the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, February 01, 2003  

Someone, don't remember who, described blogging as therapy for those of us who compulsively watch the news and like to shout at the television screen. Or maybe it was therapy for our families. Today, my blog will earn its keep.

Having just watched the last hour of CNN's coverage of the space shuttle tragedy, I have yet to hear anyone mention the word 'Indian,' including President Bush in his televised statement. Why does that matter? Because one of the astronauts, Dr. Kalpana Chawla, was a native of India. She was a citizen of the US, but her country of origin was watching for her safe return every bit as much as Col. Ilan Ramon's country was watching for his. As mentioned in the article linked in the previous entry, what was to have been a celebration for 300 children in her home village turned into a very sad occasion indeed.

But our television news and our president apparently haven't yet decided to give a good goddamn about India. Not strategically important. But they will speak to, and of, the Israelis until they're blue in the face. And it's not that their tragedy was any less, but it was no greater.

Also, we got treated to another sermon from our fundamentalist in Chief. A man who, when speaking of a crew that probably represented at least three religions, and to a populace that represents many more, he gave us liturgy instead of camraderie. A man who chose a verse from the bible that must have the anti-evolution crowd breaking into heartfelt tears:

...In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home. ...

Last night, I tuned into the 700 Club for as much punishment as I could stand. A woman wrote in to ask if it was alright for her child to draw pictures of dragons. The on air response consisted mainly of saying that, well, in Chinese culture dragons had a great deal of significance, and that it wasn't innocent at all. The subtext of the comment was that anything ever connected with another culture's expression of the sacred was in a sense, satanic. As opposed, of course, to the perfect appropriateness in every way of our own cultural and religious heritage. It was an argument familiar from my childhood.

Certainly, none of these upright folk would consider that some people are more comforted by the Bhagavad Gita than the bible. Or even that sometimes condolences should be offered to each other as one human to another, and to let the family choose whether and which faith to bring into the mix. It would never occur to one of them that it might perhaps be offensive to push your faith on others in a time of grief.

I can only wonder if this inherent evangelistic prejudice against ideas from other cultures and faiths was part of Bush's decision to represent only his own. And I wonder how the family of Dr. Chawla feels about that.

posted by Natasha at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK |

I was going to blog a few things this morning, but now I just don't feel like it. I can't think of anything to say that's appropriate, but my thoughts are with the family and friends of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia.

posted by Natasha at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK |

Free Pie on George Bush's Texas faith-based drug rehab. Two posts down, she lays waste to his pretense of environmentalism, pointing out among other things that Bush has appointed someone to head the wildfire prevention program who doesn't believe in ecosystems.

Doesn't believe in ecosystems!? Maybe he's been reading this book, a "detailed" 83-page analysis of the case against evolution. Perhaps someone neglected to inform him that he only breathes and eats because of other organisms.

It's perpetually surprising that people who manage to believe in virgin births, resurrection, bodily ascension to heaven, and the existence of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed Jesus, are limited in their capacity for belief in anything. But this, folks, is faith-based government. The healing power of evangelism is undisputed, yet basic biology is outlandish.

posted by Natasha at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK |

The Zapatistas re-emerge. These are people who know how to organize.

posted by Natasha at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, January 31, 2003  

There will be nationwide peace rallies on February 15th, go to United For Peace to find a demonstration in your area. Barring unforeseen disaster, I'll be attending the demonstration at the Seattle Center. The protests in January were huge, with any luck these will be bigger. They'll also be in more cities, which may boost overall turnout. If the only difference it makes is to let the world know that the whole country isn't screaming for blood, that's a worthwhile goal.

This message will be reposted periodically in the days to come, so don't say nobody told you ;)

posted by Natasha at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK |

A groundswell of protest stopped the RAVE act last year, but in the spirit of our times, things better forgotten are being resurrected with a vengeance. At a point where civil liberties are being steadily eroded, this needs to be fought. It makes no never mind to me that a Democrat is sponsoring this bill, it should be staked with vigor at the earliest possible opportunity. But don't rely on my say so:

...The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, like the RAVE Act, would amend the federal "crack house law" to make it easier for federal prosecutors to fine and imprison business owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring. Businessmen and women could be prosecuted even if they were not involved in drugs - and even if they took steps to stop drug use on their property. Although proponents of the bill are seeking to target raves (and DJs, nightclub owners, and rave promoters have the most to fear), the law would apply to any business owner, including bar owners, motel owners, concert promoters, and cruise ship owners. Because of its broad language, the proposed law would even potentially subject people to twenty years in federal prison if one or more of their guests smoked marijuana at their party or barbecue. ...

Yes, it's another draconian bill that punishes bystanders for the actions of others. That widens the scope of what is already a thriving industry of unreasonable search and seizure, and is just begging to spawn more corruption in law enforcement. Tell your Senators that our civil liberties are not up for negotiation just because 'clever' ad spots have been running to imply that Humboldt county is a major supporter of terrorism. Go here now to learn more and send a fax opposing this bill to your representatives.

posted by Natasha at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

The McDonald's in Venezuela will reopen. The McDonald's restaurants. The same company that would rather close down restaurants rather than allow its workers to form a union, has finally allowed its Venezuelan franchises to stop supporting the 'strike.' Also, President Chavez is beginning to regain control of the more important oil sector, and can finally rid PDVSA of people who'd rather sabotage the whole economy than put up with their elected government. He's succeeded where many others have failed:

...Thus far, the Venezuelan opposition's tactics bear a remarkable and uncanny similarity to those which successfully overthrew Salvador Allende's government in Chile in 1973 and which led to Michael Manley's defeat at the ballot box in Jamaica in 1980.

In each case, there was a sustained and organised attack on the legitimacy of the government led by the big business owned media monopoly. Each of the country's leaders was subjected to a campaign of character assassination, and labelled a tyrant, a liar and an incompetent.

The government was declared "undemocratic" and "communist" and lies and misrepresentations abounded. In turn, this created an atmosphere in which political violence would be seen as aimed not at the destruction of democracy, but at its preservation. Economic destabilisation then occurred which included the flight of capital abroad.

In all three cases, the government was accused of taking orders from Fidel Castro and of hiding thousands of Cuban troops in the country. Each leader was also accused of arming terrorists.

In Allende's case, it was communist guerrillas. In Manley's case, the PLO. And in Chavez's case, FARC and al Qaeda. In Chile, the coup was preceded by an employers' strike.

In Jamaica, Manley's election defeat was preceded by an employers' strike. In Venezuela, last April's coup was preceded by an employers' strike.

At the time the United States issued categorical denials that the CIA was behind the destabilisation and coups, or had ever financed and advised government opponents. They later admitted their intimate involvement in the Chilean coup, but only after the mountain of evidence became so overwhelming it couldn't be credibly denied. ...

Venezuela's media tycoon to meet with another ex-president, George H.W. Bush.

'Friends' continue to push for early elections, but it's likely that any such solution now would have to be strictly by the book. Either the constitution must be amended in the legislature or by referendum, or 20% of registered voters must sign a petition for a binding referendum in August. To oust him in that case would require getting more votes for his removal than put him in office.

The country's state-owned aluminum business seems to be doing swimmingly.

Allegations of coup-plotters finding haven in Florida. (Which is ridiculous, because everybody knows that coups can't start in Florida.) The particular site I Googled this from is Cuban, so take it as you will, but who would know more about right-wing extremists living in Florida and planning to export revolution?

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK |

Granny D on how little decisions shape our lives.

...We cannot have world peace without peace in our own lives. We cannot attack our planet by the way we live, and then go off to a peace rally and hope to set right all the imbalance we have caused. Peace is first a private matter. It cannot grow except from there. ...

posted by Natasha at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK |

All the news that fits to print:

Paul Krugman on Bush's credibility gap, written before the SOTU. Bush didn't overcome any of these concerns during a speech where his administration had nothing better than a giant tax cut to brag about.

...One official I spoke to was rueful: "I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad." ...

Kristof wonders if this machismo is really helping us. He says the following, even though he couldn't resist panning our allies of 50 years farther down the page:

Ah, for the halcyon days of a year ago, when we fretted about why Arabs hate us. Now the question is: Why does everybody hate us?

...Moreover, while the lack of allied support won't prevent us from getting into a war with Iraq, it may prevent us from getting out. The U.S. sees its role as the globe's SWAT team, but after we have ousted Saddam and whistled for the cleanup crew it's not clear that the allies will want to help. Nor will they pay the bill for this Iraq war as they did the last one. Each time Don Rumsfeld insults Europe, it costs us another $20 billion. ...

posted by Natasha at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK |

Mark Morford continues what must be a vicious assault on rightwing sensibilities:

...Call it a pious version of Newton's law, dear: An angry warmongering God in motion stays in motion, unless an object -- say, some heavy Lockheed Martin ordnance or 100,000 very confused ground troops who have no real idea why they're over there in the first place -- acts upon it. ...

posted by Natasha at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK |

Monbiot notes that the global justice movement has gathered force, even while it's death has been announced prematurely.

...Far from dying away, our movement has grown bigger than most of us could have guessed. September 11 muffled the protests for a while, but since then they have returned with greater vehemence, everywhere except the United States. The last major global demonstration it convened was the rally at the European summit in Barcelona. Three hundred and fifty thousand activists rose from the dead. They came despite the terrifying response to the marches in June 2001 in Genoa, where the police burst into protesters' dormitories and beat them with truncheons as they lay in their sleeping bags, tortured others in the cells and shot one man dead.

But neither the violent response, nor September 11, nor the indifference of the media have quelled this rising. Ever ready to believe their own story, the newsrooms have interpreted the absence of coverage (by the newsrooms) as an absence of activity. One of our recent discoveries is that we no longer need them. We have our own channels of communication, our own websites and pamphlets and magazines, and those who wish to find us can do so without their help. They can pronounce us dead as often as they like, and we shall, as many times, be resurrected. ...

posted by Natasha at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK |

Jordan bows to the inevitable. But will they get stiffed as soon as their support is no longer needed?

...But, perhaps, the biggest concession that Jordan appears to have obtained from Washington, in exchange for its support, is a promise to work for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005. ...

posted by Natasha at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK |

War, tax cuts, and a bag of chips.

...The Founding Fathers cared deeply that the citizenry have a personal stake in any decision to go to war - by having themselves or loved ones serve, or by paying taxes to cover the cost. They "worried that if the question of war became an abstraction - if the question of whether the nation should go to war was not experienced as a question of whether I should go to war - then disaster might follow," says Cheyney Ryan, a political philosopher at the University of Oregon, in The Responsive Community, a journal of the communitarian movement. ...

posted by Natasha at 7:49 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, January 30, 2003  

In the BBC:

President Lula of Brazil launches a program to eliminate hunger in the resource-rich nation. As the article says: "In Brazil, a nation of about 170 million, about 46 million people live on less than a dollar a day."

North Korea not happy with statements in the State of the Union.

Poverty and anemia spread through Palestine.

In Iran, a dissident cleric is released from house arrest.

More on Bush's AIDS proposal. Let's see if the condom provisions last longer than a week worth of 700 Club rants.

Afghanistan's Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the mujahideen leaders that fought the Russians, is still making trouble. Meanwhile, the country's environment is so badly damaged, that it's hindering efforts to rebuild.

Europe splits on war question. But do they really support the US, or are they just reacting to a perception that France and Germany wield too much influence?

The UK government plans to push ahead with internet snooping provisions that could require ISPs to store email and browsing records for up to six years. Looks like they're fixing to have their own Total Information Awareness office across the pond.

posted by Natasha at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK |

And now, a brief humor break. The "Bomb Iraq" song, origins here at TAPPED, has a new incarnation. Courtesy of Outspoken Clothing (who found the song here), we get this very pithy version. Once again, sung to the tune of 'If you're happy and you know it.':

If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
Bomb Iraq.

If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think someone has dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

It's "pre-emptive non-aggression", bomb Iraq.
Let's prevent this mass destruction, bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's good enough for me
'Cos it's all the proof I need
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
(And he tried to kill your dad),
Bomb Iraq.

If your corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain't easy,
And your manhood's getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason,
Let's make war not love this season,
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Just when I had the other version memorized for boring car trips ;)

posted by Natasha at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK |

Warblogging talks about the SOTU and TIA.

posted by Natasha at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Asia Times:

We need the UN, we don't need the UN. The author who doesn't seem to think they're any use is almost as fact challenged as Bush, but I guess they had to post something from the opposition.

In the Phillipines, the family planning debate continues in a heavily Catholic country where poverty and large families are the rule.

Will Hussein go along with the mounting pressure for him to go into exile?

Henry Liu, interesting as always, discusses military-industrial empire building. Grab some cocoa & enjoy the history lesson.

...It is increasingly clear that the real issue on whether a nation faces attack from the world's sole remaining superpower rests not on its possession of WMD, but on whether it possesses a creditable counterstrike force as a deterrence to preemptive attack from a nation which itself has steadfastly refused to adopt a no-first-use doctrine on WMD.

...Comments justifying the need for a benign superpower empire as a desirable and sensible post-Cold War world order are heard with increasing frequency in the US mass media. It is a trend not easily ignored by all other nations. France, Germany, Russia and China, through different perspectives, to different degrees, with different diplomatic styles and for different geopolitical reasons, all oppose US preemptive military plans on Iraq. There is a danger that Afghanistan, Iraq or North Korea, or any future flash points, may turn into the kindling for a World War III inferno, just as Sarajevo did for World War I and Czechoslovakia did for World War II. Unilateral preemption inevitably solicits multilateral counterresponses in global politics.

...Should the US now invade Iraq, preceded by massive bombing or, as reported in the US press, even tactical nuclear attack, it would dilute deterrence of war or terrorism by fear. It would be a message to terrorists that their handiwork will elicit blind punitive attacks on whomever happens to be on the US's enemy list at the moment. It would also be a message to all governments that counter-terrorism punitive attacks lack focus, or worse, that the war on terrorism is merely a pretext for unrelated geopolitical objectives on the part of the sole superpower. Under such circumstances, terrorist attacks would not cease. Far from it, such attacks would escalate from being threats of potential mayhem to address particular grievances, to realities of pandemonium to bring down the whole system, as counter-measures would degenerate into state actions of arbitrary self interest. When two hijacked civilian airliners can cause the sudden death and casualty of more than 3,000 civilians and the sudden collapse of a nation's tallest skyscrapers, it is proof that potential WMD are commonplace and everywhere, not just within the organized military. It is a problem that cannot be solved by attacking one or two "rogue" states that happen to fall outside the US code of acceptable conduct at the moment. When the police are intoxicated with unlimited power without accountability, law enforcement effectiveness suffers. ...

posted by Natasha at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK |

For more review on the State of the Union, and topics related to it, click over to this post at Body and Soul, and keep reading down the page. Loads of good stuff, very informative.

posted by Natasha at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  

Courtesy of Eschaton, we get a very cool Kurt Vonnegut interview:

...I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”

...What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass! ...

Update: Digby comments with his usual panache.

posted by Natasha at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

What gives with this Hitler obsession, man?

A review of US media reactions to the State of the Union.

Richard Adams wonders how the presidents of Brazil and the United States could have gotten mixed up in a bizarre reversal of fortune.

Tony Blair to North Korea: You're Next. I don't remember him being this belligerent when Clinton was in office, in fact, he seemed downright affable. Perhaps the British public should ask this newly minted warmonger, "Who are you, and what have you done with our PM?"

posted by Natasha at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

Yesterday, the BBC reported that the opposition walkout was cracking.

Today we read that the banks have resumed normal operation, and that food production and education will be exempted. These 'strikers' sure have a whole lot of control over various sectors of the country for an oppressed people under dictatorial rule.

The diplomatic effort via the group of friends and the OAS continues, with this amusing point: "...the Organization of American States (OAS) should continue to mediate efforts, an outcome that has not pleased the Venezuelan opposition. The OAS is seeking a constitutional solution to the crisis and this rules out the opposition's demand for immediate elections." What could be plainer? They were very pleased with the OAS when it was calling for Chavez to resign immediately, or hold unlawful elections.

Venezuela's market outlook improves as oil production ramps up and the walkout cracks.

Vice President Rangel tells the public that there will be no amnesty for PDVSA workers who continue to strike. Full amnesty was granted to workers who walked away during the April coup, but this time the government will make no such concession for what they consider further acts of sabotage. More than 5,000 have been sacked so far.

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Arab News:

Reaction to the State of the Union.

The state of India's democracy.

Latest US-Afghani dust up.

A gruesome picture of the occupation, and seven are dead in Jenin and Gaza after Israeli election-day incursions. Whatever you think about the situation in Israel and Palestine, these perspectives leave no doubt that the Arab world is getting a far different picture of what they view as US backed state terrorism.

posted by Natasha at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

The State of the Union is Obfuscated

Well, the State of the Union won't go down as a bad job of reading the teleprompter. And it may have been written by Jerry Falwell, Richard Perle, and Richard Mellon Scaife, but the guest appearances by Al Gore and Jesse Jackson lent a refreshing schizophrenia to the affair.

Class Warfare

His economic plan could be summed up as follows: If you're single, childless, going to college, don't plan to buy an SUV, or have no dividends, no tax cut for you. And he mentioned the following talking points a paragraph apart, to catch the unwary. "To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation. ... With unemployment rising, our nation needs more small businesses to open, more companies to invest and expand, more employers to put up the sign that says, "Help Wanted." ..." If our economy has been brought out of recession by a large tax cut, we have rising unemployment because...?

Bush wants to "strengthen the economy by treating investors equally in our tax laws." Equally compared to whom? The point of taxes is to collect enough money at various points of exchange to fund all the services that citizens demand. I could argue by this measure that taxes on my wages are an unfair burden on the businesses with whom I would spend that money if I had it to myself. If we're going to start talking about fairness, we should be talking about progressive tax structures that ensure the burden of paying for the system falls most heavily on those who gain the most from it.

After campaigning in 2002 as though the Republican party had never even heard of such an outlandish thing as social security privatization, Bush stated that he plans to privatize social security. I no longer remember who explained it this way, but our national pension system isn't like a 401(k), it's like insurance. It's insurance against bad markets, bad investments, falling wages, and other catastrophes. It's insurance against having an explosion of beggars on the streets. Insurance against the tragedy of a family losing its breadwinner at too young an age to have saved much, or someone being so totally disabled that their family can't meet the full cost of their upkeep.

It Sounds Like a Democrat... Almost

Bush wants affordable healthcare. And he's certain that the miracle of the markets will bring that about if only we clear away the bureaucrats and the pesky lawyers who sue when medical procedures go awry. He wants our seniors to have prescription drug coverage, if they're willing to abandon their Medicare plans. The markets alone will produce this bounty, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

For Al Gore's brief cameo in the speech, Bush announced that he favors funding research on fuel-cell vehicles. Considering that funding hasn't been provided for port security, the SEC, or the 'No Child Left Behind' initiative, let's not hold our smog-plagued breath. I strenuously doubt that the clean air bill he discussed doesn't have some kind of atrocious poison pill. Especially considering that it was followed by celebrating a 'Healthy Forest' plan that will prevent fires by logging those damnably combustible trees.

Wonder-Working Power of Godly Government

And then we get to one of the several parts that must have left the Christian Nationalist crowd shreiking in ecstasy. Apparently, one faith-based plan wasn't enough. Congress needs to fund another one. He's even happy to fund drug treatment, provided that it's given in a godly environment. He says,

"Yet there's power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people. ...Our nation is blessed with recovery programs that do amazing work. One of them is found at the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A man in the program said, "God does miracles in people's lives, and you never think it could be you." Tonight, let us bring to all Americans who struggle with drug addiction this message of hope: The miracle of recovery is possible, and it could be you. ...

It's great that he wants to help drug addicts, and the children of prison inmates who are too often forgotten by society, but this is not the appropriate way. Not when the government decides that the programs it will fund want you to listen to their salvation song-and-dance before getting some assistance. Not when Jesus has to come into your heart before material help comes your way.

And then he moved on to dangling the shiniest bauble of all: a ban on partial-birth abortion. According to Planned Parenthood fewer than 2% of all abortions occur after 20 weeks. As the page points out, many of the medical reasons for which an abortion may be required might not show up until after that point. The real goal of this is to set precedents for separate legal personhood for an embryo from the moment of conception. That's what the anti-choice crowd is praying for, and with the complicity of the Republican party and perhaps a public that doesn't understand what's at stake, even the rights to basic contraception could be in serious danger.

He also wants to ban human cloning. Unless they specify what they mean by that, it could be very bad news. There's a big difference between the goals of therapeutic and reproductive cloning, and a failure to distinguish between the two could be a disaster for the state of medical research in this country. But even more importantly, reproductive cloning is not yet viable. It fails 95% of the time in lower animals, which means it's at the stage where even the best scientists have no idea what they're doing yet. And what's the point of banning something that can't be done? This is just another part of the legal personhood for embryos drive, and the wingnuts know it. Keep an eye on this one.

Where We Try To Pretend That Trent Lott Doesn't Exist

Bush brings up American food aid, and what a large percentage of world aid it is. He fails to mention that it's purchased from our farmers and shipped out, rather than distributed in the form of monetary aid which could be spent locally. Much of it is genetically modified, forced on starving nations against their wishes, with the express purpose of introducing these organisms into the local ecosystem. Having a few wind-pollinated GMO crops in your country means that eventually the patented genes will spread to all of your crops.

He talked about AIDS in Africa. I expect this to get no funding. He wants to provide them with drugs, but the real and best way to prevent AIDS in Africa and many developing nations is to educate people about condom use. This administration has already refused to send funds to a UN group doing just that. By mixing up prevention with treatment, the administration will be able to score points with many folks who aren't aware how many lives have already been endangered by their spending priorities.

Moving Abroad

He talked about the war on terror, one which, as Sen. Clinton pointed out, we have not been funding on the home front. And then we go to address last year's axis of evil nations.

...Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation. ...

Is he referring here to Pakistan? Syria? India? No, apparently he means Iraq. A country with no nuclear weapons, and no demonstrated terrorist allies. The laughable claim is made that we're working to strengthen global arms control treaties. This from an administration who has yet to meet a treaty they didn't feel compelled to spit on. And earlier, he said "Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others." Indicating that an agreement with us isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Iran got mentioned first, so perhaps they can let out their collective breath that in the perverse threat logic seemingly laid out in the speech, they rank last in line. North Korea was discussed next, but Bush assured the world that he plans to deal with that through peaceful means. Then after cataloging Iraq's misdeeds and bringing up the discredited aluminum tube claim, this is laid on us:

Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein...

What the ****!? Like enough people haven't already come to believe that Iraq was responsible? He then lays out a gruesome catalogue of tortures in Iraq, which one can only hope won't be perpetuated by the puppet military government we install when we invade.

And one other thing, when during the part of the speech where he attempts to scare the wits right out of the whole country, he talks about some Bioshield program. Set up to protect us from nasty germ warfare. What's one of the germs he mentions? Ebola. Ebola, you say? Yes. A virus which hasn't been weaponized (to our knowledge) by any major power, can't be controlled or even reliably found in the wild, and has no cure, innoculation, or indeed any treatment at all. And the Bush administration, by the sheer force of their collective will and brainpower, is going to protect the public from the uber-scariest disease buzzword ever. Boo.

Bush said, "We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended." War is peace, everybody. War is peace. We'll be fully engaged in bold action for some time to come.

Football or Church?

The closer was a right bugger. Nice sentiment, but the kind that you expect to hear at a revival. Maybe on the 700 Club. It's more than a little creepy to hear it out of the mouth of this man:

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

First, this is a sop to all those who believe that our country was founded as a Christian Nation, to be run by the laws laid forth in the Bible for god-fearing individuals of european descent. Second, it's the equivalent of praying before football games. Our side is special, guided by our faith in the Lord, so please Lord, help us kick some ass. If you don't think so, then you didn't grow up hearing the same themes in church every Sunday. Make no mistake that this man is a zealot who intends to push us as far as possible along the path to Theocracy.

Bush said that, "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option." Agreed, but must we trust in the sanity and restraint of our spoiled legacy admissions president?

Promise Watch

  • We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations.
  • To insist on integrity in American business we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.
  • Our first goal is clear: We must have an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job.
  • Our second goal is high quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
  • Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment.
  • We're working with other governments to ...strengthen global treaties banning the production and shipment of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction.
  • We will consult. ...we will lead a coalition ...
  • And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food, and medicines, and supplies... and freedom.

Note to clueless Democratic consultants: The above list of promises could be construed as 'fire'. As in, hold his feet to them during the 2004 campaign.

Follow-ups: The Democratic response was canned, but brought up some good points. The Progressive Caucus had a number of lawmakers talk earlier in the day, any one of whom would have been better qualified to give it. This is their response (MSWord document) and talking points.

In the blogosphere tonight, the Hamster has a number of excellent links related to topics addressed this evening, Pandagon reacts, MonkeyX posts a good backgrounder on Iraq, PLA talks about the sort of lawyerly behavior conservatives do approve of, and David E gives us a snappy, blow by blow review of the SOTU. Later, found TBogg's Snark of the Union.

posted by Natasha at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK |

Big exam tomorrow, cross your fingers for me. Blogging will be light for a bit, though I'll definitely take the time to complain about the State of the Union. (Me, and the rest of the liberal blog army, that's who.) In the meantime, tune in to Cowboy Kahlil at the ReachM High Cowboy Network, and Orcinus, or any of the other fine blogs listed to the side there.

posted by Natasha at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, January 27, 2003  

Venezuela Update:

Why Venezuela's opposition has insisted on trying to bring the Chavez government down by mob action instead of using the perfectly legal means in their own constitution. The writer points out that, unlike in the US, Venezuela had a successful drive for impeachment as recently as 1992. Also, that Jimmy Carter's much talked about proposals are both simply readings of Venezuelan law.

A shipping line considers breaking the walkout.

The opposition walkout begins to crack, leaders 'may allow' some businesses to open part-time. They may allow.

Larry Birns, named in Thor Halvorssen's screeds against Chavez, responds to his article in the Washington Times.

I admit I hadn't heard of your contributor, Thor Halvorssen ("Venezuela Through a Tilted Lens," 1/22/03), but I now know that he's a shameless inventor. Moreover, the Times may have been gulled by an author with a complex past, which can be checked on the internet. Also, why didn't he reveal that he wasn't just your average Philadelphian, as listed, but served as Venezuela's drug czar in the early 1990s, under one of the most corrupt governments in its history, when he was involved in questionable incidents of public interest? ...

The government Halvorssen served under was the same one against which Chavez led a failed coup. The one whose executive, Carlos Andres Perez, was later impeached for corruption and arrested on embezzlement charges. Perez was elected on essentially the same populist platform Chavez ran on, after which he promptly instituted the most severe austerity measures in the country's history. Rioting erupted, and the Perez government killed hundreds of people in trying to restore order.

Venezuela Archives

Update: It was revealed a few days after writing this post that the Thor Halvorssen in question is the son of the aforementioned former drug czar, so apparently Mr. Birns was partially mistaken. While we doubt that it invalidates the conclusions, we corrected the identity mix-up on February 2nd, after an email from Mr. Halvorssen the Younger.

posted by Natasha at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Guardian:

Geoffrey Wheatcroft asks whether going along with America is in Britain's best interests.

...They have no permanent friends: we must always support them. More surprisingly, this is accepted by some of our own official class, through what Hugo Young has called "the convenient rationale, now much heard in Whitehall, that Britain has a selfless duty to act alongside the US in its military ventures precisely in order to show the world that Washington is not alone". It is hard to see how that is either convenient or rational. "My country right or wrong" is bad enough, but "your country right or wrong" is barely sane.

...The sad truth is that Tony Blair is the last victim of an illusion which has long bedevilled British policy, the myth of the "special relationship". Actually, the chief characteristic of this relationship was that only one side knew it existed - and relationships don't come more special than that.

Is the US really a meritocracy?

...A recent study here showed that social mobility in America is actually decreasing. Comparing the incomes and occupations of 2,749 fathers and sons from the 1970s to the 1990s, it was found that mobility had decreased. "In the last 25 years, a large segment of American society has become more vulnerable," says Professor Robert Perrucci of Purdue University. ...

No blood for hegemony:

...Mr Wolfowitz answered: "I must say I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the US government. The real issue is, can you trust Saddam Hussein?"

Certainly no one in their right mind would trust the Iraqi leader. But that does not mean they have to trust Mr Wolfowitz and the US government either.

posted by Natasha at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK |

Every once in a while, we look in on those wild and crazy guys over at World Net Daily, the internet headquarters for Christian Nationalists and their "Make War, Not Nookie" screeds. Read as much as you can stand...

The case against Darwin, in 83 pages, large type. In the interview, the author alleges that certain subjects were 'detailed' in the book.

...This past March I got a call from Ohio. There has been a battle there to allow critical examination of evolutionary theory in public schools, and a gentleman wanted 40 copies of Tornado to give to state legislators and school board members. I was delighted to send him the books, but I also knew that a state legislator isn't likely to pick up anything that's 321 pages long. ...

Dr. Laura urges us to Do The Right Thing. She 'fears for the republic.'

...For a few years now, I've been urging parents to send their kids to private religious schools and/or homeschool them. I truly see no other options for raising and educating children to be morally fit, well informed, appreciative Americans and contributing members of society.

A shortage of teachers, a kaleidoscope of standards, endemic failure, annual budget shortfalls, states taking over local school districts and guns in the classroom are unavoidable signs of public-school collapse. I think Oregon may have the right idea. They are looking to shorten the school year by 15 days. How long before it's clear to them and to us, that we should simply close them altogether?

An update on WND's White House correspondent Les Kinsolving's conversations with Ari.

...FLEISCHER: I think from the president's point of view he has long made the case that abstinence is more than sound science – it's a sound practice, that abstinence has a proven track record of working. Now, this is part of an approach that includes, under the budget the president has submitted, other approaches as well, not just one approach or another approach. ...

WND: The AP also reports that after you gave Thacker the stern rebuke, he withdrew his name from a presidential advisory commission. And my question is, do you include this rebuke the many, many millions who voted for Bush who agree with Mr. Thacker as well as the medical profession, who originally called AIDS "GRID," or Gay Related Immunodeficiency?

FLEISCHER: Lester, I'm in no position to make any judgments about other people's connections to a statement made by Mr. Thacker. I can only give you the president's judgment about what Mr. Thacker said, and I shared that with you last week.

We're treated to a review of the book Taking America Back. Rush and Dr. Laura provide glowing endorsements, but here's the author in his own words:

...According to Farah, “The choice is simple: The world of standards and morality, of marriage, order, the rule of law, and accountability to God? Or the world of anything-goes, aberrant sexual behavior, doing-your-own-thing lifestyles, and moral codes that change with the speed of the latest public-opinion poll?”

But how can we take America back? According to Farah, the only way Americans can re-establish their freedom -- their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- is to break the hammerlock of statism and the notion that morally relativistic secular humanism holds the answers to controlling men’s passions and behavior. ...

In the words of the ubiquitous button, dear God, save us from your followers.

posted by Natasha at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK |

Courtesy of Benedict@Large, we find this stomach churning question asked of our world leaders by a war reporter: Does Tony Blair have any idea what the flies are like that feed off the dead?

On the road to Basra, ITV was filming wild dogs as they tore at the corpses of the Iraqi dead. Every few seconds a ravenous beast would rip off a decaying arm and make off with it over the desert in front of us, dead fingers trailing through the sand, the remains of the burned military sleeve flapping in the wind.

“Just for the record,” the cameraman said to me. Of course. Because ITV would never show such footage. The things we see — the filth and obscenity of corpses — cannot be shown. First because it is not “appropriate” to depict such reality on breakfast-time TV. Second because, if what we saw was shown on television, no one would ever again agree to support a war. ...

posted by Natasha at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK |

The "axis of evil" on it's one-year anniversary.

...Hunter said that in the months prior to Bush's speech, Iran had taken several steps toward improving relations with Washington. For one, Iran expressed sympathy for the September 11 attacks on the United States. Tehran then stated that it would aid any US service personnel in need on Iranian territory during the war in Afghanistan. Then, Hunter said, Iran played a key role at the Bonn conference that set up Afghanistan's transitional government.

All of these things, she said, were praised by senior US officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell. And for a brief moment at least, there was talk of a genuine improvement in US-Iranian relations, a rare occurrence in the years since the 1979 Islamic revolution. "After all of this, you come and you [Iran] get hit by the axis of evil [speech]. I think it really shocked them. And I think the hardliners said: 'You see, no matter what you do with the Americans, they are just against the regime. They want to get rid of it. It's not your behavior, it's what you are and what you represent'," Hunter said. ...

posted by Natasha at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK |

In the BBC:

Dollar tumbles against Euro.

Iran urges India to go ahead with a pipeline between the two countries which would run through Pakistan (either by land or sea, depending) as tensions mount between the two countries, and feuding Pakistani tribesmen again attack a pipeline in that country.

The Roman Catholic Church will not reverse a decision to excommunicate seven women ordained as priests in an unsanctioned ceremony.

US offers Turkey $4 billion as compensation for support in a war on Iraq. The country faces a difficult choice between siding with the US, and siding with both its public and the EU. Turkey's EU candidacy has been delayed several times, and they are anxious to join. But, as the article mentions, Turkey faces IMF strictures which they are presently being viewed as not following closely enough. The IMF is functionally the financial arm of US foreign policy, though the EU holds some weight in those decisions.

Breakthrough in joint talks between South Korea and North Korea.

The EU will provide reconstruction funds to the Ivory Coast, but the full amount is conditioned on the recently signed peace accords remaining intact.

A South African minister takes the WEF to task for ignoring Africa during their Davos summit.

The king of Jordan presses US over Palestine. Colin Powell agrees that there needs to be a solution which leaves the Palestinians with a "real state and not a phoney one divided into a thousand different pieces".

The UN makes a graphic attempt to alert the world to the looming global water crisis.

posted by Natasha at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, January 26, 2003  

Has the World Economic Forum in Davos begun to sound more like the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre?

Here's Bill Gates talking about social responsibility. And, whatever else can be said about him, he knows whereof he speaks on this topic. Unlike some of the opportunistic Republicans who see his solitary example as the covering for their single-minded giving to evangelical organizations.

Lula of Brazil calling for a worldwide social equity fund, after giving a similar message to the WSF.

posted by Natasha at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK |

Full Bleed finds boatloads of smart progressives in Texas, the home of Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower. Just in case anyone was thinking of unfairly maligning the place because of our legacy admissions president.

posted by Natasha at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK |

Venezuela Update:

Chavez announces oil production over a million barrels a day, and predicts that number will double in a month or so.

A viewer critiques Geraldo Rivera's coverage from Caracas. Either Rivera's spanish isn't good enough to distinguish between 'congressperson' and 'FARC guerilla,' or he's a lying toad. Yet another presents a view of rural education in the country.

Venezuelan democracy may be spared only because of the anglo-american preoccupation with Iraq.

More on the opposition demonstration, which they promise will be the longest in history.

And the inveterate commies at the National Catholic Reporter have this to say about three Bush appointees who've been meddling in Latin American politics since Bush was elected. Their fingers have been spotted in Bolivia, Haiti, Nicaraugua, and Venezuela. Trying to block aid, threatening the public regarding the outcome of elections, and supporting an attempted coup. Old times all over again.

Their names were synonymous with the U.S. “dirty wars” in Central America in the 1980s and the Iran-contra scandal. Today, Otto Reich, Elliot Abrams and John Negroponte have resurfaced and are helping run U.S. policy toward Latin America again.

The re-emergence of the Reagan-era hardliners is causing dismay among human rights activists and some Latin America experts who fear the United States is returning to the Cold War days when it backed brutal dictatorships, covertly supported coups and sabotaged leftist movements. “There isn’t a single democratic leader in Latin America that doesn’t reject and deplore the role that our government played in Central America during the 1980s,” said Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. “To choose men like Elliot Abrams and Otto Reich is an insult.” ...

Venezuela Archives

posted by Natasha at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK |