the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, December 21, 2002  

BuzzFlash headlines of note:

Even as a dominant superpower whose allies are barely threatened and are all well armed by world standards, the US just can't get enough weapons.

...No country since Rome has possessed America's dominance. The US plus its allies and friends account for about 80% of all military spending. Washington spends as much as the next eight countries combined, six of which are allies. ...

US and German firms (along with firms from all other permanent Security Council members) were heavily involved in arming Iraq after the embargo.

Blix to US and UK: If you have the evidence, hand it over.

Faith-based groups opposed to environmentalist faith-based groups getting government grants to promote a green agenda. An opponent claims that the green agenda is "filled with a lot of loathing of the human species," but I guess he hasn't heard about the skyrocketing rates of asthma and other environmentally linked illnesses that are afflicting more Americans every day. Or about the pollution warnings that encourage pregnant women to minimize consumption of fish. Or...

Senator Frist's Bill to end drug manufacturer's liability for mercury poisoning in children is moving through the Senate. Go here to read more and send a message to your Senator. Hey, and he's supposed to be from the 'pro-life' party. Apparently, as in so many cases, the only people whose lives they seem to care about are the ones that haven't been born yet.

Did US soldiers preside over a massacre of surrendered Taliban in Afghanistan?

posted by Natasha at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK |

Foreign nationals being urged to leave Venezuela. Venezuela's military commander has declared that he favors a peaceful solution.

Bush spokesentity Condoleeza Rice offers this advice to Chavez:

...She said Chavez "needs to respect constitutional processes" during this tumultuous period in Venezuela, the third largest supplier of oil to the United States and the world's fourth biggest exporter.

Chavez returned to the presidential palace in Caracas, the capital, after he was freed by his military captors. Two days earlier, army commanders had forced him from office.

"I hope that Hugo Chavez takes the message that his people sent him, that his own policies are not working for the Venezuela people, that he's dealt with them in a high-handed fashion," Rice said. ...

Too bad the administration gives better advice than it takes. In case they haven't been watching things closely enough, Chavez is the legal head of state, and the oil company is the property of the state. In what country is it deemed 'high-handed' to allow government employees to strike for three weeks in order to agitate for an unconstitutional early election or the resignation of an elected leader?

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK |

The government wants to wish all of our seniors a Merry Christmas, and hopes they understand about the 4.4% cuts in Medicare payments. Many doctors have already said that they will no longer be able to accept Medicare from patients, as payments have been drastically reduced and no longer cover sufficient of their expenses. Even though both parties talk a lot about prescription drug benefits, with cuts like this they seem very unlikely.

We can now add the elderly to the very long list of people that our current administration is targeting with a vengeance. Most Medicare recipients live on fixed incomes, of which they may spend up to a fifth on healthcare, and increasingly buy prescription drugs out of the country. Up to 30% resort to skipping pills to save money, even though many of their medications don't work properly or may be dangerous if doses are skipped.

If we don't have a voter revolt in 2004, there won't be much country left to run in six years.

Update: On a similar note, the previous generation of high blood pressure drugs are more effective than their expensive new counterparts. Guess which ones are prescribed more often?

posted by Natasha at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK |

Check out the friendly, neighborhood Easter Lemming today. Too many good stories and links.

posted by Natasha at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK |

Alas, A Blog on the INS roundups.

posted by Natasha at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK |

Sergey Brin on Google's don't be evil philosophy.

posted by Natasha at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK |

Courtesy of Atrios, we find this Mark Kleiman post on Bill Frist, the current favorite to replace the disgraced Trent Lott as incoming majority leader. This comment caught my eye:

...It would be fair to criticize the AP for using such a weak word as "wealthy" to describe Frist, but his wealth is certainly a newsworthy fact about him. So is the fact that most of it is still in HCA stock, which gives Frist an automatic conflict of interest every time a health care issue is debated. ...

And the reason why this particular point was noteworthy had to do with the statements of a Republican talking head regular on Hardball earlier tonight. (His name escapes me, and they don't have a transcript for the show up at present.) The man was going on and on about how concerned he was that Frist might not be pro-life or in favor of a constitutional ban on abortion because he owns stock in a hospital chain (HCA) which performs abortions. He brought this up repeatedly in almost every statement, and the message I got loud and clear was this: Frist is a moderate on abortion.

Now Frist is supported by the President, and has a so-far solid base of support among his fellow senators, so why bring this up at all? The only reason I can think of is to send a message to independent voters that the loathsome and radically far right Trent Lott is being replaced with a man who's a moderate on one of the most divisive political issues in the country. An issue that almost came to the floor for a vote to change the platform at the 2000 Republican convention.

This is a particularly smart thing to try to lodge in the public consciousness, especially as Frist is one of the candidates for having inserted the atrocious Homeland Security stealth provision barring lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers by the parents of autistic children. He may now bathe publicly in the glory of being mainstream and PC, instead of the ignominy of being an oppontunist who protects big corporations from devastated families. It would seem that he's not conflicted about his interests in the slightest.

Update: According to an article spotted by Easter Lemming, Bill Frist has received a %100 rating from the National Right to Life Committee every year since 1997, the earliest year they started rating candidates. My assertion that this 'challenge' to his pro-life credentials is part of a disinformation campaign to paint him as a moderate is sounding better already.

posted by Natasha at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK |

Chris Floyd suggests that the real dangers of weapons falling into the wrong hands come not from 'rogue states' but from otherwise respectable members of the global community:

...What if, say, some hard-line element in the Chinese military slips a bit of chemical fireworks to a ragtag group looking to wreak freelance hell on the West? Or the Taliban's patrons in Pakistan's secret service provide their jihadic soulmates with nuclear ready-mades from that country's bristling atomic arsenal? Or a zealot in India's Hindu extremist government decides to usher in the world-ending age of Kalki with his nation's nukes? What then? ...

Of course, beyond the ever-increasing likelihood of bad juju leaking out of one of America's many business partners, there lies the most realistic possibility of all: that the "shortcut" technology of mass murder will come from the United States itself. Because God knows, America's gilded "guardians" won't be able to stop it. Even the much-censored report on the Sept. 11 attacks issued this month by the U.S. Congress makes clear the horrendous record of lies, laxity and criminal negligence that constituted the response of the United States' $30 billion security apparatus to the red-flag warnings before the terrorist assault. ...

No, the genie is long gone from the bottle in regard to "shortcut technologies." They are out there, in endlessly mutable forms, with an almost infinite range of possibilities for their sale, transfer and deadly application in the "war against civilization." Of course, it was "civilization" that developed these technologies and loosed them on the world in the first place. They were expressly designed -- by the "civilized" world -- to kill large numbers of people as quickly and indiscriminately as possible: the precise strategy followed by the Sept. 11 hijackers. ...

There's a laundry list of links at the bottom of the article to various news stories related to intelligence shortfalls before 9-11, and US policy's increasingly wanton disregard for human life. Of particular note was this article detailing the repeated efforts of a disaffected Taliban official to warn the world of the impending attacks.

posted by Natasha at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK |

A few days ago, it was noted here that the US government shut down a radio program that was the focal point for the coordination of the growing protest movement in Iran. The call-in portion of the program which regularly featured interviews and on-the-spot cellphone coverage from the demonstrations was replaced by a 24-hr stream of pop music interspersed with ten minutes of canned news every hour. Yet on the White House website you can find this mealy mouthed statement of support for both the move and the Iranian people. In part:

...For many years, the United States has helped bring news and cultural broadcasts for a few hours every day to the Iranian people via Radio Freedom. Yet the Iranian people tell us that more broadcasting is needed, because the unelected few who control the Iranian government continue to place severe restrictions on access to uncensored information. So we are now making our broadcast available to more Iranians by airing news and music and cultural programs nearly 24 hours a day, and we are pleased to continue Voice of America and VOA TV services to Iran. ...

Well I'm sure the protest organizers will be just thrilled to learn that Britney Spears and Whitney Houston will be coming to their rescue. That must be exactly the kind of "uncensored information" they wanted to get. Can't you just hear them chanting 'Oops, I did it again' towards the encroaching Basij militia forces?

Shades of 'let them eat cake' and then some. A colorful stream of uncensored information spontaneously occurred to me as I read this statement.

Update: The URL for the article about the change in programming has been changed to point to the same article in a different paper. The original source appears to have fee-based archives, too much hassle.

posted by Natasha at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK |

The White House spokesentities want to reassure you that increased government involvement in monitoring the internet will not invade the privacy of individual users. Whew. That's alright then.

posted by Natasha at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Violence in Kashmir as a government minister is killed, and three women are executed. The women were dragged from their homes and killed a few days after a small faction of Islamic militants put up posters in the area ordering all women to wear veils in public.

World Bank resumes investment in Iran. The country's stock market is currently one of the few in the world to be doing well, and the government has recently been making diplomatic overtures to virtually anyone willing to reciprocate.

France formalizes relations with its Muslim community.

EU fishing compromise pleases no one. The fishing industry says the move will lead to bankruptcy, fisheries managers fear the extinction of cod in the North Atlantic.

Venezuela's elite opposition continues to strike in defiance of a court order. For those not keeping track, Chavez' opponents called him a lawless dictator for defying a court order. It's now become fashionable to portray Chavez as a gorilla, in keeping with the racist tone of the protests, fueled in part by Chavez' native heritage and low-income family background.

George Soros fined for insider trading.

Bush postpones planned trip to Africa.

UN will evacuate Ivory Coast refugees. Between 50,000 and 60,000 Liberians had taken refuge in the formerly peaceful country.

Alan Greenspan says that global tension is slowing recovery.

posted by Natasha at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, December 20, 2002  

George Monbiot talks about the other biotech war. In part:

...Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, all of which are suffering from the current famine, have been told by the US international development agency, USAID, that there is no option but to make use of GM crops from the United States. This is simply untrue. Between now and March, the region will need up to two million tonnes of emergency food aid in the form of grain. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has revealed that there is 1.16m tonnes of exportable maize in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. Europe, Brazil, India and China have surpluses and stockpiles running into many tens of millions of tonnes. Even in the US, over 50% of the harvest has been kept GM-free. All the starving in southern Africa, Ethiopia and the world's other hungry regions could be fed without the use of a single genetically modified grain.

But the United States is unique among major donors, in that it gives its aid in kind, rather than in cash. The others pay the World Food Programme, which then buys supplies as locally as possible. This is cheaper and better for local economies. USAID, by contrast, insists on sending, where possible, only its own grain. As its website boasts, "the principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans." ...

USAID's "training" and "awareness raising" programmes will, its website reveals, provide companies such as "Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto" with opportunities for "technology transfer" into the poor world. Monsanto, in turn, provides financial support for USAID. The famine will permit USAID to accelarate this strategy. It knows that some of the grain it exports to southern Africa will be planted by farmers for next year's harvest. Once contamination is widespread, the governments of those nations will no longer be able to sustain a ban on the technology. ...

That's real class. Using a famine to force unwanted genetic contamination on impoverished countries. Read more about the spread of GM crops in North America here.

posted by Natasha at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK |

Robert Scheer on America's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

posted by Natasha at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK |

WampumBlog examines the claim that vaccines are unrelated to autism by going over the research protocols used in a recent study. Also, a list of likely culprits for the language added to the Homeland Security bill making it illegal to sue vaccine manufacturers for possible damages.

posted by Natasha at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK |

If you still wonder why John Ashcroft is regarded as an unsettling person, The Rant has the goods. Read the whole thing.

posted by Natasha at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Asia Times:

How many North Koreans does it take to change a lightbulb.

The tribal smuggling routes of Asia. Pakistan - Iran - Turkey, no questions asked.

Israel's own occupation correspondent.

Bangladesh becomes more of an international symbol of Muslim brotherhood, and at the same time perhaps a better environment for terrorists.

South Korea's new president's platform. He was elected in a race that saw slightly more than 70% voter turnout.

Henry Liu is unimpressed with American-style central banking. This point was interesting, hopefully enough so that you'll go read the whole, long article:

...By socializing their risks and privatizing their speculative profits, risk speculators hold hostage the general public, whose welfare the Fed now uses as a pretext to justify printing money to perpetuate these speculators' joyride. What kind of logic supports the Fed's acceptance of a natural rate of unemployment to combat inflation while it prints money without reserve to bail out private speculators to fight deflation created by a speculative crash? It has been forgotten by many that before 1913, there was no central bank in the United States to bail out troubled commercial or investment banks or to keep inflation in check by trading employment for price stability. ...

Turks plan to put troops in the hotly contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

posted by Natasha at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

A Lott less. Trent Lott has stepped down as majority leader, but has not resigned his seat. The story correctly notes that it was bloggers who kept the issue alive, ultimately resulting in a large media backlash.

Nestle has backed down from demanding 6 million dollars from impoverished Ethiopia. Eleven million Ethiopians face starvation.

Nobel prize laureate and former World Bank chief Joseph Stiglitz says there is no invisible hand. This quote was a striking outline of what seems wrong with a broad range of policy making, beyond the confines of pure economics (emphasis added):

...The Nobel Prize signifies how important it is to study people and economies as they are, not as we want them to be. Only by understanding better actual human behaviour can we hope to design policies that will make our economies work better as well. ...

Both Koreas to World: Leave us alone.

Blair tells British troops to be ready just in case Iraq should not comply with disarmament.

The US and Britain insist that Iraq has not complied with disarmament and reporting.

posted by Natasha at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK |

Thanks to Body and Soul, we find a good article on Howard Dean, the only Democrat to officially announce that he will indeed be running for president. Everyone else so far has announced their intention to investigate running to various levels of certitude.

posted by Natasha at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, December 19, 2002  

Government Executive's online edition has several recent articles outlining the encroaching corporatization of government.

Air traffic control, for instance, may not be 'inherently governmental.' Therefore, only a step away from being open for commercial competition.

The Defense Department may be transformed after the fashion of the Homeland Security Department. By which it's meant that the civil service protections thus far enjoyed by government employees may be stripped from civilian employees.

Contractors may now be allowed to assist in guarding military bases. This new provision has considerable restrictions and a sunset clause, but you never know when a law might overstay its welcome.

A Houston based contracting firm is increasingly providing support services for the US Army in the Balkans. Their services began in 1995, and they've provided ever-increasing support for our troops. This is really an ongoing issue, as the past few decades has seen the rise and consolidation of private defense consultants.

They also speak about impending base closures. Maybe they should consider, as this Nation article points out, bringing some troops back home. The US has around 800 military installations overseas (more weekly, it seems) and had a minimum of 100,000 military personnel out of the country as of April.

posted by Natasha at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK |

Electrolite points out why Bush's hands are dirty in the Lott affair, as a direct beneficiary of racist political tactics himself. And also explains exactly what was originally meant by states' rights.

posted by Natasha at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK |

Blogspot's archive script appears to be broken across the board, or on several sites at least. Please forgive the inconvenience, they'll probably have it back up in a day or so. The links to individual posts won't work as long as this is the case.

posted by Natasha at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK |

See The Forest points us to this article on who's funding Venezuela's "revolutionaries". Three guesses, and the first two don't count. This portion, though, did an excellent job of contrasting the press spin with the realities of US policy:

...The discussion in the U.S. press, dominated by Washington's views, has also taken on an Orwellian tone. Chavez is accused of using "dictatorial powers" for sending the military to recover oil tankers seized by striking captains. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer urged the Venezuelan government "to respect individual rights and fundamental freedoms."

But what would happen to people who hijacked an oil tanker from Exxon-Mobil in the United States? They would be facing a trial and a long prison sentence. Military officers who stood outside the White House and called for the overthrow of the government (and this just six months after a military coup supported by a foreign power) would end up in Guantanamo facing a secret military tribunal for terrorism.

In fact, the U.S. press would be much more fair if it held the Venezuelan government to the standards of the United States. In the U.S., government workers do not have the right to strike at all, as Ronald Reagan demonstrated when he summarily fired 12,000 air traffic controllers in 1981. But even this analogy is incomplete: The air traffic controllers were striking for better working conditions. Here, the employees of the state-owned oil company – mostly managers and executives – are trying to cripple the economy, which is heavily dependent on oil exports, in order to overthrow the government. In the United States, even private sector workers do not have the legal right to strike for political demands, and certainly not for the president's resignation. ...

Again, it must be remembered that Venezuela's oil company is partially and legally owned by the state. A significant impetus in the drive to oust Chavez is his refusal to allow it, and its profits, to be completely privatized. And Chavez has made no move to put any of the strikers or their leaders in jail, or to threaten them. He's certainly from a different school of 'brutal dictator' than Hussein.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK |

This Commonweal Institute article outlines how the Far Right onslaught affects society.

posted by Natasha at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK |

David Ehrenstein skewers a Republican spinmeister for claiming that Trent Lott has 'conceded Republican leadership on race-related issues to the Democrats and the traditional civil rights community.' I had to read that twice before it sunk in.

posted by Natasha at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Roh Moo-Hyun is the newly elected President of South Korea. He favors engagement with the North.

All five convictions in the Central Park Jogger case overturned by DNA evidence and a confession.

Hundreds of Muslims arrested in Los Angeles.

Venezuela's high court rules that oil industry must reopen.

Israeli settlement removed.

Greenland weighs in on missile defence.

Weapons suppliers from Security Council member states broke Iraqi embargo.

posted by Natasha at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK |

Unsurprisingly, the National Review is spewing outrageous lies about Venezuela. Among these lies are the following:

  • That elected President Hugo Chavez resigned in April. (He was the target of a coup, and was restored by the military. He never resigned.)
  • Chavez ordered the shooting that left 19 anti-government demonstrators dead.* (This is unverified. There has been no significant government repression of protests, with the exception of the tear gas dispersal of a clash between rival groups of protestors.)
  • That the US refused to recognize the 2-day long illegitimate government. (They reported themselves pleased, but ended up with egg on their faces.)
  • That Venezuela has no rule of law. (They have a Constitution which passed in 1999 and is a national bestseller as a bound book.)
  • Their constitution is invalid because half the electorate which approved it stayed away from the polls, and it authorizes a president to run for a second term. (Do I really have to spell that one out?)
  • The government has seized private property, and failed to execute the court ordered return of said property. (He fails to mention that the oil industry in Venezuela is partly government owned, and that the management lockout is the main reason the economy is crippled. The entire country will be subject to massive contract fees if they fail to deliver promised petroleum shipments.)
  • The April coup would have 'restored democracy.' (Pardon?)
  • Chavez has a tyrannical regime. (Unsupported, certainly by Latin American standards, and definitely not by this article.)

It should be pointed out that in Venezuela, unlike other countries in the region, is not rounding up or executing its political opposition. The government is not sponsoring paramilitary groups to murder peasant organizers. Mothers aren't holding vigils at police stations for disappeared sons and husbands. Even the people who planned and participated in the April coup remain free to agitate against the regime. There has been no seizure of the opposition media, no laws passed or police actions taken to stop the demonstrations. No one has been stopped from expressing their political opinion, or threatened for doing so. This would seem like an irrelevant laundry list of things he hasn't done, except that they are being done and have been done in the past by governments in the area that the US supports 100%. They were even formerly done in Venezuela, which country once had the most feared police force in the region.

The only thing that can be remotely pinned on Chavez so far is the bad economy and his insistence on following Venezuela's election law. Oh yeah, and he's a leftist, which is automatically a crime against humanity to some people. I've posted other links on the topic discussing various of Chavez' alleged crimes and a good Mother Jones article.

*Update: The Guardian has an article on the subject that discusses both the opposition and pro-government factions. This quote said it all:

...If every president had to resign when his ratings dropped to 30%, most Latin America leaders would have to go and Ronald Reagan would have had to depart in the 80s. ...

Update: The shooter was a foreign national who had arrived in the country the day before the shooting, and was released during the coup.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK |

Eschaton has more on the immigration round-ups, and also this post and links. I second his sentiment at the end of that last post and say that I'm deeply embarassed and mad as hell that this is happening in America.

Further fueling the fire, since many of the detainees are being taken in for delays in paperwork, a Nepalese applicant I know said that they stopped issuing any green cards in September. He was supposed to have gotten his in October, but lucky for him, we're not going after people from Nepal.

Go at once to and tell your congresscritter and your senators that this kind of behavior by our government is unacceptable in every way. Our founders didn't spill blood so that the Bushies could trash our constitution by detaining people on the basis of religion or national origin. If we don't speak up now, this could be as bad as the Japanese round-ups in WWII, and I think we're rightly ashamed to think of that now.

posted by Natasha at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, December 18, 2002  

An unidentified talking head on CNBC just claimed that it was racist of Democrats to refuse to appoint the hispanic Miguel Estrada as a federal judge. This candidate should have been opposed by anyone claiming to represent liberals, even if he was a gay black woman. Doubters may refer to this Nation article entitled The Right's Judicial Juggernaut.

posted by Natasha at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK |

US stands alone at population conference.

...Delegates say the United States has threatened to withdraw support for the Cairo agreement, claiming some of the phrases in it, including ``reproductive health services'' and ``reproductive rights,'' can be read as promoting abortion and advocating underage sex.

The United States wants many such phrases removed from a ``plan of action'' that is to be adopted Tuesday at the end of the Bangkok conference. Delegates say the U.S. intransigence over the wording is holding up the more important task of fighting poverty caused by ballooning population. ...

Seeking to allay U.S. concerns, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, said the phrase ``'reproductive health services' is not code for the promotion or support for 'abortion services.'''

She pointed out that the Cairo declaration clearly stated that abortion should not be promoted as a method of family planning. ...

It should be noted that in many of the countries whose underage family planning services the US objects to, many young women commonly get married well before the age of 18. Since the radical policies suggested by Bush would never be allowed by fiat here at home (though they're trying to sneak them in the back door), it can only be thought that this is simply a sop to the far right here at home. Yes, they can't absolutely dictate to American women, but if you live in Bangladesh or India the Christian Right has a message for you: Drop dead.

posted by Natasha at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK |

Women in Afghanistan still being treated badly in areas dominated by US approved warlords. Chastity police and hordes of adolescent informants still dog their public movements.

posted by Natasha at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK |

Cambodian residents guilty of minor offenses are being deported to Cambodia under recent and retroactive laws. Many do not speak Khmer, some were born in Thai refugee camps, and some face future detention in a country confirmed to practice torture in its prisons.

posted by Natasha at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK |

In Mother Jones:

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela clings to power by the skin of his teeth, and the support of the people who elected him. They have a further perspective on his grave and terrible sins, and Venezuela's recent political history.

...The reason for their support has everything to do with the little blue book Escobar carries. In one of his first acts as president, Chávez held a nationwide referendum on the constitution that effectively redrew the political boundaries of Venezuela from the ground up. Over the past four years, through a series of new laws and programs, he has mobilized the poor to participate in what had always been a top-down, two-party political system dominated by the country's upper and middle classes. "The president has brought us hope, and he has brought us democracy," says Escobar. "They will not take him from us." ...

If Chávez is ousted, however, it will not be because he is a brutal dictator. He may enjoy sparring with the United States -- after the election of Lula, he declared that Brazil would join Cuba and Venezuela in forming "an axis of good" -- but in the four years since he took office, his "revolution" has had more to do with de Tocqueville than Marx. Efforts to redistribute wealth have been few. Opposition political parties, as well as the press, operate freely in Venezuela, and the federal police -- once among the most feared forces in South America -- have not hindered even those advocating outright rebellion. And for the first time in Venezuelan history, ordinary citizens are being encouraged to create and elect local councils, to work with local officials to improve their neighborhoods, to get directly involved in their government. Acting together, these are the people who have become the single most powerful group in Venezuela. These are the people who, in many ways, have made themselves the real sovereigns of Venezuela's oil. ...

A loosely outlined but damning Trent Lott retrospective. I have to note here that it would be a shame if Lott were the only segregationist sheethead to be outed in the feeding frenzy. The nearly identical voting record of newfound Lott enemy Sen. Nickles, and the Council of Conservative Citizens affiliations of John Ashcroft are only the tip of the iceberg.

The costs of water privatization. The full article is in the current print edition (recommended), though they include a good teaser, with a showcase story about the disaster of privatization in Atlanta. But you can also read more about the Atlanta situation. This article on the IMF insistence that Nicaragua privatize against their own laws. Phillipine privatization problems. A Wisconsin columnist talking about the use of privatization in the US as an entitlement system for political donors. This open letter concerning Bolivia's failed experiment. Or this CS Monitor piece about the mixed results of efforts around the world.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK |

Jonathon Freedland weighs in on the highly publicized (in the UK) visit to Britain of Syria's Bashar Assad, and the concurrent snubbing of Iran's Mohammad Khatami. Mr. Assad is a despot guilty of numerous human rights violations, while Mr. Khatami is a democratically elected reformist, waging an uphill battle against clerical extremists. In part:

...But where is his invitation to Downing Street? Khatami, who needs all the help he can get as he takes on the ultra-conservative Iranian judiciary and council of guardians, better not sit by the phone. Now that George Bush has named Iran as one of the three charter members of the axis of evil, Blair could no more take tea with Khatami than he could spend the night smoking havanas with Saddam or take a train ride with Kim Jong-Il.

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, however, has been getting the full treatment: Downing Street photo op, complete with first ladies Cherie and Asma, on Monday, tea with the Queen yesterday. Yet how does Assad compare with Khatami? He certainly can't claim a democratic mandate. As a favourite Middle East joke puts it, what's the difference between Saddam and Assad? Answer: about 3%. (The Iraqi leader won his referendum by 100%; Assad scraped home with a measly 97.2%.) ...

Nice to know who we're helping.

posted by Natasha at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK |

Through the Looking Glass has an interesting post on terrorist hospitals.

posted by Natasha at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK |

Both the chief of the Army and commandant of the Marine Corps, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, unsure whether the proposed battle plan in Iraq will really be so easy to pull off.

posted by Natasha at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK |

In a trend becoming popular with columnists these days, Maureen Dowd channels Lee Atwater in a hypothetical conversation about Karl Rove's dilemma. How do you wink at the segregationists without looking like you're winking at the segregationists?

posted by Natasha at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK |

Atrios covers the Christian theocrat movement in this post and the one just above it.

posted by Natasha at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK |

US shuts down the voice of Iran's student protests.

After an Iranian court sentenced the reformist academic Hashem Aghajari to death last month, the largest and most sustained student demonstrations in years erupted in Tehran. As they grew, day after day, U.S.-operated Radio Azadi, or Radio Freedom, was their favorite medium. Every day, student leaders would call by cellphone from the roiling campuses to the radio's headquarters in Prague and narrate the latest developments live. Each night the radio would broadcast a roundtable discussion, patching together students and journalists in Tehran with exiled opposition leaders to discuss where the reform movement was going. So instrumental to the rebellion-in-the-making did the radio become that pro-regime counter-demonstrators recently held up a placard reading "Who does Radio Azadi talk to?" -- a taunt taken by the station's staff as a badge of honor.

The protest movement, now five weeks old, rolls on, spreading from students to workers and from Tehran to other cities. Some see parallels to the popular movements that overthrew the Communist regimes of Europe in 1989 -- with a big dose of help from U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe. In this case, however, the tottering dictatorship has gotten a big break: Two weeks ago, Radio Freedom abruptly disappeared from the air. Iranians were no longer able to hear firsthand reports of the protests. Instead, after two weeks of virtual silence, the broadcasts are being replaced with tunes from Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston et al.

How did the mullahs pull off this well-timed lobotomy? They didn't: The U.S. government, in the form of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, did it. In an act that mixes Hollywood arrogance with astounding ignorance of Iranian reality, the board has silenced the most effective opposition radio station in Iran at a time of unprecedented ferment. In its place, at three times the expense, the United States now will supply Iran's revolutionary students with a diet of pop music -- on the theory that this better advances U.S. interests. ...

The protests have been so successful, and the death sentence so unpopular, that a senior member of the judiciary has stepped down in protest and the country's 28 provincial governors have now come out against it. Apparently, that's not what the US wants. Instead, they told Iran's huddled masses to stay home, and listen to pop music.

Update: The URL for the main article has been changed to point to the same article in a different paper. The original source appears to have fee-based archives, too much hassle.

posted by Natasha at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, December 17, 2002  

Yesterday was the registration deadline for males from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria to register with the government. Even more individuals will be required to go through the same process shortly. Those who don't will be subject to criminal charges.

...A second group of male immigrants ages 16 and older from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen who are not permanent residents and who are not asylum seekers are required to register by Jan. 10.

Yesterday, federal officials called for Pakistani, Armenian and Saudi Arabian males 16 and older who are not permanent residents or asylum seekers to register between Jan. 13 and Feb. 21. ...

According to the Democracy Now broadcast earlier this evening, the INS workers in Los Angeles detained so many registrants, they ran out of plastic handcuffs.

posted by Natasha at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK |

A video made to celebrate the retirement of Jeffrey Skillings' predecessor at Enron is eerily prescient of the company's future problems. It features cameos by both George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, stating that Mr. Kinder had been a tremendous friend of the Bush family and a great Texan. There was also this:

...In one skit, former administrative executive Peggy Menchaca played the part of Kinder receiving a budget report from then-President Jeff Skilling, who played himself.

When the pretend Kinder expressed doubt that Skilling could pull off 600 percent revenue growth for the coming year, Skilling replied:

"We're going to move from mark-to-market accounting to something I call HFV, or hypothetical future value accounting," Skilling joked as he read from a script. "If we do that, we can add a kazillion dollars to the bottom line." ...

posted by Natasha at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK |

There's been a lot of good commentary and blogging on the administration's new plan to shift more of the tax burden to lower and middle income citizens, but this Tom Tomorrow cartoon is really just a tremendous sum up.

posted by Natasha at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK |

See The Forest has a number of good links up, including this one where Thomas Leavitt discusses right wing bias in economic policy discussions in a major newspaper. He makes a fine case, but I'll tease you with the 'money' quote.

..."The result could be an increasing number of one-sided debates in which the challengers are far outnumbered, if indeed they are heard from at all." ...

Well, I don't know what else you'd call having the Heritage Foundation essentially debate itself.

posted by Natasha at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Calculating Value

I'm starting back to school in January and just purchased my textbooks yesterday. One of my classes will be macroeconomics, and I didn't get farther than a page into the assigned book (Macroeconomics 4th Ed., by David Colander) before thinking that the author has spent too much time in a state of self-congratulatory mental masturbation. Let's examine the some of the first assertions on p. 5, the first page of full text:

...In answering these questions, economies generally find that individuals want more than is available, given how much they're willing to work. ...

In all known economies, coordination has involved coercion - limiting people's wants and increasing the amount of work individuals are willing to do to fulfill those wants. The reality is that many people would rather play than help solve society's problems. So the basic economic problem involves inspiring people to do things that other people want them to do, and not to do things that other people don't want them to do. Thus, an alternative definition of economics is that it is the study of how to get people to do things they're not wild about doing (such as studying) and not to do things they are wild about doing (such as eating all the lobster they like), so that the things some people want to do are consistent with the things other people want to do.

Where to begin!? Barring that his 'definition' of economics sounds like a defense of fascism (and is almost certainly not the generally accepted one), it rests on a number of misconceptions.

A main one is the fundamental theme here that people are lazy and worthless unless coerced into doing something useful for their society. If that were the case, it would be hard to imagine how well Maslow's hierarchy of needs describes the phases of the lives of individuals and societies. As a person's physical needs are met, they look to their social needs, and then to self-actualization. It's traditional in the broad scope of human society that its elderly members who have attained these things turn most devotedly to aiding their families and societies.

Next is the subtle but very wrong idea that play activities (presumably ones that generate no money) are worthless to society. Certainly blogging is a play activity, but yet it's recently been responsible for bringing to light the entrenched racism of the Republican leadership. An intangible but not insignificant benefit, not incomparable in kind (though miniscule in scope) to the mass organizing of the Civil Rights movement. Thomas Edison spent years 'playing around' in his lab, and producing inventions we still use today. In the crucial matter of furthering productivity in the future, the stress-free play activities of young children are crucial to their learning and development. Adults who get sufficient play may even be more productive and creative in the workplace. And here we come to the creativity question.

It's undeniable that most all human wealth (resources, culture, technology) is due to human inventiveness. Copper and tin weren't particularly useful until someone figured out how to make bronze, for example. The creative state of mind functions best in an atmosphere of play, of natural curiousity, or of seeming 'idleness.' Creativity happens unpredictably, sometimes after a long period of unproductive 'fiddling' with things. Anyone who would dismiss its worth is clearly locked in a factory values mindset whose god is Efficiency, and whose sacrament is the Time Clock. Barbara Ehrenreich has a lot to say about this pervasive attitude and its stifling of the people trapped in it.

Further, it's clear that many people who work the hardest and longest hours in society get paid the least and respected even less. City employees who have thankless, hazardous, and tedious jobs are often criticized for wanting pay increases, though no one who accuses them of greed is lining up to take their job. In New York, police officers must often hold a second job to make ends meet. The same could not be said of most financiers in that city, but their wants are clearly deemed more worthy of being met by our current system. You'd have to find a pretty arbitrary definition of 'working harder' to say that white collar office workers labor either longer or harder than many public employees.

Let's Be Reasonable

On p. 8, he suggests the following as reasonable possibilities that someone should be willing to consider:

  • Saving some people's lives with liver transplants might not be worth the additional cost. The money might be better spent on nutritional programs that would save 20 lives for every 2 lives you might save with transplants.
  • Maybe we shouldn't try to eliminate all pollution, because the additional cost of doing so may be too high. To eliminate all pollution might be to forgo too much of some other worthwhile activity. ...
  • It might make sense for the automobile industry to save $12 per car by not installing a safety device, even though without the safety device some people will be killed.

You get the idea. This kind of reasonableness is often criticized for being cold-hearted. But, not surprisingly, economists disagree; they argue that their reasoning leads to a better society for the majority of people.

Liver transplants: The medical and technological experience and advancement gained from transplant technology often pays for itself. If in no other way than that very rich people will certainly pay to receive the services of those who figure out how to do it well, yet certainly by advancing medicine for everyone. But this is a spectacularly bad example, as the liver is capable of extensive self-regeneration and a significant number of those potentially requiring transplants alter their lifestyles in such a way as to avoid the need. And he's also presented this as an either/or choice between what sounds like a publicly funded nutrition program, and an operation which is usually paid for privately. IOW, he has assumed that the money comes from the same source.

Pollution: There is no one who suggests (to my knowledge) that it's possible to eliminate all pollution. This would require the banning of campfires and backyard BBQs. He also says that perhaps we shouldn't 'try' to eliminate it. Why not? This only makes sense even to say if a person assumes another either/or choice between legislating an immediate end to all pollution and allowing things to continue exactly as they are. Again, the technological advances possible if eliminating even most pollution was made a priority goal of society would almost certainly generate plenty of economic activity of their own. He undervalues or completely ignores once again the value of new technology. In short, this is no different than suggesting that the adoption of cars might destroy the economy due to putting horse-buggy manufacturers out of business.

Automobile Safety: Ford and Firestone. Pinto. Do I need to go on? To any given individual, their life and safety is usually worth quite a bit more than their car. The suspicion that an automobile manufacturer doesn't feel the same way to the tune of $12 would be enough to so jeopardize the image of a line of cars as to seriously damage both their sales and marketing efforts overnight. The good author must have missed the constant barrage of automobile commercials where the safety ratings of the vehicles in question are emphasized, and crash test results used to reinforce the idea. Are mass recalls and dead inventory really a better use of resources than installing a $12 part?

As to his assertion that seeming cold-heartedness is really just reasonable, I would say that in our society especially, it definitely isn't. The examples that he gives would almost indicate a belief that if a thing sounds cold-hearted, it must be reasonable. Yet legal liability, boycotts, shifts in buying habits, and the expense of repairing a damaged reputation would all seem to indicate otherwise. Maybe we've finally hit upon the reason why big business is so enamored of tort reform and owning the press. They genuinely believe that it's better for society that some of us die for their profits.

Yet that doesn't even begin to cover the lost productivity due to illness, injury, and death possibly engendered by some of his perspectives. Many third world countries are calculated to be losing tons of money over the poor health and high mortality rates of their citizens. Certain activities may be profitable at first, but the bills come due eventually, though sometimes to society at large instead of the party responsible. I'll close with a quote from the book "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins:

...valuing natural capital is a difficult and imprecise exercise at best. Nonetheless, several recent assessments have estimated that biological services flowing directly into society from the stock of natural capital are worth at least $36 trillion annually. That figure is close to the annual gross world product of approximately $39 trillion - a striking measure of the value of natural capital to the economy. If natural capital stocks were given a monetary value, assuming the assets yielded "interest" of $36 trillion annually, the world's natural capital would be valued at somewhere between $400 and $500 trillion - tens of thousands of dollars for every person on the planet. That is undoubtedly a conservative figure given the fact that anything we can't live without and can't replace at any price could be said to have an infinite value.

posted by Natasha at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Asia Times:

China struggles to create more wealth without too much inequality.

At a London conference to discuss the future of Iraq after an invasion, Iraqi Kurds insist that they will have 10,000 troops in Baghdad.

Jim Lobe reports that the Bush administration has spent the past week incurring distrust and ridicule from governments across the world.

This view of the current struggles in Iran holds that, contrary to popular media views, Iran's would-be reformers are the natural outgrowth of the 1979 revolution.

posted by Natasha at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK |

A ceasefire negotiated in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. The country has seen 2.5 million perish in four years of civil war.

posted by Natasha at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK |

Paul Krugman becomes the first (to my knowledge) major media writer to notice that not only are many prominent Republicans racist, they're also avowed theocrats.

Which is more scary, it's hard to say. But the Bush administration is now funding theocrats and disavowing racists, so I would guess that the religious far right has the most clout. Nobody, indeed, seems to think that the president should apologize for openly associating with the Rev. Jerry Falwell. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Mr. Falwell famously said this:

"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

Mr. Falwell has not been accused by the mainstream media thus far of 'blaming America' or being 'anti-American.' If you go take this quiz, that fact might seem even more astonishing.

Nor is saying that America deserves to be punished by God the only astonishing belief publicly held by Falwell. In this past year alone, he's said that: The Palestinians have no right to a state, that land is all part of Israel's patrimony. He called the prophet Mohammed a terrorist. He claims that global warming was invented to destroy America.

Mr. Falwell boasted to the television audience of the Donahue show that he had been to dinner at the White Houses of both Presidents Bush, and an organization of his was the first to receive faith-based funding from the Bush administration. To date, no one has asked Mr. Bush about Falwell's long history of bigotry, hatred of American freedoms, and vocal attacks on immigrants. Though some days after Falwell's statement that Mohammed was a terrorist, in fact after a deadly riot over the pronouncement occurred in India, Bush publicly stated that the American government did not endorse this view.

Anyone who's a real Christian must shudder every time they hear Falwell's name, but he continues to be a perfectly respectable 'voice' for the biblical worldview. He continues to be the sanctioned best buddy of the president. And now he's receiving government funding.


posted by Natasha at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK |

Paul Krugman becomes the first (to my knowledge) major media writer to notice that not only are many prominent Republicans racist, they're also avowed theocrats.

Which is more scary, it's hard to say. But the Bush administration is now funding theocrats and disavowing racists, so I would guess that the religious far right has the most clout. Nobody, indeed, seems to think that the president should apologize for openly associating with the Rev. Jerry Falwell. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Mr. Falwell famously said this:

Mr. Falwell has not been accused by the mainstream media thus far of 'blaming America' or being 'anti-American.' If you go take this quiz, that fact might seem even more astonishing.

Nor is saying that America deserves to be punished by God the only astonishing belief publicly held by Falwell. In this past year alone, he's said that: The Palestinians have no right to a state, that land is all part of Israel's patrimony. He called the prophet Mohammed a terrorist. He claims that global warming was invented to destroy America.

Mr. Falwell boasted to the television audience of the Donahue show that he had been to dinner at the White Houses of both Presidents Bush, and an organization of his was the first to receive faith-based funding from the Bush administration. To date, no one has asked Mr. Bush about Falwell's long history of bigotry, hatred of American freedoms, and vocal attacks on immigrants. Though some days after Falwell's statement that Mohammed was a terrorist, in fact a day after a deadly riot over the pronouncement occurred in India, Bush publicly stated that the American government did not endorse this view.

Anyone who's a real Christian must shudder every time they hear Falwell's name, but he continues to be a perfectly respectable 'voice' for the biblical worldview. He continues to be the sanctioned best buddy of the president. And now he's receiving government funding.

posted by Natasha at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, December 16, 2002  

Faux blog breaks the news that FOX is now cancelling Firefly, a show I've rather come to like. The original 2-hr premiere will be aired Friday, the one the network fiddled with and gutted. A petition to save Firefly will be printed by the authors and hand-delivered to the FOX network's offices.

If you haven't seen the show before, check out the original pilot this Friday.

posted by Natasha at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK |

The crimes of Hugo Chavez

A person reading the New York Times, or even the usually impartial BBC, could not be faulted for the impression that what is now occuring in Venezuela is a grassroots effort to drive out an unpopular president-turned-dictator. But these news outlets are exceptionally coy about what it is that President Hugo Chavez is supposed to have done to raise public ire, except to say that the economy is bad. They will even say that what's wanted is a public referendum on his continued leadership, so that restless Venezuelans don't have to wait until the end of his term to get rid of him.

That all just sounds so democratic and reasonable. Like we should be rallying around these brave freedom fighters willing to take to the streets against... what, exactly?

What they fail to mention is that the striking 'workers' are more likely to be factory managers and owners who have closed down their businesses, or investors who have withdrawn money from the market as a protest. They also won't mention that the people who work in said shops have protested the closing of these businesses, staged sit-ins, and overwhelmingly support the president. In other words, it's a lockout, not a walkout. The news outlets hope, perhaps, that their western readers living in countries with huge middle classes will forget that a 'middle class' strike in a country like Venezuela is talking about a relatively small segment of the public.

They also don't dwell overlong on why it is that a legally elected head of state should step down before his term ends, and why his vice president should step down with him. Essentially, saying that they must hand power over to the opposition just because they're asking. Has he done something illegal? Has he taken to molesting children on public television? Mainlining heroin? Of course not, or these worthy papers would have trumpeted it far and wide.

No, he's committed the terrible sin of infuriating the money people, the foreign companies, and enacting policies that favor the poor. Policies, I might add, that poll very well when western leaders propose them to their own citizens. Which is perhaps why those policies remain undiscussed. The public must be prepared for another coup attempt which perhaps succeeds, without the 'confusion' of feeling sympathetic to a leader being tarred and feathered in the western press.

Justin Podur lists 'Chavez' crimes' in more detail:

...Much of this struggle is about oil. Venezuela is the world's fourth largest oil producer and its oil industry is critical to its economy. Chavez's 'bolivarian revolution' argues for a role for the state in the oil industry, the redistribution of oil income, and the use of revenues from this resource to build economic independence. But since 1974, the oil industry has been moving in the opposite direction. At that time, the state-run-oil company kept 20% of its revenue in operating costs and turned 80% over to the state. In 1990 it was 50-50 and in 1998, when Chavez was elected, the company kept 80% and turned 20% over. What the neoliberals had in mind in the late 1990s was full privatization-not a reversal of the trend of the previous 20 years. Added to this, the administration of the oil industry is in the hands of anti-Chavez forces, making it possible for them to go on strike in order to promote privatization.

What are Chavez's other crimes? Severance pay was restored in the constitution of 1999, after being eliminated in 1997. Social security was set to be privatized in 1998, but was also impeded by the constitution of 1999. The Land Law, passed last year, was an agrarian reform law that tries to make rural life viable for Venezuelans and slow rural-urban migration at the expense of large plantation owners and real-estate speculators. ...

Wow. Is this guy a crazy, power-mad dictator, or what? But Al Giordano reports that the Venezuelan people aren't buying it, even in the face of so-called mediation attempts that condemn the peaceful demonstrations of Chavez supporters.

...On Monday night, the Venezuelan majority - unwilling to allow an upper-class economic coup d’etat that poses dishonestly as a “strike” to unseat its democratically elected government - took to the streets on a scale only seen once before in the nation’s modern history; as they had last April, when they turned back a military coup d’etat.

By early Tuesday morning the masses had every Commercial TV station in the nation surrounded. Their weapons were nonviolent and theatrical: pots, pans, fireworks and thousands of defiant but smiling faces. ...

According to the French Press Agency (AFP), Gaviria “condemned” peaceful demonstrations by the Venezuelan people outside of pro-coup TV stations Globovision, Venevision, and other commercial media corporations. The “news coverage” of those media companies in recent days has been at extreme levels of simulation and dishonesty even for them: the people have had enough. Terming the popular assemblies as “acts of intimidation” against a “free press,” Gaviria called upon the Chávez government to use repression against the demonstrators. ...

The problem for the Big Liars is that the Venezuelan majority didn’t buy it. The people – having watched foreign companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and British Petroleum lock their workers out for the imposed "strike" while the small neighborhood shopkeepers and businesses remained open – have, in this month of December of 2002, showed the world that “the big lie theory” for controlling public opinion no longer works.

Who the Hell is Cesar Gaviria?

Gaviria, the former Colombian president (1990-1994), was the chief beneficiary of the assassination of popular Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, whose elimination cleared the way for the Gaviria presidency. Gaviria was the president who allowed paramilitary death squads to gain a foothold in Colombia. It was Gaviria who sold his nation’s sovereignty to foreign powers and betrayed his own attorney general Gustavo de Greiff, after de Greiff had defied Washington by calling for drug legalization. And it was Gaviria who Washington later installed as secretary-general of the OAS in order to pave the way for Plan Colombia and military intervention in that country.

In recent days, Gaviria has ostensibly been in Venezuela as a “mediator” of the conflict between the oil-soaked oligarchy on one side and the supporters of the Constitutional democracy and the Chávez government on the other. ...

I would disagree with the author on just one point. That " “the big lie theory” for controlling public opinion no longer works", as it certainly seems that people haven't caught on here in the US. Though if what's coming out of our government right now regarding Venezuela is universally applicable, we could organize massive demonstration and national walkouts against Bush, and he would be logically obligated to resign. Constitution be damned. After all, the economy is pretty bad, and his policies are quite unpopular, so...

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

More on the Hindu nationalist BJP party's landslide victory in Gujarat. This has been quite the banner year for religious fundamentalists.

Brian Whitaker weighs in on how the US media is doing their best to prepare the public for war with Iraq. Even if all they have are rumour, suspicion, hearsay, and 'threat analysis.' (I was informed a while ago that spinning up wildly improbable and frightening scenarios, and selling them to readers as though they were in imminent danger of being visited on their neighborhood, is properly called threat analysis. Formerly known as 'making stuff up to scare the daylights out of people.')

Luke Harding explores the fringes of Dhaka, the sprawling, polluted capital of Bangladesh.

posted by Natasha at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, December 15, 2002  

The Arab News reports on the recent elections in Gujarat, overwhelmingly restoring Hindu nationalists to power. This editorial points out that if such a party as the BJP had been elected in a western nation, there would have been international outcry (remember Jorg Haider of Austria?).

The party has been in power during the public slaughter of one or two thousand Muslims, the public rape of Muslim women, and looting and burning the homes of Muslims. The police stood by during the whole thing and did nothing to help, and there's evidence that the violence was planned and encouraged by officials. Much of Gujarat state's Muslim population is now living in refugee camps.

Where is the outcry over this ongoing series of atrocities? Do we only care about the human rights of people we want to bomb? The only place I've heard much of anything about this is in The Nation, that bunch of liberal 'objectively pro-Saddam America-haters.' Liberal media my ***. (I'm going to go swear now. As loud as I can without incurring complaints from the neighbors.)

Also, they had an interesting piece on human rights from an Islamic perspective.

posted by Natasha at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK |

No Gore in '04. Sigh. I guess Kerry and Dean are alright, but if Lieberman or Gebhardt get the nomination, I'd be so tempted to leave the presidential category on my ballot blank.

posted by Natasha at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK |

Check out this FAIR action alert regarding the FCC's proposed loosening of the cross-ownership standards. Anyone interested in continuing to get news that conflicts with the interests of large corporations should write their congressional spokesentities at once.

A link to a Paul Krugman article on the topic and to the website of a group organizing to oppose the new changes can be found here.

posted by Natasha at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK |

Frankenfood (aka, Genetically Modified Organisms)

If you've been following the genetically modified food debate, and perhaps if you haven't, you'll want to know about this. The Nation posts an article regarding what's happening with the GM food industry in the US today. In part:

...This fall, however, the predictable patterns of Hamilton County and American food production took on the characteristics of a dystopian science-fiction story. An area farmer, who a year earlier had supplemented his income by quietly planting a test plot with seed corn genetically modified to produce proteins containing powerful drugs for treatment of diarrhea in pigs, this year harvested soybeans for human consumption from the same field. He trucked them off to the Aurora Co-op, where they were mixed with soybeans from other fields throughout the county in preparation for production as food. Just as the soybeans were about to begin their journey to the nation's dinner plates, a routine inspection of the test field by US Department of Agriculture inspectors revealed that corn plants that should have been completely removed were still growing in the field from which the soybeans had been harvested--raising the prospect that the pharmaceutical crop had mingled with the food crop. ...

The article goes on to describe the potential hazard that this, and other types of GM contamination pose to lucrative export markets. Many countries would be hesitant to purchase US crops if they were suspected to be routinely mixed with GM crops. But it isn't just direct mixing that's a problem, but also cross-pollenation. This article discusses GM contamination of original wild corn in Mexico, suspected to have been caused by imported food aid. The remote crops have been mystifyingly found to contain transgenic DNA sequences.

...The results are surprising because Mexico, which is the genetic home of maize, has banned the growing of GM maize since 1998, and the last known GM crops grown in the region were almost 60 miles from where the contaminated maize was found.

It was not clear yesterday when the contamination took place, but the scientists speculated that it originated from GM maize bought from the US as food aid for the impoverished region in central Mexico, and had progressed over time via multiple pollinations. ...

But wait, there's more. While some would consider unintended GM contamination to be a curse Monsanto considers it a cash cow, as brought to us by Marc Kaufman of the Washington Post. This incident occurred last year, the first case of its kind:

A judge yesterday ordered a Canadian farmer to pay the biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. thousands of dollars because the company's genetically engineered canola plants were found growing on his field, apparently after pollen from modified plants had blown onto his property from nearby farms. ...

Genetically engineered corn, soybeans, cotton and canola have become widely used in the United States, and recent evidence suggests that their pollen can spread to conventional crops. That means any farmer whose neighbours grow engineered varieties could find himself in the same situation as Schmeiser -- especially farmers of easily windblown canola and corn. ...

"This is a clear win for Monsanto, and this is very good news for us," said Trish Jordan, manager of public and industry affairs for Monsanto Canada. "What the judge found was that Mr. Schmeiser had infringed on our patent, and awarded us damages."

In his ruling, federal Judge W. Andrew MacKay concluded that a farmer does not have the right to grow crops with a patented and genetically modified gene unless he has an agreement with the company that owns the patent. MacKay also ruled that it didn't matter whether the farmer took advantage of the patented gene. In this case, Schmeiser did not. ...

Seed companies representing Monsanto, and similar biotechnology companies, sell their modified genes to farmers under an agreement that they use them for only one season. Traditionally, farmers have stored their best seeds and replanted them.

Monsanto communications director Lori Fisher said yesterday that seed companies that license Monsanto technology will help farmers remove unwanted genetically modified plants in their fields. She called the Schmeiser case unusual and said that farmers support the company's effort to protect its patent. ...

The decision prohibits Schmeiser from using his seed again and requires him to pay Monsanto about $10,000 for its user fees and up to $75,000 in profits from his 1998 crop. MacKay told the farmer and company that he would impose a financial settlement if they couldn't work one out. ...

In short, whatever benefits there might someday be from these developments: Biotech companies have released into the wild transgenic organisms whose spread cannot be controlled. They've shown themselves willing to sue over 'unauthorized' use of their virulent intellectual property. Their licensing agreements prevent farmers from storing their own seed and maintaining self-sufficiency. Oh, and it also reduces the value of contaminated crops on the world market. No wonder some African countries don't want this stuff even if they're starving.

posted by Natasha at 7:48 AM | PERMALINK |