Saturday, September 9, 2006

Racial Profiling by the Border Patrol

Note: This was originally posted by Man Eegee on the original version of this blog. It is being reproduced verbatim here.

An interesting topic-starter by columnist Mona Darwich-Gatto of the Arizona Daily Star, who also writes the blog Salaam Sahuarita. Recently, she and her husband crossed through one of the numerous border patrol checkpoints that litter southern Arizona (this one was on the way back from Tombstone). Mona describes the full account how the border patrol agent she encountered took it upon himself to ask her additional questions beyond "what is your citizenship?".

As someone who is constantly profiled at checkpoints and given extra look-overs anytime I pass through the Nogales port of entry when I'm across the line for food or drinks, I have pretty strong feelings on this subject but wanted to throw her question out there to anyone who reads this site.
My husband was bothered about my being profiled. We have divergent opinions on the subject. I think if one has nothing to hide, profiling is OK as long as law enforcement doesn't overdo it, but it is hard to define "overdoing it."

My husband feels that profiling is wrong and in the long term is not effective.

So, since I have mixed feelings on the subject, what do you think about racial profiling in airports and checkpoints? Can it be helpful or just cause more anger? Do you care?

linkage to full account
Crossposted from my humble blog

Thursday, September 7, 2006

While Bu$hCo tries to invent Hitlers,

there are real "Hitlers" on the prowl. For example:

That picture was found at a website devoted to cats that look like Hitler. So, yes, there are "Hitlers" on the prowl, catching mice and/or birds (leaving them as "presents" for their human friends), killing ordinary houseplants, and periodically pouncing - claws extended - on unwitting humans in the middle of the night. In other words, they're just your typical kitties. The website does periodically alert its readers to "kitlers" in need of adoption.

And from the website's FAQ:
Aren't you guys glorifying Hitler's memory?
Let's get this straight. Hitler was an arsehole. Hitler was a disgusting, pus-ridden lump of excrement from the devil's own anus. Before we go any further, let's just reiterate that. As such, we think it is entirely appropriate to reduce him to an object of ridicule by comparing his physical appearance with a collection of fluffy, cute moggies.

So, if it's not a "neo-Nazi facist animal" website, what's the point?
What's the point of half the internet? Does the world really, really, really need www.catsinsinks.com? Or www.stuffonmycat.com? If a website had to have a point the only website in existence would be Google, and you'd just be able to search itself. No, it's as simple as: we like cats, and we think Kitlers are funny.

Heck, what's the point of cat blogging? A fair portion of the bandwidth consumed by blogtopia (yes, skippy, I know) would cease to exist if it weren't for cat blogging. In fact here I am cat blogging, albeit not with any of my own cats - this time (which reminds me...). But I digress. Next time your GOP coworker, classmate, or neighbor starts raving about this season's new "Hitler" just send them over to a site where the real ones are. Meow!

The US foreign policy in two words: Got oil?

Juan Cole lays it out, with a graphic and commentary. Basically, the bottom line is that while Bu$hCo is out inventing new Hitlers, that's merely to provide theatre (not good theatre, but in this age of history as farce you take what you can get I guess). Something else is going on behind the scenes:
If you want to know what is really going on, it is a struggle for control of the Strategic Ellipse, which just happens demographically to be mostly Muslim. Bush has to demonize the Muslim world in order to justify his swooping down on the Strategic Ellipse. If demons occupy it, obviously they have to be cleared out in favor of Christian fundamentalists or at least Texas oilmen. And what is the Strategic Ellipse?

Voila.

Otherwise, there is no coherent description for the US government's current "enemies." There's very little in common in terms of religion (Islam is hardly the unidemensional charicature that is presented in what passes for news and commentary in the US) or ideology.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

By the numbers: civil liberties, Saddam & 9-11, Mess o' potamia

Zogby sez:

Civil Liberties Highlight Differences

Questions tied to civil liberties also generate significant differences between Republicans and Democrats, again with independents aligning more readily with Democrats. Asked if they would favor or oppose a number of different specific methods to combat terror, the partisan division is clear in most questions.

Would you favor allowing these methods if it meant increased protection from terrorist acts?*

OVER-ALL

DEM

GOP

IND

Allowing video surveillance of public places

80%

77%

87%

74%

Allowing your purse, handbag, briefcase, backpack, or packages to be searched at random anywhere

55%

45%

66%

52%

Allowing regular roadblocks to search vehicles

48%

38%

62%

44%

Allowing your car to be searched at random

45%

37%

60%

36%

Allowing your telephone conversations to be monitored

37%

20%

56%

34%

Allowing your mail to be searched at random

36%

26%

49%

31%

*Percent agreeing with method reported

The series of questions reveals that majorities of Democrats oppose all surveillance methods except video surveillance of public places, while independents align with Democrats on this series of questions on all issues except random searches of purses, handbags, backpacks and other packages, where a narrow majority of independents are in favor. In all cases, however, independents track closer to Democratic percentages than the more stridently favorable views of Republicans. A majority of GOP voters, meanwhile, favor all types of searches, with the exception of random mail searches—but even on this least popular anti-terror measure, a narrow plurality of Republicans backs the measure.

[...]

Saddam Link to 9/11 Disputed

Half of American voters (50%) say there is no link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks, while 46% believe there is a connection. However, just 37% of respondents in the poll agreed that Saddam was connected to the attacks and that the Iraq War was justified as retribution for his involvement, while 48% believed that there is no connection between Saddam and 9/11 and the Iraq War has diverted AmericaÂ’s attention from the War on Terror.

Do you agree or disagree that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks?

OVER-ALL

DEM

GOP

IND

Agree

46%

32%

65%

39%

Disagree

50%

65%

30%

56%

As with other questions, the surveyÂ’s queries about SaddamÂ’s reputed involvement in 9/11 show Democrats and Republicans holding opposite views. But, just ahead of the 2006 mid-term elections, independents are tracking closer to Democrats than Republicans on these questions.

[...]

In one key measurement in the survey, a 58% majority says the Iraq War has not been worth the loss of American lives, while 36% say it has. But the partisan breakdown shows a very different story. Among Republicans, 58% say the war has been worth the cost in lives, while among Democrats, just 20% hold this view—a number that improves to 28% among independents.

Do you agree or disagree that the War in Iraq has been worth the loss of American lives?

OVER-ALL

DEM

GOP

IND

Agree

36%

20%

58%

28%

Disagree

58%

78%

32%

66%

Well, some things definitely jump out at me. I don't know how Zogby or most pollsters define Independents, but I'm going with the notion that the term Independent is sort of a catch-all category for those who don't affiliate with either of the two "official" parties in the US. A lot of pundits assume Independents are "centrists" but I would suggest that they're likely to be all over the political map. That digression aside, it becomes clear in a hurry that the world most Republicans must be experiencing is a radically different one from most of the rest of us. The primary base of support for the Iraq war debacle comes from the GOP, although that support seems pretty flaccid compared to those heady days of 2003. It's also pretty apparent that although a disquieting proportion of Americans still buy in to the urban legend that Saddam was somehow connected to the 9-11 attacks of NYC and DC, that the bulk of that legend's true believers are to be found in the Republican party.

The civil liberties questions are a mixture of reassuring and alarming. That a large proportion of Americans of any party affiliation seem perfectly okay with video surveillance brings images of Orwell's dystopia to mind. That a preponderance of Americans seem unconcerned with random searches of personal belongings is also a bit discomforting. Perhaps a bit more on the reassuring side, it appears that the primary support for invasive violations of civil liberties such as roadblocks to allow random searches of vehicles and surveillance of personal communications is limited to the GOP. Even here, the GOP support for such procedures is hardly overwhelming, and it becomes readily apparent - especially when it comes to government surveillance of phone calls and reading through personal mail - that such procedures are roundly opposed outside of GOP circles.

What Zogby's poll strongly hints at is a GOP worldview that is largely founded on fear and almost blind trust in those who do the fearmongering. It must be a frightening world that these folks live in. The results also suggest strongly that candidates running against Republicans should do whatever they can to contrast their positions on the war in Iraq and privacy rights with the GOP counterparts, reminding their potential voters that the GOP is the party responsible for starting that war as well as supporting the sorts of gross violations of privacy favored by the White House. Such opposition candidates whether running as Democrats or other party affiliations should be able to find a receptive audience among Democrats and independent voters.

Got Doublespeak?

September 6, 2006

Media Contact: (202) 789-5200

Beware of Doublespeak in the War on Terror
Study exposes euphemisms and half-truths

WASHINGTON - Since the catastrophic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government has routinely employed a disturbing new vocabulary -- or doublespeak -- to expand its police powers, claims the new Cato Institute study, "Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism."

By compiling a laundry list of doublespeak terms used throughout the war, Timothy Lynch, author of the study and director of Cato's Project on Criminal Justice, scrutinizes the government's manipulative use of language and exposes the underlying issues it obscures.

* The study finds that the Bush administration has tried to bypass the constitutional framework limiting the power to search and seize private property by championing the use of "National Security Letters" (NSLs) in lieu of obtaining search warrants. "Unlike search warrants," Lynch notes, "NSLs can be executed without the approval of judges."

* Furthermore, the term "debriefing" has become the "new euphemism for interrogation and the third degree," writes Lynch. According to the study: "[W]hen pressed by members of Congress, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admitted that the president could order the CIA to treat certain prisoners inhumanely. In sum, the administration can legally authorize an inhumane debriefing, but not authorize torture."

* Even the U.S. Military has used doublespeak to describe events at Guantanamo, argues Lynch. When three prisoners hanged themselves in their cells, the Camp Commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, called the suicides "an act of asymmetrical warfare" against the American military.

"Reasonable people can disagree about what should be done to combat terrorists," Lynch concludes. "However, a conscientious discussion of the options before us must begin with a clear understanding of what our government is actually doing."

Briefing Paper #98: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6654

Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and Steve Reid


From a live Amsterdam gig. I have loved Reid's drumming for a while now.

Also check out my previous Steve Reid post.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Bu$hCo "Boom" Was a Bust All Along

This picture sez it:
Those are changes in median income from 1999 through 2005. We Okies of course have seen a drop since the "New American Century" began, though our workers haven't quite borne the brunt of the drop in income that, say, Michigan has faced.

Fortunately the future's so bright here in Oklahoma, I gotta wear shades:
Instead, let’s look at some of the ways America’s “trickle-down” economic policy is succeeding.
  • Average income is up. Even though income for the bottom half of Oklahoma households has dropped, the top half have more than made up for it by causing personal income to grow 6 percent overall.
  • Worker productivity is up. Wages now make up the lowest share of the gross domestic product (GDP) since 1947.
  • Jobs are up. Job growth has led to more opportunity to work with an increase in the number of jobs worked per household.
  • Health care coverage is up. Creative health insurance policies that minimize services has allowed Oklahoma to retain its position as fourth lowest in the nation for percentage of people with health insurance.
  • Corporate profits are up. Keeping wages low has contributed to a healthy business climate with profits as a percentage of the nation’s GDP being the largest in four decades.
  • Tax cuts for investors are up. Stockholders and real estate developers that make money from dividends and capital gains pay taxes on their income of only a half to a third of what workers pay on their wages.
  • The promise for more of the same is up. Legislators appreciate the importance of a powerful business influence in guiding our economy and are committed to provide ever more incentives for unhindered prosperity.
Good times.......Good times.

Monday, September 4, 2006

The Bottom Line


Video by Jim Gladman and Negativeland.

The sleeper effect rides again

Here's a social psychological phenomenon in action. It's known as the sleeper effect. Basically, the idea is that some dodgy source will make some dodgy claim perhaps repeatedly. As time goes by, the dodgy claim, having been stored in our memory gets recalled minus the accompanying bits about the claim or its source's dodginess. Hence, the claim gains some persuasive power that it previously didn't have. Urban legends take on a life of their own as a result of this basic feature of our mental lives. How many people still believe that Gore claimed to "invent the internet"? You can look that one up on snopes.com and find out about the claim and its source quite readily. But I digress. Now on to our feature:
First, the ball-breakingly obvious: the method of advertising consists mainly in mindless repetition and metonymic association between unrelated items or themes. So, there is an intense advertising campaign on right at this moment to persuade the American public that it's 1939 all over again.

The latest buzz word is fascism. Fascism, fascism, fascism. Concurrently, appeasement is doing the rounds. As Jim Lobe writes, this theme is being pushed forcefully by the neoconservative press, but it is worth bearing in mind that John Reid floated this latest round of the He's-A-Hitler season with his reference to "individual fascists" who were now more menacing than the state. And of course, the fake stories about Iran's intention to make non-Muslims and specifically Jews wear badges was an earlier milestone in this prolonged campaign.

Let's not waste time: this isn't new, and it isn't designed to impress. It isn't analysis and no one is even pretending that it is. It's the same, soggy old pigshit they have been shoving down our throats ever since Anthony Eden called Nasser a fascist. They don't expect the intelligentsia to swallow it (but so much the better if some do). They expect the intelligentsia to snigger and go "huhuhuhuh, Bush is stoopid, yeah yeah, huhuhuhuh, he's so stoopid!" While commentators are busily giggling and coughing up phlegm, the warrior elite expect that the casual viewers will slowly come to make these associations by themselves, as if voluntarily, forgetting where they were first forged and how. Already, there must be quite a substantial number of people who have heard the phrase 'Islamofascism' and used it without ever having given it a moment's thought or scrutiny. That's how advertising works.

[...]

The only thing to do is note it, point at it, and look for what's behind it. It happens, as usual, to be crashingly obvious. Oh, they want your money, they want your vote, they want you to shut up when they bomb Iran, they want you to stop criticising the President, they want you to commit to supporting the troops in Iraq, they want the army to stop seeing its recruitment fall through the floor, they want you to be worried about anything other than energy prices, the collapse in the housing market and the looming recession. The usual.
Nerdified link. My emphasis added.

The problem with the "intelligentsia" is that with a very weak (to the point of being almost neutralized) opposition to whatever Bu$hCo is selling, they end up innoculating their audience against an actual oppositional message. I suspect a lot of it boils down to the "intelligentsia" being sufficiently indoctrinated into the same mindset as the rest of the elites that they're all thoroughly on the same page - there may be a bit of quibbling in terms of details (some want a kinder gentler genocide whereas others just want their genocide as bloody as possible - with both believing that the genocide in question will spread freedom and democracy or at least democracy's birth pangs), but that can all be hashed out on the Sunday morning talkshow circuit.

So what are we working stiffs left with? A forceful yet questionable message from equally unsavory messengers that is only weakly rebutted by some court jesters with impeccable credentials. No surprise then that many will end up associating this season's Hitler with a whole host of alleged "bad things" and give The War Party yet another free pass to waste lives and treasure in our never-ending Children's Crusade. Never mind that they just don't make Hitlers like they used to.

Some propaganda remixing

See this and more at The Propaganda Remix Project, which recently added some new posters to the mix.

Bu$hCo's USA: "Rocked by Rape"

Then the First Cheerleader and his Goon Squad committed a series of appalling rapes - some virtual, others physical - of various individuals and entities. First, the Patriot Act, sneaking up on our private lives and civil rights, like a rapist who sticks it to you from behind in the locker-room when you're bending over to put on your pants. Next, the torture-rapes of the Guantánamo "detainees." Then came the Rape of Iraq; both the rape of the country (falsely blaming it for 9/11 the way a rapist facetiously blames his victim for seducing him), and the rapes of the people (most notoriously., the rape/murder of a Mahmoudiya girl and the slaughter of her family), plus Abu Ghraib's POW Porn and more murder (Iraqi casualty rates are now soaring), even as the rape of the land goes on, leaving seeds of cancer in Iraqi cities and villages from America's spent radioactive ordnance. Meanwhile Bush was perpetrating a different kind of rape on American people: the nonconsensual voyeurism of his pet domestic spying program. Then there's the Rape of our Mother the Earth, with environmental policies that virtually tell Global Warming to "bring it on," from rollbacks of ecological protections to the tragic bungling of Katrina. Then there's the tragic bungling of our future, with Bush vetoing stem cell research, advocating teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, baiting homophobia, force-feeding faith-based abstinence-only gibberish to young people who need real sex education, and the list goes on. George II and his cronies have gone on so long and so badly in so many different directions that for many of us, Bush Atrocity Fatigue has set in. There are just too many rapes, massacres, disasters, blunders and lies to keep count, let alone protest properly.
Nerdified link.

Note, my title comes from a tune off The Evolution Control Committee's Plagiarythm Nation cd (which features a bunch of samples of Dan Rather cut and paste together to hilarious effect in these fearmongering times over AC/DC's "Back in Black").

NOLA One Year Later

A picture taken in the 9th Ward of NOLA by the LAFCO crew. See their reports here, here, and here.

This is apparently part of a film these cats are putting together, under the working title Pocket Change:

The LAFCO bus is on an exciting adventure this summer--crossing the country from Venice to Brooklyn.

As we traverse, we will be exploring answers to the following question:

How do the poor and politically disenfranchised use the arts to give themselves a voice and effect change. More broadly what is the relationship between art and politics in America today?

Through interviews and interactions with musicians, painters, poets, and hip-hop artists, as well as profiles of their work, we will create a documentary film that provides a rare, honest and inspiring look at the work of America’s most under-represented communities. The adventures of the crew itself living on the bus and struggling to make it across the country with barely enough money for gas, provides the narrative thread.

The crew is made up of a wildly diverse group of artists: An Italian American prince, a Japanese Samurai photographer, a Native American filmmaker, 2 black hip hop artists, a rapper and filmmaker who went from Oklahoma to Watts, a Jewish photojournalist, and 2 incredible women tough and patient enough to live on a school bus with all these crazy boys!

The final film (tentatively titled "Pocket Change") as well as all the additional footage we gather, will be the culmination of 5 years of LAFCO’s mission of giving a voice to artists who do not fit the corporate mold. On this journey, the medium really is the message, as the eclectic and fiercely independent team of filmmakers and musicians on the LAFCO bus use their tools to interact with the people they meet by sharing their creativity with them: collaborating on musical tracks, making music videos, taking photographs, and more...

For more info, please visit www.LAFCO.tv
contact: taoruspoli [at] gmail.com
Their site is here.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Christianity vs American Christianity?

xymphora sez:
Speaking of religion, Simon Cozens proposes (found via here) that American Christianity – referring to what is variously called American Evangelism, Christian Zionism, or Dominionism, and comprising much of mainstream American Protestantism - isn’t really Christianity at all. It seems they’ve taken the goriest bits from the Old Testament, added the Book of Revelations and a smattering of very Aryan and militaristic visual images of Jesus, and purport to call it Christianity. Missing completely is the Four Gospels, as Christ Himself in word and deed is far too radical for them to tolerate. It’s Christianity without Christ. I’d compare it to Satanism, except that would be too much of an insult to the good people who worship the Dark Lord.
I've often over the past couple decades referred to that whole American Evangelical or Fundamentalist wing as the modern day Pharisees. Christianity without Christ works just as well. Certainly there seems to be a huge disconnect between much of what I've read in the New Testament and what I see preached and practiced by the nominally "Christian" right-wing.