It is a time of freedom and fear, of Gaia and of borders, of many paths and the widening of a universal toll road, emptying country and swelling cities, of the public bought into privacy and the privacy of the public sold into invisible data banks and knowing algorithms. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection.

These are the times when maps fade and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread.

Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.

Days that change everything, and days that change nothing
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Yesterday, while the FBI continued its Orange Alert against terrorist attack, 20,000 people were killed! This tragedy dwarfs the attacks of September 11, 2001, in which only 3,000 people were killed.

Of course, the people killed yesterday were in Iran. They were killed by an earthquake, not by terrorists. They were killed because their government values outdated religious values more than it values the advances of science. They were killed because the American government values dropping bombs in foreign countries more than creating safe conditions in which people in foreign countries can live. Most of the houses in the city of Bam, where the quake took its highest toll, were made of brick and mud, even though the region is recognized as especially earthquake prone.

In the world we live in, it matters more that George W. Bush has proclaimed Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil" than it matters that 20,000 Iranians died because they lived in unsafe conditions.

3,000 people are killed, and we expected the entire world to change everything that it did to suit the needs of our grief.

Today, 20,000 people are dead, but will the story even last a week on the front page? A year from now, will anyone talk about "December 26"? Will we spend months reading about the profiles of the people who died and the heroes who tried to rescued them? Will anyone say that "Everything is different now, in the wake of December 26"? Will Bush declare a war against poverty and ignorance, declaring that the American people will do whatever it takes?

No, of course not. This simple truth will be buried along with the 20,000 who died yesterday: Superstition and greed are ten times more deadly forces in the world today than all the terrorist organizations put together. Terrorism is just more telegenic.

Focusing on terrorism lets us pretend that the world's problems all rest with someone else, a big bad evil group of people that virtuous folks like us must righteously crusade against. Well, consider these questions, righteous crusaders:
- What kind of world is it that we have made in which some of us play around on Christmas with electronic gadgets we won't even have time to use for the rest of the year, while others are buried alive because they can't afford to build houses out of anything other than mud bricks?
- What kind of world is it that we have made in which religious doctrines thousands of years old keep the governments of these two people from working together to make it better?

To answer these questions we've got to consider making changes ourselves, and that's not quite as easy as going around bombing bad guys.

Oh, yes, to answer these questions would require that I examine my life too, so I'm off to ponder deeply while making a half-caff peppermint latte with my brand new Christmas-themed espresso-cappucino machine. It plays "Oh Holy Night" while it blows off hot steam.

Posted by J. Clifford Cook at 7:02 AM. # (permalink)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Over at Daily Kos, Jumbo offers this definition:

Chickenblogger: n. Anybody who puts up a website that claims to have a "blog" but doesn't allow public comments.

According to this definition, George W. Bush is definitely a chickenblogger.

The problem with this definition is that it attributes motivation to an observed trait when other factors may be in play. For those that are new to blogging, or who haven't found commenting tools on the 'net, it's not so much a matter of not "allowing" comments as it is a matter of not knowing how to set such a blog system set up. We didn't figure out how to let others add comments until last month. For bloggers like this, the label "Chickenblogger" is unfair.

On the other hand, for sites like George W. Bush's that have multi-million dollar budgets and huge staffs, there's a choice: do you let the people's voices in on your blog, or is their role simply that of listeners?

George W. Bush and his circle have decided that the job of the people is to listen -- and that's an important indication of the quality of his presidency.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 6:54 AM. # (permalink)

Who thinks Howard Dean is Too Liberal? Part II
Monday, December 22, 2003

Who Thinks Howard Dean is Too Liberal? Part II

The same results as below from a Washington Post poll taken December 18-20, 2003 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, but this time by region:

Do you think Howard Dean's views on most issues are too liberal for you, too conservative for you, or just about right?
Responses by Region
Too liberal 26% 27% 31% 25% 28%
Too conservative 6% 11% 7% 7% 7%
About right 42% 30% 37% 35% 36%
DK/No opinion 26% 31% 25% 34% 28%

Now what this tells me is that another big media story doesn't have much juice. Although Southern voters (of which I am one) are more likely to think Howard Dean is too liberal, they're only just a wee bit more likely to think that. In fact, the most common response among Southerners is to say that Howard Dean is About Right.

This doesn't fit with the big media notion that we grits-eating, sister-swapping, pork-rind-chewing, overall-wearing, ignunt suthnas just couldn't, couldn't like Howard Dean. Perhaps the big media need to pull their heads out of their navels, stop playing "Dueling Banjos" when they write their copy, and listen to more than the sound bites of their colleagues before they buy into the next wave of hype.

But that's just another ignunt Southern voter talking. Well, golllleeee!

Posted by Matthew Cook at 10:38 PM# (permalink)

Who Thinks Howard Dean is Too Liberal?

Who Thinks Howard Dean is Too Liberal?

...and who thinks Howard Dean is About Right? The following are results from a Washington Post poll taken December 18-20, 2003 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points:

Howard Dean is... Dem. Rep. Ind. All
Too liberal 14% 50% 25% 28%
Too conservative 8% 7% 8% 7%
About right 57% 15% 35% 36%
DK/No opinion 21% 28% 32% 28%

What these results say to me is that, first of all, the core of the voters who will vote for Dean, namely Democrats, think he's about right, neither too liberal nor too conservative. For independents, who might vote for Dean and might not, the most common response is to say that Dean is about right for them. A significant number don't know or don't have an opinion, which means that the Dean campaign will need to target its message to independents in the months to come. If Dean can bring Democrats and Independents together, he'll probably be able to win the 2004 election.

So who are these people out there reflecting the media notion that Dean is just too liberal? Well, gee, they're Republicans, who are not going to vote for Dean anyway, and who the Dean campaign does not need to sway to win election.

As my friends in high school used to say, whoop dee doo.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 10:20 PM. # (permalink)

Terrorism and Terrorismism
Sunday, December 21, 2003
terrorism: the strategy of using limited resources to engage in relatively limited but highly visible destruction. The goal of terrorism is to get others to react in a manner causing more widespread and costly disruption than the terrorist could cause on his or her own.

terrorismism: the strategy of reacting to terrorism in a manner causing more widespread and costly disruption than the terrorist could cause on his or her own.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 7:25 PM# (permalink)

If you give a Bush a Ballot
If you give a Bush a ballot, He'll probably give a tax cut to the rich.

When he gives a tax cut to the rich, he'll pretend it goes to the middle class.

Pretending is fun. So he'll pretend some more.

He'll make up all kinds of stuff.

When someone asks him to provide his evidence, he'll call his friends.

His friends will take care of everything.

Then he'll pretend some more.

Pretending is hard work. So he'll take a break.

A month-long break at a Dude Ranch.

As he sits in his recliner, he'll reach for a pretzel.

Or maybe a French fry.

Eating is hard work.

So he'll relax with a nice game of solitaire, then do a bit of coloring.

When he's done with his crayons, he'll visit some of his friends.

Speaking with his friends will remind him that he needs their help.

After he's gotten lots and lots of help in $2000 increments, he'll invite his friends to dinner.

He'll ask you to pay the bill.

And chances are, if he asks you to pay the bill, he's going to want a ballot to go with it.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 7:07 PM. # (permalink)

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