the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, December 28, 2002  

Going to see LotR: TTT tonight. Will no doubt be snickering unwholesomely after reading the secret diaries of the Fellowship, link courtesy of a poster on the Straight Dope thread linked yesterday. "Sam will kill him if he tries anything" indeed. Heh.

posted by Natasha at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK |

North Korea urges its citizens to become human bombs in the event of all out war with the US over its nuclear capacity. The Bush regime should take note that they may finally have run into a more reckless bunch of lunatics than even Perle and Wolfowitz in their most imperialistic moods. Playing crazy only works when the other party isn't:

...“If they . . . dare provoke a nuclear war, the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea) led by Kim Jong Il, the invincible commander, will rise up to mete out determined and merciless punishment to the US imperialist aggressors with the might of single-hearted unity more powerful than the A-bomb. The US hawks are arrogant enough to groundlessly claim that the DPRK has pushed ahead with a ‘nuclear programme’, bringing its hostile policy toward the DPRK to an extremely dangerous phase.” ...

Has *everyone* gone stark, raving mad? No, don't answer that. The proximity of this stirred up hornets' nest to tens of thousands of American troops, two major allies, and a rapidly growing trading partner, is a situation heading rapidly for disaster.

posted by Natasha at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK |

Bush administration recommends insane wingnut to chair an FDA panel that determines womens' health policy. The candidate in question has written a book with his wife recommending prayer and scripture as the ultimate cure for womens' health problems. A lot could be said about this, none of it polite.

posted by Natasha at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK |

Peter Schrag muses on a California secession, which would actually be legal under the state constitution. My only question is, can Washington and Oregon come too?

posted by Natasha at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK |

State budgets in deficit, have hit 50 year low point.

posted by Natasha at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela's oil chief and former OPEC president, Ali Rodriguez, outlines his plans to deal with the lockdown of the country's oil industry.

posted by Natasha at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK |

In the Navy Times:

Washington state fisheries are potentially being damaged by Navy blasting.

The social security numbers and health records of 500,000 military personnel were stolen this month. There haven't as yet been any reports of identity theft related to the incident, and service members are being encouraged to notify the appropriate agencies. With any luck they're being told to call each of the credit bureaus to add fraud alerts to their credit reports, which triggers a phone call from the bureau every time a new account is applied for to check if it's really you.

posted by Natasha at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

A Palestinian author says that the way Iraq is being attacked feels like an attack on all Arabs. This was her comment on one of the civilizing examples of western culture in the last century:

...Iraq's history under British rule in the 1920s, when popular opposition was crushed by military force, including the use of mustard gas, is a vivid reminder of such attitudes. In 1921 Winston Churchill, then colonial secretary, wrote in an official communication: "I am strongly in favour of using poison gas on uncivilised tribes." Later, he added that the gas used against the Iraqi rebels had "excellent moral effects". ...

John O'Farrell wonders if the UK could get away with showing its support for the US by sending the troops campaign for Bush in the 2004 elections. Less hazardous, same goal:

...Instead of helping George W Bush get re-elected by joining a war in the Gulf, Her Majesty's armed forces would be parachuted into New Hampshire, where they could give out glossy leaflets saying "Re-elect Bush and Cheney 2004!" Dubya would still be grateful to Tony Blair, but no horrific war crimes would be committed and British servicemen would all come back safe and sound, except for the unfortunate few who got lost in downtown Detroit. ...

Between you and me, there is another reason why this is by far the best solution. During the last Gulf war, there were so many military cock-ups and disasters that you can be sure that the same thing would happen if the US and British armies were in charge of Bush's re-election campaign. The 1991 conflict saw allied troops killed by friendly fire, Patriot missiles repeatedly failing to knock out Scuds, and SAS troops being dropped in the wrong place with the wrong equipment. Bringing all this inexpertise to bear on Bush's election campaign is the only chance that the Democrats have.

So call up the reservists, send our boys over the Atlantic with their jamming rifles and their crashing Royal Navy destroyers and, God speed, with our help the Global Village Idiot will be cast out of the White House in 2004.

Some have said that it is not the job of the British army to bring about "regime change" in a sovereign country. But in Bush's case I'm sure we can make an exception.

posted by Natasha at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK |

The Asia Times reports on the Rendon Group, the US government's PR firm in times of war, which is to say, practically always. For those of us who may have wondered who came up with the Kuwaiti 'baby incubator' story, it was these guys.

posted by Natasha at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, December 27, 2002  

A truly entertaining thread (if you're a geek) awaits you at the Straight Dope, If LotR Had Been Written By Someone Else? A tiny sample of the goods:

by tracer

"I am no longer Gandalf the Grey," the wizard intoned, his white stillrobes glistening in the day's heat. "Through the Trial of the Balrog I came close to death, but now the sleeper has awakened! I shall now be called ... Gandalf-Muad'Dib, the Mithrandir, the Lisan Al'Maia!" -- from Ring Messiah, by Frank Herbert

...Pippin hauled out his well-worn copy of the Monstrous Manual, while Merry peeked over his shoulder. "I don't see 'Balrog' listed in the index anywhere."

"Of course not, foolish Took," the high-level mage chided him. "The copyright to the 'Balrog' name is owned by the Tolkien estate. Gygax had to call it 'Balor' or a 'Type VI demon' when he put the MM together."

Merry quickly thumbed to the Demon section, only to recall that in 2nd Edition, "Demons" and "Devils" had been renamed Baatezu and Tanar'ri, although he never could remember which was which. He cursed the Fundamentalist Christian parents' groups who had threatened to boycott TSR for creating a "demonic" game, and which had forced that particularly stupid name-change upon them. Finally, though, he located "Balor" in the Tanar'ri section, grateful that they weren't among the discontinued demon listings like Orcus and Demogorgon.

"They're only 13 hit dice," Merry dutifully reported, "But they can cast dispel magic every round at 20th level, so watch yourself, Gandalf!" - LotR as a D&D scenario

by Hoopy Frood

"My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isuldur. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

by Shalmanese

"Mordor (CNN) - Reports from the field have just arrived that the notorious group of ringbearers known mysteriously only as "the nine" were spotted by a band of orcs entering the terroist safe haven known as "Lothlorien" several days ago. The Mordor State Department issued an official proclamation today that the group were known to be armed and dangereous and had already caused the death of many orcs in the region as well as the notorious brutal murder of a high ranking Balrog previously resif\ding in Moria. They warn that any concerned citizens were to contact the Mordor Foriegn affairs office immediately with information as to the whereabouts of these fugitives and to not try and confront them themselves. ..."

For more, go read the thread. Such esteemed luminaries as Dr. Seuss, Terry Pratchett, James Joyce, J.K. Rowling, Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry, George Orwell, John Milton, Freddie Mercury, and others have added 'their' contributions so far. It's good to be a geek.

posted by Natasha at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK |

Paul Krugman toasts the good guys. They didn't win this year, but they tried anyway.

One day the poet Bai Juyi asked the monk Niaowo about Zen. "How must I live my life so that I am completely at one with the dao?" The monk said "Avoid all evil and perform all good." "But," said the poet, "even a three-year-old knows that much."

"A three-year-old may know it. But not even a one-hundred-year-old can do it." - Adapted from "Zen Speaks", translated by Brian Bruya from the Tsai Chih Chung.

posted by Natasha at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK |

Are You Better Off Today...

The CommUnity of minds posts this interesting perspective on terrorism. In part, emphasis ours, and go read the rest:

...For while there is no real difference in kind between the terrorists who afflict us now and the carnage-wreakers of yesteryear, there is a difference of several magnitudes in the firepower, finance, technology and training that today's mass killers can command. And these enhanced capabilities are the direct result of the bipartisan decision by successive American governments to build an army of Islamic extremists to bedevil the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

As noted here recently, the U.S. arming of international jihad actually began before the Soviets sent troops to help their client regime in Kabul quell growing unrest in 1980. The American operation was not just a reaction to the Soviet incursion; it was also one of its causes. Under the direction of Bush's CIA, the anti-Western, woman-hating, death-addicted holy warriors set about their fanatical task. The CIA schooled them thoroughly in terror tactics -- including the ability to operate under deep, impenetrable cover, to strike without warning, and to use the vicious slaughter of non-combatants to demoralize the enemy.

The CIA also drew on its long history of drug-running to add another source of funding for jihad -- and another weapon of demoralization aimed at the Russians. Cheap heroin and other goodies from the extremists' vast poppy fields soon flooded into the Soviet ranks -- and from there, into Soviet society. The drug trade was protected by the deeply pious president: Reagan's attorney general signed a "special waiver" exempting the CIA from having to report on its arrangements with international dope lords. ...

Talk about your Pyrrhic victories. The problem with the situation is that if you point out the truth of the origins of these movements, you get called anti-American. Nonetheless, as has been said countless times by others, the vast majority of the American people had no idea that this was going on. Almost certainly they would have disapproved en masse.

Neither political party comes out of this with entirely clean hands. And the sports team mentality that makes each party downplay the mistakes of top politicians and political strategists who barely even promote their constituents' views only muddies the water. The Republicans no longer represent smaller government and self-determination. Democrats no longer represent environmental protection and support for the working class. Neither party gives a good godd*mn about genuine free trade, or even a principled form of regulated trade.

They talk the 'good' talk, but their policies are being increasingly directed by the guns, drugs, & money contingent. The principled and dedicated members of each party, if they accidentally get into office, are never allowed to have any real power. The bought and sold party leaderships can no longer help but to compulsively meddle with things best left alone, especially considering the devastating track record the country has accumulated.

But what do we do now? Start them or not, Al-Qaida needs to be dealt with. They will continue to kill innocent civilians and must be stopped. Yet this must not be allowed to happen again. Weaseling out of the fact that we started this colossal mess just makes it more likely that the same mistakes will continue to be made. That the US will continue to arm unsavory guerilla movements, use the drug trade to finance questionable projects, overthrow governments, and start civil wars.

No good has ever come of this sort of action, and none ever will. As the 'unintended consequences' and 'collateral damage' pile up year after year, it becomes more clear that what this country and our 'civilized' accomplices have got is a foolproof method of increasing violence all over the world and getting lots of people killed. Ask yourselves this question: are you safer today than you were 20 years ago?

posted by Natasha at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK |

The country of Yemen begins a social reintegration program for Islamic militants and Al-Qaida trainees who are not presently charged with any crimes. Islamic scholars and legal experts have prepared a dialogue course to try and guide them back into socially constructive forms of belief and behavior.

...First, the former fighters were to be shown the "limits of jihad." While they assumed that everyone is entitled to engage in the struggle and that the killing of non-Muslims is permitted, they had to be taught that, as was mentioned earlier, the right to armed struggle exists only when the Muslim community is under attack. Moreover, the jihad must be declared by the community's legitimate leader. In general, however, the lives and rights of non-Muslims are to be protected, both inside and outside the community. Nor is every Muslim entitled to declare other Muslims as having abandoned the faith - a common accusation by Islamists against those who have maintained political or economic contacts with the West. Since, on the basis of this premise, the fundamentalists also rejected the authority of the state and of existing law, they had to be convinced of their obligations to those sources of authority. This was accomplished in part by underscoring the devastating economic and social consequences which the entire country would suffer in the event of further destabilization and political isolation. ...

posted by Natasha at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK |

China shuts down thousands of cybercafes.

posted by Natasha at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Chechnyan suicide bombers destroy the government building in Grozny, killing 46.

Venezuela begins importing oil as the management lockout continues and world oil prices go up. The opposition leaders say they won't allow President Chavez to install a dictatorship, no doubt because they prefer to install one of their own.

Palestinian gunmen kill four Israelis in an attack suspected to be retaliation for the killing of seven Palestinians yesterday.

Iran will no longer stone adultresses. The rarely enforced punishment has now been taken off the law books.

UN asks North Korea to reconsider activating its nuclear program.

EU prepares to launch a vessel that will rendezvous with a comet. If successful, the mission would be the first close-up look at a comet.

posted by Natasha at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK |

So, let's get this straight: We tell kids not to take mind-altering substances because they should enjoy life unmedicated, but the medical establishment is now prescribing them more drugs than ever. (The links to this series of articles is on the bar at the right of the main page.)

Of particular note was this article on the frequent misdiagnosis of girls with attention disorders. They don't usually display hyperactivity, and may be missed for treatment entirely. The article makes a number of good points, but I would tend to disagree that Ritalin is the solution for all the problems of kids with ADD/ADHD.

Not only can Ritalin stunt growth (summer drug holidays are often encouraged for this reason), but it may prevent children from developing coping skills appropriate to their learning style. Also, it continues to boggle me that children who are easily bored are first given medication that raises the boredom threshold before more interesting or advanced educational programs are tried. Or that hyperactive children aren't encouraged more into sports that can channel their energy. In some career paths and forms of learning, the ADD mindset may be a benefit.

posted by Natasha at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK |

This article discusses the long struggle to include a section on indigenous rights in the Venezuelan constitution, a portion which was inserted after vigorous public debate.

...The Constitution's Article 119 recognises indigenous peoples' ''habitat and original rights over the lands they have ancestrally and traditionally occupied, and which are necessary for developing and protecting their ways of life.'' ...

This is one of the more important issues that the world's indigenous people face today: the right to own the land their families have lived on since before there were title deeds. For people not strongly tied into the main systems of commerce and education, land ownership means the difference between marginalized poverty and reasonable self-sufficiency.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK |

Ned Boudreau speaks somewhat optimistically about the impending fall of the current globalization regime. I think he underestimates the staying power of the bunch of greedy buggers who presently own more than half the planet, but he makes some good points regarding the structural hypocrisy of a 'free trade'* system that's little better than highway robbery. In part:

...Free trade would also require that nations practice what they preach. According to the neo-liberal bible, countries must "liberalize" their economies by eliminating barriers to free trade; specifically, tariffs, quotas and subsidies. Yet Japan, the United States and the European Union heavily subsidize their farmers, allowing agribusinesses from the developed North and West to sell surplus grains and produce in less developed countries at artificially low prices. This practice wrecks entire sectors of indigenous farming economies by making local rice, maize and wheat more expensive than their imported counterparts, thus driving farming families from their land. Furthermore, tariffs and quotas imposed by the industrialized nations block imports of textiles, leather goods and agricultural products from less developed countries. If free trade were truly free, these commodities are the very items that would form less industrialized nations' most competitive comparative advantages.

This situation will not change in the near future. The United States, for example, this year passed what The Economist (June 29-July 5 2002 issue) called "an appalling new farm bill," which raised subsidies to American farmers to $170 billion over ten years -- a staggering rise of 80%. In Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) shows little sign of changing any time soon. The CAP eats up 48% of the European Union's annual budget on farm subsidies. In 2002, CAP subsidies totaled $39 billion. The issue of agricultural subsidies in the industrialized North and West are so fraught that even mainstream conservative business media are predicting subsidies could and most likely will de-rail the Doha Round of negotiations for further expansion of free trade based on neo-liberal principles.

One organization wrote of the CAP: "It takes up half the EU budget, although farmers are less than 5% of the workforce. It keeps food prices in Europe far above world levels. It has produced big surpluses that have been exported with subsidies. It has badly hurt farmers in poor countries, who have seen not only exports shut out by European tariffs but also suffered at home from dumped surpluses. As if all this is not enough, the CAP has failed in its main aim of protecting small farmers' incomes, which have fallen inexorably throughout Europe, driving people off the land and encouraging the consolidation of farms into large agribusinesses." These words are not those of OXFAM. Rather they are from page 12 of The Economist, July 13th-19th 2002 issue. No wonder agric subsidies are so critical in any discussion of supposedly "free" trade: Is there any other issue that shows the hypocrisy and duplicity of the morons and oxymorons? ...

* The current and complete failure of so-called free trade policies doesn't mean that free trade wouldn't work, that's still open to debate. It's just that no one has really gotten around to trying it, and what they're doing now might well be considered the rankest heresy to an orthodox free trader. But hey, it says 'free' on the label, right? If it's called 'free,' it must be good...

posted by Natasha at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK |

The American Prospect on the different media rules being applied to San Francisco Liberal Nancy Pelosi and Tom DeLay (R-TX).

posted by Natasha at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, December 26, 2002  

An interesting anonymous quote from the Jan/Feb 2003 issue of Adbusters:

Conventional revolution is an empty promise - defiance is futile against a power as great as this one. So what do we do? We join the enemy and fuel the problem. Work alongside them and behind them, with them and against them. If you flag yourself as an opponent you will be quickly destroyed; work in disguise, conceal your intentions. Calculated strategy, deception, misdirection and stealth are a cooperative resistor's principles. Open defiance, counter-resistance and direct opposition should be abandoned. Group resistance is futile as well - the central powers are fully aware of these techniques and have been dealing with them since the beginning of time. Individual efforts, however, go unnoticed and eventually pile up, creating a great and sudden force that takes the enemy by surprise.

Something to think about, but I question the efficacy.

posted by Natasha at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK |

The Nation puts out a summary of Venezuela's situation. They seem to have left out a number of critical points, but it's better coverage than the NY Times, anyway.

posted by Natasha at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Venezuela to import oil from Brazil, as that country's government seeks to aid President Hugo Chavez in getting fuel to the public.

UN inspectors find no banned weapons in Iraq.

North Korea makes its next move in what's shaping up to be another game of International Chicken.

Iran and Russia continue their plans to get the Bushehr nuclear plant up and running. Under the current arrangement the plant will return all spent fuel to Russia. The Iranian government is carrying out the work under the full supervision of the IAEA.

EU plans to pave the way for humans to land on Mars by 2025. The article says that they might set up a robotic base to prepare for the arrival of the first human visitors. This page at the NASA website goes into more detail about one way an unmanned vehicle could manufacture and store fuel for the use of human astronauts. Done in advance, this could reduce the cost of a manned mission by decreasing the amount of fuel they have to send from Earth.

Rare whale beached in Japan.

posted by Natasha at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK |

The Guardian reports on the least glamourous charity appeal of them all: Encouraging the use of pit latrines and toilets in developing countries.

This takes on particular importance in areas where water supplies are scarce, disease is rife, and sanitation habits suitable to high population areas haven't taken hold in the popular mindset. Communities often see an immediate benefit in terms of a decrease in both insects and disease.

posted by Natasha at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK |

As the Venezuelan strikers broke for the Christmas holiday, support for the opposition is waning. It looks like the people of Venezuela might get to have an elected government, a Constitution, and a military that's unwilling to take down the government at the drop of a hat. At least for a while longer.

The Global Womens' Strike points out a number of reasons why they're in favor of the new Constitution. In part:

  • The recognition of housework as an economic activity that creates surplus value and produces social wealth and well-being.
  • Social security and a pension for housewives.

Venezuela's constitution is certainly novel in this respect, but the amazing thing is that the Family Values crowd in the US didn't come up with it. With their deep, vaunted 'respect' for the role women play in their families, it somehow has never occurred to them that this formally unpaid work should be acknowledged by putting our money where our mouths are.

But they also list plenty of other reasons why Venezuela's new laws (scheduled to fully take effect in January) are a boon to the country's underclass, and a bold statement of social justice. It even outlaws the patenting of information gained from indigenous knowledge, or the genes of plants used in traditional remedies. This acknowledgement of the worth of the local population's intellectual capital could be seen as a direct outgrowth of being able to identify the value of caregiving. The transactions that benefit society don't all directly increase the GDP, but this seemingly obvious point escapes many otherwise clever people.

"A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing." - Oscar Wilde

"Money is truthful. If a man speaks of his honor, make him pay cash." - Robert A. Heinlein

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK |

Body and Soul brings us an update on the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) disaster in Bhopal, and the latest outrage against the victims.

In case you hadn't heard about Bhopal, in 1984 one of the worst chemical disasters in the world occurred at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. 20,000 died, tens of thousands are still ill. The disaster was a result of ever-decreasing safety standards, and was made worse by the company's refusal to sound an alert or begin an evacuation. Our liberal media has paid tremendous attention to this developing story over the years, which is why the American public is so keenly aware of the desperate plight of some of the world's poorest citizens at the hands of one of its richer companies.

Now that Dow has purchased the company, they've added vindictiveness to neglect. Which is even more ironic if you read their social responsibility statement.

posted by Natasha at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, December 25, 2002  

Escalate Nonviolence

This Christmas holiday is theoretically about honoring the philosophy of peace, love, and generosity of spirit. But there are precious few public figures that exemplify this, certainly very few living. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is a giant in this respect in our cultural memory, but there's more lip service paid to him than genuine discussion of his ideas, which were pretty radical.

Describing something as 'radical' is often done to convey derision, but it seems the only appropriate word to encompass both the novelty and force of his beliefs. It was in a speech outside a jailhouse where King talked about "escalating nonviolence." I was listening to the radio in my car when Democracy Now played a recording of this speech, and that phrase just blew my mind. I haven't been able to get it out of my head for weeks now. Escalate nonviolence. Escalate nonviolence. Escalate nonviolence?

And the more I've turned those words over in my thoughts, the angrier I am that no one had ever played them to me before. At myself for not having looked closer. Or that we have a holiday for him, but you only get fed little snippets of the "I have a dream" speech at wide intervals. Which, don't get me wrong, was a brave statement to make to the nation. But it was not radical on the level of escalating nonviolence. What is the nature of the deeper message that hides behind the now bland phrase 'civil rights'? A message that extended naturally from justice for your own people right in front of you, as well as to the distant victims of an unjust war.

The Civil Rights Era wasn't the only time in history where an underclass rose up and said 'Enough.' But the way it was done was the genuinely provocative thing. Just as when Gandhi tried it, and when the early Christians refused to abandon it. They said be peaceful, be upstanding even. But be persistent, be patient, and hold your ground.

What They're Really Afraid Of

Any fool can rally a mob, start a riot, turn tension into all out war. But it takes real vision to attempt something so outside the norm of our society that practically no one has even tried it. Our leaders of today talk about peace but, it seems, only to placate us. People want peace, and our leaders assure us that they want it too, even as they 'regretfully' get ready to start more killing. We're made to feel happy that the violence is less than it could be.

And this idea of the need for violence to accomplish our aims permeates society from top to bottom. We think we need to 'get tough,' 'kick some ass,' 'knock some heads together.' As long as I think this way, I'm playing their game. A rigged game which always favors the house.

It serves the people in power for people to think in terms of violence, because they have infinite willingness to inflict punishment on their enemies, and can justify their actions as a defense of the public good. The person who strikes first loses standing, such a deeply felt moral precedent that it's enshrined in the near global concept of justified self defense. What they truly fear is people who believe in peace so strongly that they're willing to practice it, and to enforce it by that practice. Because how can you defend against peace? How can you convince the public that you need to protect them from... peace?

This is the dangerous idea of the civil rights era. That a citizenry that mostly wants peace can make its own game. This is the idea that needs to be hidden behind a national holiday so that we don't ever need to discuss what the man really said. So that a truly radical statement of genius and empowerment from below can be diminished in scope to repealing Jim Crow and getting the president to sign a bill.

Anyone who truly wants to be a danger to a status quo of diminishing expectations and increasing strife needs to escalate that nonviolence.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malaclypse: "I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe."

Eris: "What is the matter with that, if it is what you want to do?"

M: "But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it."

E: "Oh. Well then, stop." - The Principia Discordia

"The world is equally shocked at hearing Christianity criticised and seeing it practiced." - Dr. Elton Trueblood

Reporter: "Mr Gandhi, what do you think of Western Civilization?" Gandhi: "I think it would be a good idea."

posted by Natasha at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, December 24, 2002  

Couldn't resist this one post. As you head off to your holiday meal, consider heaping up on turkey and gravy instead of potatoes and stuffing.

posted by Natasha at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK |

Even if I do get around to posting anything for the next couple days (don't count on it), I hope that my readers are enjoying the holiday with loved ones and generally having too good a time to care. If you're not having a good time for some reason, at least be glad (making a not too improbable assumption, I think) that you aren't living in Iraq. Or Venezuela. Or North Korea. Or... well, you get the picture. There are worse things than unwrapping a six-pack of gym socks.

posted by Natasha at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK |

Not satisfied with the gathering clouds of war over the Persian Gulf, Pyongyang has been put on alert that we're not taking any guff from them just because we're preparing to kick the stuffing out of Iraq.

...Mr. Rumsfeld said he had no reason to believe that North Korea made its latest nuclear moves because of a belief that the United States was preoccupied militarily with Iraq, but he said if it held that view, it would be mistaken.

Though stressing the administration's intention to deal with Pyongyang through diplomacy, the defense chief said the United States would be "perfectly capable" of fighting, and winning, two major regional military conflicts at the same time.

posted by Natasha at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, December 23, 2002  

The Organization of American States has voted to support Venezuela. I missed this story when it came out, partially due to the fact that it wasn't plastered all over the news like other stories I could mention. I wonder why?

...The Organization of American States (OAS), for the first time in the organization’s history, rejected a major United States initiative.

The OAS backed, by a vote of 32-0 – with two countries not counted – a resolution to support the continuance of the democratically elected government of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. ...

This is the same group headed by Cesar Gaviria, who went in as an attempted 'mediator' to pressure Chavez to resign. Read more about Gaviria's sojourn in Venezuela.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK |

Hugo Chavez' Venezuela breaking down entrenched racial barriers. Some points of note from a high content article, emphasis ours:

...Another topic on their minds and hearts is the fate of President Hugo Chavez. He is Venezuela's first multiracial president and is called "Negro" (nigger) by his detractors because of his African-Indigenous features. Behind the enemies of Venezuela and Hugo Chavez are very large sums of money being spent to destroy the dreams of the people who historically have been discriminated against because of race, economic ideas, etc. ...

Sixty percent of the population of Venezuela are people of African descent. The others are Mestizos of Indigenous and European descent and Indigenous. ...

President Hugo Chavez was elected in a democratic election with more than 70 percent of the 11 million votes cast. One of his first actions was to call for an election of a National Constituency Assembly whose mission was to reform the 1969 national Constitution. During 40 years of democracy this Constitution was used to avoid empowering the people. The election of the National Constituency Assembly allowed the participation of students, business related organizations, community representatives and parties opposed to the president in the Assembly. The entire society had its opportunity in the Assembly.

The National Constituency Assembly designed a new national constitution, which was widely discussed all around the country. Then a national election was called to consider the acceptance of the new constitution. The Venezuelan people, in direct election, said, "We do accept the new constitution" in 1999. New national elections were called at all levels of government to test the acceptance of the new constitution and renegotiate the public powers. President Hugo Chavez, again, won the election with over one million votes more than his closest opponent. The party supporting Chavez also won, as did several state governors who belonged to the party.

During his three years in power – the complete term is six years – President Chavez has been an advocate for the education of the poor. After 50 years of being eliminated, schools were created with full schedules from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., allowing children to stay longer in recreational programs and special classes. ...

In seeing pictures of the demonstrators on the BBC world news broadcast the other day, I couldn't help but notice that most of the anti-government protestors were white. Some carried posters where President Chavez was represented as a gorilla, shades of the US KKK all over that. The pro-government protestors were shading towards dark, and unlike the opposition, their clothes didn't look like they came from the Gap.

This, then, is what conservatives mean by class warfare. It's warfare for the poor and the dark-skinned to demand a fair share in their society. It's justice for the rich and the pale-skinned to insist on owning everything. They want him out before new Constitutional provisions take effect in January; hopefully the beginning of the end for Venezuela's long nightmare of grinding poverty and little opportunity for the masses.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK |

Alas, A Blog has some great stuff up. Check it out.

posted by Natasha at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK |

As cold and flu season gets into full swing...

Worried about biological warfare? Don't be silly. You should be worrying about an epidemic of homegrown antibiotic resistant infections, instead. No need to wait for someone to import them.

Courtesy of the Cipro stampede during the anthrax scare, resistant disease organisms are popping up all over. Apparently, people without anthrax just couldn't resist the temptation to improperly medicate themselves.

...He cited the case of an 11-month-old girl with a chronic ear infection that was refractory to treatment. She required hospitalization and intravenously administered antibiotics after six courses of various oral antibiotics proved futile. The Pneumococcus strain eventually identified from the girl "could have been deadly," said Levy. Several of the child's playmates at her Georgia day care center also harbored the bacteria. "Such strains don't just appear, they are formed," said Levy. "This is Darwinism at its best. We're helping the evolution [of bacteria] by giving antibiotics [indiscriminately]." ...

And thanks to our agriculture industry putting antibiotics into the daily feed of our farm animals to make up for poor hygiene and feed quality, you don't even need paranoid, Cipro buying neighbors to share in the fun. A brief note:

...The study, which was lead by Dr. Jianghong Meng, a veterinarian and an associate professor in the University of Maryland's food science department, found that 20% of 200 meat samples contained salmonella. Of those contaminated samples, 84% were resistant to one antibiotic, and a whopping 53% of them were resistant to at least three kinds of the drug. ...

But surely, our medical profession is helping, right? No. In fact, antibiotic overprescription is one of the major contributors to the problem. Though they can't take all the blame, as patients frequently request antibiotics they don't need, and fail to follow the instructions.

...According to 1992 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, antibiotics were given inappropriately to large numbers of patients with conditions that commonly have a viral etiology, and for which these drugs lack efficacy. For instance, more than 70 percent of non-streptococcal pharyngitis cases were prescribed an antibiotic. So were more than 50 percent of patients with rhinitis.[10]

What are the reasons for this overprescribing? A number of factors may play a role. According to one recent report, physicians often acquiesce to patient demands for these drugs.[11] Patients often do not understand the possible harm of taking antibiotics without restraint, and doctors may feel too pressed for time to explain why an antibiotic is unnecessary - so a prescription is written instead. Some physicians also overprescribe because of concerns that they may misdiagnose a bacterial infection for which an antibiotic is appropriate.[11] ...

So here are some handy things that you can do to avoid being a menace to society:

  • Don't ask for antibiotics if you have a cold or flu. Antibiotics don't treat viral infections.
  • Only use antibiotics for ear or sinus infections if they show no sign of getting better within two or three days, or last longer than a week. Most of them go away on their own, and antibiotics often make little difference to the length of the illness. Let your doctor make this decision, and don't get insistent about having them unless the infection lasts longer than a week.
  • Use your full prescription, every last bit, even if you feel better. You should never have 'extra' antibiotics left over from a prescription.
  • Use only the antibiotics that were prescribed by your doctor for your illness. Not all antibiotics are effective for every illness, even when the symptoms look the same. Friends don't let friends use their antibiotics.
  • Avoid microbial soaps. Plain soap and water, along with vigorous scrubbing and rinsing, are sufficient to stop disease transmission. Antibiotic soaps can give people a false sense of security, when they are no more effective than plain soap and can increase the number of resistant strains.
  • Buy meat and eggs from animals that were raised without antibiotics. These animals must be raised in cleaner conditions, and given better quality feed in order to keep them healthy. Don't encourage the factory farmers to continue spreading disease.
  • Whatever kind of meat you buy, cook it thoroughly, and sanitize surfaces that have come into contact with the raw meat. Also, don't cut meat on wooden cutting boards, as they cannot be sanitized. The less risk you take of getting infected, the less you need to ask your doctor for more antibiotics.

And a final note: For pete's sake, if you feel compelled to use prescription drugs irresponsibly, use drugs that will only affect you. Don't contribute to a growing public health epidemic, if only because too many people are part of the problem in this case. You can't even get a buzz off erythromycin, anyway, so this is really a practice with no upside.

posted by Natasha at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK |

Washington and Tehran may not be speaking to each other, but their respective naval forces are being very courteous to each other in the busy Persian Gulf.

...“Our relationship has been very professional,” said Rear Adm. Barry M. Costello, commander of the battle group centered on the aircraft carrier Constellation. “In all actions their attitude has been very courteous and good. ...

In 1988, the guided missile cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 people aboard. The Pentagon said the crew mistook the jetliner for a hostile aircraft. ...

Still, the US government persists in treating ordinary Iranians as though they were untrustworthy enemies, even though their popular sentiments are among the most secular and democratic in the region.

...In fact, as is evident, nowhere in the Middle East does such a democracy-oriented movement appeal to such large numbers. ... Moreover, the persistent stance of the students in stressing the separation of religion from state is quite noteworthy, especially in the context of today's Middle East.

A conscientious look at the news attests to this highly paradoxical fact: when the remnants of the Taliban were being ransacked for terrorists in Afghanistan, not a single Iranian was found amongst the thousands of members of the cabal. The numbers of members from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, various Persian Gulf emirates and even secular Turkey (all, incidentally, staunch American allies) was substantial. ...

posted by Natasha at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK |

Lisa Rein uses Google Answers to find out more about top Republicans' voting records.

posted by Natasha at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK |

Karen DeCoster found this Christmas song for all us newshounds, The Twelve Days of Fascism:

On the twelfth day of fascism
John Ashcroft gave to me,
Twelve digital implants
Eleven years protesting
Ten less Amendments
Nine internment camps
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Smallpox Shots
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And a Department of Homeland Security.

That's pretty good, but I'm not sure it scans well, so here's my revised version:

On the twelfth day of Fascism
John Ashcroft gave to me,
Twelve digital implants
Eleven years protesting
Ten less Amendments
Nine retired war crooks
Eight surveillance cameras
Seven TIPsters tipping
Six snoops a-sniffing
Five Smallpox Shots
Four airport friskings
Three wiretappings
Two detained Muslims
And some Homeland Insecurity.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our seniors, soldiers, students, unemployed, and those unfortunate souls who live in countries with lots of natural resources and no nukes. The rest of us should just be grateful as hell.

posted by Natasha at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK |

Embattled Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez orders troops to deliver cornmeal to Venezuelans so that everyone will be able to enjoy a traditional meal of hayacas on Christmas. Troops are also working to deliver oil to various parts of the country.

The oil shortage in the world's fifth largest oil producing nation is so bad that food deliveries are threatened and many petrol stations are entirely sold out. Mr. Chavez has been accused of being an authoritarian dictator for having fired uncooperative employees of the state-owned oil firm, whose strike has crippled the economy and international standing of the entire country. Some of the striking workers face legal action, which is better treatment than workers striking to overthrow the government would get in the US. No motion has been filed in the Venezuelan courts to fine the strikers thousands of dollars per day in recompense for the tremendous cost to their country.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK |

Body and Soul with a must read on uncharitable charity, or, how to piss off 'the poor.'

posted by Natasha at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK |

Tbogg weighs in on how the war for Iraqi hearts and minds is going. Hint: Not well.

posted by Natasha at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK |

In the Bush administration's ongoing effort to roll the clock back 20 years, they will now be submitting a Reagan era budget proposal. With, if it can be imagined, an even more optimistic set of wild assumptions.

...Although the final details are still subject to change, as of now it appears that the president's proposal will include a tax cut that will have a sizeable impact on revenues in 2003 and 2004, a substantial increase in the Pentagon budget, and an overall two percent increase for all other appropriations.

This is very close to what Reagan proposed more than two decades ago. The major difference is that Reagan's budget assumed a reduction in nondefense discretionary spending to reduce the projected deficits compared to what they otherwise would have been.

The Bush fiscal 2004 budget apparently will include no such limits on domestic and international appropriations. It will instead assume that the tax cut will create so much rapid economic growth that the deficit will fall without any spending cuts. ...

Read on for more cheery news about the depth of their delusions, and also, government employee humor. I bet you didn't know that government employees could be funny ;)

posted by Natasha at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK |

Some Democratic lawmakers find enough spine to challenge further Army privatization.

The Army should consult Congress before launching its massive “third wave” privatization initiative, under which the service is weighing whether to outsource more than 214,000 jobs, 68 members of the House of Representatives said Friday. ...

posted by Natasha at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK |

A wave of midnight abductions and murders in Chechnya has left some residents so fearful, they don't even want to hang address signs. The rebels blame the federal troops, who in turn blame the rebels. But the raiding squads wear masks and anonymous camouflage, leaving their identity in question.

posted by Natasha at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK |

What will replace Saddam Hussein in Iraq?

All about the oil.

posted by Natasha at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, December 22, 2002  

Alternet declares 2002 the year of the fundamentalists. With the (not unfounded) suspicion that 2003 will be worse, even if only because we'll almost certainly be going to war with Iraq. But, they say, don't lose hope. And helpfully bring up a few cheerful counterpoints.

Maybe it would be more useful to say 'don't let your growing rage get the better of you.'

posted by Natasha at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK |

Scared Witless

Tony Blair is furious over terror warnings which may have unessecarily upset people. The article opens:

...Tony Blair has intervened to prevent the Government's war on terror policy descending into chaos after senior officials admitted that the public was being unnecessarily scared about the level of threat to Britain. ...

It goes on to relate some concerns over security problems regarding leaks at the Foreign Office that were in imminent danger of 'scaring the public witless.' This may just be my rapidly expanding cynicism talking here, but isn't that the whole point? And not just in Britain, either.

After Americans, Britons are the people in the world most likely to support war in Iraq. But I suspect that this is because they're also subjected to the second highest bombardment of war propaganda. Get the people scared about one threat, and use that to push your case on a completely different 'threat.'

The article goes on to say that they're concerned (in reverse, note) that terror warnings about Bali weren't issued properly, or strongly enough. Yet foreign secretary Jack Straw said previously that there was no specific threat, just vague rumblings about trouble in Indonesia, which is quite a large country.

So, first, people are being scared unecessarily. Then, people haven't been scared enough. But it would seem that lately, scaring people has been the whole point. Almost to the point of the alleged witlessness, wherein there are so many threat warnings that you simply assume something is always wrong. It's in a climate like that where it's easy to bang the drums of war, capitalize on the vast reserve of fear you've created, and tell everyone if they'll just agree to bombing some poor sods farther back into the Stone Age that it will make everything all better.

A writer from a former Eastern Bloc nation said that the government propaganda was pretty obvious, clumsy, and believed by virtually no one. But that what we have in the West is far more subtle, hence effective. The public is kept in a constant state of thinking that we 'have to do something', which something inevitably involves lots of murder and mayhem. Certainly, anyone who implies that humanitarian relief might be an effective tactic will immediately be branded as either apologist or appeaser. No matter how valid their point. And inevitably, the press will be ignoring at these times even more serious concerns, if not outright lying.

The fact that we are no longer rabidly pursuing the alleged perpetrators of all this horror in the world, would seem to indicate that our governments and media sure don't believe the bunkum they're putting out. Why are any of us buying it?

posted by Natasha at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK |

Promising new blog: The Better Rhetor. Brought to our attention by PLA, another good blog.

posted by Natasha at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Britain finishes up Mars Lander.

Eleven year old Palestinian killed by IDF.

US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel for the killings of 3 UN aid workers.

Thailand and Malaysia hold joint cabinet session, a world first.

US stands alone once again in rejecting a WTO deal that would allow developing nations to purchase reduced cost pharmaceuticals.

Three more children killed in Kashmir.

An Afghan soldier in Kabul killed in a bomb attack on the one year anniversary of the Karzai government. An American soldier recently died of gunshot wounds received in Afghanistan.

posted by Natasha at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK |

The Onion: Bill Of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six.

...A Republican initiative that went unopposed by congressional Democrats, the revised Bill of Rights provides citizens with a "more manageable" set of privacy and due-process rights by eliminating four amendments and condensing and/or restructuring five others. The Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms, was the only article left unchanged. ...

Ashcroft added that, thanks to several key additions, the Bill of Rights now offers protections that were previously lacking, including the right to be protected by soldiers quartered in one's home (Amendment III), the guarantee that activities not specifically delegated to the states and people will be carried out by the federal government (Amendment VI), and freedom of Judeo-Christianity and non-combative speech (Amendment I). ...

Yes, citizen, yuk it up now... ;)

posted by Natasha at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK |

Uppity Negro posts on the growing human rights crisis in Nepal.

posted by Natasha at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK |