Listen To The Advancing Jackboots
Homeland Security's Automated Targeting System is at least as bad as we imagined.
"Without notifying the public, federal agents have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals. The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments. The government intends to keep the scores on file for 40 years. The scores are assigned to people entering and leaving the United States after computers assess their travel records, including where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered."
When the Stasi and the KGB did this
kind of detailed surveillance in East Germany and Russia, we quite rightly
called it evidence of a police state. Surely it was the Cold War
Republicans who led that charge? They always were such hypocrites.
And the consequences of falling foul of these "watch lists" are every bit as bad in 2006 America as they were in 1955 Berlin or 1973 Moscow. One becomes a non-person, unable to travel, and severely hampered in terms of employment. This kind of information quickly finds itself in the hands of credit agencies and insurance companies. There are questions and delays whenever one wants to get anything done. Your children's futures become compromised. And it's probably a case of mistaken identity anyway, but there is no way to appeal.
"The government gets advance passenger and crew lists for all flights and ships entering and leaving and all those names are entered into the system for an ATS analysis, said Jayson P. Ahern, an assistant commissioner of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency. He also said the names of vehicle drivers and passengers are entered when they cross the border and Amtrak is voluntarily supplying passenger data for trains to and from Canada."
Is that Kafka taking notes in the corner? The dystopian future is now and it ain't great.
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas -- a Libertarian in GOP disguise -- has decided to pull his investments in companies that do business with the genocidal kleptocracy in Khartoum that claims to be the government of Sudan. In addition, he is using his public presence to call on other investors to do the same.
"With so many lives at stake, we should do all we can to stop this genocide, both as individuals and as a community. We can all make a difference in Darfur."
Brownback joins a number of States, colleges and pension funds that have committed to disinvest in Sudan. Good stuff. Brownback is absolutely right that each individual can make a difference in Darfur. We should each educate ourselves about which companies are still willing to turn a bloody profit from trade with the regime; and we should each use that information, hopefully to make the personal choice to boycott the products and services of those companies and, though economic pressure, to persuade them to withdraw their support of the vicious thugs.
This is grassroots foreign policy, and it's time we did more of it.
Asashoryu the Great
Those of us who have a passion for sumo, we are truly blessed to be witness to the age of Asashoryu, perhaps the greatest yokozuna of all time. Last night he won his 19th Emperor's Cup with a perfect basho score of 15 bouts and no losses.
The Mongolian was truly awesome this time out. And his 15-0 score was in a highly competitive basho where all three of the ozeki managed at least 10 wins, and the next-great-Japanese-hope Hamasho captured 12 wins and two of the main prizes.
Connosieurs of the sport say that the November basho in Kyushu is a throwaway, without the interest of the spring and summer tournaments. It is true that the arena seating and back corridors seemed somehow provincial and temporary -- especially when compared to the temples of the sport in Tokyo; but last night seemed very real. Real and unstaged. Everyone tried hard and the audience was into it. I enjoyed it more than I have some others recently.
If you are not into sumo, then just bear with me. Or, better, give it a try. The next tournament (basho) is in mid January and good cable operators should be able to hook you up to Japan TV for a premium. It's worth it.
Robert Altman Is Dead
I loved all his movies, but most especially "M*A*S*H", "Short Cuts" and "The Player". He will be missed.
I have been reading about the five "security contractors" that have been kidnapped by militiamen in Iraq. First, let me say that I have absolutely no sympathy for any of the mercenaries that have flooded into the country in search of an inflated paycheck. That being said -- and agreeing I am not a military man in any sense -- I wonder what is wrong with the following strategy:
The US military makes an announcement that they (and their mercenaries) will only abide by their own checkpoints and those they are informed about in advance by the Iraqi security forces. ALL other checkpoints -- even those manned by apparently friendly forces (such as those manned by people dressed as Iraqi police) -- will be assumed to be insurgents and will be attacked and destroyed on sight. No questions asked.
Wouldn't that at least make the insurgents hesitate a little before they pulled these stunts again?
How Not To Rob ....
.... a liquor store. This was just too funny!
Fucking For God and Power
Kathryn Joyce who was associated with the late-lamented Revealer blog has written a fascinating and terrifying story for The Nation this week. Called "Arrows for the War" it tells the tale of the Quiverfull Movement; fundamentalist Christians seeking to have as many children as possible, with the declared aim of swamping all non-fundamentalists beneath their weight of numbers. They point out that,
"if just 8 million American Christian couples began supplying more "arrows for the war" by having six children or more, they propose, the Christian-right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century ("assuming Christ does not return before then"). They like to ponder the spiritual victory that such numbers could bring: both houses of Congress and the majority of state governor's mansions filled by Christians; universities that embrace creationism; sinful cities reclaimed for the faithful; and the swift blows dealt to companies that offend Christian sensibilities."
Their philosophy is couched directly as anti-feminism. They believe that feminism has unleashed the following ghastly evils onto society: contraception, women's careers, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and child abuse. All of which need to be abolished, by force if necessary.
"Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship--"Father knows best"--and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess's 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the "Great Physician" and sole "Birth Controller," opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women's attempts to control their own bodies--the Lord's temple--are a seizure of divine power ... They borrow their name from Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they're building for God."
Joyce points out that this is still a small movement today, but one that is growing rapidly. It has the high-powered support of people like Senator Brownback of medieval Kansas. This is something to watch.
Crime DOES Pay
It seems that disloyalty to the Democratic Party is about to be repaid in spades.
Joe Lieberman is calling himself a Democrat again and telling the world that "he was reassured by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid that he would retain his seniority when the new Senate convenes." That means he would be in line to chair the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
What a racket!
Another Mindless Election ...
... in which one rich persons' party was exchanged for another rich persons' party. I read that several billion dollars were spent on this election -- what a damn waste!
Of the MSM political commentators, Lou Dobbs probably got it closest:
November 7 also demonstrated that the American electorate is far more discerning and independent-minded than either political party or our elites would like to believe. While the Democratic Party was the clear winner, I don't believe for even a moment that the Democrats' ideals prevailed over Republican ideals. Election Day was middle-class America's declaration of independence from a Republican-led administration and Congress that for six years has been telling working men and women and their families in this country to shut up, listen up and go to hell. The middle class just returned the favor and demonstrated discernment while delivering their loud message to Washington, D.C.
Bravo for the middle class! Do you think any of the majority -- the working poor -- were elected?
Far Too Dangerous!
The US forces have lost more than 2,000 men and women in Iraq, and even more when Afghanistan is counted in. These appalling figures would have been even worse had the Pentagon not privatized the war by hiring tens of thousands of mercenaries through "security companies" such as Blackwater and others. Now, even the mercenaries are pulling out.
This week, Kroll pulled out its "bodyguard teams" saying "the business in the two countries wasn't worth risking the lives of their employees." Bechtel -- engineers but mercenaries all the same -- have also cancelled all further work in Iraq with a senior official noting that "had Iraq been a calmer place while we were there, amazing things could
have been done."
The rats are leaving, the rats are leaving! Unfortunately for America's boys, their commander-in-chief is too stubborn and dumb to follow their lead.