the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, September 28, 2002  

While having my refreshing Saturday date with my laundry, I've had various TV news channels on in the background throughout the day, and the scope of Saudi Arabia's PR blitz is becoming clear. Right after 9/11 I remember a 6-8 page spot (paid documentary style) in a NewsWeek type publication, and recently there have been the commercials about how they've been 'partners for peace' with the US for 60 years.

Today, I've been hearing their new 'partners in the war on terror' commercial. It details numbers of suspects arrested, and numbers of millions of assets frozen, etc., in the course of that country doing their part. If they keep this up, they'll get to be as good at advertising to us as the Israelis are. But you can see from the fact that they have a 'regime' that their effort will not succeed as well as they probably hope. I hope they keep trying though, this exercise in the wild world of marketing might be just what they need to hold on to their status as mildly impugned semi-ally. Also, I'd like to see more of Prince Bandar bin Sultan on the talking head circuit, he's a kick, both gutsy and well-spoken.

posted by Natasha at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK |

Two men have been caught with uranium in Turkey, near it's border with Syria. As the above CNN article points out, this isn't the first time this has happened, or the only thing that gets smuggled through Turkey. The material is suspected to be from Eastern Europe, and the names of the detainees appear to be Turkish.

Editor's note: Since this post was published, it's been determined that this incident was overblown, and that no radioactive material was involved. Serves us right for being all paranoid.

posted by Natasha at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK |

Free trade? I think not. This Guardian article outlines the many ways in which free trade is only good enough for the types of countries who have 'villages' and 'regimes.'

In the Nation, this article describes how we are turning our backs on Afghanistan already. It's disingenious for some to say that the country should be left to self-determination after they've been smashed into the Stone Age by 20 successive years of war. They've had 10 years of that already, and the only people left standing are a handful of warlords, each as bad as the other and no better than the Taliban. It's saying something that the Taliban were viewed by some as a minor improvement over having a new Northern Alliance raiding party sweep through town every so often.

Really, whether it's free trade or nation-building in one of the world's poorest countries, a demand for global privilege increasingly requires global responsibility. If we dictate to people when there will be war or peace, when markets will be closed or open, we can't forever get away with washing our hands of the consequences of those decisions. All we have to do to get out of this onerous burden is to start minding our own business, otherwise we're going to have to start cleaning up our own messes.

posted by Natasha at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, September 27, 2002  

From this article on CNN, Georgia seems to have started the slow slide back to medievalism with a Cobb County education board decision to allow creationism to be taught in school as an alternative to evolution. A brief clip on CNN's televised news touched on the Georgia decision, but then moved to the current debate in Ohio, where people are pressuring one of the school boards to vote in a similar change. (The TV clip was short, and I apologize for not catching any names.)

A school board member who agrees with the proposal said that in a democracy, people should be able to vote on what their kids are getting taught in school. (How come these same people never seem to agree that accurate contraceptive use be taught, even though parents who believe that may outnumber parents who don't?) Apparently 'growing numbers of scientists' (What, there were 20, and now there are 23?) believe in intelligent design, a fancy term for saying 'god made it'.

The interesting bit, though, was the interviews with two Ohio high school biology teachers who stand on opposite sides of the issue. The teacher who believed in intelligent design has apparently been slipping his views into the class for years, saying that basically evolution was just another unproven theory. His students commented along similar lines. The other one stated that while he believed in a creator, this view was not in the realm of science because it could not be tested, and would never be taught in his science class. His students commented along similar lines.

Now, I was raised in a household of impeccable religious fundamentalism, and managed to hold opposing views to those of my teachers for many years until discarding them of my own accord. My sisters chose to retain their views to the present day. Nonetheless, it's pretty clear that when a person is in school their opinions are very malleable. While those children who have parents with strong beliefs can certainly disagree with what's taught, no one should be led to confuse religion (pure faith) with science (what seems provable from the facts at hand). No matter which one you happen to agree with. It stirs the already muddied waters separating religion from many other aspects of secular public life.

And this plays into a larger problem of groups of every kind (some of whom I'm more ideologically aligned with) trying to rewrite 'what we can prove' with 'what we believe.' Data can often be interpreted in many ways, but our interpretations are not the data itself. Any extrapolation is at best an abstract map of the information it represents, more or less accurate. As a culture, we are by and large not equipped to make accurate interpretations (maps) of much of the information in our possesion. The more we make the teaching of basic science confused with religion or philosophy, the more difficult it is to teach a person how to make a good map of the facts.

For the record, I'm inclined to lean towards a Gaia theory view of life as we know it. But I would never suggest that this be taught in a science class of any kind, and regard it as pure speculation on my part. Really, it's like theorizing about an afterlife; as Heinlein said 'soon enough, you will know...' so why bother? I really have no burning desire to have answers to questions that can't be solved by living, breathing people.

posted by Natasha at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, September 26, 2002  

From the BBC online today:

Israel has engineered an air strike against suspected Hamas leaders. It's not yet clear exactly who got toasted, but as was pointed out to me a while ago, there is no Israeli satellite network. Courtesy of US intelligence data, provided for reasons which are not clear to me (did they buy us a big monument or something?), 40 bystanders were injured in the destruction of the car carrying the two alleged Hamas members.

Also, chemical contamination of the Norwegian arctic is going ahead full speed. Polar bears, birds, and marine mammals there have dramatically low life expectancies, and high concentrations of these chemicals. Children and women (particularly pregnant women) are urged not to eat from this section of the food chain, as the new toxins (brominated fire retardants) found appear to damage brain development and learning capacity in animals. Further, high levels of PCBs were reported, which are known to lead to reproductive and endocrine difficulties in many species.

posted by Natasha at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, September 25, 2002  

Now that he's no longer campaigning, Pat Buchanan has settled into a cushy news commentary job at CNBC, where he and Bill Press host the afternoon news show Buchanan and Press. I happened to catch them the other day, and they had some interesting guests on. (But maybe I just think so because they happened to agree with me on the topic at hand.) The funny thing is, I never expected to find myself on the same side of any issue as Pat Buchanan, wonders don't cease. A general outline of part of the discussion follows:

George Galloway, MP (Labour, Glasgow Kelvin)

  • The PM did not convince his own party with his rehashed information.
  • The Labour electorate didn't vote them into power to enter them into endless war behind George W. Bush.
  • In response to Press asking whether or not some UK citizens felt like they were becoming a 51st state: Yes, and they don't like it.
  • If America wants to act alone, no one can stop them. But consequences will be grave for the region, our allies, and the war on terror.
  • Has visited with Hussein, believes that the Iraqis will cooperate to the point of letting inspectors go through 'Saddam Hussein's underwear drawer.'

Ron Paul, Representative from Texas, Republican. He asked these 35 very pointed questions on the floor of the house on September 10th, 2002.

  • Bush is asking for an unconstitutional transfer of power to declare war.
  • We've seen 50 years of Congress abdicating responsibility for declaring war, and it needs to stop.
  • His constituents support his position, don't see the point of sending their kids to die in Iraq.
  • Attacking Iraq at this point is clearly a war of aggression.
  • Why are we closing bases in San Antonio and building bases in Saudi Arabia that we can't use and antagonize the locals.
  • The administration hasn't been talking about the potential $200 billion dollar cost of the war (his estimate), which would be bad for the economy.
  • Many other countries could have as strong or a stronger case made against them as potential enemies.
  • Long history of Republicans voted in to stop wars, why fight tradition.

The three callers to the program all appeared to believe that Iraq was not an imminent threat, and that Bin Laden and/or the economy were bigger problems.

They also played a clip of Rumsfeld insisting that though there was a definite terrorist link with Iraq, it would be impossible to disclose any further information to back that claim. (Question 6 from Rep. Paul's speech asked "Was former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro wrong when he recently said there is no confirmed evidence of Iraq’s links to terrorism?")

posted by Natasha at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK |

Well, today I got sent the text of this article on a DEA raid on a hospice in California. Again, this wasn't a for profit drug smuggling operation, or a bunch of frat kids with grow lights in the basement, but a functioning hospice which was legal under California state law. The article opens:

"...Last week, DEA agents armed with automatic weapons raided a hospice on the outskirts of Santa Cruz because it grew and used marijuana for its patients, most of them terminally ill. The founder and director, Valerie Corral, who uses marijuana herself to control debilitating seizures as a result of head trauma following a 1973 car accident, was taken away in her pajamas. Suzanne Pfeil, a paraplegic patient suffering from postpolio syndrome, was told to stand up and then was handcuffed in bed when she could not. All the plants were destroyed. ..."

Now I feel safe. I'm glad to know that in order to protect the law and order under which I live, our justice department (who ordered this) will stop at absolutely nothing, including arresting terminally ill people and their caregivers. I mean, come on, you can see how much of a threat these people are, can't you? If they hadn't been stopped, they might have wound up in some godforsaken protest rally in front of a government building, wheelchairs and all.

My question: Why aren't these guys busy intercepting the heroin coming in by the ton whose sale profits the same Afghan warlords who destroyed their country and gave haven to real terrorists?

posted by Natasha at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, September 24, 2002  

Joseph Stiglitz, formerly of the World Bank, presently of Columbia University, and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for economics, talks about IMF policies in this archived New Republic article discovered in a fortuitous Google search for something else.

posted by Natasha at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK |

The nuclear armed state of Israel rejected yesterday's UN resolution calling for their troops to be pulled out of Palestinian territories, and to stop dismantling Palestinian infrastructure. The US abstained instead of pulling its usual veto when these types of resolutions pass otherwise near universally. Arab states are in fact loudly complaining that while Israel seems to be able to flaunt as many UN resolutions as it likes, other nations like Iraq are held to stricter account.

This Salon article describes the administration's position in the Middle East in the following fashion - Bush to Arab world: Drop dead. The article asks:

"...Is the president's policy based on a series of deeply felt but disconnected prejudices in which Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Iran and Osama bin Laden metamorphose into one single evil entity, and Ariel Sharon and the USA are together on the side of the angels? The Brookings Institution's Judith Kipper sees this as "not an inappropriate analysis of the way they think. This is a very, very ideological administration, more than conservative, and the president does have a sense of priorities that sees everything in black and white." ..."

The point is later made that democratically elected governments in Iraq and elsewhere in the region are as likely to be as, if not moreso, militantly on the side of the Palestinians as current regimes. (Side note: It had to be explained to a friend from the UK the other day that 'regime' is not a word you get to use when talking about the US, or its special friends.) This reminded me of TV interviews some months back with Palestinian opposition candidates. They were all at least as hardline as Arafat, and the most popular one thought that Arafat had been a little too soft on the Israelis. Ousting Hussein, Arafat, and Fahd (as some ultra-hawks have suggested) might leave us with a multiplicity of Khomeneis to deal with instead.

Unless we find a way to 'elect a new people' (Brecht) in the Arab world, we are going to have to deal with the fact that decades of political mismanagement have ensured that they fear and distrust our motives in their region. Any new governments put in place or elected will need to reckon with public opinion, or brutally repress it, creating more mistrust. It would not need to be this confrontational if we would take concrete steps to demonstrate our goodwill. Citizens in that region aspire to our lifestyle, and consider American citizens to be potential friends. They want to like us so badly that it's only our own fault for talking them out of it.

posted by Natasha at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK |

Al Gore, who in 1991 was an elected official who voted for the first Gulf War, gave a speech yesterday expressing deep misgivings on taking our focus away from the war on terror and attacking Iraq. Notably, there is content in this speech, and an actual stand taken.

Gore said that it wasn't reasonable to abandon our efforts to punish those responsible for the terror attacks of 9/11 just because they have proven themselves to be hard to find. He pointed out that while war in Iraq could conceivably be won on our own, the war on terror absolutely requires multilateral cooperation which could be damaged by poor handling of Iraq.

He contrasted the first Gulf War to the present situation on a number of points, most notably that Bush Sr. waited until after mid-term election to put the war resolution to a vote. He said that while others have raised the issue of the appearance of partisan politics, it was up to the president to dispel this view, which he, his staff, and the RNC have not done.

On the topic of international opinion: " the immediate aftermath of September 11th, more than a year ago, we had an enormous reservoir of good will and sympathy and shared resolve all over the world. That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do, but about what we're going to do.... And that has consequences for us. Squandering all that good will and replacing it with anxiety in a year's time is similar to what was done by turning a $100 billion surplus into a $200 billion deficit in a year's time..."

His comments on the doctrine of preemption started by saying that it was unnecessary for us to adopt it in order to have the right to defend ourselves or our interests in the event of imminent threat, as these rights are already considered the privilege of every country. Further, preemption is 'open-ended', meaning that Iraq might not be the last stop. There is a long list of unpopular states where a similar case could be made against them, and it could set a dangerous precedent for war without any type of congressional check on this or future presidents' sole determination of a need for preemptive warfare.

Also addressed was the US habit in the last few decades of going to war and then walking away as soon as the bombs stopped flying. He mentioned that the US decision to walk away from Afghanistan after ousting the Soviets led to the conditions which made them an ideal terrorist base, and that this time our commitment to effective nation-building has been neglected. He stated that US opposition to a sufficient peacekeeping force in that country has led to a situation where the central government only controls in reality some few sections of one city, with warlords running the rest. If Iraq was left in such a state after an invasion, we would no longer be worrying about whether Saddam was dealing with terrorists, but whether terrorist infiltrators were able to find and take newly unguarded stockpiles before we could locate all of them.

If I was a half-hearted 'lesser of two evils' Gore supporter in the last election, I could now describe myself as a 'best way to work within the system' supporter. Last night, a conservative talking head (as opposed to being a liberal talking head) described Gore as an environmentalist as though it were an epithet. If he's not willing to resort to force as a first option, and can be convicted of environmentalism in the court of public opinion, what more could a liberal really ask for in the dismal field of US politics.

posted by Natasha at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, September 23, 2002  

Many Utah residents wish their concealed carry permits to allow them to bring their guns onto college campuses and have tried to insist that the state's courts provide public weapons lockers. Only in a country where outspending all comers is considered a form of 'free speech' will you have people insist that bringing guns onto campuses would never hinder a free exchange of ideas.

posted by Natasha at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK |

This Guardian columnist urges Britain to stand with a united Europe instead of playing 'handrag' for America. Reminds me of an interview I saw with Tony Blair a few months back, where the British journalist interviewing him asked outright what the PM thought about being considered Bush's lapdog. It's hard to imagine that, with all of our fabulous freedom, a journalist willing to ask a question like that would be allowed to interview the president.

This one suggests that the people with their hands on the proverbial big button are pretty damn prudish to begin with, and maybe a little more alien for all that. Those 'red state' residents making up 16% of our population still control public and political dialogue.

posted by Natasha at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, September 22, 2002  

The Guardian Observer has this to say regarding the Israeli demolition of Arafat's compound, and the replacement of a Palestinian flag with an Israeli one: "...'Arafat is paying a heavy price for rejecting Sharon's type of peace. After Oslo, for years there were no suicide operations in Israel. ...'But the result was more confiscation of land and more new settlements. Now Israel is trying to justify their position by calling Arafat a terrorist.' "

You have to wonder if, after six weeks of quiet, the minimally reported Israeli settler bombing of a Palestinian school (as mentioned in a Sept. 17th blog on this site) had anything to do with starting the whole mess back up again. CNN Headline News carried brief interviews with spokesentities from both sides. Daniel Ayalon, Israeli ambassador to the US, said that the Palestinian people owe their suffering to the terrorist Yasser Arafat. Hasan Abdel Rahman, PLO representative to the US, said that the Palestinian people owe their suffering to the 300,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied territories, and continuing land theft.

It's exactly exchanges like this that give the term 'terrorist' it's quote-marked status in leftist journals. When the Israelis destroy property, steal land, and shoot people, it's an incursion or peacekeeping or building a settlement. When Palestinian militants, like debt collectors from hell, blow people up in a futile (and poorly thought out) effort to get their stolen livelihoods back, it's terrorism. The question is not why the Palestinian acts of bombing are called terrorism (which even the majority of people who believe in their cause would describe it as), but why Israeli acts of bombing, theft, intimidation, and destruction are called war.

The real hindrance against the war on terror, which has been fought by many other countries over the past decades, is that no one will agree what terrorism is except that we (whoever the 'we' is) are freedom fighters and the opposition (whoever the 'opposition' is) are terrorists. This wouldn't fly as a courtroom definition, where theft is theft and murder is murder, though there are reasonable allowances made for specified extenuating circumstances, as there should be. You don't (or shouldn't anyway) get to say that if a certain type of people kill someone, it's always going to be defined as self defense, but if this other group kills someone it's always going to be defined as murder. And, by the way, these groups may change at will. Equal protection under the law has worked pretty well for western society, maybe we should try it for countries, too.

posted by Natasha at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK |