue in such an asinine way?
Let's look at this in a rational fashion. One: The fermented berries are not available all year long. The berries must grow from the blossoms, ripen, and then ferment. Once the fermented berries are eaten, the supply is gone until next year. Party time in Birdy Land probably doesn't last much longer than a week or two. (And the fruit won't have fermented until the hatchlings are out of the nest and able to shift for themselves.) Two: How does the number of drunk birds that are killing themselves compare to the number of drunk birds that would have been scarfed down by predators before Homo Schleppiens started putting up buildings that look so much like another hunk of sky? How does it compare to the number of birds that are killed by natural processes each year? Is the entire species at risk, or are these just a few isolated individuals? Three: Isn't there an easier way to do this?
And that last one brings me to the point of this rant. The answer is yes. And the answer is this: Get some fishnetting type of material, install some hooks so the material can be draped over the front of the windows to catch the birds (and break up the reflections so the window doesn't look like open sky), hang the netting during the week or two of Toxic Bird Season and then take it down again when they sober up and fly straight.
Cheap. Simple. Easy. Environmentally friendly. Makes sense. And that's why they'll never go for it. Much less think of it for themselves.
Days like this I wish the sun would nova.
Copied out of my e-mail:
Some Americans are talking about the NO-CARB Diet for 2004.
I hope all americans are thinking of going on this one!
Was Greenpeace recently accredited by the ALA or something to make this story remotely relevant to this site's mission?
I was checking out the Popular Stories feature to see how I was standing there, and I was very pleased to see Commentary on Ashcroft v: Greenpeace had garnered 740 hits as of the time stamp on this message. It also amused me to no end to think of the first comment which was posted in reply to that article; most of which is reproduced above. This idea, that information has to be somehow relevant to be permitted, is a factor in what we can call low-grade censorship. Not because low-grade censorship is any less pernicious or threatening than full-blown censorship, but because this form of censorship isn't as . . . popular . . . for want of a better word. And yet, the number of hits that article has received, clearly indicates USAPA is of profound interest to many of this site's patrons. Why then should they be denied knowledge of such material just because an underwhelming minority think it isn't pertinent? If an article appears to be not pertinent to you, you are under no compunction to read it, but may pass it by with asking any one else "by your leave".
Which brings us to the eternal question: How come that's not good enough for some people?
Okay, I'll bite.
D'avenir ne subsistent que le nom et l'adjectif (avenant).
Le Nouveau Bescherelle
pg 23: Verbes en -enir: Tenir, footnote
This is the most recent commentary for The Lair of Fang-Face DreamWeaver. It is currently available only through the above link. That commentary will be become publically available on or about April 14th when I do my bimonthly update. Needless to say, I do not agree with Tomeboy's piece in the least bit.
I am posting the commentary to my site instead of here because there's a whole lot of HTML that doesn't work in the Slashdot comment features, and there are a couple of cross-references to other files on my site. You know where and how to leave hate mail anyway.
Thanks to lifetime subscriber Terra Andromeda for this look at some
1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
2. Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming
households score below average on standardized tests.
3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the
home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant
mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth;
and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged
4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24
hours of eating bread.
5. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread
and given only water begged for bread after as little as two days.
6. Bread is often a "gateway" food item, leading the user to "harder"
items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts.
7. Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is
more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to
your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning
you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.
8. Newborn babies can choke on bread.
9. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.
10. Most bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between
significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.
This Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics doesn't have anything to do with ethics that I can see at first glance. I fact I didn't see any science during the quick look I took at it, just philosophy. The opening paragraph to Chapter One is:
Nature is fallible and her works are imperfect. Human beings are no exceptions; our bodies decay and perish and our powers are limited. Seemingly from the beginning, human beings have been alive to the many ways in which what we have been given falls short of what we can envision and what we desire. We are human, but can imagine gods. We die, but can imagine immortality.
Not only is this bullshit, but it is religious bullshit; not scientific in the least bit. Aside from that, the passages of original material serve primarily as introductions to short stories and short treastises. This could be any high school English Literature text book.
I'm going to be taking a closer look at this, but right now the tentative conclusion is that this is fundie propaganda aimed at indoctrinating the youth of the U.S. into ultra-conservatism.
[Addendum: 1646 Eastern Daylight Time
If you want some real works on bioethics to chew over try this one:
Is There A Duty To Die? And Other Essays in Medical Ethics
Ed. John Harding -2000
Dewey # 174.24 h267I
Now here's something interesting. Even though Iraqi survivors are being touted as happy to be alive (so far), some Americans living in the U.S. are thorougly unsatisified with the state of their country. So much so that they are willing to cut and run. There are no solid numbers in this one, alas, since it would be an invasion of privacy (and not really relevant) to require that prospective immigrants divulge their political reasons for ditching a purportedly fine and upstanding country like the U.S. (listed as approximately 32nd in a world ranking by press freedom, but only within the confines of the U.S.).
Nice of Lanzendorfer to give us recognition for being a refuge for those escaping political repression in the U.S. Of course, it has always been that way. We took in the Loyalists after the American Revolution, uppity nigger run-aways during the abolitionist years before the Civil War, Native Americans during the genocide of the Indian Wars, Viet Nam, as mentioned, and now we're taking in those who'd rather send themselves into exile than die on the altar of George Bush's overweaning arrogance and worship of God or the Almighty Dollar (depending on who he is speaking to at any given moment).
Glad to be of service.
Now that I've read this I wonder if I shouldn't have done something about pressuring our own government into declaring Canada a safe haven for American political refugees when I thought of it about a year ago.
Flight Not Fight By Joy Lanzendorfer, AlterNet April 1, 2004
Joanna Harmon is considering whether to leave the United States for Canada. Nik and Nancy Phelps practically have visas in hand to set up business in Belgium. Joan Magit and her husband are eyeing Vancouver. Amy Gertz moved to the United States from Canada two and a half years ago -- she's now moving back.
These are scary times for the liberally minded American. Many liberals feel isolated and embarrassed by the actions of our government. Some are downright terrified at what will happen if Bush is re-elected in November. When politics get too bleak, it's comforting to remind ourselves that we can always move to another country. But how many of us are serious about it?
A recent letter to the AlterNet columnist Auntie Establishment generated quite a buzz. The letter, from a reader identified as 'Packing My Bags in Pennsylvania,' asked Auntie what she thought about people abandoning the United States for more politically prosperous horizons. 'Packing' said, "I'm seriously considering escaping across the border and moving to Mexico or Canada."
E-mails came pouring in from people who are also seriously considering leaving the United States for Canada or other parts of the world in an effort to escape the claw-like grip of the Bush administration. While Auntie urged people to stay and fight, some felt that was asking too much. Things were going to get worse before they got better, many seemed to feel. Why stay on a sinking ship?
News sources from CNN to Salon.com to The Daily Show have run pieces about Americans supposedly leaving the United States for other parts of the world. Even our celebrities were rumored to be leaving the U.S. Johnny Depp did it -- he lives in France. Alec Baldwin, Robert Altman, and Eddie Vedder allegedly threatened to leave if Bush was elected in 2000, (though Baldwin later denied ever saying any such thing).
There certainly has been a lot of talk. But is that all it is -- talk?
If Americans are leaving the United States, Canada is certainly one of the most convenient places to go. It may be a little cold, but it's right across the border and most Canadians speak English. Many of the major issues that divide the Left and the Right in the U.S. seem resolved in Canada. They have a lower crime rate, universal health care, and reportedly better education. Their medical doctors can dispense marijuana and last year they decided to officially recognize same-sex marriages.
And, on top of all that, the rest of the world isn't mad at them.
Americans have fled to Canada before. In 1970, during the Vietnam War, roughly 23,000 Americans legally moved to Canada, according to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Since then, the number of people who move to Canada every year has dropped steadily, even through the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations. In the 1990s, the number of people moving to Canada every year leveled out and since then has hovered in the 4,000s and 5,000s.
Which brings us to recent events. According to Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Department, the numbers of American foreign nationals awarded permanent residence in Canada were:
Year: Number 1997: 5,028 1998: 4,768 1999: 5,528 2000: 5,815 2001: 5,902 2002: 5,288
The numbers indicate a slight peak in immigration around 2,000 and 2001, during the election year and the first year of Bush's term, with another slight dip in 2002, after September 11 (when U.S. patriotism was running high and Canada was tightening its immigration laws). However, there's no way to know for sure whether that spike has anything to do with politics. A peak in immigration in 2000 and 2001 could just as easily have to do with the sluggish U.S. economy as it could with people
wanting to flee the Bush administration.
Obviously, the Canadian government doesn't track whether people are coming into Canada because of disgruntled political philosophies. And the Canadians I talked to who deal with immigration seemed skeptical that anyone would move to Canada to get away from a dominant party. But others have noticed a slight change.
"I don't think you could say we've seen a marked increase in Americans interested in moving to Canada," says Colin Singer, a Montreal attorney who specializes in immigration law. "But you could say there has been a slight increase in same-sex couples and Americans under common-law marriage looking at Canada as a place to take up residence."
But whether a few or a lot of people are leaving the United States for another country, some people are definitely doing it. Take Nancy and Nik Phelps of San Francisco -- who are moving to Belgium later this year. Nancy says their reasons for leaving the United States are 80 percent about politics and 20 percent about lifestyle change.
"There was a time I felt that we should stay in the U.S. and fight," she says. "Then again, there was a time to get out of Germany during World War II, too. This is that time here. I think the oppression is just going to get worse here. If Bush stole one election, why wouldn't he steal the next one?"
One of the reasons people are thinking of leaving the U.S. is because of a fear of fascism. Whether or not that fear is realistic is debatable, but recent changes like the Patriot Act restricting our rights and dissent being criticized as unpatriotic has weighed heavily on many minds. Joanna Harmon is an archivist for the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Though she hasn't made up her mind, some of her reasons for considering the move are based in history.
"I specialized in history for my degree," she said. "And I see a lot of parallels between our society and what happened when the Republic became a dictatorship in Ancient Rome. I don't want to stay here if it turns into that."
A lot of people who are thinking of moving out of the United States, to Canada or otherwise, are waiting to see what will happen in the November 2004 election. If Bush is re-elected, many plan to start the relocation process. Joan Magit, who lives in Northridge, California, says she and her husband will most likely move to Vancouver if Bush gets in.
"The damage that has been done by this administration, especially in the court system, is a lot worse than people comprehend," she says. "I don't think I will want to live in a country that is so right wing."
Approximately 20,000 Canadians move to the United States a year, but at least some of them are turning around and moving right back. Amy Gertz was born in the United States but moved to Canada when she was five years old. She spent most of her adult life in Canada, but two and a half years ago, she moved back to the United States with her husband. Now at age 50, she has decided to return to Canada, where she will stay for good.
Though she says she would be considered conservative in Canada, Gertz says she's horrified by the differences between the two countries.
"What the heck happened to the U.S. while I was gone?" she said. "I had no idea that I was moving to a corporate dictatorship. I don't want to get caught in the inevitable global backlash, and I feel guilty even just being here."
As someone who knows first hand, Gertz agrees with many of the things you hear about Canada: It has better schools and stronger health care, does a better job separating church and state, and is more globally minded than the U.S. She also points out that the U.S. is not a "post modern" country, i.e. it isn't open to a variety of perspectives, recognizing them all as valid.
"America is more extremist, both on the left and the right," Gertz says. "Americans seem unable to manage much compromise. I believe this is one of the reasons we are in the state we are in."
Not everyone automatically qualifies for permanent legal residence in Canada. Canadians have an immigration system based on points. Applicants take a test that assesses whether they meet minimum immigration qualifications. You have to score 67 points or better to get into Canada. Among other things, an individual moving to Canada has to have a bachelors degree or equivalent education, be fluent in English or French, have a minimum of four years' work experience, and have sufficient financial
resources to settle in Canada for six months. The system limits likely immigrants to a middle-class, educated group.
"There can be additional factors of assessment that can make it easier," said Singer. "Having an educated spouse or family ties in Canada can lessen the burden for you."
You can take a test assessing your immigration status at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/skilled/assess/.
But whether you qualify or not, think hard before abandoning the U.S. As Auntie said, "Unpack your bags, my flighty friend, and gear up for a long, dirty struggle for the soul and spirit of your country."
So I log on to check out the latest offering of articles and there's one that was suggested by an anonymous patron, and the title reads: Islamic Ministry Votes "No Jerks" in Iran.
Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was: What are they going to do with all those priests?