NewsPundit Category Archive

The whole world is watching

Sometime in the last 24 hours, Bangladeshi blogger and journalist Tasneem Khalil was arrested by "the Joint Forces". He's the CNN and Human Rights Watch representative in Bangladesh and had recently been covering extra-judicial killings these Joint Forces have been involved in.


Bangladeshi press and media apparently stood still. The Bangladeshi blogosphere however, erupted. From an email I just received:

While the Bangladeshi press kept mum (probably because of self censorship and the timing of publications) the Bangladeshi blogs broke the news within a couple of hours of the incident. Because of widespread amplifications we could get this heard to media, some US congressmen (through Diaspora bloggers) and pressuring the Bangladesh Government. Emails, blog posts demanding release of Tasneem were flying everywhere. Many Bloggers at a Bangla blogging platform suspended regular postings and declared that they will only write about Tasneem Khalil. A South Asian group Blog Pickled Politics was mobilizing a demonstration outside the Bangladesh embassy in London and an e-petition to UK Government. Some bloggers were knocking media sources like BBC through personal contact, why they were not picking up the story, which they did eventually.

Google Blog search gives 191 results at the moment.

The above email however came to announce that Tasneem had been released. It trumpeted the victory of engaged bloggers against forces of oppression.

A comment left by Jason Paz on the GlobalVoices post on the story put it in a way that nailed part of what we hope to do, right on the head:

It is of the utmost importance that we ordinary bloggers speak out against the injustice done Tasneem Khalil.
Each of us may only have a small readership, but the effect can be worldwide having an impact on Bangladeshi officials.
Oppressors thrive picking off individuals in the darkness of night.
We want them to know the whole world is watching.
We want their kids to confront them over breakfast. "Daddy, did you do this?"

Who's uncivilized?

Call that humiliation?
No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch
Terry Jones
Saturday March 31, 2007
The Guardian

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

Satire. Useful steroid for a weakened 5th estate. Love it. 'Specially Python style. :)

(thnx Shawna)

Banned soft drinks in India

From The Hindu, December 20th, 2006:
"Soft drinks banned within premises of educational institutions, hostels"

The State Government has issued a fresh ban against the sale and distribution of all soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, within the premises of educational institutions and student hostels with effect from December 18 citing "health hazards to children."

Unlike the earlier occasion when high pesticide content was cited as the reason for banning the sale of soft drinks in educational institutions, the Government had now cited health problems such as child obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and tooth cavities caused by the consumption of soft drinks.

The head of the PepsiCo in India had recently issued a statement that as a matter of policy the company did not promote the sale of carbonated beverages to children aged below 12, the Minister said.


The party's over...

Absolutely most see.

"Robert Newman gets to grips with the wars and politics of the last hundred years - but rather than adhering to the history we were fed at ... all » school, the places oil centre stage as the cause of all commotion."

45 minutes well spent.


That's how much each YouTube user was worth to Google yesterday.

$1,650,000,000 / 19,000,000 users = $86.84

Of course it is far far more complex than that. Youd on't plunk down that kind of coin just on a whim.. or do you? Let's go shopping!

"Oh Lord, thank you..."

Not really following this Foley stuff but thankfully Glenn Greenwald is.

What they are engaged in seems to be non sequitur after non sequitur, which they have been getting away with thanks to the artificially truncated memories of a media-breast-fed populace who's reporters (who report events and such) and journalists (who formulate supposedly educated opinions and analyses on events) have totally betrayed them in favor of little green pieces of plastic. (Plastic, not paper: America ceased being capitalist in the '80's; it shifted to a credit based economic system... everyone owes, everyone is an indentured slave to the system.)

Are we witnessing the further growth of a true, inclusive, fifth estate?

fifth estate
A class or group in society other than the nobility, the clergy, the middle class, and the press.

Considering the above exclusive definition, what could we call a group apart, but at once comprised of...

Reuters, Ted Turner, the U.N. and GlobalVoices


At 4:00pm EST today, Reuters is hosting Ted Turner in a discussion about the future of the United Nations. Turner is, amongst other things, the largest private funder of the U.N.

The discussion is being webcast and GlobalVoices has been invited to extend the conversation. One of the ways we are doing that is by having four of our team, Rebecca MacKinnon, Georgia Popplewell, Alice Backer and Kamla Bhatt, in the room representing whoever shows up in our IRC channel. We've set up a web-irc so anyone can join in.

Please do.

"George Galloway Savages SKY NEWS"

George Galloway on Sky
(SKY is apparently the british equivalent of Fox News, both Rupert Murdoch properties. Rupert also owns MySpace now. Beware, the brainwash machine expanded by a couple million more brains... very narrow brains mind you... ;)

Erasure of memory, loss of history, point of view with interests-backed agenda. Manipulation of medium and message, hence what most people today call reality, long ago ceased being an art and is now a fully mechanized business operation.

Matt Jones has a great little doodle in the banner of his weblog which depicts Umberto Eco saying "Lying about the future makes history*", which is certainly true. The reverse is true as well though: lying about history makes the future.

*Though the actual quote is "Lying about the future produces history."

Lebanon solidarity protest, Cairo

Lebanon solidarity protest, Cairo
Originally uploaded by madmonk.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez expelled Israel's ambassador. Here a protester in Cairo offers her thanks and support

"America's Online Censors"

Rebecca does an absolutely great job of summing up many of the issues and thoughts and results of the U.S. Congressional hearings held last week concerning U.S. technology companies and their roles in Internet censorship regimes around the world.

We must not allow American companies to deprive Zhao and his generation of their right to shape their country's political future. But we must do it in a way that shows we respect the rights of the Chinese people--and the rights of every human being on the planet--as much as we respect our own.

Open borders?

Consider this:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the Bush administration should put on hold a deal to stop state-controlled Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates from managing sea ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Now, aside from this being offensive to Arabs and Muslims due to inferred ties to "terrorist" and all that, isn't it the epitome of ironic? Of absurdity even?

While millions of travelers, individuals who for the most part could possibly do limited real damage , are hassled daily in airport "security" checks with metal detectors, pat-downs, removal of clothing and shoes, chemical swabs and even interrogation... the folks higher up are about to hand over 6 whole ports to a nation that they themselves have identified, albeit with lots of ring-around-the-posey language and actions, as "the enemy".

There are no words that can explain this. An attempt on my part was left in Haitham's comment stream:

the offensive nature of the debate aside for a moment, the true absurdity lies within the contrast of all this with the Department for Homeland Security, at who’s behest little old ladies are patted down, passed though metal detectors and who knows what else just to get into the country, meanwhile, their bosses are selling off major parts of the country’s economic infrastructure to foreign nations (regardless of diplomatic relations and status of regard for those nations, to put it nicely.

It is absurd. With one hand they are stoking the fires of xenophobic nationalism, and with the other they are selling the farm to their competitors. Nothing good can come of this. At least in the short term. In the long run it will all level out of course. In historic perspective, America is due for a civilization-wide collapse anyways.


Long story but yesterday over lunch with my new good friends John and Colin, I committed to building this side-by-side comparison of Google China and Google in Chinese for the OpenNet Initiative.

The reason for doing this is explained thusly:

On January 25 2006, Google launched, a self-censored Chinese-language search service, a policy shift which follows Yahoo! and Microsoft's recent decisions to provide censored internet services in compliance with Chinese state censorship policies. Google informs its users when their search results have been filtered (to date, Microsoft and Yahoo!'s Chinese search services do not), and provides users with a link to the unfiltered home page.

This sounds promising

From BBC News Health: "Dementia cases 'are set to soar'"

By 2040 there will be as many people with dementia in China alone as in the whole of the developed world put together.

But hey if we're all batshit-insane, and talk to our toasters, then that will be the new norm, won't it? ;)
and who's to say that isn't the case already... HEY! you're not my toaster! what did you do with my toaster!

sounds like a drug company's wet dream

"We're not afraid!"


Police guard a cul-de-sac on Scotia Road in Streatham, south London, Saturday July 23, 2005. Residents described Saturday how police raided a house in the street earlier in the afternoon. One neighbour, who only wanted to be named as Marcia, said several police vans had stormed into the area before armed officers rushed to the address and ordered residents to get inside their houses. She said: 'They had already sealed it off and then the officers with guns came along telling us: 'Get inside or you will be arrested.' (AP Photo/PA, Lindsey Parnaby)

The man shot and killed on a subway car by London police in front of horrified commuters had nothing to do with this month's bombings on the city's transit system, police said Saturday in expressing their regrets. They identified the man as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian citizen.

FEAR, UNCERTAINTY and DISINFORMATION pulled the trigger five times into an innocent man.

If you weren't afraid before, be at least very concerned now. And not about "terrorists".

"We're not afraid! We're not afrai... Oy! You! C'm'ere! I said c'm'ere! Hey! HEY! ..."

*bang bang bang bang bang*

"He.. he.. was carrying a gun, I swear! I'm sure I saw a bomb in his jacket! No really!"

Fear wreaks havoc on the mind.

Caption of above photo:

Police guard a cul-de-sac on Scotia Road in Streatham, south London, Saturday July 23, 2005. Residents described Saturday how police raided a house in the street earlier in the afternoon. One neighbour, who only wanted to be named as Marcia, said several police vans had stormed into the area before armed officers rushed to the address and ordered residents to get inside their houses. She said: 'They had already sealed it off and then the officers with guns came along telling us: 'Get inside or you will be arrested.' (AP Photo/PA, Lindsey Parnaby)

Bad. So bad.

What about love?

Love is all you need...

Parole for Mark David Chapman?: Cory Doctorow: Mark David Chapman, the loony who shot John Lennon in 1980, is up for parole.
An online petition calling for Chapman to remain in prison for the rest of his natural life has been signed by nearly 2,000 fans - and includes angry threats to Chapman's life should he be freed.

Somehow... this doesn't sit well with me. What was Lennon's position on incarceration? Even where his own life is concerned. Just wondering. I have no opinion either way on this specific case.

[Cop out update message]
I had intended to update this entry with the thoughts I had about the issue after first posting it, but you guys beat me to it and really, eh, we agree, and I just don't have the time... Sorry. So here is what I had started writing as an update. Your comments are basically what I was gonna say though... :)

Upon more thought, here is what doesn't sit well with me. What you or I may consider adequate punishment for murder aside, here is a man who faces additional punishment due to the celebrity of his victim and the act itself.

First let us look at the folks actually riled up by this and signing the petition. Are they doing so as a political act to express their belief in life-long imprisonment for murder, or is it out of an egotistical sense of "you robbed me of one of my favorite musicians" (plain revenge)?


Oh god, no

This makes me so incredibly, furiously ill.

Why, oh why oh why oh why oh why does the human so single-mindedly seek to destroy his own humanity?
Eloquence eludes me. I just want to yell... Gah! You stupid fucking bastards. Wake the fuck up. Damnit. Damnit damnit damnit.

This poor girl, so full of life, so full of thirst for experience and joy. Snuffed out, her death precipitated by that self same flame that made her live; the catalyst in the environment she sadly found herself.

(To be clear, this is not, in my view, an islamic issue: it is human. This kind of madness has happened and continues to happen under every system we have ever conceived for ourselves.)

I'm going to go lie down and cry for there is nothing else to do. Sadly.

Do not go gentle into that good night
- Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Mourrir pour des idées
-Georges Brassens

Mourrir pour des idées, l'idée est excellente.
Moi j'ai faillit mourrir de ne l'avoir pas eu.
Car tous ceux qui l'avaient, multitude accablante,
En hurlant à la mort, me sont tombés dessus.

Ils ont su me convaincre, et ma muse insolente
Abjurant ses erreurs, se ralie à leur foi.
Avec un supson de réserve toutefois :

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Jugeant qu'il n'y a pas péril en la demeure,
Allons vers l'autre monde en flanant en chemin.
Car, à forcer l'allure, il arrive qu'on meurre
Pour des idées n'ayant plus court le lendemain.

Hors s'il est une chose amère, désolante
En rendant l'√¢me à dieu, c'est bien de constater
Qu'on a fait fausse route, qu'on s'est trompé d'idée.

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Les singes en bouche d'or qui prèchent le martir
Le plus souvent, d'ailleur, d'attardent ici bas.
Mourrir pour des idées, c'est le cas de le dire :
C'est leur raison de vivre, ils ne s'en privent pas.

Dans presque tous les camps, on en vois qui supplantent
Bient√¥t Mathusalem dans la longévité.
J'en conclus qu'ils doivent se dire en apparté :

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Des idée réclamant le fameux sacrifice.
Les sectes de tous poils en offrent des séquelles.
Et la question se pose aux victimes novices :
Mourrir pour des idées, c'est bien beau mais lesquelles ?

Et comme toutes sont entre elles ressemblantes,
Quand il les vois venir avec leurs gros drapeaux
Le sage en hésitant, tourne autour du tombeau.

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Encore s'il suffisait de quelques écatombes
Pour qu'enfin tout changeat, qu'enfin tout s'arrangeat.
Depuis tant de grands soirs que tant de têtes tombent,
Au paradis sur terre, on y serait déja.

Mais l'age d'or sans cesse est remis aux calendes.
Les dieux ont toujours soif, n'en ont jamais assez
Et c'est la mort, la mort, toujours recommencée.

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Oh vous les boute-feux, oh vous les bons appotres,
Mourrez donc les premiers, nous vous cédons le pas.
Mais de grace, morbleu, laissez vivre les autres,
La vie est à peu près leur seul luxe ici bas.

Car enfin la camarde est assez vigilante,
Elle n'a pas besoin qu'on lui tienne la faux.
Plus de danse maccabre autour des echafauds.

Mourront pour des idées, d'accord, mais de mort lente.
D'accord, mais de mort lente.

Reading the graph

BBC graph of US public opinion re: iraq war
over at Jim Moore's . I read it like this:

The more information leaks out of Iraq, the less enthusiastic the American public is about the whole thing. (There is hope afterall!)

And, look at what was needed for the switch to happen! Unofficial, unsanctioned photos and video being leaked. A few drops of "truth"...

I also read the red line as being the rightist propaganda machine desperately trying to keep a grip on the minds of Americans, fighting hand nail and tooth as the sheer weight of reality pulls down on it.

Shams always collapse. Why despots never learn this lesson is a mystery to me, and a miracle, our ace in the hole...

5 million on terrorism list

Canuck: U.S. on the lookout for 'potential problem'

U.S. security agents have a master list of five million people worldwide
thought to be potential terrorists or criminals, officials say. "The U.S.
lookout index contains some five million names of known terrorists and
other persons representing a potential problem," Brian Davis, a senior
Canadian immigration official in Paris, said in a confidential document
obtained by the Sun.

Names on the list are compared against those applying for visas or on
flights travelling to the U.S.

Anyone whose name is on the list is questioned or banned from entering the
U.S. -- as passengers were on two British Airways flights to Los Angeles
two weeks ago.

The master list was revealed by U.S. embassy officials to a Canadian
standing immigration committee in April 2002. Its existence was revealed in
Davis' document, obtained by Montreal lawyer Richard Kurland through an
Access to Information request.

Davis said Canadian visa officers abroad do not keep an extensive list like
the U.S. because terrorists can use bogus documents and change their

"We examine each application according to profiles," he said. "(We) apply
experience and knowledge gained from a variety of sources. Canada's
approach to identifying persons who may pose a danger was as sound as

CSIS agents in Paris send a "brief" to Ottawa for cases that require more
in-depth investigation.

Federal matching funds vs. electability

For some strange reason, some people, who really should know better, are more concerned with some vague notion of "electabilty" rather than the cold hard economic facts of the trap known as "federal matching funds".

Now I think I have got this straight but correct me if I'm wrong. When a candidate accepts the "federal matching funds" package, they essentially accept a cap on how much money they can raise to fund their campaign. The number is around $40 million, if memory serves. Much of that money is spent campaigning in party primaries (read: fighting amongst themselves).

What this means, is assuming a candidate who has been capped this way actually gets the party "ticket", he/she is then left almost penniless to fight "the big one".

In this case, the opponent in "the big one" has around $200 million to spend on campaigning.

So, Clark and Edwards will essentially be broke, and utterly helpless, while W rains down on them $150 million worth of television advertising this summer and fall. The same thing happened to Gore four years ago.

Kerry didn't go for the presidential public financing system. But Kerry's money is all old style "big contributions". $1000 a seat dinner parties and the like. That's alot of dinner parties and handshaking he'll have to do, with the rich people, to even stay above water. Nationwide television advertising is a nasty, expensive proposition.

Dean also didn't take the package. Dean however has an enormous and very effective fund-raising mechanism, not to mention active "grassroots, face-to-face outreach programs, tapping right into the hearts, minds and smaller budgets of everyday Americans who feel they can finally do more than just go vote on election day... if even that. His people call it "The $100 revolution": 2 million Americans x $100 = George W. Bush out of office.

I am not american so I am not really supporting anyone. Just looking at the facts. And there are way more than I care to type up here now that support the idea that if anyone IS electable, it's Dean.

That said, i would like to note also that yes it is illegal for non-u.s. citizens to contribute to any U.S. political campaign... BUT there is no such law against supporting CULTURAL campaigns by anyone who so pleases and feels so compelled. can do wonders with a few of your dollars, pounds, euros, rupees... They don't care who wins as long as it ain't the Bushies.

Also, a note to the Deansters:
The media and the opponents have distorted Dean's anger at the state of America into just general bad temper. Time to tone down that strategy. Time for the Doctor to start talking about WHAT he would do, HOW he would do it and, fer criminey's sake, what his VALUES are. The dems and the reps are on different playing fields: issues versus values... take the game to them! Issues fall on deaf ears. Values comfort.

Canadian RIAA gets its way

For no good reason, I visited the canadian apple online store today. I like to go in there sometime, poke around and drool. Go figure...

Anyways, so I click through to the iPod section and - what da heck, eh?! - find this, in bright orange letters:

Price includes CPCC's Blank Media Levy - $25

Google search CPCC.

The Canadian Private Copying Collective is the non-profit agency charged with collecting and distributing private copying royalties. Established in 1999, CPCC is an umbrella organization that represents songwriters, recording artists, music publishers and record companies. These are the groups on whose behalf the royalties are collected. CPCC is not an arm of government. Enforcement of the private copying tariff and advocacy, including representing copyright holders before the Copyright Board, which decides the tariff, are other important functions of CPCC. This site provides in-depth background on each of CPCC's key functions. To locate the information of interest to you, please see the site menu.

I must have been sleeping:

Under the decision, the following tariffs will hold in 2003-2004: 29 cents on audio cassette tapes of 40 minutes or longer; 21 cents on CD-Rs and CD-RWs; and 77 cents on CD-R Audio, CD-RW Audio and MiniDiscs.

The Board also set for the first time charges on non-removable memory permanently embedded in digital audio recorders: $2 for recorders with a memory capacity of more than 1GB; $15 for recorders with memory capacity of more than 1GB and up to 10GB; and $25 for each recorder with memory capacity of more than 10GB.

Sure enough:


FILE: Private Copying 2003-2004

Tariff of Levies to Be Collected by CPCC in 2003 and 2004 on the Sale, in Canada, of Blank Audio Recording Media

In accordance with subsection 83(10) of the Copyright Act, the Copyright Board has certified and hereby publishes the statement of levies to be collected by the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) effective on January 1, 2003, on the sale, in Canada, of blank audio recording media for the years 2003 and 2004.

Ottawa, December 13, 2003

Miserable bastards.

Drugged and abandoned

Well well well...

Correspondences - News By the People For People: Who captured Saddam Hussein?

Hussein was betrayed to the Kurds by a member of the al-Jabour tribe because Hussein's son Uday had raped a daughter of the tribe. Saddam had previously paid 7 million pounds in blood money to the tribe with the warning that he would wipe out the entire tribe if it ever came out. (Sify report)

He was then handed over to the Kurdish Patriotic Front who negotiated a deal with US forces for political power before drugging and abandoning Hussein for pickup. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani (Aljazeera)

Hussein could not escape the hole in which he was recovered because the entrance had been sealed.

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap

From a mailing list I am on.
(My comments follow)

"I try not to forward too many depressing articles. But this rates up there with the biggest outrages. Not only is the deed itself an abomination, but the way it was passed, signed, and ignored by the media is equally obscene. Bush signed this the day of Saddam's capture while no one paid attention. And the new provisions were insidiously tucked away in a bill passed by voice vote with no debate on Thanksgiving. And no one cares ... this is America ... this can't be happening .... so it's not happening ... but it is."

Bush signs parts of Patriot Act II into law - stealthily

On December 13, when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush not only celebrated with his national security team, but also pulled out his pen and signed into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers. A White House spokesperson explained the curious timing of the signing - on a Saturday - as "the President signs bills seven days a week." But the last time Bush signed a bill into law on a Saturday happened more than a year ago - on a spending bill that the President needed to sign, to prevent shuttng down the federal government the following Monday.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters."

Congress passed the legislation around Thanksgiving. Except for U.S. Representative Charlie Gonzalez, all San Antonio's House members voted for the act. The Senate passed it with a voice vote to avoid individual accountability. While broadening the definition of "financial institution," the Bush administration is ramping up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters.

Supporters of expanding the Patriot Act claim that the new law is necessary to prevent future terrorist attacks on the U.S. The FBI needs these new powers to be "expeditious and efficient" in its response to these new threats. Robert Summers, professor of international law and director of the new Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University, explains, "We don't go to war with the terrorists as we went to war with the Germans or the North Vietnamese. If we apply old methods of following the money, we will not be successful. We need to meet them on an even playing field to avoid another disaster." (1)

Opponents of the PATRIOT Act and its expansion claim that safeguards like judicial oversight and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, are essential to prevent abuses of power. "There's a reason these protections were put into place," says Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates, and a historian of U.S. political repression. "It has been shown that if you give [these agencies] this power they will abuse it. For any investigative agency, once you tell them that they must make sure that they protect the country from subversives, it inevitably gets translated into a program to silence dissent." (2)

Opponents claim the FBI already has all the tools to stop crime and terrorism. Moreover, explains Patrick Filyk, an attorney and vice president of the local chapter of the ACLU, "The only thing the act accomplishes is the removal of judicial oversight and the transfer of more power to law enforcements agents."

This broadening of the Patriot Act represents a political victory for the Bush Administration's stealth legislative strategy to increase executive power. (3) Last February, shortly before Bush launched the war on Iraq, the Center for Public Integrity obtained a draft of a comprehensive expansion of the Patriot Act, nicknamed Patriot Act II, written by Attorney General John Ashcroft's staff. Again, the timing was suspicious; it appeared that the Bush Administration was waiting for the start of the Iraq war to introduce Patriot Act II, and then exploit the crisis to ram it through Congress with little public debate. (4)

The leak and ensuing public backlash frustrated the Bush administration's strategy, so Ashcroft and Co. disassembled Patriot Act II, then reassembled its parts into other legislation. By attaching the redefinition of "financial institution" to an Intelligence Authorization Act, the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies avoided public hearings and floor debates for the expansion of the Patriot Act. (5)

Even proponents of this expansion have expressed concern about these legislative tactics. "It's a problem that some of these riders that are added on may not receive the scrutiny that we would like to see," says St. Mary's Professor Robert Summers.

The Bush Administration has yet to answer pivotal questions about its latest constitutional coup: If these new executive powers are necessary to protect United States citizens, then why would the legislation not withstand the test of public debate? If the new act's provisions are in the public interest, why use stealth in ramming them through the legislative process? (6)

1- What utter nonsense. The argument holds absolutely no water. It addresses not a single issue involved here. Party-line whitewash.

2- See, the opponents DO make sense. Historical precedents are plentiful! Look at the evolution of EVERY system of governance in human history which focused power to the top. Monarchies (most), fascist and dictatorial regimes (all)... Wake up America.

3- Slipping, slipping... Hello Federal Republic of America! Remove the potentiality of the people from democracy and you get fascism. With a charismatic enough, or hyped enough, "leader", that slips into dictatorship.

4- "Ram it through Congress"?! That's the way to do it! See comment 3.

5- Befuddle the People with semantic ping-pong. Ambiguity is the devil's volleyball.

6- An oh-so-innocent way of saying "Um, hold on a second.. what's going on here? Are you guys serious?" Yes, Virgina, they are serious. You are dealing with despotic leadership.

They say "absolute power corrupts absolutely". That may be so, but I suspect that the thirst for absolute power corrupts just as absolutely.

No Comment

As part of my cable television package, I ordered EuroNews. Nevermind that the news reported is from a european perspective (a welcome change from the CNN et al), but there are two other major characteristics of this All-News network I find fantastic:

First of all, there are no "anchor people". No spin doctors with gussied up hair and fake plastic airs giving you a rehashed, opinion-infused narrative. What you get are voiced-over introductions, as well as translations where necessary, of video reportage of events. Oh and no sensationalist crap - this is real news.

Then, they take it one step further.

A segment called "No Comment". And that is exactly what you get. Real, raw video footage, no reporter, no words, no stories, no crap. Just a look at what's going on. Bombings in Iraq, in Gaza... people running, screaming, pleading, dying.

No comment.

At one point, I tried a little mind trick on myself. I said to myself: "ok, you are not watching this on TV; you are watching this "on the web", a streaming video feed in someone's weblog."

The trick worked. I sat back, blown away, and overcome with weltschmerz. No, that word is not strong enough... grief and sadness.

They make these videos available on the web. Go look.

Michael Moore publishes letters from U.S. soldiers in Iraq

I just received an e-mail from good friend and former employer, Warren Wilansky. Warren and the gang at Plank Design do all of Michael Moore's websites.

He sent me the text of the latest Mike's Message.

A small excerpt:

What they are saying to me, often eloquently and in heart-wrenching words, is that they were lied to -- and this war has nothing to do with the security of the United States of America.

Also just made available are 20 letters that U.S. soldiers have sent to Mr. Moore.

There are two basic messages in this: 1- the war in Iraq was/is a sham and 2- things over there right now are far far worse than we are being told.

Please read some of these letters, as well as Mike's Message.

AND, if you are lucky enough to live in a place where, for example, your television service offers European or other non-U.S. news outlets, subscribe to these channels now and see for yourself. (Here in Montreal, Videotron offers "EuroNews" which pulls together video reporting from many european journailsts in Iraq right now. It is frightening frightening stuff they are telling us...)

Oh and blog about this message too... It is important!

On a related note: if you can get your hands on a copy of "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War", a film in part funded by the Voter Fund, it is well worth it.

Ashcroft humor

US Attorney General John Ashcroft was visiting an elementary school. After 15 minutes speaking he says, "I will now answer any questions you have."

Bobby stands up and says: "I have four questions:
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"

Just then the bell goes off and the kids rushed out to play. Upon returning, Mr. Ashcroft said: "I am sorry we were interrupted. I will answer any questions you have."

A little girl called Julie stands up and says: "I have six questions:
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
5. Why did the bell ring twenty minutes early?
6. Where's Bobby?

via: Gen Kanai

Electioneering, stats and the network effect.

What a seriously odd series of moments the last 72 hours have been.

Not five minutes ago I thought to myself "I'd like to see some visual representations of U.S. campaign stats. Like, where's the candidates money coming from, where are they spending it, where are they now, what are their itineraries, their timelines., etc...

Running though my RSS subscriptions, I came across this entry of David Weinberger's, in which he links to this map displaying where the candidate's funds are coming from. That takes care of request one.

Just before that, I checked my email for the first time today only to receive two separate emails, unrelated from each other (The emails that is - both senders I met in Boston and have shared meals and great conversations with and both of whom I now have very interesting friendships with), one inviting me to Burlington to hang out at Dean HQ and the other inspiring me with the clout to do just that, though why exactly I would want to is still somewhat unclear to me.

Last night, I fought back tears watching Josh Lyman on The West Wing be given back his "wings" and admitted back into the "war room". Don't ask. The night before I watched, enthralled, a documentary about the Kennedy brothers and their politics. Go figure. Not to mention the Gore Vidal interview on Charlie Rose which blew me away and off to the bookstore to buy his book. For some weird reason I also grabbed "Political Philosophy - A Short Introduction". Can't hurt.

Back to stats, similar to the MoneyMaps above, yesterday I cam across a project by Ethan Zuckermann, another fascinating person who was gracious enough to invite me along to a dinner he was having with Feedster creator, Scott Johnson. Ethan's project (one of apparently many many, GeekCorps being another) is "Global Attention Profiles":

A Global Attention Profile looks at how a media outlet pays attention to 180 different nations. Instead of comparing how many stories Google has on the Green Bay Packers versus the Dallas Cowboys, we compare Google stories on Sudan versus Libya versus Lebanon. The resulting data gives us a picture of how an individual media source, at a given moment in time, pays attention to different nations.

Brilliant! Can we get one of these maps displaying Attention Profiles for the candidates?!

Why do I care. Dunno. I guess I think things are still pretty sour in the world and anything helps... ;)

Extremely disturbing

Article examining George W. Bush's upbrining and it's effects / ramifications.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | So George, how do you feel about your mom and dad?

Media protest power

From "The Prandial Post" weblog:

So the media fought back by precisely not doing what they do best. As Ansar arrived in Parliament, everyone put down their cameras and notepads and just watched him, arms folded, not reporting on the events. Then they used their press passes to get access to the main chamber and stood in silence, holding aloft pictures of Couso on which they had written "assassinated". They got a standing ovation for a minute and a half - including, curiously, many of Ansar's own party.

Beautiful! The spanish media asked questions, nay, demanded andswers in the death of one of their own. The answers were not satisfactory, and so: the flow stops.

Oh how wonderful such a display would be in a White House press briefing!

Scully? Any thoughts?

This is "way out" perhaps but no less implausible:
SARS - A Great Global SCAM

Caveat lector:

The reader should reach his own conclusions on Horowitz's
credentials. His earlier books appear to cover such topics as the author's thesis that the AIDS virus was deliberately engineered and deployed by the CIA; world-saving healing modalities found in the Bible's secret codes; the "diseased" masonic Catholic Church; and how Hitler's elite continue to plan eugenic mass murder via pandemics, and world control through computer chips implanted in the hand or forehead.

(From Dave Farber's "Interesting People" mailing list.)

Incompetence at the top

This leaves me speechless.

I don't know which is more impressive... Rumsfeld's arrogance and stupidty (and therefor the certainty of his defeat), or the fact that apparently, normally, an "embedded piece of the bureaucratic and operational culture " is essentailly a text document outline: the "TPFDL" (time-phased forces-deployment list). War by scripting? Makes sense, I guess.

I can see it now: over generations of military men (analysts), they develop a system (scripting language) which more or less does the trick. Along comes this arrogant wippersapper who figures he'd rather bootstrap the war and "hardcode it by hand". Oh and the R&D budget isn't what it used to be so...


Real dummy?

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Would the real George Bush please stand down

Bush's main vocal technique - the bewildered pause - is only too easy to imitate.

One war post

1_880_1_6.jpgAl Jazeera - Now in english and sticking it to The Man

Look at this picture America. This is one of your sons. He is one of many MANY dead. Most of the dead are not your children. But all ARE, or WERE children.. and now they ARE dead. Do YOU want this? I don't believe you do.

Every American who attended peace rallyes, anti-war protests or any such things, put your VOTES where you mouths are:

Pledge RIGHT NOW NOT to re-elect the current administration.

Pledge right now that you will not accept ANY of the members of the current administration in ANY future positions of public office.

Barring a truly inspiring candidate in the Democrats' camp, VOTE OUTSIDE the bi-partisan system.

Vote for electoral process and funding reform.
Demand radical reform thereof, for your votes are being toyed with, manipulated by shady statisticians and you are being lied to.

Demand that YOU THE PEOPLE actually have a voice again, and that you be represented as a humane people.

Daddy dearest

Bush Sr warning over unilateral action
So George "A Thousand Points of Light" Bush Sr. is now saying Jr. should chill just a bit.

Sing a song.

Thx Warren.

U.S. Diplomat's Letter of Resignation

In the new York Times (free registration).

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

Important to note

My good friend N posted this comment on a previous entry of mine and I felt it important to repost it here as an entry of its own. Thank you Naz.

Take this test:
Here's a list of the countries that the U.S. has bombed since the end of World War II, as compiled by historian William Blum:

China 1945-46 Korea 1950-53 China 1950-53 Guatemala 1954 Indonesia 1958 Cuba 1959-60 Guatemala 1960 Congo 1964 Peru 1965 Laos 1964-73 Vietnam 1961-73 Cambodia 1969-70 Guatemala 1967-69 Grenada 1983 Libya 1986 El Salvador 1980s Nicaragua 1980s Panama 1989 Iraq 1991-99 Sudan 1998 Afghanistan 1998, 2001 Yugoslavia 1999

In how many of these instances did a FREE government, respectful of human rights, occur as a direct result? Choose one of the following:

(a) 0 (b) zero (c) none

Not just Iraq

The current Republican White House of George Dubya isn't just being stupid about Iraq. Of course this is nothing surprising really, considering.

Take a look at this insanity:

  • "US Isolated at Population Conference over Its Anti-Abortion Stand"

  • "US Anti-Abortion Stand Under Fire at UN Meeting in Bangkok"

  • "US Stance on Abortion and Condom Use Rejected at Population Conference"

  • "U.S. Eases Drug-Patent Rules"

  • "United States Holds Out on How to Give Poor Nations Access to Affordable Drugs"
  • And then, just as Bush announces almost $15 billion for AIDS research funding for Africa and the Caribbean, we hear this:

  • "Iraq War Would Quash Efforts to Fight AIDS, UN Africa Envoy Says"
  • Can't seem to do anything right, this boy.