May 2005 posts

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

“National INsecurity cards”

 An interesting essay by Bruce Schneier at http://www.alternet.org/rights/21977/

excerpts:

…It doesn’t really matter how well an ID card works when used by the hundreds of millions of honest people that would carry it. What matters is how the system might fail when used by someone intent on subverting that system: how it fails naturally, how it can be made to fail, and how failures might be exploited.

…And when the inevitable worms, viruses, or random failures happen and the database goes down, what then? Is America supposed to shut down until it’s restored?

…What good would it have been to know the names of Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, or the D.C. snipers before they were arrested? Palestinian suicide bombers generally have no history of terrorism. The goal here is to know someone’s intentions, and their identity has very little to do with that. 

“Anti-war” must become “pro-democracy”

 A really good article on alternet by Naomi Klein, “War on Iraq: How to End the War”, http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/21980/

First excerpt:

When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.

I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel’s headquarters and getting the new U.S. embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the U.S. military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn’t even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.

The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: “Everything you were before isn’t worth rebuilding.” We’re going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the Extreme Makeover.

Second excerpt:

In looking at democracy in Iraq, we first need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn.

Why? Because if genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war—control over oil, support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of the entire economy—would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don’t want them and they don’t agree with them. They have said it over and over again—first in opinion polls, which is why the Bush administration broke its original promise to have elections within months of the invasion. I believe Paul Wolfowitz genuinely thought that Iraqis would respond like the contestants on a reality TV show and say: “Oh my God. Thank you for my brand-new shiny country.” They didn’t. They protested that 500,000 people had lost their jobs. They protested the fact that they were being shut out of the reconstruction of their own country, and they made it clear they didn’t want permanent U.S. bases.

That’s when the administration broke its promise and appointed a CIA agent as the interim prime minister. In that period they locked in—basically shackled—Iraq’s future governments to an International Monetary Fund program until 2008. This will make the humanitarian crisis in Iraq much, much deeper. Here’s just one example: The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq’s food ration program, upon which 60 percent of the population depends for nutrition, as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals with an unelected government. 

Feminism as counterterrorism

 An interesting article on alternet by Barbara Ehrenreich, “War on Iraq: A New Counterterrorism Strategy: Feminism”

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/21973/

excerpt:

So here in one word is my new counterterrorism strategy: feminism. Or, if that’s too incendiary, try the phrase “human rights for women.” I don’t mean just a few opportunistic references to women, like those that accompanied the war on the Taliban and were quietly dropped by the Bush administration when that war was abandoned and Afghan women were locked back into their burqas. I’m talking about a sustained and serious effort.

We should announce plans to pour U.S. tax dollars into girls’ education in places like Pakistan, where the high-end estimate for female literacy is 26 percent, and into scholarships for women seeking higher education in nations that typically discourage it. (Secular education for the boys wouldn’t hurt, either.) Expand the grounds for asylum to all women fleeing gender totalitarianism, wherever it springs up. Reverse the Bush policies on global family planning, which condemn seventy-eight thousand women to death each year in makeshift abortions. Lead the global battle against the trafficking of women. I’m not expecting such measures alone to incite a feminist insurgency within the Islamist one. Carmen Bin Ladin found her rich Saudi sisters-in-law sunk in bovine passivity, and some of the more spirited young women in the Muslim world have been adopting the head scarf as a gesture of defiance toward American imperialism. We’re going to need a thorough foreign policy makeover–from Afghanistan to Israel–before we have the credibility to stand up for anyone’s human rights. You can’t play the gender card with dirty hands.

If this country were to embrace a feminist strategy against the insurgency, we’d have to start by addressing our own dismal record on women’s rights. We’d be pushing for the immediate ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified by 169 countries but remains stalled in the U.S. Senate. We’d be threatening to break off relations with Saudi Arabia until it acknowledged the humanity of women. And we’d be thundering about the shortage of women in the U.S. Senate and House, an internationally embarrassing 14 percent. We should be aiming for a representation of at least 25 percent, the same target the Transitional Administrative Law of Iraq has set for the federal assembly there. 

Monday, May 09, 2005

Helen Thomas

 A really good article:

The Guards are Sleeping, by Gael Murphy
posted at: http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/21904/

White House correspondent Helen Thomas speaks about the herd mentality of mainstream media and challenging the administration on its rationale for the war. 

Excerpt: Democrats’ New Spine

 Mystery of the Democrats’ New Spine by Robert Parry
posted at http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/21878/

excerpt:

One explanation for the Democrats’ turnabout is the rise of progressive media, most notably progressive AM talk radio which has expanded rapidly over the past several months. Finally, Democratic leaders can go on sympathetic radio shows and make their case directly to listeners.

Before, Democrats almost always would find themselves speaking in unfriendly territory. Sometimes they would appear on conservative media, such as Fox News, or they’d face mainstream pundits eager to prove they weren’t liberal by being tougher on Democrats than Republicans, the likes of NBC’s Tim Russert.

Faced with hostile questioning, national Democrats often sought a safe middle ground, which made them look weak or indecisive, opening them to attacks as “flip-floppers” or “lacking conviction.” On the other hand, Republicans could count on friendly receptions from conservative hosts and mostly deferential treatment on mainstream programs. 

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