Sunday, February 22, 2004

Maybe it's the light -- a view from San Francisco

To hear Governor Schwarzenegger and other voices of the far right
describe the matter, California seems threatened by a total breakdown
of civil order -- a wave of lawlessness comparable to people blandishing
assault rifles in public or openly selling hard drugs to school children
on every street corner. Clearly, the marriage riot in San Francisco has
got to stop! It presents a peril to world civilization more grave than al-Qaeda
and suicide bombers. Call in the National Guard -- immediately!

For a more sane, thoughtful view of the matter, check out Gray Brechin's
"Of Course It Started in San Francisco" from the Washington Post. As Brechin describes
his stroll past City Hall last week:

"As it has been since Feb. 12, when Mayor Gavin Newsom directed the city
to begin issuing the controversial marriage licenses, the building has long
been a site of resistance as well as of unity. In 1960, police turned fire
hoses on protesters against the House Un-American Activities Committee,
forcing them down the marble stairs of the place where Marilyn Monroe and
Joe DiMaggio were married in 1954. On the night of May 21, 1979, thousands
of gays converged on City Hall to torch police cars and attack the building,
enraged by a jury verdict that wrist-slapped Dan White, an ex-member of the
Board of Supervisors, for gunning down gay supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor
George Moscone in their offices. The verdict said to the rioters that a clean-cut
family man was almost within his rights to execute a gay man, along with Milk's
liberal friend and supporter.

The mood was very different last Sunday when my partner of 11 years and I
left the Asian Art Museum that faces City Hall across Civic Center Plaza . We could
hear the commotion across the plaza, so we walked toward it, and unwittingly into history.

We had thought that Mayor Newsom's dramatic decision to issue same-sex
marriage certificates was a stunt, and that we didn't really care. Sanctity,
after all, is not a description that either of us would apply to our own parents'
marriages, and we were not about to splurge on rings in order to repeat their mistakes.

But our convictions dissolved as we watched ecstatic couples emerge from
City Hall and descend the granite steps to the cheers, tears and applause of
gays and straights alike, as well as to the affirmative honks of cars passing
on Polk Street, and to the appreciation of those people waiting in a line that
stretched around the block for their turn at legal recognition, many with their
children. Marriages were taking place throughout a City Hall kept open during
the long weekend for just that purpose, and everyone present was aware of
being party to something momentous. We knew that in the present political
climate beyond the Bay Area, Newsom's seeming defiance of state law, and
that of the thousands of couples who have filed through the building, may have
been foolish and even perilous. President Bush and Karl Rove could whip and
ride the divisive issue to another term. But events can create their own unexpected
consequences, just as the televised spectacle of citizens flushed down the stairs
with fire houses 44 years ago helped bring down the HUAC.

The infectious joy at City Hall made the risk of defiance worthwhile, because what
happened there went far beyond an out-of-step city that is almost an island
in more ways than one. It was worthy of a nation that, every July 4, celebrates
those who seek freedom more than security."

Digital democracy teach-in

While I remain largely skeptical about the prospects for digital democracy,
there have been some interesting developments in recent months -- the
success of, the flurry of activity around Howard Dean's Internet
centered campaign, the use of the Net to mobilize tens of millions in
opposition to the war in Iraq, etc.

Here's a report on the Digital Democracy Teach-in held in early February.


Former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi started off the day with the claim that "the political press could never figure out what the Dean campaign was. Now they feel qualified to comment on whether what it did worked." Much of his session, "Down from the Mountain: My Experience with the Dean Campaign," was targeted at broadcast media and the resulting political tactics.

He said, "Let's take the scream tape: it wasn't news, it was entertainment. It was the heat-seeking missile footage hitting its target. That really was damaging -- not what the governor did but the media's portrayal of it out of context. They are now apologizing."

Trippi argued, "Broadcast politics has failed the country miserably. You had no debate going into war, no debate about the Patriot Act. That debate isn't happening anywhere except on the Net."

He explained that the roots of broadcast politics go back 40 years. "In the 1960s, with the Nixon-Kennedy debate, people should have realized that television was going to change everything in American politics. It became a race for money and for one-way communications. How do I find a rich guy writing a $200K check and buy time with it?"

. . . . .

According to Trippi, "We have a communications problem. The political press has no clue what this Internet community is about. The Internet community doesn't really understand the hard, cold realities of American politics."

. . . . .

[LW: Yes, but politics on the Internet does make us feel so warm and fuzzy
and involved and effective and shaking the power structure and changing
the world for the better and so virtually virtuous ....]

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Doubters take note:
At last the tax cuts are producing new jobs! (in Bangalore)

I'll have to admit that Bush and his economists were right. Those huge
tax givebacks for the wealthy -- the ones my kids will be paying for until
they die -- are working just fine!

(from the L.A. Times)

Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas
The loss of work to other countries, while painful in the short term,
will enrich the economy eventually, his report to Congress says.

By Warren Vieth and Edwin Chen
Times Staff Writers

February 10, 2004

WASHINGTON — The movement of American factory jobs and white-collar
work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich
the U.S. economy over time, even if it causes short-term pain and dislocation,
the Bush administration said Monday.

The embrace of foreign outsourcing, an accelerating trend that has contributed
to U.S. job losses in recent years and has become an issue in the 2004 elections,
is contained in the president's annual report to Congress on the health of the economy.

"Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said N. Gregory Mankiw,
chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, which prepared the report.
"More things are tradable than were tradable in the past. And that's a good thing."

The report, which predicts that the nation will reverse a three-year employment
slide by creating 2.6 million jobs in 2004, is part of a weeklong effort by the administration
to highlight signs that the recovery is picking up speed. Bush's economic stewardship has
become a central issue in the presidential campaign, and the White House is eager to
demonstrate that his policies are producing results.

[LW: And exactly where on the planet will those 2.6 million jobs be located? Hmmmm?]

"Shocked! Shocked, I say!" -- scientists catch on to Bush's science scams

Well, it's only taken three years, but finally some prominent members
the scientific community have begun speaking out against the many
blatant distortions of scientific information, abuses of the scientific
authority and outright censorship of scientific research that have
characterized the Bush administration from day one. Better late than
never, I suppose.

Seth Borenstein writes for the Knight Ridder Newspapers:

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - A group of more than 60 top U.S. scientists,
including 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisers to past
Republican presidents, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration
of manipulating and censoring science for political purposes.

In a 46-page report and an open letter, the scientists accused the
administration of "suppressing, distorting or manipulating the work
done by scientists at federal agencies" in several cases. The Union of
Concerned Scientists, a liberal advocacy group based in Cambridge,
Mass., organized the effort, but many of the critics aren't associated with it.

White House Science Advisor John Marburger III called the charges
"like a conspiracy theory report, and I just don't buy that." But he
added that "given the prestige of some of the individuals who have
signed on to this, I think they deserve additional response and we're
coordinating something."

[LW: Translation -- Damn, we've been caught! What lie do we
float now?]

Back to the story ......

"The report charges that administration officials have:

_Ordered massive changes to a section on global warming in the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2003 Report on the Environment.
Eventually, the entire section was dropped.

_Replaced a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet
on proper condom use with a warning emphasizing condom failure rates.

_Ignored advice from top Department of Energy nuclear materials
experts who cautioned that aluminum tubes being imported by Iraq
weren't suitable for use to make nuclear weapons.

_Established political litmus tests for scientific advisory boards. In
one case, public health experts were removed from a CDC lead paint
advisory panel and replaced with researchers who had financial ties to
the lead industry.

_Suppressed a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist's finding
that potentially harmful bacteria float in the air surrounding large hog farms.

_Excluded scientists who've received federal grants from regulatory
advisory panels while permitting the appointment of scientists from
regulated industries."

The full report can be found at the website of The Union of Concerned Scientists.
Same sex marriage -- a jazz musician's comment

Last Monday my old buddy Charlie took me and my twin boys
to the Jazz Standard, a wonderful club in Manhattan that features
fine barbecue and great music. The band that evening, the nine piece
Millennium Territory Orchestra, featured an exuberant, often humorous
collision between traditional tunes (including ones from the 1920s)
and avant guarde jazz blowing. Steven Bernstein, trumpet and leader
of the ensemble, peppered the audience with wry quips, some of them fairly
political. Pointing to a musician holding his soprano sax high in the air,
he noted, "Now there's a weapon of mass destruction!"

As I visited the JamBase website today, I
read another of Bernstein's comments from a previous concert. It's the
funniest thing I've heard about the raging debate about sex marriage:

"Aren’t all marriages same sex? Isn't that why you get married,
because you want the same sex?"