Saturday, July 10, 2004

Public Health Announcement #1

The Proper Use of Elbows

Elbows are excellent weapons. Imagine yourself being attacked by someone (yes, I know this isn't nice) who has you in a hug that leaves at least one of your arms free. Then imagine the movement you make if you wish to scratch your neck. Hold it right there! Now you have the 'elbow punch' ready. When your arm is bent over like this the elbow becomes its new extremity, and it's quite a hammer, even when the person who owns it is small and frail.

The elbow has a limited range of movement, but not much movement is needed. To go back into the hostile hug example, all you need to do is to raise the elbow straight up in front of your body. It's good to hammer noses with, or whatever else might happen to be in its way. Of course you want to swing it, not just raise it.

Another neat use for the elbow is towards the back. Suppose that you are held from behind by some nasty assailant of the night. If the creep's arm is around your neck, the first thing you want to do is to lower your chin as much as possible towards your chest. This guarantees that you won't choke. The next thing you do is to make a fist (thumb on the outside of the fist, please). Then you can swing your arm backwards towards the groin of the assailant, and as your fist hits home, you can continue the trajectory back and upwards by bending your elbow. It should reach the stomach region. If all this is combined with a nice stamp of the attacker's instep with your shod foot, you should find yourself freed. What you do next is run. (If you're all alone with the assailant and running will not work something a little more drastic is needed. I'd recommend a hip throw which might break a bone or two (not yours). I'll explain it later if there is interest.)

The elbow is also efficient sideways. Imagine reaching towards the left with your right hand so that it is actually past your body on the left. This is the beginning position of a useful elbow punch to the right. You simply return the arm, bent at the elbow to its home position on the right. It's good when used at the side ribs of an attacker.

Your elbows are your friends! Remember that, especially when you need something for close-quarters fighting. You can practise these moves in your mind or with a willing partner if you are both really careful not to actually hit. Repetition is needed to put the moves into the body memory.

A cynic might argue that these moves won't work with all types of attacks, especially armed ones. That's true. But then appendectomy doesn't cure heart disease either, and learning to speak French is not very useful if you happen to go to China. So let's not be overly pessimistic.
A Consumer Warning: This post is written partly in fun, and it's important to add that no self-defense technique works in all situations and for all people, that no technique should be used where it's illegal, that sometimes it may be better not to use physical defense, that practising such techniques as these should be done with care and under proper guidance if at all possible, and that whether practising these or any other techniques is advisable depends on many factors, including the practitioner's health status. Consult a physician if you are in doubt. Add here any other warning that makes me totally free of any and all misuses of such techniques...

Friday, July 09, 2004

Zero Sum Games: Stepford and the Wall Street

Have you seen the new movie version of the Stepford Wives? The original book and movie were thrillers focusing on the deeper meaning of misogyny and rigid sex roles in the 1970's America, but the new movie is a satire where the plot laughs at everybody, including the heroine:

In the 1975 movie, Katharine Ross' Joanna was a very likable everywoman who wanted to resume her career in photography now that her children have started school. Seeing none of the other women in town shares her desire to pursue interests outside the home, Joanna thinks she's going crazy and eventually fears for her life.

Nicole Kidman's updated Joanna is a negative stereotype of an overly ambitious, non-maternal career woman. Her best friend Bobbie, who was quirky and fun in the original, is played by Bette Midler as hilarious but also dark and bitter. The re-make adds a new gay character who is predictably neurotic and sarcastic. All three newcomers to Stepford are taking anti-anxiety or anti-depressant pills implying there is something inherently unhappy in their career-obsessed lives.

It's no longer so unusual to portray a woman as wanting to do something interesting with her remaining years, of course, so it may be natural that the remake would change Joanna's character. But why make her into a career-obsessed harridan?

This is what we do with many sociological and political problems, and especially those that have to do with women's roles. You're either one thing or the other, either a mother or a careerist, either a good girl or a bitch, either a virgin or a whore, either a madonna or a witch and so on. Once the problem has been reframed in this rigid two-extremes way, we then continue to decide which extreme end-point each woman should be placed at.

A failed attempt, from the beginning, but there is a good reason why this false dualism is so religiously practised: it makes women's choices into zero-sum games and serves to keep women apart from each other as a social or political force. Zero-sum games are those situations where winning for one person or group by necessity means losing for the others; like deciding on how to divide a chunk of strawberry-and-cream cake between two greedy eaters. But not all social or political situations actually resemble zero-sum games. In many all parties can be winners at the same time. The way we Stepfordize women's choices makes this possibility disappear from public debate, makes the debate take the form of an either-or argument and threatens to turn it into another version of wars among women.

In the real world most people are complicated creatures and want to have both water and bread, both love and work. That's why career harridans and Stepford wives are not real and shouldn't be placed in front of us as somehow the only two choices. This is utter rubbish. But it's clever rubbish, as evidenced by the fact that we talk about this silly stuff and silly movies that contain it, rather than about how to make work and home both feasible for all individuals who need and/or desire them.

Good Morning!

People always dream about the places they're going to visit when they go on vacation (at least in countries where people get vacations, not the U.S. that much). I dream about sleep. So today I'm on vacation, and I just woke up and it's about three in the afternoon! Greetings from the Sandy Man's Island!

The name is supposedly because of all that white slime you gather around your eyelashes when in deep sleep. Well, actually it's because of the way your eyes feel gritty when you're tired, but the grittiness is the white slime that slowly makes it way out to your eyelashes. It never gets to the eyebrows, for some reasons, which makes me wonder even more what eyebrows are really for. They look like windshield wipers, so they could be there to stop bugs from flying into your eyes, but most people have too puny eyebrows for that. Maybe they're primitive sunshades?

Anyway, I dreamt a lot during my most recent slumber. I dreamt about people walking to and fro along a busy street, leading large pink pigs in dog harnesses. Then I dreamt about renting a collapsing manor house in deep woods. I had no money to pay the rent, so I couldn't evict the people who were already living in it: a three-foot tall English barrister who wanted to talk to me about death taxes, a wild artist with a purple beard who had invented a previously nonexisting color, and a very old royal lady who offered to sell me costume jewelry at outrageous prices. All the time in this dream I kept plastering and sawing and propping up walls that collapsed, and these people kept coming in and pestering me about death taxes and art and jewelry. And I feared the day when they'd find out that I had no money at all! But the forest was very beautiful.

And this whole vacation trip cost me nothing! Now I have written about my dream! This is supposed to be an absolute no-no, and doing it feels so good. Plus you can now psychoanalyze me to your heart's content! Or tell me the best dream you ever had. Now I have to take Hank and Henrietta out and feed them, and then I can come back and post something more serious.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

We are not Amused

This photo, via skippy the bush kangaroo, is priceless. It was taken after the president was asked unpleasant questions about his relationship to Kenneth Lay. Look at the body language. Even the flag and the door drapes reflect his grumpiness!

And for more visual fun, here's a picture of Kenneth Lay with his most recent date.... Thanks to Athenae at Eschaton for this one. See how easy blogging can be some days! You just go around and reap the harvest of others who are more industrious...

Meanwhile, in Pakistan...

The New Republic online edition has an article which is very hard to believe, but we have all gotten more and more used to 'very-hard-to-believe' matters before breakfast in the last four years. So perhaps this one is true, too:

This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.
This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

The article does mention one source, Lieutenant General Esan ul-Haw, by name, and he reveals the following interesting tidbit:

a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

I have no idea if any of this is true. That I still decided to post it is based on the old adage: better safe than sorry, as well as the sum total of my recent innocence-stripping experiences with our current administration. We'll see what happens during the first three days of the Democratic National Convention, won't we?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Experiences of Some Detained at Guantanamo Bay

You can read some stories here. There is no way of corroborating what these men say, of course, but I think the mainstream media in the United States should not ignore them. Be warned, the reading might not be easy for all.

The One that Got Away

If you write you know all about that feeling of being nothing but a conduit from some deeper, wider, more important place. Maybe you don't feel it often, but you do feel it sometimes, and then writing is more than pleasure, more than joy, something happening elsewhere yet everywhere. You look up from your work, and five hours have passed! Where did the time go?

The answer is that it didn't exist, because you were in an in-between place, out of time and out of space. You were nothing but a door through which the holy winds blow and everything you wrote down was perfect and nothing you wrote down was from you. It is a blessing to have these moments, worth of years of dental visits without novocaine and good beer.

This is what happened to me this morning, and I'm still weak at the knees. Then I erased it all, accidentally, and the sun died. It deserved to die, and I deserve to die and also to tell about it as publicly as possible. What I had on the screen is gone for ever, and this is because I was a clumsy oaf more in need of my decaf gallon than saving these sacred messages from Elsewhere. So. I hope you feel as bad as I do now. No, not really. Just wanted to share.

The Contraceptive Pill: A New Frontier for the Pro-Life Movement

I googled 'contraceptive pill' and 'implantation' this morning, and found literally hundreds of biased pro-life sites. Try it, if for nothing else, than to find out what the pro-lifers are het up right now. The topic of the day seems to be the regular contraceptive pill, not the 'morning-after' type, and its abortifacient characteristics. In other words, pro-lifers argue that the birth control pill kills babies. Or rather, tiny, tiny sons and daughters. The cunning way it manages to do this is by preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the lining of the uterus.

Some sites tell about this in vivid terms: how 'your' desperate, starving tiny son or daughter is trying, trying, but failing to hook onto 'your' now-shriveled and hostile uterine lining. The writers of these tragedies have lost good career opportunities in some of the lesser known genres of literature, but I wish that they didn't assume the reader is a woman who is also the location of these events.

The reason why taking the birth control pill is murder, in the pro-life world, is the possibility that there might be an ovulation even though the pill tries to stop ovulations from happening, and that as a consequence an egg might be fertilized, but fail because of its inability to implant. The reason I was googling with those keywords as well as others more refined was to find out the studies that show exactly how the contraceptive pill stops implantation of the fertilized egg. I was unable to find any such study, and in fact an article in the Prevention magazine states that no such research exists:

At the heart of the debate between anti-Pill forces and mainstream medicine lies a profound difference of opinion about when pregnancy and life begin. The long-standing medical definition of pregnancy, held by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that it starts not when an egg is fertilized, but when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining.

This distinction is practical: A pregnancy test won't show a positive result before implantation. "It can't be an abortion before there is a pregnancy," points out David Grimes, MD, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and one of the leading contraception experts in the US.

But anti-Pill doctors and pharmacists say life begins sooner, at fertilization. Sloughing off a fertilized egg, in their view, is a "chemical abortion."

"How many women know that if they become pregnant after breakthrough ovulation, these 'contraceptives' will almost always kill any son or daughter they've conceived?" asks the anti-Pill organization Pro-Life America on the group's Web site,

Surprisingly, there's no science to back the theory that birth control pills really do discourage implantation. This claim, made by contraceptive manufacturers for decades, has never been proven, Grimes says. Even the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that it's just speculation.

This is so important it bears repeating:
Surprisingly, there's no science to back the theory that birth control pills really do discourage implantation. This claim, made by contraceptive manufacturers for decades, has never been proven, Grimes says. Even the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that it's just speculation.

You'd never think that there is any doubt about the scientific basis for the implantation-argument in the tens and hundreds of pro-life websites. No doubt at all. Contraceptive pills are abortifacients!:

The Pill and its "cousins" kill children earlier in their life than surgical abortion. In America, chemical abortions are estimated to kill more than 7 million babies each year -- while surgical abortions kill about 1.5 million babies each year.

That's how pro-lifers think. Even the smallest, hypothetical possibility of a fertilized egg not being implanted is adequate grounds to 'estimate' that seven million 'babies' are killed each year by women who use the birth control pill. This is the next frontier of the pro-life warplan, the natural next step to take after fighting abortion: to fight contraception. The frontlines will no longer be drawn at the offices of physicians who perform abortions, rather, they will be in the wombs of millions and millions of American women. Or that's what the pro-life movement would like to see happen, I believe.

Here's a glimpse of the first moves in this new stage of the anti-abortion war:

Though three states have conscience clauses for pharmacists, there is no such legal provision in Texas, where the CVS druggist refused to fill Julee Lacey's prescription.

The night it happened, Lacey says, she was shocked and responded, "Are you sure? I've had this filled here many times before." But the pharmacist was emphatic. "I just couldn't believe what I was hearing," recalls Lacey. "It was a school night, and I knew I had to put my kids to bed and get organized for work the next morning. I didn't want to run all over town for my Pills." Lacey and her husband complained to the assistant store manager that night and the district manager the next day. Finally, the pharmacy supervisor called and said he would have Lacey's prescription delivered that day. "He apologized and said he was unaware of the pharmacist's moral objections to the Pill. Apparently it was a new belief," says Lacey. (A CVS corporate spokesperson contacted by Prevention confirmed Lacey's story. None of the employees has ever been named.)

All that Ms. Lacey suffered was a small delay and some frustration. But what would the consequences be if ethical refusals by health professionals were more generally legal? What would a woman in a rural area with just one pharmacy do? Where would she go if the only gynecologist refused to prescribe the pill? Do these ethical refusals take into account all the abortions that might ensue because women get pregnant in the absence of the birth control pill they can't get prescribed?

More generally, do ethical refusals consider the fact that many women use the contraceptive pill for something else than pregnancy prevention? It is used to control acne, to reduce fibroids, to control endometriosis and to prevent ovarian cancer, a particulary deathly and symptomless form of cancer (the efficacy of birth control pills in preventing this type of cancer may be as high as 80%). Does this matter to the refusing professional? That the woman denied the pill might then actually die herself? Of course this is unlikely to happen today, given that most other professionals will not refuse to prescribe oral contraceptives, but shouldn't the ethical refuser consider his or her own choices and their consequences alone? After all, most of those denied the pill for birth control purposes will get their prescription filled elsewhere, and if the pill is killing tiny babies, it will do it irrespective of the person who prescribed or dispensed the order.

I'm unhappy with this ethical refusal rule, and wonder where it might lead us. Suppose that I present myself at the front desk of a pharmacy somewhere with a big packet of red and pink condoms. If the clerk helping me doesn't believe in adultery, can she or he quiz me on my marital status and on what I intend to do with the condoms? And does it matter that I'm going to use them in lieu of birthday balloons?

I'm also unhappy with the argument I found on a pro-life website that scientists have conclusively proved that life begins at conception. I believe, deeply, sincerely and fervently, that life begins before conception. The ova and the sperm are both alive and both human, and any man who ejaculates during sleep is guilty of mass murder. Likewise, any woman who needs to buy tampons this month is guilty of serial murder. When I get around to it, I'm going to start my own pro-life movement and go after the Catholic priests first of all. Think of all the lives they have denied! But even if I believed in the lukewarm version the current pro-life movement holds true, I'd be a little bit concerned about going after all women who use oral contraceptives just on the basis of a hunch. This seems a cruel and non-Christian thing to do, though to be fair to the pro-lifers, any woman who gives up her pills right now can still get forgiveness and a place in heaven. I wonder what the writers of this stuff will get when they knock on the final gates? A nasty surprise? Who knows.

Via the Rubber Nun

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

J. Leon Holmes was Approved

So. Religion has been affirmed, never mind about all that political correctness crap. You might be interested to know that Mary Landrieux voted for Mr. Holmes. I'm sure that she had asked for the permission of her husband before venturing to raise her voice in public in such a manner. If not, she can always repent later at leisure.

Actually, it's a good reminder, a cold shower if you like, about what is important in this world. Religion is, and bombs are and wars. Human rights are very unimportant, except when they come handy as a shield behind which better political plots can be hatched.

And you will not get a link or anything. I'm a fed-up goddess, and in fact I've put in my application to start a new world somewhere far away. Populated by nothing but snakes.

Guess Who's Really Oppressed in America?

This is an easy one: it's white Christian men, especially the ones who try to get appointments as Federal Judges. The most recent victim of this incessant harassment of Christians is J. Leon Holmes, a district court nominee. He's mercilessly oppressed by not only the Democrats, of whom we expect nothing but such stigmatizing, but even by some wishy-washy quasi-Republicans! Yes, indeed, moles have buried deep into the Republican underbelly, and the season to get rid of them is now!

So tremble, Arlen Specter, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Olympia Snowe! Quiver and shake, ye women of the Republicans in the House and Senate! We shall smite you down in your arrogance! We have heard mutterings and rumblings that all Republican female Senators are against this noble and valiant Christian soldier, and we warn you that the Right will prevail.

Why does any misguided soul oppose our brother-in-faith J. Leon Holmes? He is, after all, wielding the sword against abortionists and people who refuse to see the righteous truth in the commands of the holy Bible. All Leon is accused of is stating clearly that which we all know to be true deep in our bosoms: that women are not equal to men. It is not Leon's fault that this is how things are, what is written is written. And what is written must be true. Read Ephesians 5 yourself if you doubt me.

And did you ever hear anything more idiotic than this:

Critics have portrayed Holmes as anti-woman. Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, issued a statement yesterday saying that "Holmes' record and extreme views about the role of women and other subjects will make it impossible for many who come before him to believe they will get a fair hearing."

How lamentably wrong can these communists be? What is wrong with taking Epheseans 5 as your guiding light in deciding on court cases concerning the weaker sex? What is wrong with holding the holy truths about the submission of women above the purely earthly concerns of this republic? What is fairer to women than the religion we know to be the only right one?

See, brethren, how we battle the dark forces. Yet they rise again and again, and in their anger and wrath trample over our sacred rights and the True Way of Life. They oppress us and don't let us rule over their pagan multitudes. They discriminate against us and don't let us preach the true words from the judicial pulpits. We are the oppressed and the victimized, we are the ones who must be affirmed.

Please rise and assure that our brother J. Leon Holmes receives the judgeship that is his by right. If he can be denied on such puny grounds as not seeing the sexes as equal, how can we ever grant equal opportunity to those of us who hold even firmer views on these matters?

Via Holden on Atrios.

John Edwards

So now it's a campaign of the two johns. About the only real opening this gives the wingnuts.

Edwards was a good choice, I think, if there is such a thing as a good choice in thir particular election year. Anyone Kerry would nominate would be treated to an immediate autopsy by the right-wing pundits. Just to see what Edwards might have in store, I went around looking for any nasty things that was said about him.

Here's a sampling:

From corporate America:

Wall Street was also concerned about Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's selection of John Edwards as vice president. Edwards, a trial lawyer, is seen by the conservative investment community as a proponent of the expensive class-action litigation that often plagues corporate America.
"Clearly, Edwards isn't the choice of business. But the primary question is John Kerry the choice for business?," Pears said. "The answer to that question is less clear for John Kerry, and he's the one running for president, not Edwards.

From the Bush/Cheney campaign:

The Bush/Cheney campaign released new TV ads in an attempt to downplay Kerry`s announcement. They show Bush and Republican Senator John McCain hugging on the campaign trail and say McCain was Kerry`s first choice in a running mate, not John Edwards.

From Republican commentators more generally:

But Larry Sabato also says Republicans will question whether John Edwards is qualified to become vice president.
"Edwards is so inexperienced," he said. "He has never served in public office before this one Senate term and he has a very thin resume in the Senate. He really was not a very dedicated senator. So, I think the question can fairly be asked, is this fellow really ready to assume the presidency on a moment's notice in this very dangerous time?"

and from the mouth of the beast itself, the National Review Online:

Party strategists will undoubtedly answer that in the general election it is the presidential candidate who really matters, and that in the area of national security, voters placed much more trust in John Kerry. That's true. But given that the war in Iraq, and to some extent the larger issue of national security, will likely dominate the fall campaign, it's also true that Kerry has chosen a running mate who is extraordinarily weak on those issues that matter most.

All this sounds very weak to me. Which means that John Edwards was a good choice for Kerry. Let the games begin.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Blogger Pains

The Blogger is experiencing growing pains again. If you have trouble getting here or to any other blogspot site, it's not your fault. Normally trying again a couple of times will work, or if not, alternating with should do the trick. We apologize for this inconvenience, but plan to do nothing to fix it as blogspot is extremely appropriately priced. Though I will personally scold them, again.

Women Priests

I am for them, but the Roman Catholic church is somewhat less enthusiastic. Well, considerably less enthusiastic. This is not hard to understand: if women became priests, who'd be left to do all the drudge work that is needed in running the churches? Still, I don't understand the Pope's brain on the topic of women. He appears to have but the faintest idea of what women are. Maybe this isn't so unexpected given the way the Catholic church makes sure that its priests will not live in families which would be one way of finding out about women, at least partially. Not that women are very different from men, of course, but it seems to be part of the Pope's belief systems that they are. For example, women can't be priests because they weren't among Christ's disciples (ok, I have no idea if the Pope believes this, but many in the church do, and I want to make the argument here). This hasn't stopped the church from electing a Polish pope, and I'm willing to bet my pocket money against the possibility that any of the original disciples was Polish. In any case, some scholars argue that Mary Magdalene was a disciple and that her role was erased in later rewritings of the gospels.

I think that women should be priests because I would have made a wonderful priest, if I had happened to have been born Catholic (and human). This makes me believe that we are losing countless numbers of wonderful priests because of attitudes which really should be outdated by now. I also don't like giving little girls messages about their second-class status, and being told that you can't become a priest simply because you are a girl tends to do funny things to your head. It may even serve to breed future feminists!

So the following news should be regarded as good ones by all concerned:

Six Catholic women, including two Americans, were ordained as Catholic deacons on June 26 at a service on the Danube River in Passau, Germany. The service was a continuation of a series of ordinations that began in 2002 in the same location, at which point seven women were ordained into the priesthood.
For a religious community still in the shadows of the clergy sex abuse scandals, these ordinations are seen as a positive step toward the healing of the Catholic church, according to advocates of female priests.

Ida Raming, a German theologian and one of the priests who performed the ordinations of women two years ago, argued that baptism, not gender, determines eligibility for the priesthood. At the 2002 service she said that the opinion of the current church leadership on women priests--as well as the Biblical canons that it is derived from--are "based on a grave lack of respect for the human dignity of women and their Christian existence."

Not that any of this will be accepted by the Catholic church. The most likely outcome is that all those involved in these ordinations will be excommunicated. There is something very sad about a church which must excommunicate those who most desperately want to serve it.

Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

Welcome to the post 7/4 world. It's time to be afraid again:

The federal authorities, concerned about a terror attack during this summer's national political conventions, have begun a new effort to identify potential extremists inside the United States, including conducting interviews in communities where terrorists might seek refuge, government officials said.
The fears about an incident during the conventions or later in the year have also led state and local officials to impose extraordinary security precautions. Persistent if indistinct intelligence reports, based on electronic intercepts and live sources, indicate that Al Qaeda is determined to strike in the United States some time this year, the officials said in interviews last week.
Almost half the budgets in each convention city will be spent on security, local officials said. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Boston at the Fleet Center from July 26 to 29. The Republican National Convention will be held in New York at Madison Square Garden from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.
New York is regarded as a higher risk than Boston by counterterrorism officials because George Bush is a Republican and because of consistent intelligence.

Clearly, the counterterrorism officials have been busy protecting George Bush already from possible terrorists. In his ninth visit to West Virginia since taking office, Bush told Americans that their country is safer because Saddam Hussein is in a prison cell. However, his own security seems to have been seriously endangered by this brave public appearance:

Two Bush opponents, taken out of the crowd in restraints by police, said they were told they couldn't be there because they were wearing shirts that said they opposed the president.

Ok. We've got Saddam in a cell and probably the Bush protesters as well (no, turns out that they were let loose, after all!). How about catching some of Al Qaeida, too? Or is this just not doable given the current budgeted expenditures needed in Iraq? To be honest, I'd much rather pay taxes for Al Qaeida hunting than either the fiasco in Iraq or the fiasco that took place in West Virginia. Though I guess we'll soon have nothing left to protect of the freedoms that Bush argues make the terrorists so mad at us.
Thanks to Tena at Eschaton for the link to the second quote.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Barbara Ehrenreich on the Fourth of July

From the New York Times:

When they first heard the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, New Yorkers were so electrified that they toppled a statue of King George III and had it melted down to make 42,000 bullets for the war. Two hundred twenty-eight years later, you can still get a rush from those opening paragraphs. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." The audacity!
Read a little further to those parts of the declaration we seldom venture into after ninth-grade civics class, and you may feel something other than admiration: an icy chill of recognition. The bulk of the declaration is devoted to a list of charges against George III, several of which bear an eerie relevance to our own time.
George III is accused, for example, of "depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury." Our own George II has imprisoned two U.S. citizens — Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi — since 2002, without benefit of trials, legal counsel or any opportunity to challenge the evidence against them. Even die-hard Tories Scalia and Rehnquist recently judged such executive hauteur intolerable.
It would be silly, of course, to overstate the parallels between 1776 and 2004. The signers of the declaration were colonial subjects of a man they had come to see as a foreign king. One of their major grievances had to do with the tax burden imposed on them to support the king's wars. In contrast, our taxes have been reduced — especially for those who need the money least — and the huge costs of war sloughed off to our children and grandchildren. Nor would it be tactful to press the analogy between our George II and their George III, of whom the British historian John Richard Green wrote: "He had a smaller mind than any English king before him save James II."

It is all good stuff.