the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, January 25, 2003  

In what was a terrible oversight on my part, I didn't read Body and Soul on Friday. She posted a good piece on the scrappy women of Nigeria who are accomplishing with peaceful protest what their male counterparts were unable to achieve with guns and kidnappings. Below that is a trip through the major media chronicling the steady erosion of worldwide support for war in Iraq.

Keep escalating the nonviolence.

posted by Natasha at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK |

Orcinus' latest post squarely names the real enemy of modern society: Fundamentalism. Christian, Hindu, Muslim, it doesn't matter. Wherever they live, whatever god they worship, however much power they have (or not), and as much as they always hate each other with a passion, their goals are nearly indistinguishable from each other. As he says:

...The truth is, however, that there is a substantial portion of the American population that feels the same way about modernism and liberal America's supposed "moral relativism" as do the Islamists. There is even a subset of these folks who likewise openly hope for the overthrow of the government and who argue for the death sentence for homosexuals. Another subset is working actively to penetrate the halls of U.S. government and take over its reins from within, transforming the nation into an open theocratic "Christian" state that structurally will resemble nothing so much as those Islamic states we now officially despise. ...

As a friend of mine whose family left Iran before the revolution always tells me, before they took over, Iran's mullahs were both respected and pitied by the public. People felt that they were unfairly persecuted by the Shah, that they were good, upstanding people that could be trusted. Almost everyone was taken by surprise when a ruthless anti-modernization campaign marked the government of the Ayatollah Khomeini. They were surprised when bloody purges and crackdowns followed. But they shouldn't have been. The American public has been as blind to the threat posed by these types of people as the Iranian public was 30 years ago.

Fundamentalism is now taking over in India, which anyone following even a little news in Gujarat is aware of. It's working itself into the American mainstream* by way of the people who blamed the ACLU and abortion providers for 9-11. And it's been generated in the Middle East by American activities for years.** But it's the same movement in all these diverse places, and it should get no respect for the supposed virtue of its practitioners.

Fundamentalism is a threat to secular government, cultural tolerance, and human rights. And they win every single time they make some sane and normal human being feel guilty just for being alive.

But instead of being intimidated, call on the fundamentalists in this country to take to heart the words of their alleged role model in Matthew Ch 6 vs 5-6: 5 "Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, they are having their reward in full. 6 You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret..."

In other words: Get a room, people.

* Matt Bivens' Friday post to The Nation's Daily Outrage is relevant.

** If you don't know who sponsored the mujahideen, the House of Saud's alliance with the Wahabbi sect, or the persecution in Iran which radicalized the clerics, read up. Much of the sentiment was encouraged by US operatives and envoys as a bulwark against the godless commies. Good work, guys.

posted by Natasha at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

The wild new internet media of South Korea, which helped bring an election victory for the current president of that country, brings down a journalist.

Edward Said wonders at the passivity of the Arab public on the eve of a planned reordering of their entire region of the world.

Mark Lawson suggests that perhaps America deserves a Senator Springer. Shudder.

The World Social Forum, the 'people's UN' meets in Porto Alegre, Brazil. That country's president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, vows to bring the message of the WSF to the meeting of the WEF in Davos, Switzerland. He said:

..."I will be taking the message of Porto Alegre to Davos... I will be saying the same thing as I say here. There will not be two faces. I will tell Davos that their economic policies are making a terrible mistake."

posted by Natasha at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Israeli incursion into Gaza City. The usual infrastructure and places of business destroyed, people shot, buildings demolished.

The US government begins questioning American Iraqis and setting up campus surveillance at colleges.

British doctors send open letter to Tony Blair, urging him to avoid war in Iraq due to the likely high cost to the life and health of hundreds of thousands.

What will it take to rebuild Afghanistan.

Female vendors in Swaziland mooned police to express their displeasure at an attempt to enforce a ban on unlicensed vending. Heh.

Ethiopian couple takes public stand against female circumcision at their wedding, more young people are listening.

Ivory Coast peace deal angers citizens who feel that rebel forces have been given too much in return.

Kenyan cabinent minister dies in plane crash.

Former beneficiary of US liberation, Vietnam, tightens control over religion.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia suggests at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the US is bringing the world into World War III, to which the reporter covering the story added this:

It used to be a joke, in Britain at least, that the US, having entered the first two world wars late, would be bang on time for the third.

posted by Natasha at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Mark Morford clears up some popular misconceptions that anti-choicers have about abortion. In short, no one has ever really 'wanted' one, but they've happened for as long as we can dig back in the historical record. And you can't **** with human nature and expect it to do anything but end in tears.

posted by Natasha at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

The opposition prepares for a 24 hour demonstration. The end of the story declares that Chavez 'argued' that a proposed February referendum would have been unconstitutional, when indeed, it would have been.

More NY Times opinion on Jimmy Carter's novel proposals: Follow the constitution (binding referendum in August), or amend it (shorten the presidential term & have elections later this year.) The proposals are described as being not "exactly what either side wants," though the first proposal is what Chavez has been suggesting all along. That Carter, what an original fellow.

The recently convened Friends of Venezuela group also supports the proposals.

Phil Gunson replies to Al Giordano regarding this article wherein Gunson's journalistic integrity in the ongoing Venezuela story was called into question.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Friday's press grilling with Ari Fleischer. Lots of interesting stuff, but this bit deserved extra comment:

...Q Ari, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, Frank Griswold, said -- and this is a quote -- "The United States is rightly hated and loathed for its reprehensible rhetoric and blind eye toward poverty and suffering. I'd like to be able to go somewhere in the world and not have to apologize for being from the United States." My question is, does the President take this at all seriously, or does he categorize it with Senator Patty Murray, who is now becoming known as Osama Mama?

MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I think the President has repeatedly said that -- and you'll hear this in the State of the Union from the President -- that he believes that it's important for our nation that we know ourselves to be as caring and compassionate people as we are; that that caring and compassionate record of the American people and of our United States government be shown and shared to the world. Some will see it that way; others may not. The President will continue to focus on what he knows the United States represents, which is a wonderful beacon of caring and compassion around the world. ...

Nice of him to leave off the 'muwahahahaha' at the end of that statement. But for the purpose of informing people about our real motives, the administration has opened the Office of Global Communications. They've got this bit in there from their purpose statement:

...Also, from time to time, OGC facilitates the organization of teams of communicators to be sent proactively to foreign or domestic areas of high global interest and media attention. For example, one such team worked with the international media gathered in Kabul, Afghanistan for the Loya Jirga. This effort underscored the ongoing US and coalition commitment to rebuilding the country and restoring liberty. ...

It maybe hasn't occurred to them that they could go a lot farther with this if they would genuinely commit to rebuilding that country and restoring liberty. They've yet to sign on to the provision of security forces that could secure a greater territory than the city of Kabul, as the provinces revert to warlord rule. It just takes so much less effort to convince people of things when they're true.

This office, working on the faulty premise that the world doesn't know enough about the US, is doomed to fail. People who've been living at the business end of our foreign policy already know plenty. They know that it's heaven to live here, and hell to live in countries that we hate. They know that we have the freest country on earth (says so right on the label), and that we support brutal dictators that may pose a direct threat to them. They know that we have democracy, but seem loathe to bestow it on others.

They don't care what we're like with our families, how much we love our pets, what idealistic capitalists we are. No matter how 'nice' this country and its people are, much of the suffering around them is caused in some measure by US policy. When there's a boot on your face, having it attached to an otherwise swell chap isn't reassuring in the least.

Update: I believe that the correspondent in question is Lester Kinsolving of World Net Daily, a rabid fundy mouthpiece. Hence, the 'Osama Mama' comment. A sentiment you can find again in the 1/10/03 clip on his website, or in full at the official press briefing transcript.

...Much of big media, including the New York Times, has refused to report Senator Patty Murray's tribute to Osama bin Laden, which Sean Hennedy (phonetic) has on tape and broadcast yesterday on hundreds of stations. And my question is, does the President believe that Senator Lott's 100th birthday tribute to Senator Thurmond was really worse than Senator Murray's tribute to Osama bin Laden?...

So, yes, for the record... There are really people out there who think that discussing how it is that Bin Laden might have acquired his popularity is on a scale with nostalgia for segregation and lynching. They live. They'll be voting in a precinct near you at the next election. Even if the only 'difference' made by your vote was to cancel out one of their votes, that's a job well done.

posted by Natasha at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK |

Our fellow citizens are mad as hell, and they're not gonna take it in silence anymore. The Better Rhetor has collected some tremendous letters to the editor from various newspapers, and posted them for your viewing pleasure.

And in the spirit of this topic, I would ask you to fire off a letter to the last media whore that ticked you off on the TV news, or compose a letter to the local newspaper. Speak up, and keep speaking up. Maybe even let that warm buzz carry you until Monday, when you'll feel the irresistable urge to call a congresscritter and give them a piece of your mind. Want them to repeal the IAO? Filibuster radical judicial nominees? Repeal the war powers granted to Bush last year? Ask. The worst that could happen is they'll say no.

posted by Natasha at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, January 24, 2003  

Atrios is right. This post on WampumBlog is the best ever. I so want to comment, but I don't want to spoil it for you.

posted by Natasha at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

Oil exports up 62% since last week.

The oil company managers will not stop fomenting economic destruction and civil unrest in their country until Chavez steps down and gives them their jobs back.

One obvious media whore in the Chavez affair, Thor Halvorssen is here exposed for the lying wingnut he is. A specific example includes this piece where among other things he repeats the lie that Chavez sent free oil to Cuba (Cuba made a down payment and is financing the rest, a common arrangement), and that the majority of working class Venezuelans are involved. In fact, eyewitness accounts from the country indicate that outside Caracas' wealthier districts, there is no sign of any strike.

Here, Halvorssen presents himself as a human rights activist taking on media bias. He does the same song and dance in an article about Venezuela that was published at the National Review, where he accuses Chavez of the April shootings at Plaza Altamira. Those shootings have conclusively been linked to opposition generals, who were seen by one reporter practicing their reactions to the sniper attack hours before it occurred. They were carried out by a Portuguese man who was released during the April coup.

Stephen Kangel talks about the politicization of Venezuelan media, and the compliance of foreign media with the opposition. He asks:

...How can the internal political and economic situation prevailing in Venezuela be projected by the Press as being so explosively unstable and yet President Chavez can see it safe to travel to Brazil, Ecuador and the UN in New York within the last two weeks?

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK |

"In North Korea, America's second attempt to be Rome in the next Bible..." - Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Francesco Sisci talks about how the "axis of evil" comment has come back to bite a country that's strong militarily, but weak politically, in the North Korean stand-off.

posted by Natasha at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK |

Christian Science Monitor takes a look at Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove. I was going to say Karl "Spawn of Satan" Rove, but then it occurred to me that it might be a mean thing to say. So I decided not to.

Mr. Rove also spoke at a Monitor Breakfast, and he had this to say regarding abortion:

"I think in this country whether you are pro-life or pro-choice that there is a desire to find common ground. And I think people on all sides of the issue can find common ground on things like outlawing late-term abortions, particularly partial-birth abortions, involving parents in decisions of teenage daughters, and helping fund alternatives to abortion, such as better adoption services and child-care services. I think that is where we ought to look for progress; in finding things that people, regardless of their feelings on this issue, find common ground.

"The president obviously feels strongly about encouraging and building a culture of life and recognizes that that must be done slowly and steadily and these are important steps along that way."

There's been much talk lately about the code words used to send a racist message to bigoted constituents without turning off moderates, but what you're reading above are code words to the 'ban abortion' constituents. EVERYONE involved with the anti-choice movement hears "slowly and steadily and these are important steps along that way" as the following direct message: We will set up the steps needed to first make it very difficult to get an abortion, and also establish legal precedent for outlawing it totally at some future point.

These people aren't political kamikazes anymore, they don't want their candidate to go down in flames. But they absolutely will expect that everything that can be done to lay the groundwork for a future victory in this arena, get done. Preferably if it's packaged with something that everyone wants, like adoption reform and child care. The promise to extend healthcare, not to pregnant women, but to the unborn was the first big salvo. If we aren't smart enough to see the slow war of attrition being fought, we almost deserve to lose it.

In the popular political buzzword argot: Make no mistake.

posted by Natasha at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK |

Digby at Hullaballoo revisits Patty Murray's statements that she made to a high school class. It turns out that, contrary to the public spin, the high school students themselves saw nothing wrong with her remarks. They even seemed to divine the intention to be precisely what Murray said it was. They did not find that her statements in any way indicated support or apology for 9/11. As Digby says, they're already brighter than the Republican operatives, but I think not as devious.

See, if any of these kids was really angling to get somewhere in life, they'd contact the RNC. Offer to do a nationwide speaking tour on how Democratic Senators come to classrooms to recruit for Al-Qaida. They'd volunteer to speak in churches throughout the Bible Belt, maybe even a cameo piece at the national convention. They'd be peddling their sob story about how they were almost ready to volunteer for a life as mujahideen, when the power of the Lord reminded them that they had to be faithful to America, and reject the moral relativism of the Democrats.

But unfortunately for any budding Karl Roves in the class, most teenagers have a naive desire to get the facts straight about things that happened right in front of them. That's okay, kids, there's always the possibilty of mid-life conversion. Bible thumpers and wingnuts are big on that.

posted by Natasha at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, January 23, 2003  

Sisyphus Shrugged finds an interesting article on the world's collapsing fisheries, and why the public needs to demand that something be done.

By 'public' it's meant anyone who depends on fish to eat. Hint: Due to what's known as the food chain, that means everybody. Even if your main diet consists of shredded or pressed animal parts of indeterminate origin, bleached flour, and pasteurized, processed cheese food.

Also, she mentions that the Bush administration has backed down on a rule that would have limited emergency room access for people on Medicaid. Apparently, there were people in something called a congress who threatened to make a fuss. The Search for Spine may have been genuinely successful, but let's wait and see until the judicial nominations start rolling through.

posted by Natasha at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

World opinion turning against war in Iraq, even in countries whose leaders are in favor of it.

Yet word has it that the Bush administration is now talking in terms of war within weeks. Apparently, the planes don't work so well when the temperature goes over 35 degrees celsius.

Martin Woollacott says that, of course, Hussein is lying. But why go to war right this minute?

For all that it's now the rage to paint the peace movement as a bunch of communists, it's pointed out here that churches across the spectrum are strenuously opposed to what they regard as an unsound war. Few of the mainstream voices for peace have been as straightforward as this:

...What is remarkable about the coalition of churches opposing war with Iraq is how broad their political sympathies are. It is not just the left that is making the noise. Take Peter Gomes, Baptist minister, Plummer professor of morals at Harvard, and die-hard Republican. He gave the blessing at Reagan's second inauguration and preached at George Bush Senior's inauguration service. Here is Gomes in a recent sermon: "I demand a better excuse than revenge or oil for the prosecution of a war that is likely to do more harm than good, that will destabilise not only the region but also the world for years to come, and that will confirm ... our country's reputation as an irrational and undisciplined bully."

The senior Anglican bishop in the US, Frank Griswold, put it stronger still: "We are loathed, and I think the world has every right to loathe us, because they see us as greedy, self-interested and ... unconcerned about poverty, disease and suffering." ...

Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians in the run-up to their elections.

..."They were banging on the door at 1.30am and demanding Eyad came out," Mrs Abu Alia said. "They stayed for three hours, questioning all of us. They didn't harm us. They use psychological torture. The soldier said to me: 'Tell your son how we are going to destroy your house, how we are going to torture you unless he talks'."

But Mrs Abu Alia said that the soldiers did not reveal why Eyad was detained.

"They asked me, 'Aren't you worried about your son and the things he does?' I said, 'What things? Tell me.' But they didn't," she said. "They asked what is that building next to our house. It is a coop where we keep our chickens and rabbits and pigeons. They threw a hand grenade into it, killing the animals." ...

posted by Natasha at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Ruminate This has some fine posts up. The permalinks to them don't seem to be functional at the moment (probably a Blogger glitch), but if you scroll down to her post from 9am this Thursday, the 23rd, you'll get to read the phrase "thirty shades of Palestinian" in a complete sentence. That's some mighty high rhetorical dudgeon.

posted by Natasha at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK |

Abortion: Notification and Religion

The position of the public on abortion has been described as complex. That's fine for them, but my view on the topic as a policy matter is very simple, and I won't pretend otherwise. I think that if you're old enough to get pregnant, you're old enough to decide whether or not you want to stay pregnant.

Are there personal considerations such as faith that might reasonably guide your decision? Sure. But only your decision. Not mine, not your neighbor's, not the people that you (if you happen to be a politician) were elected to represent, not the people that you (if you happen to be a doctor) are providing with medical care. But apparently not everyone thinks that this is a decision that should be left to women.

The Gallup organization put up an opinion poll on abortion regulation, and the results were as follows.

  • Informed Consent. More than eight in 10 Americans (86% in a 1996 Gallup survey) support the concept of informed consent, in which doctors must inform their patients about alternatives to abortion before performing the procedure.

  • Spousal Notification. More than two-thirds (70% in the same Gallup survey) support a requirement that husbands be notified if a woman decides to have an abortion.

  • Parental Consent. Seven in 10 or more (ranging from 69% in a 1999 Pew survey to 82% in a 2000 Los Angeles Times survey) support a requirement that women under 18 have parental consent before having an abortion.

  • Waiting Period. Roughly three-quarters (74% in a 1996 Gallup survey and 79% in a 1998 CBS/New York Times survey) favor requiring women to wait 24 hours once they request an abortion before the procedure can be performed.

  • "Partial-Birth" Abortions. A majority of Americans, ranging from 59% to 77%, favor making illegal a late-term abortion procedure widely referred to as "partial-birth abortion."

Getting Permission

It seems that many people have the impression that pregnant women are unaware of other options, should be required to 'cool off,' and should notify anyone who claims a higher decision making priority over their bodies.

But the fact of the matter is that the majority of married women who get pregnant want to stay that way. Most of them have likely been planning for the big event for some time. Any discovery of a serious health concern that might prompt another decision is something that would likely be an immediate cause for discussion.

What about mandatory spousal notification? Well, you have to ask yourself when it would apply. Under what circumstances would a married woman want to get an abortion without discussing it with her husband? I can't really think of any that would arise in a healthy relationship, but that isn't what this is about. The point where any such law would pass from redundant to oppressive would be in those households where there was violence, drug abuse, child abuse, impending and bitter divorce, a difference of religious opinion, or rape. In these cases, requiring notification would (no matter how the law was worded) be the same as requiring spousal consent. There's no way around it, and I imagine that you'd get a very different poll response if the word 'notification' were replaced with 'consent.'

I have a feeling that the American public has gotten their opinion on the topic from watching Godfather II reruns. Everybody feels sorry for Michael, but the fact of the matter is that if a marriage comes to that point for any reason, it's time to walk away.

What about parental consent? Courtesy of The Note, we get an interesting rundown of the Democratic six-pack's visit to NARAL this past Tuesday. Vermont governor Howard Dean had this to say:

...And so Dean took partial-birth abortion, NARAL's most controversial and difficult-to-defend position, and made it the centerpiece of his speech, insisting that the term itself was an artifice manufactured by the right. "This is an issue about nothing," he proclaimed to the most boisterous applause of the evening. He then moved on to the next most divisive issue: parental notification. One of his twelve-year-old patients became pregnant after she was raped by her father, the Vermont physician said. "You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea." ...

All the situations that might make it untenable for a married adult to gain consent for an abortion apply far more to a juvenile who by definition has no other legal control over their body or travel. In a healthy home, a teenager confides in their parents willingly. Even if they know that there will be recriminations, they also know that they're loved and they probably want help in an overwhelming situation.

In a harmful family environment, the revelation of a pregnancy could get a teenage girl beaten, otherwise abused, thrown out, or forced to bear a child she does not want. In the case of runaways, the requirement of notification would essentially bar them from reproductive health services. Without the willingness or ability to get the required parental nod, a teenager in crisis could quickly become a homeless mother in crisis.

Waiting periods are another barrier that seems reasonable, but as this site and many other voices have made clear, for poor and rural women it can be an insurmountable barrier. Fixed work schedules, transportation expenses, and the cost of lodging in a town you may have needed to travel to, make this another burden that falls heaviest on those who can't afford it. The decreasing availability of clinics in areas where the Army of God's legislative arm has freer rein makes this a genuine problem.


The religious argument against abortion from a Christian perspective is usually all or nothing. The people who believe that abortion is always and in every case wrong typically believe that contraception and birth control are also wrong. This is the sort of thinking that serves those who believe that humans should reproduce like lower life forms.

But I will now put the torture of my youth at the service of those of you who wonder how to counter those religious arguments in the minds of those who aren't quite sure. (Don't waste the time of the ones who believe that God speaks directly through the mouth of their anti-choice minister.)

The New Testament says nothing whatever on the subject. You have to go back to the pentateuch to find the verse that's claimed to prove beyond shadow of a doubt that a fetus is the same as an adult in the eyes of God. And you can find it in Exodus Chapter 21, in direct translation from the Hebrew:

22 And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follow, he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, ...

Some people make the ludicrous claim that this means that a premature birth where the child survives required a fine, and that the second part refers to harm to the fetus. But let's get real. There were no preemie wards in ancient Israel. Before modern hospital care, an early birth was usually a death sentence for an infant, and the passage makes no reference to the stage of the pregnancy.

Childbirth and miscarriage, on the other hand, were life threatening situations. Even survival could be marred by serious and irremediable health complications. This was a passage regarding the ability of a family to continue having children, personal injury is dealt with elsewhere. If in doubt, there's always the creepy passage that indicates exactly what that ability meant to this ancient, agrarian society in Deuteronomy, Chapter 25:

11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets; 12 then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall have no pity.

A man with damaged 'secrets' was ineligible to be a member of the congregation, and of course, could have no children. No fine could restore this, only bloody retribution. But not so bloody that another family was deprived of a parent. This was a society where manslaughter was not punished by capital means, and cities of refuge were set up so that the unintended killer could escape the wrath of relatives.

Why bring up this angle? Because just as American common law is derived from British common law, western morality is based on the bible. Especially those portions that the fetus people want to foist on us as secular law, applicable even to the most devout agnostic. From the idea that masturbation is sinful, that sex between unmarried people should be punished, that contraception is a sin, to the idea that a woman's body is first the property of her father, and then her husband. And there are a lot of people who believe these things, and are driving this movement to outlaw abortion. 'Strict constructionists' of the constitution also tend to be strict constructionists regarding biblical law.

You think that there aren't men who would forbid their wives to get abortions in medical emergencies? That there aren't parents who would throw their children out into the street for 'fooling around?' Think again.

There are people in this country who would rather see their children die than get 'ungodly' care. There was a person in my family who decided to die rather than take a donor organ. And these people want a toehold in the law, anything, to push their centuries old social rules on this country. The only people who think that's an exaggeration either grew up in a secular or moderate household, or are right-wing fanatics trying to argue that those old rules *are not* irrelevant.

posted by Natasha at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

One dead, twelve injured in explosion at a large pro-Chavez march. Opposition marchers were told to stay home today, to avoid violence. Hmmmm.

The oil workers' strike is costing international companies $6.7 million a day.

A Venezuelan court rules that the constitutionally mandated right to resistance does not apply to democratically elected governments.

Dan Feder talks about the media slant in Associated Press coverage, and the stranglehold they have on reporting in a world where newspapers can't afford to staff reporters in every country. But they aren't the only guilty party, and their cohorts at Reuters are pulling plays from the same book. This Reuters story about the march illustrates exactly the kind of bias that pervades coverage of the crisis.

...Gavin predicted Chavez could hold out against the opposition onslaught in the short term but the pressure for elections was building. "Chavez will have to choose between remaining democratic and staying in office," Gavin said. ...Chavez tells foes they should wait until Aug. 19, halfway through his term, when the constitution allows for a binding referendum on his rule, which is due to end in early 2007. ...

Explain how it is that staying in an office you were elected to, and serving your full term, is undemocratic? For perspective, we should consider what the political situation in Venezuela right now were occurring in the US.

Imagine that because they didn't like Bush, several of the large federal employees' unions walked off the job tomorrow and began to protest in DC that Bush should resign immediately. They are joined by the shipping unions and dockworkers. Then, think what would happen if all the foreign companies operating in the US shut their doors in sympathy and refused to service any government contracts. Next, the Federal Reserve banks and several other large banks shut down as well, not because the tellers wanted it but because the management wanted it. After becoming clear that Bush would not resign, the demonstrators then ask that an election be organized and held at once, before the president's full term had expired.

To top it off, imagine that the people leading this economic and industrial sabotage had earlier in the year arranged for certain members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to have Bush arrested and held in secret. And while he's being held incommunicado, they announce his resignation and appoint an acting president who declares martial law and dissolves the courts.

I bow to no one in my dislike of George W. Bush, but I would absolutely oppose a military coup in the US. I don't want that future for this nation, we'll have our revolution at the ballot box. When countries once go down that road, rebuilding the institutions of democratic rule is halting and painful. Even ousting the people who take over often requires more bloodshed and upheaval.

The people of Venezuela don't deserve to have to suffer through this process again after so many years of bloody autocracy. They elected Chavez twice. Once under the previous laws, and again after approving the new constitution. They voted him in under the new constitution knowing full well how long he was going to be in office, having had about two years to get used to him. The lawful transition of government in a democratic system must be respected, because only by doing so can you preserve the institutions that allow for peaceful change.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, January 22, 2003  


Scientists meet to discuss the hybridization of genetically modified plants with their wild cousins. It's also revealed that the Bush administration has threatened to take the EU to court over a refusal to import GM organisms. It's funny that here at home they decry that sort of litigious behavior if engaged in by citizens made sick due to corporate negligence.

The World Economic Forum meets in Davos, Switzerland, amidst protests and the activist organized Other Davos.

posted by Natasha at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK |

Editor & Publisher posts an Eric Alterman column questioning the gospel that the NY Times is particularly liberal.

posted by Natasha at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK |

And now for something a bit less grim: The Onion interviews Daily Show correspondents, Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, and Mo Rocca.

...O: Over the years, I've heard occasional rumors about Jon Stewart leaving.

SC: I haven't heard that in a while. Certainly, the stuff with Letterman possibly replacing Ted Koppel raised the issue, but I haven't heard anything since then.

O: So none of you are angling for his job?

SC: Oh, that's a different story.

RC: We all are.

EH: Yeah, are you kidding me?

SC: He has someone taste his food. [Laughter.]

posted by Natasha at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

The truth about the Venezuelan opinion polls that show Chavez' popularity is only at 30%. One of the press' favorite pollsters has openly called for Venezuela's president to be killed, and the other has implied that following the constitutionally mandated timetable for referendums and elections would be “a tremendous defeat for the opposition."

Oil prices dip in the wake of the country's tanker pilots breaking the strike, though tensions about possible war in Iraq keeps them from easing more.

Foreign exchange controls are implemented to protect the country's sliding currency, according to the Associated Press. In this article where oil production is not a direct topic, it's mentioned that petroleum production is down 2/3, which indicates that it was premised on the Venezuelan government's figures of close to a million barrels per day.

The BBC reports that currency exchange has been suspended for five days, and that the exodus of foreign firms continues. The drain of high-paying jobs is likely to be a more significant blow to the elite opposition, though almost certainly isn't intended that way. And Forbes suggests that Wall Street is not concerned by the move to close the exchanges, indicating that it's a responsible policy under the circumstances.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has frozen the February referendum proposed by the opposition. The referendum would have been non-binding, and is not constitutionally mandated.

And the Christian Science Monitor wonders how the opposition can reconcile their freedom of dissent with the claim that Chavez is a brutal dictator, or describe their lack of respect for the law as a commitment to it.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK |

Well, here's some of what Bush said today in his phone call to the anti-choice march today:

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Nellie. I want to thank you very much for including me in the celebration of life. I want to thank the good folks there on the Mall today. I'm calling you from St. Louis, Missouri. I know there are some from Missouri there and, like many others, you've made great sacrifices to come to Washington today. A lot of you have ridden buses all night long and I know you're braving the cold. And I admire your perseverance and I admire your devotion to the cause of life. ...

In our time, respect for the right to life calls us to defend the sick and the dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, and all who are weak and vulnerable. And this self-evident truth calls us to value and to protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born.

A celebration of life. Unless that life is Iraqi. Or Afghani. Or Korean. He's called to defend the sick and dying, unless those sick and dying people depend on government funded health care, in which case they better hope they only get sick three times a year. He wants to defend those with disabilities, unless that means children with autism, because the vaccine manufacturers who may have caused or worsened their condition are far more important.

You and I share a commitment to building a culture of life in America, and we're making progress. As the President, I have signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, opposed the destruction of embryos for stem cell research, and refused to spend taxpayer money on international programs that promote abortion overseas.

He wants to build a culture of life, except when he wants to go to war. In which case he wants our pilots to go in and carpet bomb villages where families are sleeping and people are having wedding celebrations. And he's refused to spend taxpayer money on programs that bring birth kits and condoms to areas where childbirth mortality is high and AIDS is rampant, and also provides care to women who get fistula during childbirth. Fistula is almost unknown in the developed world, but if you have a strong stomach, look it up on Google. In developing countries these services are often provided to women who by our standards aren't even old enough to vote.

My administration is challenging the Oregon law that permits physician-assisted suicide.

A law which, by the way, the people of Oregon voted to approve TWICE. I guess that this is a man who only believes in "state's rights" when those rights involve preventing blacks and other minorities from benefitting from the privileges of preference that whites have always enjoyed. But the strict constructionist of today doesn't care at all about state's rights when it comes to allowing women full reproductive choice, letting cancer and AIDS patients use the only known treatment that prevents vomiting and loss of appetite, and allowing terminally ill and sick people to choose to end their lives with as much dignity as we allow our pets.

We support abstinence education, and crisis pregnancy programs, and parental notification laws. We offer compassionate alternatives to abortion by promoting adoption and extending state health care coverage for unborn children. ...

Abstinence education. Like the kind that's left Texas with above average rates of teen pregnancy and STD transmission? The kind where instructors call teenagers sluts? But really the fact that the 'pro-life' crowd regards it as a moral victory to extend health care to the unborn, and a moral crisis when it's provided to the child's mother, just says it all.

Of course, I'm not the only outraged blogger to tackle the subject today. Here's Orcinus, Eschaton, and Alas, A Blog with cartoon and commentary on animal reproductive strategies.

Update: Also check out William Burton's rant.

posted by Natasha at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

France and Germany celebrate 40 years of friendship.

Another South Korean run over and killed by US Army vehicle.

India's tech sector will be fastest growing in the world this year.

India expels 4 Pakistani diplomats over allegations of impropriety, and reports that one of their diplomats was harassed in Islamabad.

Tribal disputes in Pakistan led to the bombing of a gas pipeline, stopping delivery to a large number of Pakistani homes and businesses. It could be one of the factors considered when, and if, they sit down with Iran and India to discuss a possible gas pipeline running between the three countries as mentioned yesterday. The underwater route may look more promising by the day.

Here at home, anti-abortion activists get ready to mark today's anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. President Bush will send a telephone message in support of the demonstrators. Undoubtedly, there will be an unutterably tacky statement made today by one or more of the Bush team members, stay tuned.

posted by Natasha at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK |

In the Globe and Mail:

North Korea says that UN sanctions, which the US may be seeking, would be considered an act of war.

Germany and France set to oppose any war resolution that comes before the UN.

posted by Natasha at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK |

As Russia works to form ties with Gulf states, they're asked to try putting the brakes on war. Meanwhile, 37,000 US troops are ordered to the Gulf, which would bring the total close to 100,000.

posted by Natasha at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK |

Update in the Search for Spine: Daschle and Kerry sign a letter urging Donald Rumsfeld to apologize for saying that draftees added "no value, no advantage."

posted by Natasha at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, January 21, 2003  

Holy Cannoli, Batman! Our fellow bloggers are stepping out:

Anmpersand, whose blog is very good indeed today, skewers the latest lies about feminism. Namely, that feminists pay more attention to golfers in Augusta than women suffering under the Taliban. I personally know that feminists and other leftists were paying attention to that issue long before 9/11, and as he says, we'll be paying attention to it long after the right has forgotten that Afghanistan even exists. Links to other good posts on the topic included.

Atrios finds an example of the kind of sex education that Bush wants to see in every school in America. If you can get past the first two stomach churning paragraphs, wherein the 'instructor' says that all sexually active teens are "sluts" and runs down condom use, you'll find that the results of this program are the exact opposite of what its perpetrators claim.

Ruminate This goes on the offensive regarding the right's latest bogeyman, ANSWER. But let's face facts. Deep down, all the wingnuts and conservative warbloggers genuinely believe that liberals represent a Marxist force waiting to unleash the terrors of Stalinist Russia on the free and godly people of America. The Agonist doesn't care much for ANSWER, but while I hardly think they're worth the energy to bother hating, the Instapundit dittoheads in the comments are a laugh a minute. Why don't I care about them, even though I strongly disagree with many things they seem to believe? Ruminate This summed it up fine.

posted by Natasha at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

The Guardian briefly covers the US retreat from the hardline position it had back when they thought it would be easy to oust Venezuela's elected leader, and this article on the Chavez government's extreme tenacity. Also, they have a number of archive links on the topic, so look around if you feel inclined.

Tanker pilots break the strike, increasing the number of tankers that can be operated. But, as mentioned before, foreign shipping companies have stopped docking in Venezuelan ports on the urging of their insurers. Until that situation is reversed it will continue to limit the country's export capacity.

President Carter is trying to sell Venezuela a constitutional amendment, or alternately suggest that they follow the one they have.

This article is from the WSWS, but one of the few 'looking up from the bottom' sources of information. They present an anatomy of the 'strike', with some perspectives from the people who are bringing the country's oil production back on line, and a look at the US hand in the crisis. They also point out the ways in which some of the shutdowns affected the wealthier sectors of the economy far worse than the poorer Chavez supporters, hence the talk of how the strike backfired.

Vice President Rangel to US ambassador: mind your own business.

More on the food seizures and hoarding allegations.

...Readers abroad should note that industrial hoarding of basic foodstuffs has historically been one of the major instigators of mass riots ... the last occurrence in Venezuela was under the corrupt Presidency of Accion Democratica (AD) Carlos Andres Perez in February 1989, leaving an estimated 2,000 dead.

One has to wonder, looking this situation over, if Bush the Second ever complains about how much easier it was for his dad back when he was trying to organize coups in Latin America.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK |

Thanks to Ampersand, we get this link to Junius' very lucid argument against war in Iraq. One part 'it won't do what they say it will,' another part 'this premise can't be allowed to escape into the wild,' and a couple other things stirred in for good measure.

posted by Natasha at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Asia Times:

Henry Liu continues his exploration of central banking.

Bush boldly moves to an 'appeasement' strategy with North Korea. What the South proposes.

What happens after Hussein? And what about all that oil?

Iran, India, and Pakistan are talking over a gas pipeline that would run from Iran to India, with profits for all. The catch? They have to hammer out an agreement between the perpetually fighting India and Pakistan.

posted by Natasha at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, January 20, 2003  

The IAEA approves plans for Russian-Iranian cooperation over a nuclear plant that the agency feels convinced is for civilian purposes.

Meanwhile, Syria and Iran plan to attend a regional summit proposed by Turke to avert war in Iraq. Saudi Arabia will also attend. The country is opposed to any solution that will turn their neighbor into an instrument of US power, and they have the war victims to underscore that point.

posted by Natasha at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK |

The story of Hashem Aghajari isn't over.

A Supreme Court judge reviewing a death sentence imposed on a university professor for insulting Islam said it should be thrown out, according to a news report Sunday.

Ayatollah Mohammad Sajjadi, one of three judges examining the sentence against Hashem Aghajari, said capital punishment was inconsistent with the charges on which the professor was convicted, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Aghajari, a history professor at Tehran's Tarbiat-e-Modarres, or Teachers Training University, was sentenced to death on Nov. 6 after being convicted of insulting Islam and questioning the hard-line clergy's rule. ...

Read more about this in previous posts here, here, and here where the US got involved. Also, this post contains links to Aghajari's original remarks that prompted his arrest, followed by the nationwide protests that ended when the US defunded the radio station that was coordinating them.

posted by Natasha at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK |

Diana Erwin wonders why everyone is so angry lately.

posted by Natasha at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK |

Saudis putting out heavy diplomatic efforts to avert war in their region and calm the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. One gets the idea that they really don't want this war, and what does it say about our country, really. We're more gung-ho to blow things up than Iraq's immediate neighbor? A country derided in the west as a barbarian nation, is pursuing diplomacy to stop a war that our civilized leaders couldn't be more anxious to start.

posted by Natasha at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK |

The governer of my home state of Washington also celebrated MLK day today. He helped with the construction of a community garden at a mixed income housing project.

...“We honor Dr. King’s life and work by carrying out his most important message - that ‘everyone can serve,’” Locke said. “You can serve in many ways - from volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to giving blood. But the important thing is to make a difference in your community.”

Locke worked with a team of volunteers to build a garden terrace at NewHolly, a mixed-income housing development on Seattle’s Beacon Hill. The terrace will be the foundation of a community “P-Patch” garden.

The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods’ P-Patch Program, in conjunction with the not-for-profit Friends of P-Patch, provides community garden space for residents in 44 Seattle neighborhoods. More than 4,600 urban gardeners supply several tons of produce to Seattle food banks each year. ...

Now that was a good way to spend a day. Any day, and especially this one.

posted by Natasha at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK |

Paul Krugman can indeed be funny. Just take a look at the opening joke in his latest column, A Touch Of Class.

A liberal and a conservative were sitting in a bar. Then Bill Gates walked in. "Hey, we're rich!" shouted the conservative. "The average person in this bar is now worth more than a billion!" "That's silly," replied the liberal. "Bill Gates raises the average, but that doesn't make you or me any richer." "Hah!" said the conservative, "I see you're still practicing the discredited politics of class warfare." ...

posted by Natasha at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK |

In the corporate lottery that our government has become, things are looking up for firms that want to provide contract labor to replace civil servants:

The Senate has removed language from an omnibus fiscal 2003 appropriations bill that would have blocked the White House from putting thousands of federal jobs up for competition with private firms. ...

OMB has strongly condemned the contracting provision. OMB Director Mitch Daniels said last year that advisers to President Bush would recommend that he veto the Treasury-Postal bill if it contained the ban on targets. In September, OMB officials said the administration might order agencies to compete all commercial work in government—850,000 federal jobs—if the measure became law.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., led Senate efforts to remove the provision from the appopriation bill. “Sen. Thomas is very pleased that the appropriators have stripped this provision,” said Chris Jahn, Thomas’ chief of staff. “It would have prevented the President from establishing targets for increasing government efficiency.” ...

Increasing efficiency. Huh. Let's hope that they're not talking about the way Kenny-boy made the energy market more efficient. Or how Brown & Root made the Bosnian operation more efficient. Or how the airlines made airport security more efficient.

At this point, they've even contracted out the federal jobs website. That's got to be making a lot of people nervous.

posted by Natasha at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK |

Just another reminder of why I'd be willing to vote for almost anyone to replace GWB in 2004. This is a brief excerpt from his short and tasteless speech today which was given, as you can tell from his having said it 5 times over the course of his remarks, in a church:

...So it's fitting we're here in a church that has got ministries aimed at healing those who hurt, and fighting addiction and promoting love and families. It is fitting we meet here in a church because in this society, we must understand government can help, government can write checks -- but it cannot put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. (Applause.)

And so as we remember the dream of Martin Luther King and remember his clear vision for a society that's equal and a society full of justice, this society must remember the power of faith. This government of yours must welcome faith, not discriminate faith, as we deal with the future of this great country. ...

Ah yes, the church. The solution to all the ills of the world. Which is why in all the years that churches have been ministering to the poor, there has been no net decrease in the numbers of the poor and hopeless. Whereas when you take poor people from countries that churches have been ministering to, and put them into secular democratic societies, they do so much better.

I would like to submit that MLK's vision of a world without injustice and inequality came from a deep personal conviction that he'd seen just about enough of it. I'm sure that his faith was a great source of strength for him, and it rings through beautifully in his words. But I can also see that our current president, while ostensibly very faithful, is gleefully presiding over a widening gulf between the rich and the poor. That he's trying everything in his power to make it bigger.

Mr. Bush hears the words, but to mangle Twain, he doesn't have the melody.

posted by Natasha at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK |

The Drum Major Instinct

I was looking around again to try and find the Martin Luther King speech where he talked about escalating nonviolence, but it didn't seem to be anywhere in sight. On the other hand, I turned up a sermon of his that really was just as satisfying a find. It's called The Drum Major Instinct. An excerpt, emphasis ours:

...The setting is clear. James and John are making a specific request of the master. They had dreamed, as most of the Hebrews dreamed, of a coming king of Israel who would set Jerusalem free and establish his kingdom on Mount Zion, and in righteousness rule the world. And they thought of Jesus as this kind of king. And they were thinking of that day when Jesus would reign supreme as this new king of Israel. And they were saying, "Now when you establish your kingdom, let one of us sit on the right hand and the other on the left hand of your throne."

Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first. Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It's a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.

And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct. ...

The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I'm in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, "Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You're just as poor as Negroes." And I said, "You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you're so poor you can't send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march."

Now that's a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can't hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn't happen to stop this trend, I'm sorely afraid that we won't be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. (Yeah) If somebody doesn't bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody's going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don't let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. ...

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It's very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, "You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?"

But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do." ...

When reading something like this, it's yet another reason to be furious that the public face of 'religious' people today are those like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and George W. Bush. People who've taken the concept of generosity and turned it into a small, mean thing that only applies to people who are like you. Who've taken the concept of love and said that it only applies to people in our country, and sometimes to countries that agree with us.

They purport to be the conscience of our society. Yet they can't bring themselves to feel the smallest pang of empathy for poor, single mothers, minimum wage earners, Iraqi children, Palestinians, or Africans who are sick in their millions. They can't seem to care about people whose choices in life have been reduced to wondering what new lows they can sink to in the struggle to stay alive for one more day. They seem to say that if you accept their Christian nationalism and come up with a way to strike it rich, you will then be worthy of their care.

That's not generosity. It's not conscience. It's greed and hate, and every despicable impulse that Dr. King tried to tell people were the root causes of the suffering and war that have not gone away since he first talked about these problems. And the people who support them seem in the main to live on their satisfaction in being American, and/or Christian, and go on praising these people who make a mockery of being either an American or a Christian.

If our country wants to be first, it needs to be first in doing the right thing. Not the first in arms dealing. Not the first in imprisonment and execution. Not the first calling for a rush to war. Not the first to deny the rights of the landless and destitute. Not first to say that the profit of a corporation is intrinsically worth more than the life of a person. Not the first to excuse the people who prosecute its wars when they rape or kill abroad.* Not the first to call to overturn the will of the people as expressed in lawful elections, even and especially when we don't agree with it. Not the first to call for the kind of broad sanctions that have never once brought down a dictator, but always and in every case result in suffering and death for the masses of people under their rule.

Those acts and sympathies are perversions. They are anti-life, anti-human, anti-peace. They are the acts of people who use a contorted idealization of the unborn to disguise their infinite and vicious contempt for living children and adults.

Those acts eat away the heart of society. And societies cannot stand when they become actively inimical to life and the human considerations of their individual members. They will always, eventually, fall when the weight of their cruelty can no longer be supported by the objects of that cruelty. America has declared sovereignty over all the other decision makers of the world, has declared its position as first among nations. But it has directed the same venom towards those nations that the elite of this society direct towards the masses within our borders. We have declared our sovereignty, but we have shouted with every action our immense lack of fitness for any position of greatness.

* Link courtesy of Doctor Slack on Stand Down.

Also, read Beyond Vietnam, courtesy of Cursor.

posted by Natasha at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, January 19, 2003  

Talking about war protesting, yes they are. Toby pointed out this New York Times editorial, they must have really felt bad for ignoring the last one. And the Guardian talks about the demonstrations all over the world, with the ones in the US as big as in the 60s.

There wasn't much around here but potlucks, but there's a planned march to the Federal building in the event of actual fighting. Which, amazingly might not occur now that the US has weighed in to favor Saddam's pardon and exile to a regional country. This is a long shot, but what a break for Saddam. I mean, in a war they'll either kill him or put him on trial after, but this way he gets to thumb his nose at the whole Bush clan. And Bush, of course, has got to be hoping he doesn't take it. I mean, he'd instantly be the failed economics policy candidate and might have to talk about those funny, fuzzy little numbers.

But the Iraqi people win biggest if Hussein decides to step aside. The sanctions would go, and while there would undoubtedly be meddling, it wouldn't be bombing.

..."If to avoid a war," Mr Rumsfeld said in a TV interview, "I would ... recommend that some provision be made so that the senior leadership in that country [Iraq] and their families could be provided haven in some other country."

Hours later, in what appeared to be a series of choreographed interviews, his more doveish rival in the US administration, Colin Powell, backed his remarks. Asked about a reported Saudi initiative to grant amnesty to senior Iraqi leaders, he said: "I would encourage Saddam Hussein, if he is getting any messages of this kind, to listen."

The hints from Washington added weight to an Arab initiative, backed by Saudi Arabia and others, that would urge the Iraqi leader to go into exile. ...

Just when I thought I was fresh out of optimism.

posted by Natasha at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK |

PLA talks about what you can get for Bush's proposed damages cap for pain and suffering, a maximum of $250,000. A small excerpt:

...Former Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski spent $2.1 million on a birthday party for his wife (more than Mr. Bush feels is fair for 8 people having to live while hooked up to tubes unable to feed themselves).

A lifetime with brain damage caused by medical negligence, according to the administration, should result in compensation for pain and suffering that is less than the cost of a 2002 Rolls-Royce.

The Whitewater Independent Counsel’s office spent in excess of $52,000,000 (the compensation due for 208 crippled children) to determine that “the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.”

Air Force One costs about $40,000 per hour to operate so the President could take about a six-hour flight for the compensation due for a lifetime spent without the use of arms or legs. ...

posted by Natasha at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK |

WampumBlog talks about what it really means to limit Medicaid recipients' access to emergency rooms.

...Its now been well documented that the poor suffer more from chronic, yet often life-threatening, conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Five thousand deaths are attributed to asthma every years, including hundreds of children. As an asthmatic and the mother of an asthmatic, seldom do attacks occur at times most convenient for our doctors. For the working poor, add to that the limitations imposed by inflexible work schedules. ...

An especially painful note to read, remembering an asthmatic friend and single mother of two who died because she waited too long to call for an ambulance. She wasn't eligible for government aid anymore, hadn't received child support in years, and the bills were slowly eating her alive. They finally did. Her mixed race asthmatic children went to live with her sister, an avowed racist. I have no idea what happened to them, they didn't want her kids talking to any of the godless freaks that Cassie called friends.

Poor healthcare availability for those who need it most is a tragedy in every possible sense. It destroys families, destroys productivity, and destroys hope. People yammer a lot about efficiency of markets, blah, blah, blah. Where's the efficiency gain in Cassie dying and her kids adding dependents to a home that didn't want them? Where is the ****ing efficiency in the loss of a parent who worked hard to pay her rent and take care of her children? Or people talk about the choices that participants in society get to make. She hadn't had any real choices in a long time, unless you count the decision of whether to pay the electricity bill or the phone bill.

How many more are there like her that are now even less likely to get treatment when they need it? Cassie had asthma attacks all the time, and needed emergency care about once a month towards (what we didn't know at the time was) the end. If she'd called in time, and not tried to tough it out, that day would have just been another 'unnecessary' use of expensive emergency services. It might have happened earlier, if the expenses had piled up faster. It's impossible to say, and at the time I had no idea how serious the situation was.

I didn't think about this when I was reading Ari Fleischer's comments earlier this morning (third post down), because generally I'd rather not remember the abject helplessness and despair that characterized every aspect of the situation. But the post on Wampum reminded me in a way I couldn't push out of my mind. The reminder of that other class status advantage, good health. The knowledge that if you or your children need care you can get it if you really must, the ability to control the quality of your living conditions, the ability to choose healthier (and pricier) food that contributes lifelong benefits to growing bodies. And the precious commodity of bone deep ignorance of what it means not to have those advantages.

So many people are poor because they're sick, and sick because they're poor. In a vicious, miserable cycle that our current administration seems to have no will to change or understand. Every one of them with the full, white teeth, healthy skin, and properly fed bodies denoting a physical affluence that first world residents of even modest means take too much for granted. And that's enough out of me before I start cursing uncontrollably.

posted by Natasha at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK |

The bitter shack of resentment attended the peace rally in San Francisco yesterday. And below that, she stews Christopher Hitchens in his own juices. Icky visual, good reading.

posted by Natasha at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

Salon adds little to the discussion in its report of the 100,000 oppostion marchers who formed up yesterday.

State Department announces their commitment to a constitutional solution.

..."One would be hard-pressed to find in the region a country and people that are more committed to the democratic process," Shannon said. He cited the failure of an April 11, 2002, coup that briefly removed Chavez from office as evidence of the nation's commitment to democracy and constitutionality. "If we learn any lesson from the tragic events of April 11, it is that an unconstitutional solution to what Venezuela faces is not viable. It is not viable inside Venezuela. It is not viable outside Venezuela," he said. ...

An Australian Green group talks about the 'strike' that isn't, mentioning the consistency of eyewitness reports saying that there is little change in the country outside the wealthier neighborhoods of Caracas. They had this to say about the country's media and polls:

...Private TV stations have long-ceased running commercials, replacing them with constant messages from the opposition. The stations give blanket coverage to anti-Chavez protests while ignoring often much larger pro-Chavez demonstrations. The private media has been reporting blatant lies and unsubstantiated rumours as fact for months. The owners of the private media have also backed, and been implicated in organising, the failed military coup last April. ...

The opposition insists that the majority of Venezuelans no longer support Chavez, pointing to opinion polls which show support for Chavez as low as 30%. However, the polls cannot be considered a reliable gauge of public opinion.

Firstly, the pollsters do not poll outside of Caracas, where the majority of the population live and where poverty is greatest. This is where Chavez's reforms have had the biggest impact. Also, much of the polling is done over the phone, which by definition excludes most of the poor. Of course, the opposition does not take into consideration that a number of people are dissatisfied with Chavez not because they think he is too radical, but because they want his government to be more radical. ...

The NY Times talks about Latin America's new tilt to the left. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) is already making noise about an 'axis of evil,' but analysts don't share that alarmist view.

Canada profits from higher oil prices caused by the oil company walkout.

The Chavez government claims to now be pumping 1.2 million bpd, while the opposition claims about half that. Generals will be taking a more active role in getting the country running, and a US owned IT company is accused of aiding the walkout by blocking PDVSA computer systems.

Newsday draws a moral equivalence between government seizures at a bottling plant and the utter destruction of a country's economy exacerbated by a tax protest among the wealthiest 20% of the public.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK |

Ari Fleischer spinning like a top this past Friday.

It's amazing how empty artillery shells magically transform themselves into chemical warheads, which of course is what they're being called in the local news. Will the inspectors find anything of substance? Who knows. But 12 empty shells aren't going to be much of a smoking gun to hold up at the UN.

...MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think what we will continue to look for is whether or not Saddam Hussein is disarming. And obviously, the discovery of 12 chemical warheads is proof that he has not disarmed, especially when you consider the fact that, for the purpose of letting the world know whether he had disarmed, he filed a declaration saying that he did not have weapons. He also filed a declaration that did not include these 12 warheads at the bunker. And now we know, of course, that he has them. ...

Closer to home, Fleischer tried to imply that the limitation of emergency room access for people on Medicaid wasn't really a limitation.

...Q If it allows the states to limit visitations or to place limits as yet undescribed on emergency room visits by patients, how can it not undermine that standard which you just outlined?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because the states have the right under the law for flexibility, which is administered through the Department of Health and Human Services, and equalize the treatment, as I indicated, between managed care and fee-for-service.

posted by Natasha at 7:02 AM | PERMALINK |

On Alternet:

Our brightest thinkers don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. Neither do politicians. How corporations are purchasing our market for ideas, and being excluded from mention.

Reclaiming leisure time.

Economics for people.

Are we moving towards imperial overreach?

How MLK's spiritual beliefs connected with his political beliefs, and what he said about a different war:

..."I speak now, not of the soldiers of each side, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. They must see Americans as strange liberators.

"All the while the people read our leaflets and receive regular promises of peace and democracy... Now they languish under our bombs and consider us – not their fellow Vietnamese – the real enemy."

Care to guess what King might think about the Bush push for war in Iraq? King continued: "They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy precious trees." ...

posted by Natasha at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK |

Hey, the watch has a bookstore now, courtesy of Barnes & Noble. Stop in to see if there's anything you like, or for the sheer, voyeuristic pleasure of bookshelf psychoanalysis.

posted by Natasha at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK |