the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Friday, October 04, 2002  

The Ford Motor Co. goes green with its new Rouge plant in Dearborn, MI. Designed by William McDonough + Partners, this revolutionary use of greenfields and phytoremediation (plant filtration of toxins) will actually save the company money, while being very soft on the local ecosystem.

Mr. McDonough has also written a well-reviewed book with Michael Braungart that I've been meaning to read called 'Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things', on the topic of how to make money without making any waste whatever. The ideas go beyond recycling, to workable concepts of total reuse and recovery. Some of the Amazon reviews are interesting, with one pointing up an underlying 'all or nothing' attitude, and a perhaps naive trust in the good faith of corporations. While last summer I took a reading holiday, this summer I've taken a holiday from reading (print, anyway), and it's kind of stuck. I'll put out a fuller review of the topic once I read the book.

posted by Natasha at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK |

The BBC reports on a UN survey of polluted coasts, finding the worst cases in Asia and Africa where water treatment has not kept pace with growing urban populations. It also discusses the possible alternative of natural wastewater filtration via mangrove swamps and wetlands, to handle at least part of the problem.

posted by Natasha at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK |

Things are heating up in Asia, as both India and Pakistan test fire ballistic missiles. They politely gave each other advance notice, but "...More than a million soldiers are on a war footing along the Kashmiri ceasefire line that separates south Asia's two nuclear neighbours. ..." The tests were described as 'routine.'

posted by Natasha at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK |

This hypothetical conversation discusses the main arguments for going into Iraq.

posted by Natasha at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, October 03, 2002  

Anyone who has an opinion on whether or not there are different standards for Israel than the rest of the Middle East should read this article. In addition to their illegal kidnapping and imprisonment of a whistleblower from Rome, they are receiving boatloads of US aid in contravention of our own laws:

"...Yet Israel receives $3bn (£2bn) of aid, annually, from the US. This is despite legislation, the Symington Accord, to prevent US governments from granting aid to countries who develop nuclear weapons outside of international control and agreement. ..."

Further, Jane's, among others, has reported on Israeli spying in the US. The second article also recorded that FOX news prepared, and then pulled, a four part story on Israeli spying in America earlier this year. (Not that Israeli spying started and then stopped early this year.) So, we're paying them not only to flout international conventions and UN resolutions, build weapons of mass destruction, make our regional diplomacy difficult, and harass their neighbors, but to spy on us, too? I'd like a side of fries with that.

posted by Natasha at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK |

As a person willing to weaken even my own arguments when confronted with opposing facts, this Guardian article about black market resale of AIDS drugs marked at lower prices to be sold in developing nations describes a scenario very much like what my friend Ekr (he has refused thus far to share his opinions in a blog of his own) said would happen when drugs were sold at reduced rates to different parts of the world. Though as the article says, some companies combat similar problems with anti-malarial drugs by changing the packaging completely, and the makers of AIDS drugs are looking at a similar solution.

posted by Natasha at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK |

Kevin Raybould posts links and commentary regarding Bush's message to kids who don't wait 'til they're married: Drop Dead.

posted by Natasha at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, October 02, 2002  

Lisa's recent post highlighting this article on the increasing irrelevance of feminism was serendipitous, since I'd been thinking this afternoon about a thoroughly ridiculous article in Ms. that I read about a year ago.

The article in question was a series of campus reviews by selected students around the country. The two interviews that stood out most from my recollection had to do with hazing and celebration of a choice of major. The hazing at Caltech story made some good points about the kind of thing that almost inevitably happens when environments become integrated for the first time. There are cases of genuine harassment, and with any luck, the school has begun taking them more seriously. At the beginning, the author notes with shock that the campus (of this four-star engineering school) is mostly male, and yet not a single word was said about the need to encourage talented young women to go into science careers.

Maybe that's because the rest of these articles seem to be pushing the idea that the most important thing about a campus is whether or not it has a women's center. I recall reading the story of a girl (not archived to the web) who was celebrating her ability to have gotten a degree in some obscure women's studies subject, and how excited she was to have gotten some intern/editorial job at Ms. magazine. Well who the hell else would hire someone with an obscure degree in women's studies? I wouldn't. I mean, do I really want an employee so out of touch with the world that she wasted four years of a very expensive education learning how to spot harassment at every turn? What possible use could such an employee be to me? Why didn't they use this issue to focus on successful young women who've made their way in non-traditional fields and contribute something valuable to their communities?

Yet the thing that makes stupidity and whining as displayed in the 'Ms. goes to college' series so irritating is that in contradiction to the Reason article about feminism's irrelevance, there are serious issues that need to be addressed.

For one thing, abortion rights are not nearly as secure as some people would have us believe. (Never mind that it wasn't even five years ago when it was hazardous to your health to work at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the South, with the complete domestic terror package of shootings, poison gas, and bombings.) From the invention of Post Abortion Stress Syndrome, to regulations that target abortion clinics and make it very difficult for many of them to operate, these rights are under attack. These tactics disguised as 'caring for women' are chipping away at reproductive health rights in many states, and it is the expressed goal of the very active organizations pushing them to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Even contraception is in the crosshairs of some groups, who feel that medical personnel should be able to be conscientious objectors to emergency contraception, even for rape victims. Because this issue looms large in the minds and legislative agendas of the religious right, it should loom large on the agenda of people who would like to continue to have reproductive freedom.

Also, though I can't find it right now, the idea that professional women have far fewer children was debunked by a researcher who compared data on birth rates as controlled for marriage. Professional women who marry have the same likelihood of having children (though sometimes later) as their stay-at-home counterparts. They are, however, very unlikely to give birth out of wedlock, which you would think was a plus. And no, women don't need to be reminded that fertility declines with age. Really, really, we don't. Why don't they target 'procreate before it's too late' ads to guys, whose ability to produce healthy sperm also declines with age, with a concommitant increase in the risk of birth defects and miscarriage? Can you imagine the ads, targeting 20-30-something guys encouraging them to hurry up, get married, & have kids? I can hear whining about 'the pressure' already... Because the fact of the matter is, neither men nor women are really hip on having parents, friends, or faceless advertisers wheedling them about when they're going to settle down already. It's bloody annoying, and it's nobody's d*mn business.

As far as a reasonable direction for future feminism, people need to focus on bringing health and educational standards for women in the developing world in line with what we have accomplished here. (Not perfect, but pretty darn good.) The feminist movement hit the right note in being the first to draw public attention to the plight of Afghan women, it needs to keep focusing on the issues of the genuinely dispossesed in order to maintain the validity of its existence as a separate political issue.

posted by Natasha at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK |

This Mother Jones article asks whether or not Republicans really are better at managing the economy? Since I'm posting a link to the article, the answer, unsurprisingly, is no. A brief excerpt:

"...Which president produced:

1. The highest growth in the gross domestic product?

2. The biggest increase in jobs?

3. The biggest increase in personal disposable income after taxes?

4. The highest growth in industrial production?

5. The biggest rise in hourly wages?

6. The lowest Misery Index (inflation plus unemployment)?

7. The lowest inflation?

8. The largest reduction in the federal budget deficit?

Done guessing? Okay, here are the answers: 1. Truman; 2. Carter; 3. Johnson; 4. Kennedy; 5. Johnson; 6. Truman; 7. Truman; 8. Clinton. A Democratic sweep.

If this isn't enough to destroy the myth that the economy has performed better under Republicans, consider that the stock market has historically fared better when a Democrat is in the White House. During the 20th century, The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose, on average, 7.3 percent per year under Republican presidents. Under Democrats, it rose 10.3 percent -- which means investors gained a whopping 41 percent more. And that figure is even higher if you factor in last year's nose-dive. ..."

The other day when the pollster people called, I described my political affiliation as 'independent'. They didn't have an option for 'independent, but despises Republican policy.' Maybe I should have asked for a new category. This is the bugger of only having two main parties, but more than that seems pretty unworkable without a parliamentary system where the ability to form coalition governments can prevent some of the worst hazards of vote splitting.

posted by Natasha at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK |

Former President Clinton spoke to the Labour party conference in Britain, and was described as generally showing everyone up. He had this to say regarding Britain's relationship with the present American regime:

"... Mr Clinton told delegates - and TV audiences around the world carrying the appearance - that Mr Blair was the key link between Mr Bush's isolationism and the rest of the world.

He said: "I appreciate what the prime minister is trying to do in terms of bringing America and the rest of the world to a common position. If he weren't there to do this, I doubt if anyone else could. So I am very, very grateful." ..."

A new take on the 'poodle' accusation, and indicative that whatever other faults he has, nobody does diplomacy like 42.

However, Martin Kettle was decidedly less than thrilled at the idea of applauding the former president. He maintains that while Clinton's present popularity in Britain is the result of 'don't know what you've got until it's gone' syndrome, that Clinton's mistakes are largely responsible for Bush's ability to win the election. He may have a point, but Clinton had very little responsibility for the perversity of the electoral college system, or the perfidy of the Supreme Court.

posted by Natasha at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK |

Laughing... too... hard... The Onion explains the administration's policy position in this article, "Bush Seeks U.N. Support For 'U.S.does Whatever It Wants' Plan":

"... "Despite repeated American efforts to change the situation, Saddam Hussein defiantly continues his longtime policy of being the president of Iraq," Bush said. "The time has come for this man to step down, because we want him to." ..."

posted by Natasha at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, October 01, 2002  

Another space colonization fan. Good links here.

As much as another frontier sounds like a great thing though, times like these make me wonder if we won't just devolve to fighting over that, too.

posted by Natasha at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Presidential Freudian slippage as evidenced in this spanking new transcript from the White House website (italics ours): "...But disarming this man is, because he faces a true threat to the United States. .... He's a threat to the United States of America. And we're just going to have to deal with him. And the best way to deal with him is for the world to rise up and say, you disarm, and we'll disarm you...."

posted by Natasha at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK |

When even Republicans think that Bush is a little over the top, maybe there's something to it. The senate has released a resolution significantly narrower than what Bush wanted. Also mentioned in the article was an indication that the Iraqi government isn't the only one we think we should have the power to pick: "...A newspaper in Germany quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying the best thing Gerhard Schröder could do to ease relations with the US over Iraq would be to quit. "It would be best if he resigned," Richard Perle said. ..." So now the US wants to oust democratically elected western leaders for disagreeing with us? It wouldn't be the first time, but in rather poor taste considering that the media pays enough attention to Germany to have noticed that they had an election.

Also, the US is now threatening to prevent weapons inspections if their version of a proposed UN resolution does not pass. While Bush still tried to insist that war was not being chosen as a first option, but... "whatever soothing effect the president's words might have had was rapidly undermined by his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who pointed out that the expense of an Iraqi invasion could be saved by the "cost of a bullet". Asked if he was calling for President Saddam to be assassinated, in contravention of US law, Mr Fleischer said only: "Regime change is welcome in whatever form it takes." "

Can we say 'ugly American' boys and girls?

posted by Natasha at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, September 30, 2002  

I called the offices of three of my elected representatives today in order to register my opposition to a war in Iraq at the present time. (This was spurred by a posting to an email group I subscribe to.) It was an interesting experience, not least because I realized that I was perversely nervous about the whole thing. I feel sorry for the staffer at Rep. Jay Inslee's office who had to wait patiently through my initial stammering. After that, it was easier to call the offices of senators Murray and Cantwell.

While I've got political opinions by the truckload (as most people do), I didn't realize until today how much something in me was afraid to participate at a deeper level than marking a ballot. So, having satisfied my personal requirements for getting the right to complain, I've proceeded not to communicate with anyone who could do anything about my concerns. I suppose it's like jumping in a cold pool, the same sometimes unacknowledged mental/emotional barrier to performing a simple act.

But I'm not chiding myself, because yesterday I got called in a phone survey by ICR Research, and answered their questions. They said it was a study for an anonymous consortium of interests, both business and political. Questions about car and appliance purchases, internet use, TV viewing habits, and political opinions were forthcoming. I was a little put off by their intro, saying that they wished to only speak with one person per household, and could I please hand the phone to a male over the age of 18? I told them that they were out of luck, because the only person in my household is a twenty-(censored) year old female, but I was told that I still qualified. (Having once worked at a survey call center, I have a soft spot for people who just want to ask a few questions, thank you. But telemarketers recieve no such mercy.)

Now, towards the end, there was this question which went, roughly "In the 2000 election between Gore & Bush, we know that many people weren't able to vote because other things came up, but were you able to vote in that election?" Now of course, I responded that nothing was going to prevent me from doing so, but the phrasing of the question (and voter turnout statistics) would indicate that for many people this just isn't the case. But still, to not vote because 'something came up?' I mean, like a flood or fire? A death in the family? My thought was, if you don't want to vote, then at least be honest about it and say you couldn't care less or that you conscientiously object. Don't use some kind of weasel thing to claim that you couldn't find time on one highly publicized day every couple years to go and make your opinion known.

But the very fact that a group of people would be inclined to make excuses implies on further reflection that they're uncomfortable about that choice. They feel they ought to, but something prevents them from going ahead. A discomfort, perhaps, on a level they can't admit to themselves and may not be aware of. I guess I can't point a finger at that, though I would still try to persuade such a person to make it a priority and be heard. My suggestion to the wafflers, in these last few days of eligible registration: Jump in, the water's fine.

posted by Natasha at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian today:

Columnist Nick Cohen argues that America shouldn't be exempted from the ICC. He does make a good case that the Bush administration are right buggers, more concerned about Henry Kissinger than the oft glorified archetype of the common footsoldier, and would like to get rid of the ICC altogether. But I would still hold out that we're better off with a flawed ICC which could possibly be improved later, than getting none at all.

A British police precinct wants to try controlled heroin use facilities to sever the link between hard drug use and crime. Similar facilities have been set up in Australia, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, apparently with good results.

posted by Natasha at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK |

From today's BBC online:

Scientists studying the food chain have begun to document just how connected and interdependent species in the same ecosystem really are. Their work has demonstrated that, against expectations, most species in a system are connected by at most 2 or 3 links. Scientists expected to find that around four degrees of separation would be the norm.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says Iraq has continued firing on British and American planes; allegedly on 67 occasions in the two weeks since the letter accepting the return of weapons inspectors was received at the UN. Rumsfeld says they've been fired upon with 'impunity,' but perhaps they were also firing with impunity. As this article points out (and Lou Dobbs' coverage on CNN barely touched at), these US & UK planes have been performing active bombing runs against Iraqi facilities, which are not part of any UN resolution. The civilian airport in Basra, for instance, has now been bombed twice in recent weeks.

Some EU countries are looking to grant immunity for US soldiers and officials in the International Criminal Court. They hope that the Bush administration will then finally agree to sign on, adding legitimacy to the institution. While I disagree with the premise that the US should be immune from consequence, it's far more important to get the ICC on its feet. If it can become established and familiar, the day may come when everyone can see the benefit of having equal protection and accountability in the international community.

posted by Natasha at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, September 29, 2002  

The Nando Times publishes this AP story about America's insistence that Afghanistan defend itself, without relying on the fantasy of international peacekeepers. The numbers in the story tell all about who's really fantasizing: numbers of peacekeepers holding onto minimal order in Kabul; 4,800, number of Afghan government soldiers; 400. According to this piece, there were 200 more of the British trained Afghan soldiers who left the army after the government was unable to pay them.

So, let's get this straight... The US is saying that Afghanistan should be defended by an army which hasn't been paid, and is too small to defend even the capital. Meanwhile, the warlords who destroyed the country, as well as loose Al-Qaeda members, are roaming the countryside and periodically bombing things. Their president doesn't trust the Afghan army to defend his own life, and his authority doesn't in any real sense extend beyond Kabul anyway. The US has been blocking the extension of the peacekeeping force, even when other countries are stepping in to shoulder the cost and put up the troops. No, sorry, still makes no sense.

posted by Natasha at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK |

This Slate piece on Bush's arguments for war dissects the multitude of contradictions, backpedalling, and fabrications in the case. It closes thusly:

"...To be sure, the fatuous hypocrisy of the Bush case for war is no reason to let Saddam Hussein drop a nuclear bomb on your head. Iraq may be an imminent menace to the United States even though George W. Bush says it is. You would think that if honest and persuasive arguments were available, the administration would offer them. But maybe not."

posted by Natasha at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK |

The New York Times publishes this editorial by Robert Wright discussing Bush's recently released security policy document. My favorite bit?...

"... Mr. Bush is right to champion free trade and global prosperity, since an economically integrated world will be a more stable one. And he is right to hope that China in particular stays on the free-market path. But if China, with its 1.2 billion people, does keep up its brisk economic growth, won't the day come when it can match America's defense budget without breaking a sweat? How can America then afford to keep its military so potent as to "dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States"?

Apparently the administration is counting on China to undergo a kind of spiritual transformation. "In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness. In time, China will find that social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness." Meanwhile, the United States will somehow escape this particular epiphany, and will follow the outdated path of pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors and, for that matter, all polities in the known universe. The Bush report doesn't explain why China won't find this trend alarming and rush to counter it...."

I haven't heard anyone paint this particular mental picture yet, though China is practically the obvious choice for the mantle of 'superpower' to pass to. Easily outspending their military budget by vast amounts (with a mere twitch of our GDP) was what caved in the USSR, who at the end was putting around half their resources into keeping up with the Joneses.

We need to start a process of obsolescence planning, where we consider what type of world we will have helped make when the empire falls into decline. If we don't want to play Britain's prize poodle role to the next great superpower, we may find ourselves in Russia's shoes, barking for scraps at the back door. Either way, we're coming to (if we haven't already arrived at) a high-water mark. We need now to store up good will for the future, should our bargaining position become less advantageous, instead of storing up enemies who will be only too happy to kick us when we're down.

posted by Natasha at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK |

I have officially been up way too late. I know that because it occurred to me for the first time in about a year to track down the CAPalert website, introduced to me by former coworker, Nate Stahl. There's nothing in the whole world that's funnier at three in the morning (and many other times of day as well) than fundamentalist christian movie reviews. "The most foul of the foul words... four uses of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and 12 without..." Oh, man, it's beautiful. If you're really up for a snicker, check their archives for the "Matrix" review.

posted by Natasha at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK |

This Guardian column regarding Prince Charles is funny if not newsworthy. Normally it would be a skipper, but the intro was too good to pass up:

"Part of the process of ageing is realising that you are gradually turning into one of your parents. Fine for some of us, but incredibly bad luck if your dad happens to be the Duke of Edinburgh...."

posted by Natasha at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK |