AlterNet Readers' 10 Best Comments of the Week

Judging from (most of) your responses, this new feature seems to be a success! We invite you to submit your faves by either "reporting" a comment you like or sending a quick email to

But enough about us, let's hear from you!

We start with a comment from Eddie Torres. After reading Robert Parry's piece, "Bush Isn't Spying on al Qaeda … He's Spying on You," Eddie decided to help out by giving us "five easy ways to tell if the Feds know you're a terrorist":

1. Do you wear a Casio watch? If the answer is yes, pack your bags -- you're headed for Gitmo.

2. Do you have a MySpace page? If yes, you're busted. Prepare to be dragged out of your cushy classroom at any moment by the Secret Service.

3. Are you studying electronics, computer technology or telecommunications? If yes, you probably also know someone who speaks French. That's a Category 1 / Urgent Priority / Red Flag for federal investigators. Gitmo.

4. Is there a book or a map anywhere on your campus that describes or depicts anything from "Middle-East-North-Africa"? If yes, you're definitely a terrorist. Here's how the Feds singled you out.

5. Do you own a whistle? If yes, you will probably be mistaken for a "whistle-blower" and are at least a legitimate surveillance target.

Now that you know you're a terrorist, do you think the ACLU can help you? Forget it. The ACLU is bugged, tapped, shadowed, keystroked, hacked, cracked and otherwise monitored on an hourly basis by the NSA / DoJ / FBI and 20 other black-hat Fed operations. They're even taunting the ACLU about it.

We have it on good authority that Eddie is contemplating a jump into the blogosphere. Tbogg better watch his back.

Reader newtype_alpha checked out last week's "Iraq Round-Up!" and pondered whether the U.S. effort in Iraq isn't being hindered by "The Dictator's Curse!"…

I halfway suspect that Saddam put some sort of Sufi hex on his Republican Palace, thus dooming any occupier to repeat all of his most spectacular mistakes. Right now, we're seeing the repetition, not of the first Gulf War, but of the Iran-Iraq War in which one totalitarian leader, drunk with power, launched into a war of aggression against another country with the tacit support of the West.

The war effectively bankrupted Iraq, destabilized its economy, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and ended in Saddam's complete humiliation in the eyes of the Arab world … all of which, he ultimately commemorated as a "victory."

Come 2008, look for a giant monument in front of Congress with two M-16s held aloft in giant bronze replicas of George Bush's arms.

Responding to Julie Bergman Sender's "The Republican Plot to Stall Congress, starring Jason Alexander," ssegallmd asked:

What does it say about the American people that Rove and Republicans have planned to obstruct and frustrate Senate Democrats with fillibusters if necessary, then blame them for getting nothing done and expecting the American people to fall for that? What are we talking about, here? Bison?

Who does such a plan work on? Driveling imbeciles, meerkats and the American people. We either should be offended that they even thought that they could get away with something so simple and transparent, or be concerned and in awe of the naivety, docility and complacency of the average American citizen because we know that they can.

How can such people govern themselves? They can't. What could possibly be the fate of a democracy populated by such people? Not democracy. This is whom you have been appealing to in vain for years. Thirty percent still like Bush.

I realize how contemptuous of the American people this post is. But the point is to emphasize what kind of people the left is waiting on to wake up. Do our plans and expectations for the American people aim low enough? When we speak, do they even understand? Do they even hear? How could they? They don't read. They're as simple and unsophisticated as medieval peasants. And just in time, too.

Well, they can't all be funny, can they?

Alexander Zaitchik's piece on the media's obsession with John Edwards' haircuts got lots of readers angry. In response to the article, "Can One Reporter Take Down a Presidential Candidate? John Solomon Is Trying to Find Out," endfear said the hype was an example of "journalistic misconduct":

If John Solomon was a lawyer, this type of vindictive behavior would be characterized as something like "prosecutorial misconduct."

In real terms -- since his job is to REVEAL the truth, not try to MANIPULATE people's perceptions about wholly unremarkable and mundane facts -- Solomon has committed "journalistic misconduct."

It's a matter of branding.

If he'd put this puff crap in an opinion piece and been honest about his obvious personal bias, people could easily recognize it for what it is -- a partisan hit piece.

But he didn't do that, did he?

By falsely portraying it as "real news" simply revealed in an "investigation" (of something that was never secret and didn't require "investigation" because of its overwhelming irrelevancy), he was engaging in deception.

And Solomon's writing it this way because he knows the power of that suggestion. For some, the mere alleged "possibility" that Edwards "took bribes" (for which there is no actual evidence, just wild speculation and transparently partisan supposition) is enough. That PERCEPTION is precisely what this "reporter" was trying to create in your mind -- a doubt that has no basis in fact but that still lingers and can be further manipulated by others.

There is the "possibility" that a giant spacecraft will park on my roof and microscopic pink elephants from the planet Zenu will swarm out of its cargo hold and take over the Earth too -- but it's hardly a P-R-O-B-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y.

Responding to the Van Jones' article, "The New Environmentalists: How to Make the Green Movement Less White," global_butterfly wrote:

This reminds me a great deal of the issues facing the wildlife conservation movement. For centuries the rich and affluent (primarily of European descent) traveled the globe and took great pride in going on safari hunts and buffalo hunts, and capturing wild animals for their zoos. Then when wildlife became endangered and scarce, the rich and affluent, who now have a love for nature, took land from Native Americans, Africans and other poorer people of the world to make wildlife reserves. And when today's poor in the third world are caught poaching, the wildlife advocates cry that they simply can't understand why "those" people can't respect nature. Those people being the same people whose very culture teaches a reverence for nature.

Now some people are asking why the Green Movement is so 'White."

Without a doubt, everyone has to be concerned about our global crisis. The Green Movement should not just be a "white movement." But the truth be told, it will be largely dependent on those who are the chief contributors to the problem to find the willingness in their hearts to make the sacrifices necessary to contribute to the solution.

In general, it is not the poor of any race or nationality that are driving luxury SUVs or eroding our ocean barriers with beachfront real estate. It is not the poor who buy new cell phones, iPods and other electronics every six months and fill the landfills with electronic waste. Yet, sadly it is the poor, the minorities, the third world people around the globe who are already experiencing the tragic impact of global warming. They are our modern-day canaries in the coal mine. Those that the world is willing to sacrifice before anything is done to correct the problem. […]

If Louisiana was getting its fair share of the energy revenues made from drilling off its shores, the levees could have been improved long ago. But were the oil companies going to give up that money to help the poor? Were stockholders going to give up those dividends? Did anyone care about the poor in the Gulf Coast before Katrina?

How about the people of Sudan who were being devastated by drought long before anyone had heard of Darfur, or the millions that inhabit Bangledesh or the coastline of China.

I sadly suspect that the reason "An Inconvenient Truth" had such an impact on many in America is that Al Gore pointed out that parts of NYC could find itself underwater. That finally drove the point home.

Tom Degan reacted to Chris Hedges' "Iraq Is About to Become a Lot Worse," like this:

Iraq has done to the United States what Afghanistan did to the late Soviet Union. Remember how we watched in glee as the Russkies self-destructed? Somewhere right now, there are a lot of elderly, retired commies laughing their heads off.

Here me out: The salvagability of any American credibility depends on one thing and one thing only -- that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the tidal wave of walking, talking excrement that comprises this disgusting administration are tried and imprisoned for the rest of their lives for the crimes they have committed against humanity in general and the men, women and little children of Iraq in particular. […]

There's more where that came from on Tom's blog -- check it out, it's good.

Steven Rosenfeld's "The Fallout From California's Ban on Electronic Voting Machines" got lots of attention, and Steve went right into those comments and waded into the debate.

Here's rjf7r's response, not to Steven but to the author of the Holt bill, N.J. congressman Rush Holt:

Unfortunately, Rep. Holt, in his comments, misses the big one: openness. Our election processes need to be open to the public, with citizen and multiparty participation. The complexity of software-based systems precludes that and makes testing to whatever standards are enacted a practical impossibility (I write that as a professional software tester and security consultant).

Unfortunately, Rep. Holt's bill, HR 811, has a complexity that rivals that of these machines, since special interests of the industry are reflected on every page (and there are many pages).

We need to have some simple legislation that sets out a voters' bill of rights, rather than a bill that tries to patch the flaws in defective machines and hides the rest.

This voters' bill of rights must guarantee transparency; multipartisan administration and supervision; citizen participation; a real, visible, physical ballot, with systems available to mark and cast that ballot for those who need that assistance; a system that is fully auditable and actually audited (beyond the limitations of the secret ballot) but that has the highest probability of getting the count right the first time; and a system where tamper resistance and evidence is inherent, not an add-on.

The counting and handling of ballots must be visible and open to public scrutiny at every step. They certainly must not be hidden in private software. Most importantly, the overall election system must be simple enough and open enough that all citizens can convince themselves that our elections are fair. Adding hidden complexity surely destroys that confidence.

The people, not some vendors, own elections. Voting is the foundation of democracy. Anything that diminishes that, or threatens it, does the same to our very system of government.

Who could disagree?

But there was disagreement aplenty with "Spend, Spend, Spend: The New Model for Parenting." Here's mmales' take:

FOR GOD'S SAKE, what is this kind of mainstream fluff doing in the supposedly progressive alternative media? So what if there's a $45 billion "luxury children's market"-- that's far less than 1 percent of total consumer spending, just 1/20 of what adults spend on gambling. There have always been rich parents who spent a fraction of their riches on their kids, but the notion that American adults lavish money on youth is a cruel myth. The big issue is that while 13 million children and teens live in poverty, including 5 million in abject destitution, society's resources are being hoarded by aging Boomers and older Xers who spend trillions on themselves (including for 8 million cosmetic surgeries every year for folks over 35), then refuse to pay taxes for schools and basic opportunities for the young. THAT's a truly progressive issue, not this culture-war clucking that seems to pass for progressive commentary on youth issues these days.

Fair enough. You can't please everyone all the time.

But appaarently you can please Sausage with a good, cutting media analysis, as Joe Bageant gave us this week with "A Feast of Bullshit and Spectacle: The Great American Media Mind Warp." Bageant talks about the American "media hologram," and Sausage was ready with an example of "The hologram in action …"

On the front page of my local daily rag, I spied this headline screaming from below the fold:
Whites make up minority in 10% of U.S. counties
… I mean you only have to read the headline to get the gist of the story, by AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher, that this is another "brown-skinned barbarians are taking over the country" screed.

Let's just read Ohlemacher's lead graph, shall we:Whites are now in the minority in nearly one in 10 U.S. counties. And that increased diversity, fueled by immigration and higher birth rates among blacks and Hispanics, is straining race relations and sparking a backlash against immigrants in many communities.

Wow! That's scary! And it's pure bullshit. I mean, it goes without saying that 90 percent of counties in the United States are still majority white!

But the good ol' boys down at the Izaak Walton League, the VFW and wherever else poor dumb rednecks meet -- even the guys with last names like Salazar, Gutierrez and Garcia whose families have been here so long they couldn't speak Spanish if their lives depended on it --- are going to be hooting about how blonds will be extinct in 50 years and maybe Tom Tancredo's right and we should build that border fence. After all, them illegals is taking our jobs! Never mind the fact that our jobs! are legally being sent to Mexican maquiladoras or outsourced to factories in China and offices in India!

Look, I live in the biggest city of one of the whitest states in the union. It's so white that relatives from the Twin Cities marvel at all the blonde-haired women anchoring the local television news! But, oh my gawd, here's proof positive in the paper that the white man is a dying breed.

What the hologram is all about is getting the majority of good, hard-working people, who just happen to be of European ancestry to vote against their own best economic self-interests. […]

And so the hologram does its work. And the poor dumb rednecks down at the VFW will hitch up their pants and vote for Mitt Romney or Duncan Hunter or Fred Thompson. And their misery will only increase.

By the way, Joe Bageant originally coined the phrase "leftneck."

Finally, in response to "U.S. Could Trigger Deadly Middle East Arms Race," phatkat shows that AlterNet readers aren't as historically challenged as lawmakers in D.C. appear to be. S/he asks, "When will we ever learn …?"

I remember when the U.S, armed Afghanistan because the Soviet Union was our mutual "enemy." So now we have kissed and made up with the Russians, but we have a horrible situation in Afghanistan.

I remember when the U.S. armed Iraq because Iran was our mutual "enemy." We forgot about Iran, because we decided Iraq was our enemy.

We destroyed Iraq, rediscovered Iran, and now want to arm countries (that likewise hate our guts) because we have a mutual "enemy."

Why, oh why, do we want to encourage an arms race among nations that would as soon stab us in the back as not? I cannot believe the stupidity, shortsightedness and inability to learn from history that reigns in Washington.

Thanks for a great week of comments, folks. Keep 'em coming!

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