the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, September 14, 2002  

The other day, I was feeling self-indulgently low. Visiting the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) site kicked me right in the self-pitying tookas. This article, in particular, got me. It ends: "Alya listens to us talk. The little girl, who has grown up in a refugee camp, then moved to a ruin and then to a slum, is slender and bright-eyed in green shalwar kameez. I ask what she thinks she will do in the future. "I will be a doctor!" she says determinedly."

I should just never, ever, ever, complain about my life again.

posted by Natasha at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Robert Scheer's column in The Nation reminds us that it's hard to find the devil these days, even when you have a prepackaged 'Axis of Evil.'

His article closes: "...Time to forgo the biblical allegories of good and evil and recognize that in the twenty-first century, smiting one's enemies is an elusive goal requiring patience and subtlety, as well as timely heroics. The enemy, whether it be global warming, addictive drugs, endemic poverty, religious fanaticism, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction, is best thought of as a dangerous disease succored by ignorance, pride and avarice--sins of which the United States too is sometimes guilty. That is why we will continue to be tormented by monsters of our own creation."

posted by Natasha at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK |

Somewhat in contradiction to my last post regarding the conservatism of advertisers (and far less serious ;) has to do with a recently acquired bad habit of watching any and all shows with supernatural themes. Even the very, very cheesy ones. I haven't recovered from the cancelling of the X-Files yet, but it's pleasantly humbling to get hooked on such utter nonsense in a way. Really makes a person take stock, though fortunately not Kool-Aid. Hence, it occurred to me tonight that I'd recently seen a lot of touchy-feely 'come home to God' church advertisements. It's been a while since I went on a kick of watching the God channel on cable for laughs (what a head trip), and these ads were far less radical. No, it was from watching 'Charmed' in syndication on TNT.

Apparently, local churches on Seattle's Eastside have determined that a prime target audience is people watching cable reruns of a show about witches at 5pm. They played various ads (from two different churches), at least one during each commercial break in a one hour program. Almost as funny as the 'Jews for Jesus - don't miss the rapture' ads you occasionally find in avant garde political magazines, but way more slick. They must have spent a bunch on these spots too, they were well done, both novel and professional. Really went for the heartstrings in a very modern styled return to innocence theme.

[sarcasm]And they touched me (don't be fresh, now), they really did (Stop That At Once). All that emptiness (it was time for dinner), I so need to be forgiven (I think I cut somebody off on the freeway). I need to be accepted (into the last good old boys networking entrance), washed clean (it was warm out today, got a bit whiff walking back from the market), and redeemed (do you cash lottery tickets there?), and made one with the body of Christ (ooo, kinky). Oh God will you take me back if I attend the Bellevue Church of Christ (name recognition! their meme has infected me...) every sunday without fail (unless I'm on vacation, or need my sleep after blogsitting until after 2am the night before, or have friends over, want to lounge around with my boyfriend, or am just plain too apathetic to leave the house)?[/sarcasm]

posted by Natasha at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, September 13, 2002  

This book review in the Economist discusses a recent offering about the Arab news network, al-Jazeera. The following snippet neatly summarizes the usual government tango with the free press:

"...When American officials asked Sheikh Hamad to stop al-Jazeera from giving terrorists a voice, he politely reminded them that for years they had been nagging Arab governments to open up their media. The Bush administration's dislike of al-Jazeera has not stopped Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld from appearing on the channel...."

They talk big, they call a bunch of people anti-American or pro-terror or appeasers, whatever the favorite phrase of the day is, and then they back off and let the free market work. As referenced in this Nation article last year, in case anyone has forgotten the Bill Maher flap:

"...The potential for politically motivated official censorship--beyond that which is genuinely necessary to protect the safety and security of our troops--is never far away in wartime. Politicians and generals quite understandably find the temptation to abuse this power irresistible. We saw countless such examples during the Gulf War, and we can discern hints of future threats from the lips of presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer, who endorsed the attempts of a few Madison Avenue mullahs to withdraw advertising from ABC's moronic talk show Politically Incorrect when host Bill Maher used the word "cowards" regarding the US military's use of cruise missiles. "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is." (Speaking of cowardice, the White House edited Fleischer's remarks in its official transcript of the exchange.) ..."

Politically Incorrect, if anyone was unaware, has been cancelled because advertising pulled out. Not because of ratings (for some reason high), nor even because of a lack of moderation that made it difficult to follow the dialogue (apparently that's a popular format.) Advertising money is the ultimate censor, covering somewhere around 1/3 or more of the cost of many print formats, and moreso for television. It's also historically conservative, and eminently unaccountable. For some reason, advertisers simply don't always want the money of 'certain types' of audiences. The Economist review above goes on to mention the following critique of al-Jazeera that they felt the laudatory book shied from:

"...Powerful countries, principally Saudi Arabia, have bullied advertisers to punish those, like al-Jazeera, who disobey. Deprived of commercial autonomy and dependent on princely handouts, al-Jazeera illustrates the fragility as much as the vibrance of Arab societies...."

I imagine that the day people stop screaming about every move to crush dissent, no matter how ineffectual it turns out to be, is the day that we'll no longer be able to ask questions in public. Though it could be fairly said that sometimes it's a lot of hoopla that could be better devoted to other topics, or on occasion, merely due to an overwrought and publicity driven persecution complex.

posted by Natasha at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK |

The BBC reports on an independent commission's assessment of global intellectual property law: "...It recommends a broader definition of what is called "prior art" - knowledge already in the public domain, on which IP rights cannot be claimed. ...The US is among those countries which do not recognise such knowledge when it comes from beyond their own borders...."

Also in the online news The Nation publishes a take on Bush's UN speech yesterday. It begins: "Let us stipulate that Saddam Hussein is a scumbag. He has run a brutal and murderous dictatorship, repressed significant numbers of his people, sought to develop weapons of mass destruction, invaded a neighbor, used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians and Iranians, and defied various UN resolutions...."

posted by Natasha at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, September 12, 2002  

Check out this site, the Mars Society, for information on their October 2002 conference at MIT regarding the prospects for exploration, research, and settlements on Mars.

Judging by previous human migrations, having new territories to explore vastly increases the expectations of even the people who stay home. For an interesting exploration of the specific ways that commercial space exploration could have a direct and beneficial impact on society (if it wasn't so ignored) try 'Mining the Sky' by John S. Lewis. If I'm not mistaken, God Himself once said that if humans weren't busy quibbling with each other, there would be nothing we couldn't accomplish.

posted by Natasha at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK |

This Nation article about emergency contraception (EC) highlights the degree to which anti-choice advocates control the public debate. I call them anti-choice because EC is as much an abortion as using a condom, or being on the pill. I call them anti-choice because they're determined to make sure that sex has grievous consequences, an argument whose substance has been critically wounded by the advent of penicillin and the pill. If it were up to them, not even married people and rape victims would get to choose whether or not they want to bring another child into the world. The only form of contraception they condone is the headache.

So bugger that. Let's nullify the abortion debate by making sure that unwanted pregnancies are a thing of the past.

Get informed at these sites mentioned in the article: "If you are sexually active, or even if you're not right now, you should keep a dose of EC on hand. It's less anxiety-producing than waiting around to see if you miss your period; much easier, cheaper and more pleasant than having to arrange for a surgical abortion. To find an EC provider in your area, see, or" ...and visit the Nation link above to get ideas about informing others and speaking out to your elected officials. Send Bush home to the 16% of the public living in the states that voted for him with the message that he failed to end reproductive rights in the US like he's damaged them abroad.

posted by Natasha at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK |

The Guardian today published a column outlining America's new defense strategy in our own words:

'A parallel approach has recently allowed the Pentagon, which has systematically opposed, abrogated and binned a series of international treaties, to abandon its long-standing "threat-based strategy" in favour of a "capabilities-based approach". According to Defence Secretary Rumsfeld this means that America needs to build up its defences on land, sea, air and space "to defend our nation against the unknown". As Fitzgerald points out: "For the overall defence budget, a 'capabilities-based approach' means simply that the Pentagon can ask for whatever it wants without having to justify its requests by the existence of even a potential enemy." '

How charming. Our military is already so overbuilt that the next four top spenders barely show up on the radar. I'm beginning to sense a free-fall into paranoia unmatched by our most rabid fears of the Cold War era. It's no longer enough that the US military can outgun, outfly, outsail, outdeploy, and outsatellite any other force on the planet. Is Rumsfeld afraid of little green men now?

No matter how much technology we buy, hate always finds a way. All our defenses were rendered useless a year ago because 17 people with pilots' licenses and minds full of rage slipped in under the most massive surveillance systems in history. And in less than a year, we squandered and tested the goodwill of every nation on earth, going from most loved to again most feared in a span of months.

They held a vigil for the dead Americans in the streets of Tehran last year after the attacks. Cuba asked how they could help. There isn't enough money in the world to buy that kind of security from your enemies, and we've pissed it away like a coke addict with a winning lottery ticket.

posted by Natasha at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, September 11, 2002  

On a lighter note, my friend Lisa is working on a really neat quilt. In order to keep up her sanity in the middle of working in high pressure tech and internet jobs over the last few years, she has reproduced the history of textile making in it's various forms. By now she's done everything from spinning to hand weaving, with knitting and crocheting for occasions requiring a portable hobby. But she seems to enjoy the somewhat Impressionist medium of quilting the most so far, and it's been interesting to watch the quality of her work progress over time.

posted by Natasha at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK |

On this first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, we are all mourning the victims of the September 11th tragedy, and extending our sympathies to their families. No one deserves to die like that, it was a shameful thing to happen.

Unfortunately, I don't think our leadership has learned much of anything. Probably not enough to keep us safe from having this happen again to US citizens at home or abroad. W has written an editorial which has doubtless been published in many places, including today's Guardian. Along with the rest of the platitudes, he states the following:

"...We believe that the deliberate murder of innocent civilians and the oppression of women are everywhere and always wrong. And we refuse to appease the aggression and brutality of evil men.... "

A brief survey of modern US history indicates that even though the vast majority of American citizens feel this way, our government's actions have demonstrated a contrary opinion on many occasions. That our media generally fails to inform us of the consequences to others of our appeasement of brutality is a grievous sin of silence. The number of 'regime changes' that the US has backed, brutal dictators, death squads, and the willingness to ignore the opinion of anyone who isn't a citizen (even supposedly close allies) does not go unnoticed elsewhere. The fact that the US feels entitled to pick the governments of other countries whenever we please is telling.

As long as America says one thing and does another, US citizens will be in danger. And with this rhetoric, this refusal of responsibility for our past decisions, we're only fooling ourselves anymore.

posted by Natasha at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, September 10, 2002  

Lisa said the other day that "Instead, what I think is happening is that people who fear to express dissent directly turn that into a claim that dissent is being crushed. But the only reason I can find for that fear is the worry that ordinary people and other pundits might disapprove, and hotly disagree in articles, emails, Web sites and letters to the editor. That's not crushing dissent, that's lively debate, and commentators who are afraid of that and try to use political correctness to get people to nicely agree are using underhanded methods."

I think that what many people have seen is that serious domestic policy discussion has fallen into a black hole. Bill Maher, former host of Politically Incorrect, remarked (approximately) on Hardball with Chris Matthews some months ago that calling a bill 'The Patriot Act' was tantamount to blackmail. He suggested that you could legalize selling crack cocaine to schoolchildren under a name like that, and while dramatic, I think the comment wasn't far off. Debate on women's rights (despite the lip service paid to Afghani women before Karzai was put in power), abortion, the environment, tax cuts, free trade, and numerous other issues have practically dropped off the face of the news while a regressive legislative agenda rolls on.

All it seems appropriate for politicians to discuss is whether or not we're going to wail on Iraq, when we still haven't accomplished any of our original objectives in Afghanistan. (Lest we forget, the overthrow of the Taliban was not in W's first plan of action. Nor was nation-building in Afghanistan. But now that they're all we've accomplished, I guess they'll do for retroactively declared success.) Is the narrowing of public debate to a single issue really censorship? Maybe not, but something smells fishy, the multiplicity of blogs notwithstanding.

posted by Natasha at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK |

No less a force of rabid liberal thought than the Christian Science Monitor printed this article about the tide of world frustration as relates to the United States. This paragraph summed it up nicely:

"...Respect for American values – freedom and democracy – persists, as does admiration of its free-enterprise prosperity. A visa for the US is still prized. But because of the way the US is wielding its military and political clout – more than its cultural hegemony – that admiration is increasingly overlaid by mistrust, misunderstanding, resentment, and even hostility across a broad spectrum of countries and citizens. There's a feeling that Washington doesn't care about them or their concerns..."

The article speaks about how people still want to come here, still generally want what we have, but don't like being on the receiving end of our foreign policy. Maybe we need to stop asking why people hate us, which implies much in the way of innocent bewilderment and assumes that the other side of the argument has no merit. Why don't we ask what we've been doing that makes people angry, which at least suggests that whatever our intentions, our government might bear some responsibility for the massive ill-will that's sprung up against it in the last few decades. The article continues...

"... "That is what Sgt. Larry Moore's job is all about. A soldier with the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion based in Knoxville, Tenn., he steps out of his pickup truck into the bright sunlight scorching the village of Karabagh, north of Kabul, and surveys the war-scarred desolation around him.

The few mud walls that are standing are pocked with bullet holes and the star burst signatures of rocket-propelled grenades. Shattered adobe buildings melt back into the dusty floor of the plain. But in the middle of the village rises a red-brick schoolhouse where 1,200 boys and girls will soon be studying, courtesy of the US Army.

"This school will be excellent," says Sergeant Moore with satisfaction, as he watches a turbaned tribesman use an adze to smooth ceiling beams while a dozen workmen in long shirts and billowing pantaloons slather on mortar and lay bricks. "It's going to do wonders for the village."..."

But maybe we're slowly getting the idea?

posted by Natasha at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, September 09, 2002  

Julia sent me a link to a short fiction story on Salon (she says she's gotten hooked now), and I'm glad she did. It's about programmers who hack their bodies' own operating systems. If you're into either programming or esoterica, it's great mind candy. My favorite passage:

"... "For forty years now, doctors have been telling us that the way to keep fit is to exercise more and eat less. That's great fucking advice, as can be demonstrated by the number of trim, fit residents of Northern California that can be found waddling around any shopping mall off Interstate 101. Look at exercise, Jesus, what could be stupider? Exercise doesn't burn fat, exercise just satisfies the condition in which your body is prepared to burn fat off. It's like a computer that won't boot unless you restart it twice, switch off the monitor, open the CD drive and stand on one foot. If you're a luser, you do all this shit every time you want to boot your box, but if you're a leet hax0r like you and me, you just figure out what's wrong with the computer and fix it. You don't sacrifice a chicken twice a day, you 0wn the box, so you make it dance to your tune.

"But your meat, it's not under your control. You know you have to exercise for 20 minutes before you start burning any fat at all? In other words, the first twenty minutes are just a goddamned waste of time. It's sacrificing a chicken to your metabolism. Eat less, exercise more is a giant chicken-sacrifice, so I say screw it. I say, you should be super-user in your own body. You should be leet as you want to be. Every cell in your body should be end-user modifiable." ..."

posted by Natasha at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK |

Good old Noam Chomsky wrote an op ed piece outlining his main reasons for asserting that the US is its own greatest security threat. For people who hate Chomsky by proxy ('I've never read his writing, but my favorite columnist says he's an America basher...'), try the real thing.

posted by Natasha at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, September 08, 2002  

So yesterday, I got my state primary ballot in the mail & filled it out this morning. Internet searches were pretty helpful, though there was little info to be found regarding the histories of the judicial candidates. I'd like to see these candidates post summaries of what they consider to be key decisions on a website, though very few of them even have one. When it comes time to pick a box on a ballot, I'm always horrified by the bland marketing speak used to neutralize any information that might slip through. The most useful guide provided is the canned resume-style summaries of organizations joined, which raised a few red flags for various candidates, and tepid endorsements for others.

But as frustrating as the process is, few things excite me all year as much as getting a ballot in my hands. Why? Because I like to complain. There's really nothing like complaining about the government from the position of having participated in it at even the most basic level. How can you feel really betrayed by a candidate you didn't vote for? How proud can you be of an agenda you endorse moving forward if you didn't help put the principal actors in place? And nothing beats the satisfying moral indignation (and implied washing of hands) of loudly proclaiming that 'I voted for the other guy!'

While this examination of non-voters' reasons for not going to the polls in 2000 seemed to imply that there was no significant difference of opinion between the two groups, most polls I've seen on the news before elections indicate a marked shift towards liberal candidates and issues when speaking with the pool of all eligible voters. They did mention that non-voters were more likely to identify as independents, but seemed to brush over the significance of that.

My opinion: no ballot, no bitching.

posted by Natasha at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK |