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Saturday, November 02, 2002  

A woman who grew up under a regime of godless communists speaks up about what it was like. She closes:


I have seen both communist and western news management and know which is the more devious - and therefore the more effective. I witnessed the way media manipulation works in the "free world", when we were told the Stop the War march I went on in London recently was attended by just 150,000 people and in the dismissive coverage Britain's biggest-ever peace demonstration was given in most newspapers.

Education, or rather the denial of it, is the key to all attempts at social control. Gorbachev said that education, in his view the greatest achievement of 70 years of communism, also paradoxically helped bring about its downfall. Put simply, the communist regimes educated their people to such an extent that they developed the critical faculty to challenge, and eventually overthrew the system. After three years of living in Britain, I see no danger of that happening here.

posted by Natasha at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK |


Friday, November 01, 2002  

Mass plant extinctions possible if work isn't undertaken to track them and preserve habitats. Plant compounds are a major source of valuable pharmaceuticals, and the presence of large green belts actively helps to keep global temperatures steady.

posted by Natasha at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Eschaton has posted the follow up to the Florida voter purge story.

posted by Natasha at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK |
 

The Globe and Mail discusses Ariel Sharon's crumbling coalition. It can only be seen as a sign of hope that he isn't willing to make major concessions to a far right party in favor of simply annexing the West Bank and Gaza.

BTW, the recent Canadian bent to this blog has come about after noticing that Seattle area cable includes a Canadian station. This followed weeks of the SO and I complaining about how frequently we flip through our fifty or so channels and discover that nothing whatever is on. Even more irritating, I pay around $50 bucks a month to get more commercials and commercial programming than you can shake a stick at. Some nights the half hour of BBC world news broadcast on public television (and the Daily Show if we stay up that late) is the only bright spot. The CNN Headline News 'world minute' (minute!?) is merely depressing. Then we found out that, holy heck, they get real news up there north of the border. They even have comedy shows which lean more towards clever and amusing, rather than the merely shocking.

I'm not the first to complain that 'nothing is on', even with a god awful number of stations. But I'm told that in the UK where there are only four publicly funded stations, people hardly ever say that, unless they're complaining that Rupert Murdoch has stolen soccer. In fact, when any of them come over here with our wealth of television choice, they complain louder than the rest of us that nothing is on.

I guess this is just another one of those cases where more doesn't always mean better.

posted by Natasha at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK |
 

From the group blogging effort, No War Blog, we get this link to an open letter to Democrats from Ralph Nader.

posted by Natasha at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK |


Thursday, October 31, 2002  

Those crazy Aussies get concerned about climate change, but the Canadian government seems poised to try to do something about their part in it. This report from CBC summarizes the projected direct impact for residents of North America.

And for everyone who still isn't quite sure what it could possibly matter that the earth is getting warmer, this page describing the impact on the fishing industry gives at least a hint.

posted by Natasha at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK |
 

An encouraging report on the state of Arab women in business. Governments in the region have begun to recognize the importance of having the other half of their citizenry contribute to the economy, and Bahrain joins the list of countries where there are now more female than male graduates in the year's crop of college students.

posted by Natasha at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Saudi Arabia and Iraq build closer ties after Hussein opens the border between the two countries.

posted by Natasha at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Courtesy of our friendly neighborhood Easter Lemming, we receive this news about the War on Some Terrorists here on the home front


...suggested that librarians and bookstore owners post this notice to customers and library users:

"Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act ... gives the FBI the right to obtain a court order demanding ... any records we have of your transactions at this location. We will be required to give them the requested information, AND WILL BE FORBIDDEN FROM TELLING YOU OR ANYONE ELSE ABOUT IT."



While it's certain that our government does not (yet) have the scale of resources necessary to monitor every transaction, thereby making the average person's risk of this kind of invasion low, I'm going to be buying more books with cash. Presumably, this applies to online services as well, however, which is much more disturbing. My customer account at Barnes & Noble still maintains a record of the very first book that I bought through them.

According to the actual text of the bill, the justice department has to get the approval of a judge "...who is publicly designated by the Chief Justice of the United States to have the power to hear applications and grant orders for the production of tangible things under this section..." But what is it that they have to prove before getting such an order? They must "specify that the records concerned are sought for an authorized investigation conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

A short while on, we find out that the request may not be disclosed to have been related to an investigation into international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. And as previously mentioned, no one producing these records may discuss the matter or inform anyone that they were even asked for them. Further they "shall not be liable to any other person for such production," suspending any previously agreed on privacy contracts or privileges.

Since it's fairly clear what international terrorism means, a person could get to wondering what defines a 'clandestine intelligence activity.' Could this be another overly broad and elastic term which can mean whatever the DOJ wants it to mean? According to section 215, the DOJ must only tell congress how many orders were issued, and whether they were granted or denied. I would consider this pretty minimal oversight for a very serious breach of privacy. How can anyone be certain that these investigations will be confined to studying the habits of true terrorists?

Fortunately, certain aspects of the Patriot Act will cease to be in effect as of 2006, including section 215. Though there is rarely a statute of limitation on keeping any information the government gathers. While there is a clause that designates DOJ liability for improperly disclosed information, it isn't hard to imagine the blackmail power of having the goods on someone. I mean it's great that you can try to prosecute the DOJ, after your name is already mud.

This rather sweeping power sets a poor precedent. No one wants to return to the days when the government was allowed to consider political organizing a reason for surveillance, and the presence of peace activists on no-fly lists would seem to indicate that it's not a long shot to think we could return to J. Edgar Hoover-era style harassment of peaceful citizen groups. If our memories are long enough, citizens need to contact their congress entities when an extension of this bill comes up for consideration and beg them to say no. These are authorities just waiting to be used by unscrupulous politicos to punish their ideological enemies.

posted by Natasha at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK |


Tuesday, October 29, 2002  

Atrios at Eschaton gives us a link to the final scoop on the Florida voter purge. It turns out that instead of the 57,000 voters that were originally thought to have been purged, it was more like 94,000. There were perhaps 3,000 felons in the lot. I hope that Bill McBride is using this in his campaign, 'I promise not to arbitrarily rescind the voting rights of close to 100,000 Florida citizens.'

Editor's Note: The original post at Eschaton has been deleted, and the article it linked to removed. A copyright issue was involved, more info will follow. We hope.

posted by Natasha at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Well, the operator at my local police department was able to be extremely helpful today, but more on that in a minute.

Periodically, I check out the local God Channel to see what's on. This might seem like an odd pastime, but it's both instructive and reaffirming. In fact, everytime I watch, it makes me glad to be a liberal. Just last night we were told by a 'modern day prophet' that God wants us to fight the war in Iraq, and I felt much better about my belief that it's a bad idea. But today at lunch, I thought, hey why not see if they have something funny for the blog, and they obliged.

I turned the channel just in time to see a 700 Club dramatization of a drug user with a '30 year habit' writhing in the agony of a bad trip, hearing things, seeing things, scared to death. The actor picks up the phone and we are told that he called 9-1-1 and begged the operator to send help, because he was sure he was dying. And, according to the narration, the operator tells the man that he doesn't need a doctor and can he please hold.

While the terrified actor waits on the other end and starts hearing voices in his head, he is tranferred to... a 700 Club prayer line where the operator (dramatized as a cute girl with nice makeup) talks to him about God and instructs him to watch the 700 Club on television. And miraculously over a period of days, and by knowing that Pat Robertson's 'Word of Knowledge' is meant especially for him, he feels Jesus come into his body through the television set. The actor tells us that Jesus never left his body, and that he now helps others with their drug habits.

Pat Robertson then comes on to assure people that Jesus Christ is the ultimate in analgesia, and He knows where you live. Not only that, but Jesus can give you and brand new life, by healing your heart with His blood. Robertson did not specify whether or not the brand new life comes about as the result of former friends and acquaintances no longer wishing to speak to someone who sounds like a rerun of the 700 Club.

And this is where the local police department's operator really saved me from fear, doubt, trepidation, and complete loss of faith. She told me in no uncertain terms that for a 9-1-1 operator to turn a caller over to a private prayer line and (especially in this case) tell the person that they don't need medical assistance, simply isn't done. That it would be a tremendous liability issue (and here we thought that the legal system doesn't work for the little guy.)

So, here's the real point. People who do listen to the 700 Club regularly, and might be inclined to think that it was good (and not at all alarming) to turn a fragile person having a terrifying drug experience over to a religious pressure group hotline, are going to turn up at the polls in droves this coming November 5th. If you don't want Pat Robertson vetting the people who run your government (and don't underestimate their political activism) mark your ballot clearly and correctly and turn it in as instructed.

posted by Natasha at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK |


Monday, October 28, 2002  

Atrios links to this letters to the editor page in the Washington Post. While the opening letter from former Clinton advisor Paul Begala asks some pointed questions about why it's bad to lie about affairs, but okay to lie about war, the next letter had the goods.


I find it curious that the report the White House now claims the president's original statement was based on was released Sept. 9, two days after President Bush made his statement. Even more curious, just like the original source that has been disavowed, the new source that the White House cites as the basis for the president's statement does not say that Iraq was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Web site:

"Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons. It would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities. It could, however, assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained. It could divert domestic civil-use radioisotopes or seek to obtain foreign material for a crude radiological device."



"Several years and extensive foreign assistance", "crude radiological device", doesn't sound like an imminent threat to me. Now if they had said that the guy will have ICBMs in a fortnight...

For those of you coming in at the end, there was a piece in the Washington post by Dana Milbank, calling the administration on it's liberal use of 'truth'. The following quote, among others, caused the White House to have a fit.


The IAEA did issue a report in 1998, around the time weapons inspectors were denied access to Iraq for the final time, but the report made no such assertion. It declared: "Based on all credible information to date, the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its program goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material." The report said Iraq had been six to 24 months away from nuclear capability before the 1991 Gulf War.



This was followed by a stern but insubstantial letter from Ari Fleischer, insisting that the administration has been very forthright.

posted by Natasha at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK |


Sunday, October 27, 2002  

British scientists looking for cheaper, smarter, space drive. We'll see how that all works out when they launch their Mars mission next year.

posted by Natasha at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Emma Klein examines the demons of history, and the hope that religious struggle can return to its proper place, within its believers.


Is it possible to find a new perspective on the war against Amalek and the concept of jihad? In his book, The Eternal Journey, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg cites the Hassidic tradition that interprets the words of the Pentateuch as "to you Amalek", meaning Amalek is within you - within all of us. "The war against Amalek," Wittenberg concludes, "means fighting evil both within ourselves and without. If we ignore the former, we too quickly become like Amalek."

Likewise, earlier this year, the Israeli-born Islamicist Sara Sviri, speaking on "the greater jihad", claimed that "the idea conveyed by this term is that the true jihad is not the one against infidels but the one against one's own inner self. To struggle with the external 'other' is easier than to struggle with the inner 'other'."

posted by Natasha at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK |
 

Dwight Meredith of PLA continues his Just for the Record series. The latest post compares economic growth by presidential party.

In the previous segment, comparisons of the total increase in non-defense federal employees by presidential party indicates that it is Republicans who are most inclined to beef up the federal headcount.

posted by Natasha at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK |