Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday video break: Re-visit the '80s

Best. Pop. Singer. Ever. Allison Moyet.

Myanmar junta cuts Internet, intensifies crackdown

From The Raw Story:

Myanmar appeared to have cut the country's main Internet link Friday, choking off information about the crackdown on mass anti-government protests that have left at least 13 people dead.

A day after security forces smashed cameras and cellphones, beat those people carrying them and warned the media about their reporting, the Internet that helped tell the world about the violence was at a virtual standstill.

A Myanmar telecoms official blamed a damaged underwater cable.

The move came as Australia's ambassador to the isolated Southeast Asian nation said the actual death toll was much higher than had been acknowledged by official media in the tightly-controlled Southeast Asian nation.

The bloodshed triggered international condemnation of the country's ruling generals, who unleashed security forces on demonstrators to put down the biggest wave of public dissent here in 20 years.

A Japanese journalist was among those found dead on Thursday as security forces raided monasteries, beat protesters and carried unknown numbers of people, including many of the country's revered Buddhist monks, off to prison.

Read the rest here.

Blog Recommendation: Global Voices

Global Voices Online describes itself as “a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.... it aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore.”

At this moment, there is fascinating front line coverage of the struggles in Myanmar. Check it out at Global Voices Online.

"The War" and this war

An excellent essay by Peter Smith over at The Huffington Post looks at the major differences between the war in Iraq and World War II. Images from Ken Burns' documentary The War bring to mind the extreme sacrifices made by every American for that effort:
There is the sheer scope and scale of the respective war efforts. In World War Two, everyone pitched in. Burns shows us a Michigan bomber factory that turned out a B-17 every 63 minutes. We see housewives saving bacon fat "for the war." And ration cards. And paper and tin drives. And bond drives to help fund the effort.

In George W. Bush's desert folly, on the other hand, nobody back home sacrifices, except for the families and friends of the men and women fighting the war. There are no war plants because we don't manufacture anything any more. We don't pay additional taxes to support the war. Any war bond drive takes place in Red China, not on Main Street.

In World War Two, Life magazine published images of dead American soldiers. Everyone knew someone who'd been killed or some family who had lost a loved one. Different classes shared the risk. President Roosevelt's oldest son fought in the jungles of the South Pacific. Another son served on board a Navy ship in the South Pacific as well.

In George W. Bush's war, the dead come home in the dark of night. The burden falls on the National Guard and poor and working class kids. Evidently, death and war wounds, like Leona Helmsley's taxes, are for, "little people." Meanwhile people who have sacrificed nothing and who have never heard a shot fired in anger talk blithely about what "we" should do in Iraq.
Read more here.

Blackwater: Coming to a town near you!

It's now obvious that our military and national guard forces are spread too thin: it has become necessary for the U.S. to employ hired guns to provide domestic security. That's right, the folks at Blackwater USA have successfully developed a lucrative market here in the U.S., filling in where the National Guard should be.

Blackwater vigilantes mercenaries employees patroled the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans under a no-bid contract with FEMA. According to a report on NPR this morning,

Providing security after national emergencies is usually a function of the National Guard and local police. And during the Katrina aftermath, the Blackwater employees were paid $950 a day, or about eight times the salary of a New Orleans police officer.
This is the same company that is under investigation for killing Iraqi civilians. Well, they're not actually under investigation yet, because apparently no law applies to them. That's right, they operate outside the law. They currently cannot be held accountable under military law because they're not military, and the Iraqi government has no jurisdiction over them, either.

Just another example of how the Bush -Cheney Administration has quietly made huge profits for themselves and their cronies on this war, while simultaneously chiseling away at the most basic principles of our nation. From CommonDreams:

What’s been happening in Iraq — and in Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia and the Pentagon and the State Department — goes far beyond the “outsourcing of key military and security jobs.” For years, the administration has been quietly auctioning off U.S. foreign policy to the highest corporate bidder — and it may be too late for us to buy it back.

Isn't it wonderful to live in a capitalist society. Just hope and pray there are no natural disasters in your town any time soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Air travel with a granola bar: When does it constitute a threat to security?

Yes, dear readers, I recently experienced again what our leaders like to call airport “security.” And once again, I noticed many inconsistencies and lapses in this so-called “system.”

When I left from BWI in Baltimore, my both my handbag and my carry-on suitcase caused concern for the TSA agent watching the x-ray screen. He called out to another TSA agent to do a check on both items.

I wasn't too worried, because I figured the handbag was possibly my cell phone, and the suitcase either my cell phone charger or digital camera. I had done everything else they had asked me, putting 3 oz. bottles of shampoo in a baggie, standing in bare feet, “declaring” my bottle of saline.

When the woman checking my bags looked in my handbag and found nothing suspicious, she cheerily announced to me that it must have been my granola bar. Okay, maybe. But imagine my surprise when she handed me the bag, walked over to x-ray man and laughingly told him it was a “candy bar.” They both chuckled. And then she walked away.

Standing at the end of the conveyor belt, I slowly put my shoes on, zipped up my handbag, and gathered up my things. And walked away.

Um, dear readers, did you notice that she never checked the suitcase?

Coming home, I flew out of Atlanta. Although I had the same emergency granola bar in my same handbag, no one cared. I decided to check my suitcase because the conference I attended had given out customized screwdrivers as gifts (yes, I go to some classy conferences — don't be jealous now). I thought for sure putting that in my suitcase would cause trouble.

But no! I mentioned this to a colleague who also attended this conference and received a screwdriver — he took his in his carry on luggage without a problem!

My question to those in charge is: WTF?!

I believe there clearly is a need for security screening at airports. But a little consistency would be nice. And I've got to wonder how much the TSA employees are becoming numb to being always on watch for items like shampoo. Clearly I could have snuck something onto the plane in the first instance because the screeners were too busy looking for a million little items. It's not beyond imagination that something simple like causing a distraction could allow a passenger to pass through with dangerous items.

But for now, if you're passing through BWI, wear comfy shoes and leave the granola bar at home.

Three thousand eight hundred. And one.

American military deaths in Iraq, that is.

Please, contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them to stop funding this madness.

Wednesday Poetry break

The Fabric of Life

It is very stretchy.
We know that, even if
many details remain
sketchy. It is complexly
woven. That much too
has pretty well been
proven. We are loath
to continue our lessons
which consist of slaps
as sharp and dispersed
as bee stings from
a smashed nest
when any strand snaps—
hurts working far past
the locus of rupture,
attacking threads
far beyond anything
we would have said

— Kay Ryan

You can read more about Kay Ryan today at The Writer's Almanac.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Three thousand eight hundred

That's how many U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq. That's the ugly number I come back to today on my first post since last week.

I fear that this number has indeed become merely a statistic to many Americans. It has become too large to really understand. That is, of course, unless you are friends or family of one of those three thousand eight hundred people. Because we must never forget that these are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, devoted friends. These are real people. Who are now gone. Forever.

Please, contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them how you feel. Clearly the leadership is not there in either party to bring this debacle to an end. It's up to we the people.