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Jaks View from Vancouver

Friday, May 31, 2002

The Land of the Free...

...speech apparently does not include Texas.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that Thomas Markovich must stand trial for heckling former President Bush during a speech at the State Capitol in 1998. Incensed by some remark of Bush's regarding Nicaragua, Markovich swore at the Ex and was arrested for disturbing the meeting.

This odd little story has serious implications. Markovich's lawyer, Kenneth Houp asserts -- quite reasonably in my opinion -- that "heckling, even if it is rude, is protected by the First Amendment, especially when you have a politician up on the stand." Any attempt to curtail those rights is well worth fighting.

The Premier's Dinner

Among 2,200 middle-aged white folks paying $250 a ticket to hear Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia make a speech last night were my wife and myself. It was held at Canada Place (which is the shiny white building at centre bottom of the picture in my header) and for $250 one got the rather pleasant chicken and asparagus dish pictured earlier, plus a salad and a dessert. There were also three MOW bands, each of which played one number.

One of the bands, a rather unsparkling oil drum combo, was black. The members of the band, one other black businessman, and a smattering of Chinese men were the only non-whites I could spot in the whole crowd. This was a gathering of the old-time business elite and their nouveau juniors.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery (or confirmation) of the night for me was that almost none of the crowd actually supported the Liberals. Rather, virtually everyone was simply celebrating the fact that the old government, a left of centre bunch of incompetents, was a year ago in history and unlikely to return any time soon.

The speeches were the usual nonsense. The Premier assured us that he would not be swayed from his path by the voices of the citizens (especially those who were demonstrating outside the Convention Centre doors forcing us to enter by the back -- cruise ship -- entrance.)

He reminded us that (despite the evidence of our own eyes that hospitals and longterm care facilities are closing across the province) his government was committed to maintaining health care for all.

He promised us that (despite the evidence of schools closing, class sizes rising and services being chopped) education was a top priority.

And, of course, he denied emphatically that his $1.5 billion tax cut had anything to do with the deficit suddenly discovered in the government's books. No, that was all the other guy's fault.

Par for the course, really. What was not so usual was the amount of security we saw outside the event (mounted poilice, backup ambulances, SWAT teams in the basement, etc.) I felt that photography was discouraged and so I could only attempt surreptitious shots, none of which were any good except the dinner plate. Still in all, one can still approach the Premier and shake his hand (if one wanted to, that is) without seeing any security men or bodyguards nearby. The kind of close security detail that American politicos require is not needed here, yet.

Finally, why on earth was I there? My boss bought a table of ten for the company. I guess he thought it would be a nice irony for such an anti-Campbell person as me to be there. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a free meal and take some pictures!

A Placeholder....

The company I work for and I could do great things if we could ever figure out how to end the chain of meetings today! In the meantime (and in lieu of a story to come later when I'm through with these meetings!), here is a picture of what you get for a $250 plate at a major political event in British Columbia ...

dinner for $250, May 2002

PS: Welcome to Vinny's Insignificant click-throughs!

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Osama's Biggest Legacy

If you are a law-abiding American citizen living a quiet life in the United States, the FBI is now allowed to investigate anything it wants about you. Even though you haven't done anything wrong and don't have any plans to do anything wrong, you and every member of your family are now legitimate targets of interest to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As CNN puts it:
"The changes allow the FBI to gather information on individuals even if they are not under criminal investigation. The techniques would include monitoring Internet sites, as well as libraries and religious institutions.
Even a supporter of the new rules, Oliver "Buck" Revell, ex-associate director of the FBI, says "Some of these activities will be chilling, there's no question of it."

Social control through detailed surveillance has been the goal of both left and right authoritarians for centuries. The primary legacy of Osama bin Laden's terrible crime may well be to enable this frightening monitoring to be passed without a whimper of complaint. Perhaps we'll now see how useful those noisy Libertarian bloggers can be!

Lessons From Capitalism #1071

One year ago, Dynegy Inc. traded at $50 a share, it was a member of the Fortune 500 and was just about to make a multi-billion dollar bid for its larger rival Enron. Today, the share price is a soft $8, the Enron bid collapsed along with Enron, and the SEC is investigating Dynegy for all the accounting ills that Enron has taught us to understand.

Having led the company down this path of disaster, and having squeezed into his own pocket hundreds of millions of dollars from previous share dealings, Chairman and CEO Charles L. Watson has left the company on terms that allow him to collect about $40 million -- millions more than if he had stayed until the end of his contract next February. Mr Watson is to be rewarded because "the board felt that with investor confidence ebbing, it could not afford to have Mr. Watson in charge the rest of this year."

Yet another bizarre lesson.

[Previous lesson]

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Caring Only About The Sale

I am appalled by an ad that appears everywhere on the transit system in Vancouver.

It is an advertisement for a mall, Metropolis, and the message is: "It's scary outside. Come into the mall and be safe." The message is accented by the picture of a teen being attacked by dogs.

What a terrible message to send out to our young! Consumerism-capitalism at its finest!

More on hikikomori

In an article yesterday, I mentioned my fascination with the phenomenon of hikikomori -- social withdrawal -- that is afflicting one million young people in Japan and creating societal upheaval. I have pursued this story a little futher and found a number of interesting avenues to follow.

In an essay in Time Asia, noted novelist and filmmaker Ryu Murakami sees hikikomori as a symptom of the ennui that follows national success:
"The cause of the malfunctioning is ... the fact that, by the 1970s, we had already achieved the national goal. We had worked hard to restore the country from the ruins of World War II, develop the economy and build a modern technological state. When that great goal was attained, we lost much of the motivating force that had knit the nation so tightly together. Affluent Japanese do not know what kind of lifestyle to take up now. That uncertainty has pulled people further apart and caused a whole raft of social problems. Hikikomori is naturally one of them."
Murakami also reminds us (a la Fromm) that the end products of great cultural stress are often labeled "neuroses" or mental illness. He uses the rage of "hysteria" in the nineteenth century as an example: The disease of "hysteria" essentially disappeared once the societal causes were removed. Perhaps, he suggests, the hirikomori kids would respond positively if society was re-ordered in some way.

Paul Rider focuses on the unusually violent crimes associated with this postmodern alienation, while Lawrence Eng was concerned to distant otaku (those devourers of anime and manga) from the hikikomori; a word which is, he claims, "almost entirely free of positive connotations."

Naturally, someone took the hikikomori name and made it into a website. It seems to have died in infancy however. Or perhaps it is just withdrawing privately someplace. Hopefully, I'll never find out.

lake:summer  (c) 2002

lake: summer

Lies Served Up By The Ladleful

I do get sick and tired of the lies that some of the more bloodthirsty warbloggers like to perpetuate. Pejman Yousefzadeh, who operates a one-trick pony warblog, is one such warblogger and one of his Big Lies -- about me -- is featured in a story on his site today.

Pejman picks up on an interview with Ehud Barak in which the former Israeli PM claims that the whole Arab race are liars (Pejman doesn't bother to pick up on the racist overtones of that remark). In a more lucid part of the interview, Barak complains that his land deal at Camp David did not amount to Bantustanization of Palestine. Apparently some people have said that it did. According to Pejman -- and here is the lie (or, rather, lies plural) -- I am one of those who has done so.
"Finally, Barak disputes the fiction, actively propagated by Noam Chomsky and his fanatically loyal minions that the Barak land offer, which was the most generous deal ever afforded to Arafat (and the most generous deal he is ever likely to receive), would have split up a new Palestinian state into cantons, or "bantustans."
In Pejman's article the phrase "fanatically loyal minions" contains a link to my site.

It is a lie that I ever called the Camp David plan "Bantustanization" or anything close to it. It is true that I have called Sharon's post-Camp David plans Bantustanization and I stick with that. But not the Camp David deal.

It is a lie that I am a "fanatically loyal" Chomskyite. I find Chomsky and Ed Herman's Propaganda Model to be a persuasive representation of U.S. government and corporate media manipulation. I also use a Chomsky quote. Does that make me a "fanatically loyal Chomskyite"? No. And Pejman better find some evidence to back up his nonsense before making such wild claims.

More important, perhaps, than the lies themselves is the laziness they represent. Pejman knows that I support the Palestinian cause; he therefore assumed without checking that I must think that Camp David was Bantustan incarnate. Pejman knows I use a Chomsky quote and he may even have remembered I have used the phrase Propaganda Model. He also is aware, I guess, that Chomsky supports the Palestinian position. From that he decided I was a "fanatically loyal" adherent. Joining three small dots he called it the Mona Lisa!

Laziness and lies -- the ruination of even good journalists, and the catalyst for the "Ignore" button in the case of amateurs like Pej.

wheat (c) Jak King 2002


Palestine Daily Log

The Israeli economy is in a mess; more than 13 billion shekels has to be cut from the national budget. And yet money can still be found to strengthen and increase the illegal occupation settlements on Palestinian land.

Overnight, three Israeli civilians and a Palestinian militant were killed in an attack on the occupation settlement of Itamar near Nablus. Another Israeli civilian was killed while driving south of Ofa on the West Bank.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT May 29th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,511. In the same period, 489 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 600 Palestinians and 240 Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002


I am fascinated by this story from the Washington Post.

In a social phenomenon called hikikomori, a million or more people have withdrawn almost completely from Japanese society. They disappear into their rooms for most of the day, emerging only to make flying visits to shop at neighbourhood 24-hour convenience stores, or occasionally to wander the house if they are certain that others are asleep or out.

The shut-ins are becoming such a well-known problem that they are featured in magazine articles, on TV and in documentaries.
"As many as a million Japanese -- most of them young men -- are considered shut-ins, either literally cloistered in their rooms or refusing to work and avoiding all social contact for periods ranging from six months to more than 10 years. Forty-one percent live reclusively for one to five years, according to a government survey.

Some shut-ins suffer from such illnesses as depression, agoraphobia or schizophrenia. But experts say the vast majority shut themselves up at home for six months or more without showing any other signs of neurological or psychiatric disorder. The seriousness of the problem has increased dramatically over the past decade as Japan's economy has slid into recession, bringing record unemployment rates and little job security as companies restructure or go bankrupt.

Psychologists and other mental health experts here say that Japan has the biggest problem of this type in the world, and that it is growing."
In a country generally free of open crime, some shut-ins have caused real concern.
"In a few recent cases, socially withdrawn young men have committed shocking crimes, including a 27-year-old who kidnapped a 9-year-old girl in 1990 and kept her in his room for nine years. His mother, who lived downstairs, was never permitted to enter his room."
Some discussions of causes have considered historic reasons:
"Japan is a rich country, but we have no identity, no confidence, no ability to communicate with others," said Tadashi Yamazoe, a professor of clinical psychology at Kyoto Gakuen University. "Japanese have a passive personality."
Others have sought more modern catalysts:
"In Japan there has been only one path, and today an increasing number of people are not on it," said Noki Futagami, who began the nonprofit New Start Foundation to work with shut-ins. "It's easy to say that academic background is not everything. But the parents cannot suggest another path because they don't know one."
My own opinion is that the alienation that is a central feature of the capitalist mode of production -- as described so brilliantly by Erich Fromm half a century ago in works such as "The Sane Society," "Escape from Freedom," and "Beyond The Chains of Illusion" -- is hitting the "losers" of this generation of Japanese particularly hard.

In a hierarchical society, the conventionally "unsuccessful" are easily spotted and isolated. For the last fifty years, the structure of Japanese industry -- an abiding two-way loyalty -- has hidden the "losers" in specially constructed niches in large corporations. For the same period of time, Japanese industry has been operated on a basis quite the opposite of "free enterprise", with a centrally-controlled economy supported by government directed research and development. Global recessions and the imposition of global trade rules have combined to force Japanese industry to strip itself of "unproductive" assets regardless of loyalty or social cost. The "losers" thus become visible and therefore vulnerable. Selecting and perfecting a hermit-like existence represents a reasonable first effort to deal with such a vulnerability.

As the full force of truly free enterprise capitalism blasts its way into Japanese society for the first time, we can expect to see further social disintegration and upheaval. We may well look back on this period of hikikomori as the last of the "good old days."

Beauty and Beholders

I am a serious believer that one's body is one's own. Each of us has the absolute right to do with it as one wills: paint it, dress it, undress it, tattoo it, bleach it, pierce it, fatten it, thin it, shorten it, thicken it, hide it ... whatever. Neither I nor anyone else has -- or should have -- any say in the matter.

That being said, I do have an aesthetic opinion.

On the bus this morning were two people, a man about thirty and a woman perhaps a little younger, a couple. They were both heavily pierced about the head. He had a dozen or so pieces of silver hardware in his ears, including several pyramid studs and what appeared to be a nail with the point going through the heart of the ear and sticking out more than an inch behind. I kept thinking that his left ear looked like a belt-buckle the Marquis de Sade might have dreamed up after a supper of bad cheese.

The young woman was similarly -- though less aggressively -- hung about the ears. In addition, she marked her presence with some extraordinary facial ornaments. Composed of silver rings irregularly spaced along both eye brows, the piercings looked like nothing other than loosely fitting sutures. She had one or two in her lips, too. It was not quite as odd as the guy I saw with a tattooed line all around his neck marked "Decapitate here", but it was close.

They sat in the seats in front of me. Their occasional snippets of conversation seemed disconnected. I am sure they must love each other deeply. From my vantage point I could see, close up, that he had a very serious scar running from the middle of his neck above the hairline down into his back. I couldn't escape the thought that he had had his cerebral cortex surgically removed and replaced with thoughtless grouting compound.

Palestine Daily Log

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and an Israeli woman and her baby grandchild in Petah Tikva yesterday. This useless and horrific act was condemned by the sadly-weakened Palestinian Authority. In post-bomb IOF attacks in Jenin city, a Palestinian man was shot and killed.

In a blatantly anti-democratic act, a committee of the Israeli Knesset yesterday voted to restrict the activities of one of its members because they don't like his poilitics.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT May 28th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,510. In the same period, 485 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 599 Palestinians and 236 Israelis have been killed.

Good Morning, World!

I haven't posted much since the middle of last week. As I noted in a post back then, I had a major deadline at work that kept me too busy to participate. I managed to finish that by the end of Friday and then I took the whole weekend to relax and be with my family. My plan, such as it was, was to bear down on Monday morning and get back into the swing of daily blogging. You will have noticed that didn't happen, at least not yet.

Every day for months now, I have spent two hours in the early morning (from 5 til 7), an hour at lunch time, and a couple more hours at the beginning of each evening devoted solely to information gathering, processing and writing for the site. Weekends were much the same, or more. I have discovered that blogging -- at least as I do it -- is a habit that doen't react well to being thrown off schedule (nor indeed to sharing the limited resources of my time with my artwork.) It is taking me time to get back into that habitual routine. That didn't overly concern me, but ...

Yesterday, my referral logs show that the full range of regular visitors returned to the site, presumably because last week I said I would be back for sure on Sunday. And when I read the numbers and saw the regularity of support that it represented, I was upset that I wasn't fulfilling my end of the bargain. I am not a journalist with a quotidien quota to fill for my paycheck; I write this stuff for me. Still, a lot of you seem interested (even if you wholeheartedly disagree) and I truly appreciate that. I just wanted to say "Thanks!"

Monday, May 27, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

The daily round of Palestinian deaths continued this weekend.

On Saturday, IOF forces fired an anti-tank missile at a Palestinian woman and her 13-year old daughter, killing them both near the El Bureij refugee camp. In Tul Karm on Sunday, a Palestinian civilian was killed by an IOF shot in the back while he sat in his own bedroom. This morning, an IOF tank shell killed a 17-year old Palestinian boy at Khan Younis.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT May 27th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,508. In the same period, 483 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 597 Palestinians and 234 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, May 26, 2002


Friday, May 24, 2002

Jim Jeffords Day

Today is the first annual Jim Jeffords Day.

It is one year exactly since Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party to sit as an Independent. By that move, he prevented the immediate and unquestioning adoption of the extreme right-wing agenda favoured by the incoming Administration.

Whatever the motives that drove Jeffords -- whether they were his dedication to democracy, or whether they included more prosaic personal reasons -- we should celebrate the action that has mitigated the progress of the corporatist, militarist steamroller.

Bravo Jim Jeffords!

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Palestinian Daily Log

On Wednesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber -- described as "a terrorist" by Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Authority -- killed himself and 2 Israeli civilians in Rishon Letzion. On the same day, Israeli missile-wielding killers assassinated three Palestinian militants and a Palestinian civilian in Nablus. On Thursday, a Palestinian bomber was killed during an abortive attack on a night club in Tel Aviv.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:00m PDT May 23rd, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,504. In the same period, 483 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 593 Palestinians and 234 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Personal Note

My apologies to those regular readers who have gotten used to a certain minimum level of posts here each day. I have a pressing deadline at work this week and a lot less time than needed to fill it. So, posts -- and responses to comments -- here will be infrequent at best until next Sunday when normal service will be resumed!

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

The Arrogance of Humanity

The arrogance of our species knows no bounds.

The United Nations is advising that up to a quarter of all mammal species are likely to become extinct in the next 30 years because of man-made habitat changes and the introduction, by man, of foreign species to new environments. Even popular favourites, such as whales, are losing their sanctuaries.

And those species that do survive are likely to be those that we find "useful", such as this featherless chicken, bred to speed production and reduce costs.

It is all just selfish arrogance.

Monday, May 20, 2002

sea rings (c) Jak King 2002

sea rings

Corporations' Rights

In a number of specific posts here, and as a background to all my writings on capitalism, I have noted and complained about the odd legal arrangement whereby corporations have the same or better rights than do human beings. Welcome support for this position is given in a well-written article by Jeff Milchen posted at WorkingForChange.

Milchen fleshes out the history, from the anti-corporation views of the Founders through the bizarre Supreme Court Ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886 which essentially created corporate personhood. He concludes:
"The notion that corporations -- entities unmentioned in our Constitution -- should enjoy protections created for living human beings is a concept deserving burial deep in the same dark closet as the legal precedents of slavery and 'separate but equal'."
And that day can't come soon enough!

(I just realised, in view of an earlier item, that corporations may actually be a case where a man-made machine has taken over from the human race!)

(Some) Finds (Some) Others

I am sure the story of the North Carolina tobacco-smuggling ring who turn out to be fundraisers for Hezbollah has all sorts of fascinating angles. To me, it is the story of how the government sought to protect its own profits from the War On (Some) Drugs, and accidentally discovered a connection to its War On (Some) Terrorism.

Some days they just get lucky, I guess.

Teflon George -- For Some at Least

I rarely visit the disreputable Letter From Gotham. For some reason I found myself there this morning, reading a story about how Clinton was to blame for the WTC attacks of 9/11.

Obviously this is a blatant partisan attempt to take the spotlight off Bush's refusal to listen to (or inability to understand) the warnings given him by his own intelligence agencies. Coincidentally, it came on the same day I found a fascinating look back at history at MediaWhoresOnline. In 1996, the Republicans balked at the anti-terrorism measures, including increased wiretapping, that Clinton proposed. A watered-down version of the bill was passed -- and obviously didn't work

Instead of knocking Bill Clinton -- which does no good anyhow -- why doesn't Diane E.and her mindless friends take the time to beat up on the real villains here -- the incompetent Bush and the politics-above-country Republican gang?

Palestine Daily Log

The move to build a defensive fence around Israel is building quickly. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer says it will be completed within six months. Of course, the occupation settlers hate the whole idea. Historically, the Soviets proved in Europe that a Wall is an expensive, and ineffective mechanism. But I guess the Israelis have to learn on their own (so long as the U.S. taxpayer is paying the bill it is OK to try anything!)

Yesterday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three Israelis in an attack at Netanya. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, saying that suicide bombings "endanger the Palestinian people, its just cause, its rights, and the future of its dream of a state." It is perhaps significant that both Cheney and Rice put themselves on national TV to ensure that blame did not fall on the PA in this case. In a separate incident, another Palestinian bomber killed imself when approached by IOF soldiers on the West Bank.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:30am PDT May 20th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,498. In the same period, 481 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 587 Palestinians and 232 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Is There A Robot In Your Future?

A huge amount of effort, financial and intellectual, has been expended on trying to make machines that act/think like human beings. This work moves on apace and I am sure it is bringing forth useful applications. I have absolutely no fears that we will build machines that will "take over" and somehow eliminate or enslave the human race. I simply don't believe engineers are that stupid.

My genuine fear is that it will prove easier to turn people into machines. It began with pacemakers and hearing-aid implants -- innocent enough, indeed clearly helpful -- but has already morphed into identification devices, electronic implants to check who you are, tracking devices to follow you around, and sex aids.

Given these advances it doesn't seem unlikely to me that pretty soon implants for social control will become available. I will guess that they will be used first on offenders as an alternative (or addition) to incarceration. However, their general usefulness will soon become apparent to the elites and somehow the use of such implants will begin to spread throughout the population.

That gives me a lot more pause for thought than the idea of a few crazy machines!

The Continuing Hypocrisy of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

I have been reading U.S. President Bush's latest speech about Cuba. It is a perfect exemplar of this Administration's situational morality. For example:
"My administration will oppose any attempt to weaken sanctions against Cuba's government until the regime -- (applause) -- and I will fight such attempts until this regime frees its political prisoners, holds democratic, free elections, and allows for free speech."
Let us examine each of these requirements in turn.

  • Friendship with Cuba is not possible until it "frees its political prisoners." Friendship and business ties with, for example, China, Saudi Arabia, Zyrgystan or Uzbehkistan do not seem to be affected by the thousands of political prisoners held in each of those countries. Cuba is different?
  • Sanctions against Cuba are necessary until Castro "holds democratic, free elections." Again, China, Kuwait, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia and many others enjoy fruitful economic and political relationships with the United States without having to bother with messy free elections. Cuba is different? (And of course, Chile, Venezuela and several others can vouch for what happens even if free and democratic elections are held but produce the "wrong" result.)
  • Finally, there can be no compromise with Cuba until it "allows for free speech." Perhaps we should get some of those congressmen from Florida to explain the wonders of free speech in Egypt, Singapore, Belarus, Kazahkstan -- American allies all. Cuba is different?

    The real difference, of course, is that all the other countries mentioned allow U.S. corporations free rein. Cuba does not. "Freedom" and "democracy" do not matter so long as private business can flourish. It should be no surprise therefore to note that freedom for U.S. corporations came first in Bush's speech, before the rights of the people: "The United States welcomes the opportunity to trade with Cuba when there are entrepreneurs who are free to trade with us. We welcome the opportunity to build diplomatic relations with Cuba when the Cuban government is a democracy, when the Cuban people can be free from fear to say what they think and choose who shall govern them."

    I realise that all this moral ambiguity -- "The sanctions our government enforces against the Castro regime are not just a policy tool; they're a moral statement ... we will always be the world's leader in support of human rights" -- is just the realpolitik which has dominated Empire-speak since time began, but it is galling to hear it from the mouths of an Administration that promised "moral clarity" but delivers nothing but hypocritical corporatism.

  • Palestine Daily Log

    In a move that foreshadows the Bantustanization of the Occupied Territories, the Israeli occupation administration has divided up the West Bank into eight "cantons" and movement between each "canton" is severely restricted for Palestinians. This adds yet another layer of humiliation and inconvenience to already shattered lives, especially as the occupation authorities have not bothered to tell the people of the Palestinian Authority about these new arrangements: people find out about them only when they try to move from one place to another. Moreover, and quite deliberately, it is is a further blow to any economic development of the Palestinian lands.

    In addition to the continuing restrictions of Palestinian daily life, yet more illegal occupation settlements are to be built in the Occupied Territories -- against Oslo, against U.N. resolutions, against the general advice of the Isreali Army.

    During yesterday's IOF sweep through Jenin refugee camp, a 15-year old Palestinian boy was killed "apparently by an errant IDF shell." In another incident, a Palestinian militant was killed during an attack against the occupation settlement of Beil El in the West Bank.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT May 19th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,496. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 585 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Saturday, May 18, 2002

    'Wall of Water' by Jak King (c) 2002

    Wall of Water

    A Personal Note

    Over the months I have slowly added photographs of my family to the left hand column of this site. With the availability of pictures of my new grandson born just a few weeks ago, I just about had the whole bunch smiling out at you.

    They are gone now, and I want to explain why.

    I get a lot of hate mail to this site. A lot. Some of it is extraordinarily vile, and it occured to me the other morning that I just don't want my family exposed in any way to the vicious SOBs out there. While I have really enjoyed seeing my kids smiling at me whenever I access the site, I can see those photos anytime in the safety of my own home, and that's where I'll keep them. Sad, though, that it has to be that way.

    As for me, I choose to expose myself here every day. I've been on boards since the beginning of the BBS days (ahhh, those 200-baud typing fests!) and know what it can be like out here. I made that choice, my family didn't. So, instead of their cheery faces, you have to put up with my ugly mug!

    Palestine Daily Log

    For the second time in two days, the IOF has shot an Arab Israeli driver "by accident." In yesterday's first incident (see last Log), the IOF at first blamed Palestinian gunmen for the death of a woman near Tul Karm. That claim has now had to be abandoned as it became clear it was Israeli soldiers in a convoy who shot the woman in the back. (It is worth noting that it was a Palestinian taxi that took the dying woman to hospital; perhaps the IOF convoy was in a hurry or something.)

    Overnight, another incident. An Arab israeli doctor was killed when his car came under Israeli fire near an IOF checkpoint outside Beit Umar. The IOF is "investigating" what looks like another fatal case of racial profiling.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (9:00am PDT May 18th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,494. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 583 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Friday, May 17, 2002

    Palestine Daily Log

    The daily slaughter continues while the politicians argue. A Palestinian militant was killed in action against IOF troops at Dugit in the Gaza Strip, and a Palestinian woman was killed by Palestinian fire near Tul Karm in the West Bank.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PDT May 17th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,493. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 582 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Thursday, May 16, 2002

    Lessons In Capitalism #1071

    James Goodwin was CEO of parent UAL Corp when United Airlines posted the largest loss in aviation history -- $2.1 billion. James Goodwin was CEO as his company's stock price tanked. James Goodwin was CEO when they laid off 20,000 United employees to protect shareholder values. James Goodwin was CEO as those laid-off workers negotiated severance packages: a hard-working loyal 30-year employee will receive a package worth $24,000 a year.

    When James Goodwin was himself "laid off" by the board late last year because of his "lacklustre" performance in the job, his severance package was worth an estimated $5.4 million, including a $1,350 a day lifetime pension. His life insurance premiums alone, paid by the company, are more than four times the maximum employee annual severance amount.

    How much of this will be funded by the taxpayer-paid airline bailout cash? All of it, I suspect.

    [Previous lesson]

    Palestine Daily Log

    It is reported that a ship and all 20 Palestinian crew was sunk by an IDF missile off Gaza recently.

    Overnight, a Palestinian militant was shot by IOF soldiers in Beituna near Ramallah. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT May 16th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,491. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 580 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2002

    Justice All Screwed Up

    What on earth is this nonsense! A 13 year old boy, a 7th-grader, has been found guilty of two felony counts over a spitball incident in a classroom. He faces up to 8 years in juvenile prison for what any sensible person would consider a typical schoolyard prank. Jeffrey Figueroa's spitball hit another kid in the eye, and some minor surgery was required.

    It was a stupid thing to do and some recompense is probably due to the injured kid. But now Figueroa's life is ruined. Regardless of the length of sentence the judge decides to impose, he is in the system with two felony convictions forever against his name. So many avenues are now forever closed to him -- most professions, law enforcement, the military, some colleges, many employers, anything that needs bonding, travel to many foreign countries.

    All these are now lost to Jeffrey Figueroa, forever, because someone couldn't handle a real-life interaction and needed "the system" to take care of their problem for them. And their laziness will have drastic consequences throughout Figueroa's life. This is wretched stupidity and the waste of a kid.

    A Blogging Foundation -- The (Corporate) Empire Strikes Back!

    A lot of bloggers have lately been begging for cash contributions from their readers. A great many other bloggers claim that bringing money into the equation will ruin what we have.

    I don't have anything against people asking for cash: begging is a perfectly legitimate commerical activity in my opinion. And if people are willing to give, great! Richard Bennett answers the no-cash critics correctly when he points out that all other service providers anticipate getting paid, so why shouldn't bloggers. (Unfortunately Bennett uses the occasion to bash Chomskyites for no reason whatsoever, but that's just that old bastard's usual style.)

    What I do think is a really terrible idea is Jeff Jarvis's suggestion for a Web Log Foundation that would pick winners and dole out cash and free services to the bloggers it likes. This sounds like more of George Bush's corporare subsidy program to me. This awful idea comes complete with a plan that it should be paid for somehow by the corporate sector -- with all the controls that that will bring.
    "We need to bring business discipline to the world of weblogging so we can show advertisers (aka sponsors or underwriters) how to use weblog to reach influencers and give them the responsiveness they demand"
    Not for me, thanks very much!

    The great thing about blogging is its anarchistic basis of saying what you want, when you want and being able to completely control your own space without the slightest interference. I don't want someone telling me what "standards" I need to meet. And I certainly don't want blogging to be designed to give advertisers "the responsiveness they demand." If I want that sort of stuff I can go to any number of commercial websites.

    Tuesday, May 14, 2002


    My folder of items to deal with keeps growing by the hour. In case I cannot do justice to some of them, a few are listed here in short notices.

    Breaking The Rules on Tax Breaks? It is, of course, no surprise that the Bush Administration is a pro-corporate outfit. What was a surprise, to me at least, was to discover that the Bush Treasury Department is sweetening the deal for corporations without Congressional approval and, often enough, without even Congressional knowledge.

    Joe Bananas is dead! The founder of the New York-based Bonnano crime family has died in his bed in Tuscon, Arizona, at age 97. A contemporary of Frank Costello, Thomas Luchesse and Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno was head of the Mafia Commission in the 1950s and early 1960s. Never indicted in the 30 years he ran his family, Bonanno served jail time briefly after his retirement. Throughout his life, Bonanno considered the Mafia an honourable institution, ruined in later years by non-Sicilian outsiders. "Slowly, but irreversibly, our Tradition deteriorated," he wrote in his autobiography. "The ideals for which it stood became corrupted."

    Bankers' Diseases: An excerpt from an important Africa Opinion article on the impact of IMF/World Bank policies on African health-- "Over the past two decades, African countries have paid more in debt services to the World Bank, IMF and rich country governments than they have received in development assistance or in new loans. At present, African governments spend more on annual debt repayments than they do on health care for their own populations. After two decades of World Bank and IMF policies, Africa is left facing the worst health crisis in human history. It has already lost more than 17 million people to HIV/AIDS, and it is home to 28 million of the 40 million people worldwide currently living with HIV/AIDS. Every day, thousands of Africans die of tuberculosis, malaria and other preventable diseases. During the past two decades, average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 15 years."

    Lessons in Capitalism #1070

    Bernard Ebbers, erstwhile "telecommunications genius", has finally been forced out at WorldCom.

    During the last year, WorldCom's shareholder value has plummetted 80%, its corporate bonds have been devalued to barely above junk status, thousands of employees have been laid off, and the SEC has begun an investigation into accounting practices. It is not expected that things will soon get better. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein analyst Bruce Roberts became the latest to downgrade the stock. "With $25 billion in debt, a slow economy, a declining long-distance industry, an ongoing SEC investigation, a high multiple to sales and a new CEO, the risks of owning WCOM shares far outweigh the possible upside," he wrote to clients.

    During that same year, Mr Ebbers paid himself more than $13 million in compensation, after $34 million the year before. But that was almost as nothing compared to the loans the company made to Mr Ebbers -- more than $360 million of personal loans! Some of them, at least, may have involved serious conflict of interest questions.

    WorldCom will keep secret Ebbers' severance package until they are obliged by SEC rules to tell all later this year. However, the new boss, John Sidgmore said that Ebbers' severance "is not out of the ordinary for executives of his level." Regular readers of the Lessons In Capitalism series will recognize how rich that could be.

    [Previous Lesson]

    Palestine Daily Log

    Chomsky has some very apposite observations in a piece edited for The Guardian. He notes the historical basis for the ethnic cleansing that is at the heart of Israeli policy:
    Not surprisingly, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant humiliation. Israeli plans for Palestinians have followed the guidelines formulated by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labour leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Thirty years ago Dayan advised the cabinet that Israel should make it clear to refugees that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave". When challenged, he responded by citing Ben-Gurion, who said that "whoever approaches the Zionist problem from a moral aspect is not a Zionist". He could have also cited Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel, who held that the fate of the "several hundred thousand negroes" in the Jewish homeland "is a matter of no consequence".
    It is a pity that many of the the warbloggers, blinded by their fervent anti-intellectualism and Israel-at-any-cost fundamentalism, will reject an understanding of these historical truths simply because they have been written down by Chomsky.

    Overnight, two Palestinian intelligence officers were gunned down by IOF forces in Halhoul on the West Bank. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PDT May 14th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,470. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 559 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Monday, May 13, 2002

    A Small Victory in South America

    Less than a decade ago, oil giant Oxy announced to their shareholders the discovery of a potential 2 billion barrels of oil in Colombia 's Samore field worth in excess of $50 billion. This month, after spending more than $100 million in research and exploration drilling, the company is pulling out of the field entirely in what experienced oil observers consider an odd move.

    The company says that the test well came up short of expectations. They have, therefore, handed back their concession to the Colombian government, even though the company says "we remain confident" in the geological prospects for the site. "It is not unusual to find no oil on the first attempt, but you would certainly expect them to keep looking if the prize is so high," said one American geologist who has worked for the company, but asked to remain anonymous. So where did the oil go?
    Oxy says it is there beyond doubt in giant quantities, and the U'wa agree. The difference is that the U'wa believe their elected spiritual leaders, the mysterious and secretive "werjayas", physically drove it away from the company's test well site after praying and fasting for many months.
    The U'wa are a small tribe of indigenous peoples who have only been known to western culture for the last forty years or so. They claim never to have know war or conflict and, with the help of an American environmentalist, they managed to make their case a cause celebre. Now, it seems, they have won and the company has retreated.

    Unfortunately, the U'wa's triumph may be short-lived: The Colombia government's own oil company, Ecopetrol, has picked up the drilling concession and may choose to go ahead. In the meantime, the U'wa have learned about modern capitalism and have strong views on why it shouldn't invade their territory:
    "The money king is only an illusion. Capitalism is blind and barbaric. It poisons the water and the air and destroys everything. And to the U'wa, it says that we are crazy - but we want to continue being crazy if it means we can continue to exist on our dear mother earth."
    I am sure that further exposure to capitalism will merely confirm their original opinion.

    Bravo to the U'wa and resistance to the oil giants!

    Corporate Welfare in the Farm Belt

    U.S. President Bush today signed a massive $190 billion transfer of wealth from private -- mainly urban poor and middle income -- individuals to, primarily, large agri-businesses. This transfer of tax-payers funds is the central core of the Act which even Bush called "generous." The new multi-year plan replaces the ad-hoc annual handouts that taxpayers have been forced to endure recently. While the President has been calling for restraint across all programs, the new bill ups payments by up to 80 percent!
    "The farm bill raises subsidy rates for grain and cotton growers and revives a target-price system abolished by the 1996 Freedom to Farm law to provide supplemental income when commodity prices are below certain levels. The bill also brings back subsidies for wool and honey producers and provides new payments for milk, peanuts, lentils and dry peas. Farms that raise livestock and produce will benefit from an 80 percent increase in spending on land-conservation programs."
    As if we didn't alrerady know this is the taxpayer paying for Republican politics, the New York Times reminds us that the Act guarantees "higher subsidies to growers in Midwestern and Southern states where key political races will decide which party controls Congress next year." One Minnesota farmer opined, "If he had vetoed it, it would have been very disappointing. In the 2000 election, almost all of the agricultural areas voted for President Bush. They expected his support ... and we certainly have gotten it.'' Ken Cook, a critic of the bill who is president of the Environmental Working Group, said Bush was in a no-win situation. ``Certainly, it was a loser to stand on principles here when the politics are so overwhelming.'' Dissidents like Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, the Republican leader on the Agriculture Committee, said the new law put election-year imperatives -- "to try to help individual senators and House members'' -- ahead of rational policy.

    I should hasten to add that the Democrats are no better, with this Act crammed to the gills with pork from both sides of the aisle. One of the Act's main beneficiaries is Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat facing re-election this fall. Harkin said the bill "is the economic plan for rural America.''

    Reuters notes that the Act "marks a further retreat from free-market reforms begun in 1985." Canada, Australia, the European Union and Brazil have each complained the new law contradicts U.S. calls for freer farm trade. "The bill is going in the complete opposite direction'' of freer farm trade, said Gerald Keiley, the EU agricultural attache in Washington. "The U.S. administration will have a lot of work to do in Geneva to convince people they are committed to rolling back production- and trade-distorting subsidies.''

    Once again we are dealing with the failure of perceptions about U.S. policy, expectations that are built up by the U.S. with sweeping rhetoric but then dashed with the introduction of real policies. The U.S. Administration and its minions go around the world saying free trade is the way to go but then give billions in subsidies to U.S. agri-business, cut off softwood lumber from Canada, and impose huge tariffs on steel imports -- all in efforts to buttress industries that the real world economy should be destroying or, preferably, adjusting.

    And, once again, the U.S. Administration and its minions go around the country spouting the virtues of self-reliance and reductions in government services to the poor and disadvantaged, while taking taxes from those same poor and middle-income earners and giving them to multi-billion-dollar profitable companies like ADM and Cargill, Inc.

    Do as I say, not as I do. The mantra for U.S. policy in so many areas!

    Palestine Daily Log

    Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has issued a report showing that more than 40% of the occupied West Bank is already in the control of illegal Israeli settlers. The Center likens the situation to that in South Africa during apartheid.

    Using a tactic that was perfected by the United States during its own ethnic cleansing of an entire continent, the settlers refrain is: we know we shouldn't be here -- but we are now, so now you have to forget we are here illegally and all regulations have to protect us, not those we have illegally dispossessed. The Likud Party used this argument during the weekend as part of their excuse for refusing to acknowledge the possibility at any time of a Palestinian State west of the Jordan river.

    Frankly, it is no wonder that the US supports Israel given that their bloody ethnic cleansing histories are so similar. The warbloggers can complain about Europe's so-called historical anti-Semitism (suggesting this and this alone leads Europe to support the legitimate aims of the Palestinians), but that is as of nothing compared to the genocide committed by the U.S. against its own native population (a feat which the Israeli government is attempting to duplicate in Palestine) and, of course, America's continuing history of anti-white discrimination and racism. Most Jews that most Americans know are white, most Arabs that most Americans know are non-white, and the deeply ingrained discrimination against non-whites within America's history could help to explain the extraordinary race-hate incitement that is common today against Arabs.

    No deaths were reported since the last Log. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT May 13th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,468. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 557 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Sunday, May 12, 2002

    Orange blossoms, Vancouver, May 2002

    Each spring Vancouver is dressed with orange blossoms.

    And Then There Were Six ...

    First there was Iraq, Public Enemy Number One since the days of Bush pere. Then the Axis of Evil grew to three, as Iran and North Korea were swept into unlikely partnership with Saddam Hussein. That idea belonged to Bush fils. Stll not enough, apparently.

    According to a speech delivered last Monday by Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton to the conservative Heritage Foundation, as reported in the LA Times, the opposing gang is up to six members: the usual suspects plus Cuba, Libya and Syria. According to Bolton, each of these countries poses an "imminent threat" to the United States.

    Yes, that major power of the Caribbean, Cuba, is about to overthrow the only superpower on earth!

    James Pinkerton in the LA Times column cleverly resurrects economist Joseph Schumpeter's description of the Roman Republic as an analogy or warning for the present situation.
    "There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest, why then it was national honor that had been insulted."

    At all times, Schumpeter noted, Roman leaders maintained "an aura of legality"; that is, they declared themselves to be on the side of truth and justice, dealing decisively with rogues. But the result was a Rome constantly at war. Soon, as a matter of military necessity, democracy was supplanted by dictatorship, and eventually the Romans could no longer beat back all the enemies they had made.
    It is hard to disagree with Pinkerton when he says, in this age of suitcase nukes, "[i]t would be nice ... if we thought harder about making friends, not naming enemies."

    Burma: Keep The Sanctions

    The release from detention of Aung San Suu Kyi last week is a useful catalyst for thinking about what might happen next in Burma. The Guardian has a useful guide to the current -- and possibly future -- use of sanctions against the brutal military regime.
    "Donor nations blocked virtually all development aid to Myanmar after the military violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, killing hundreds of people.

    Today, the total annual foreign aid to Myanmar is equivalent to about $1 for every citizen, compared to $35 per capita for Cambodia and $68 for Laos.

    While no country has imposed a trade embargo on Myanmar, the United States banned all new investment in 1997 and the European Union has had an arms embargo and a suspension of bilateral aid in place for 11 years."
    Unfortunately, as we discover everywhere they are tried, sanctions are a blunt weapon against hard-headed despots, hurting the people more than the leaders. Never was this so true as in Burma.
    "The sanctions and economic policy blunders by the regime have reduced Myanmar, once one of Southeast Asia's wealthiest countries, to one of its poorest. Heads of U.N. relief and development agencies in Myanmar last year appealed for a dramatic increase in foreign aid, warning that the country is 'on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.'

    One quarter of babies in Myanmar are born underweight, only half of its children complete primary school and an AIDS epidemic is stretching the government's resources thin."
    But, it seems agreed that it was the sanctions that finally forced th Generals to release Aung San Suu Kyi. Josef Silverstein, a professor emeritus at the Rutgers University, said the punitive measures pushed the military leadership's back to the wall. "They have no option of getting any money and at this point they had to take some action. Sanctions work,'' said Silverstein, who has studied Myanmar for four decades.

    And, as we are reminded by an excellent piece from Maureen Aung-Thwin, the release of the opposition leader is only a first step.
    "[I]t is ... a time to remember the over thousand or more political prisoners who remain incarcerated for such 'serious crimes' as talking about democracy or distributing banned literature. The rest of the Burmese populace is in effect still a hostage of the military regime. There is no aspect of daily life that is not regulated or scrutinized by the government. For example, overnight guests - even one's own relatives, if they are not part of the official household - must register with the neighborhood prefect...

    Few are aware of the hardship and daily indignities endured by the average Burmese, the quiet courage of those languishing in prison or the humor and creativity of citizens who have learned to survive the system. [Aung San Suu Kyi] is the first to acknowledge this. She told a reporter in one of her first interviews after her release, 'Many have suffered more than I have, much more. I don't have the right to complain'."
    Ms Aung-Thwin reminds us of the stories of a number of less celebrated and still-detained political prisoners, and calls for the world to not be so fast to lift the economic sanctions. I agree with her. We should celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi's release without reducing our vigilance against the Generals' daily exploitation of Burma and its people.

    Palestine Daily Log

    On Saturday, at least 60,000 people turned out for Peace Now's anti-occupation rally in Tel Aviv. "Get out of the territories now -- for Israel's sake," was the rally's slogan.

    Peace Now's email to supporters described the scene:
    "The square and all the surrounding streets were packed with demonstrators waving placards and banners, bearing slogans such as "End the occupation of the (Palestinian) territories" and "The occupation is killing us all". People in wheelchairs and mothers with babies in pushchairs mixed with the elderly and crowds of young people, many of whom were dancing to the popular music playing throughout the square. A helicopter hovered overhead as a rock band, headed by popular contemporary Israeli singer Aviv Gefen, entertained the crowds with songs of love and peace.
    "This is the first time since the intifada that we have had such a massive demonstration with people in clear opposition to the government," Peace Now spokesman Arye Arnon told AFP. "This is radical. This turnout is on the basis that one day we will return to the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the elimination of the settlements," Arnon said.

    Former justice minister and leading Labour dove Yossi Beilin accused Sharon of leading the nation into a tragedy. "We are told Sharon is a man of peace but it is not true: he doesn't want go to the negotiating table because he has nothing to say," he
    said. "Sharon is dragging us into a catastrophe."

    "This is much bigger than expected," the leader of the main opposition Meretz party, Yossi Sarid, told AFP at the rally. "It is a very important message to the Israeli government, the Arab world and the international community."

    The "important message" was not always received as a positive move. On Friday, an extreme right-wing organization, 'Gilad Shalhevet' threatened to assassinate singer Yaffa Yarkoni, if she performed at the Peace Now rally. Gilad Shalhevet has claimed responsibility for a series of anti-Arab terror attacks last year, including the shooting attack in which a Palestinian truck driver was killed near Mishor Adumin. Entertainer Dudu Topaz also said that he has received death threats because of his participation in the rally, and had been warned that he would "end up like [the assassinated Yitzhak] Rabin."

    No deaths were reported since the last Log. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:30am PDT May 12th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,468. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 557 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Saturday, May 11, 2002

    Vancouver harbour, sunset, July 2001

    Sunset in Vancouver harbour.

    Friday, May 10, 2002

    Snake Oil Salesmen

    A couple of days ago I posted a picture of a python poster I had seen on local posts and walls. I thought it was a neat ad, and certainly fit with the "Signs of the Times" photo collection I am working on, but I didn't think too much more about it.

    However, Dawn, a regular and local reader left a comment saying she'd heard it was connected to a soft drink. That got me searching and the easiest way was to go straight to the website that's actually mentioned on the poster. And lo and behold, it is for a soft drink -- the KMX Energy Drink!

    I have no idea if it is good tasting or whether it does you harm. However, I do know I love their innovative advertising campaign that has used these posters and weird personal ads to find markets. Their web site's pretty cool, too. Bravo to them!

    The Unethics of Treachery

    Whenever a treason trial reveals that "one of our own" has betrayed his or her country to the enemy, a frisson of repulsion runs down the spine. There seems to be an extraordinarily deep instinctive feeling against someone who acts as a "rat", a "fink", a "traitor"; the violation of trust and privacy is too great to shrug off, and the penalties are always extreme. It should be no surprise, therefore, that none of Robert Hanssen's family was in court to see his life disappear into the sewers in this way, sentenced to spend eternity in prison without the possibility of parole.

    I don't have a particular cause to promote in Mr Hanssen's case. He did it. He did it for money. He was caught. End of story. But what does bother me in his as in a lot of such stories was this: "Investigators have accused Hanssen of compromising dozens of Soviet personnel who were working for the United States." [emphasis added]

    If spying against one's country is so evil that we routinely execute people for it, or sentence them to longer jail terms than murderers and rapists, why do we encourage others to do it? In fact, why do we spend billions and billions of dollars persuading and helping people to do this "evil" act?

    Isn't it true that in these cases situational ethics reach the deepest depths of hypocrisy?

    Thursday, May 09, 2002

    Deliver Us From Regulation!

    Deep in the heart of British Columbia's Interior, about 600 miles north of Vancouver, sits the resource-extraction community of Burns Lake. It is a small town where, without much exaggeration, everyone knows everyone else. It is a place where deals are done with a handshake based on personal knowledge and history. For 15 years, Glenn Anderson, Douglas Montaldi and Gordon Shanks have operated a bank in Burns Lake, basing their deposit and lending practices on the same principles.
    "We do not advertise and we do not solicit. We are well respected in this town with many different business interests ... Our loan documentation is a single piece of paper with no fine print and our lending policy [is based on] whether we know the individual and a system of trust ... We don't deal out of our area. We only deal with people we know, and a handshake is often still the order of business for us ...

    [T]hese [loans] relate to things like immediate short-term loans, such as when a guy goes to Ritchie Brothers auctions and buys a skidder, and needs me to put $50,000 in his bank account. I know him, I know he makes good on it, so I go across to the bank and deposit the money. We always settle up ... Sometimes it's money we've advanced for a residential school payout or an [auto insurance] claim. We know they'll get the money"
    Trouble is, as you can propably imagine from this background, they weren't what the regulators consider a real bank, and now they've been closed down.
    "Operating with two employees out of a small insurance office in downtown Burns Lake, the company offered depositors a 12-per-cent return on their money and charged borrowers 18-per-cent interest. The rates, although well above those offered by conventional banks, proved attractive to both depositors and borrowers. The numbered company became well known as the place to get quick and easy money, albeit at a price.

    The [regulators say] that by Dec. 31, the company had raised $36 million from more than 300 depositors in amounts as little as $190 and as much as $2 million, and had loaned much of that money to about 1,400 individuals and firms for anything from weekend spending money to business loans ...

    The company's services became so popular ...estimates [are] that, during the course of a year, about half the 6,000 adult residents of the Burns Lake area borrowed money from the numbered company ...

    "Recognize that probably 80 per cent of our borrowers would not be able to get loans from regular institutions," says Douglas Montaldi. "We have six [First Nations] bands in our immediate area, so we have a large percentage of native population who for a variety of reasons do not meet normal borrowing criteria."
    There is no evidence that the company has ever missed an interest or a principal repayment. It operated quite above board, filing tax returns, issuing valid Revenue Canada investment tax slips, and complying with the province's corporate capital tax regulations. And they were good for Burns Lake.
    "It's been tough for a little forestry town. Smaller loggers and stuff have had a tough time here, and seems like [Anderson and Montaldi] have funded them until their receivables came through," Rod McLeod, a local car dealer, said. "They've played a big part in keeping everybody going here."

    Brian Thompson, the owner of Argyle Mill Works in Burns Lake, shut down his 20-employee sawmill for a week because he couldn't get his usual $40,000 to $50,000 line of operating credit from the company to cover his payroll. "It's absolutely detrimental to this whole community," he said.
    On Sunday, the mayor and two councillors wrote to Finance Minister Gary Collins telling him the regulatory action by his officials "may create considerable hardship in our community. . . . Freezing the company's accounts and assets could exact a terrible financial and emotional toll on its clients."

    None of this matters, apparently. "They were totally unregulated!" cry the regulators (the B.C. Financial Institutions Commission in this case) and that's all that counts. So yet another perfectly useful private enterprise that has brought nothing but good to its community by all accounts is driven out of existence by government regulation. Bravo, fellas!

    And the fragile economy of the Bulkley Valley is now left in the ungentle hands of -- the big banks who wouldn't recognize Burns Lake if it jumped up and bit them on the ass.

    Tulips, Airport Station, Richmond, May 2002

    A border of tulips and wildflowers at the Airport Station transit stop, May 2002.

    Palestine Daily Log

    While the whackos in the Israeli Cabinet, the U.S. Congress and the warbloggers' universe scream for ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories, it is reassuring that a large majority of the Israeli population shares a belief that withdrawal from the occupation is vital for the peace process.

    The latest poll found that 63% felt peace negotiations were necessary to resolving terrorism, and 59% said they believed a unilateral withdrawal of troops and settlers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip would lead to the renewal of the peace process. No doubt many of them share IDF Captain Haim Weiss's opinion that "the friction with the Palestinian population is caused by the need to provide [illegal] settlers with freedom of movement, not by the need to prevent suicide bombers entering Israeli territory. As long as Israel continues to hold the settlements, it will be forced to act immorally toward the Palestinian population."

    Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Sharon will take any notice of this as he orders the IDF into position to re-invade the Gaza Strip in the next day or so.

    No deaths were reported since the last Log. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (11:00am PDT May 9th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,468. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 557 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Wednesday, May 08, 2002

    Mr Squeezie vs. Spiderman

    Tried to see "Spiderman" last night but, arriving at the multiplex (with the movie on four screens simultaneously) before 7, we discovered the first available tickets were for the 10:15 show! We bought tickets for a matinee today instead.

    But the night was not completely wasted; the sushi was great and ...

    Python Ad, Commercial Drive, May 2002

    ... we found this wonderful poster during the walk home.

    Palestine Daily Log

    Yesterday, 15 Israeli civilians and a Palestinian bomber were killed in a bombing at Rishon Letzion.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:30am PDT May 8th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,468. In the same period, 478 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 557 Palestinians and 229 Israelis have been killed.

    Tuesday, May 07, 2002

    Arrow Lake, August 2001

    The Upper Arrow Lake at Nakusp, morning.

    The Unequal Death of Civilians

    There was another suicide bombing this afternoon in Israel; latest reports indicate 15 or 16 dead. I condemn this attack utterly and without reservation.

    If only those lousy warbloggers on the net and the warmongers in Washington would only condemn the deaths of innocent Palestinians in the same outright way we might get somewhere. And yet ...

    In the last 48 hours, a Palestinian woman and three children were killed by the IOF in two separate incidents. Mentions on the evening network news -- none. Mentions in the warblogs -- none. Why? Are these civilians not worth it? Is it because they are not white? Is this racism in action? What other rationalisation will those who ignore these deaths make? I guess they might say, well the IOF fire was accidental. Not so: read the reports in the Israeli newspapers. And even if they were accidental, does that make them less valid deaths than the Israeli civilians? Do that woman and those kids feel any less dead than the innocents in the snooker bar in Rishon Letzion?

    The Palestinians live with contant inequality throughout their lives. Nothing changes when they are dead.

    Too Easy

    I have on occasion raised my voice against what I see as the hypocrisy of many bloggers who criticize European racism while denying (through their silence) the racism that permeates sections of American society. I was hoping therefore to direct your attention to Mary Madigan's brief on domestic racism at What Are They Saying with praise.

    Unfortunately, Mary uses what could have been the opportunity to make important points to attempt yet again to smear anti-Israeli government activists and propagandists with an anti-semitic label. She even tells us how we should behave:
    "Students, leftists, anti-globalists and all other assorted pro-Palestinians can argue that they’re ‘only anti-Zionists’ until they’re blue in the face. Until they start renouncing the use of suicide bombers as a strategy it's very hard to believe them."
    Let's extend that argument a little:
    "Libertarians, conservatives, rightists and all other assorted pro-Israeli propagandists can argue that Israel is looking for a peace with the Palestinians until they're blue in the face. Until they start renouncing the theft of land from, and the refusal of civil rights to, the Palestinians it's very hard to believe them."
    Or ...
    "Colin Powell, George Bush, Dick Cheney and all other Administration officials can argue that America stands for freedom and democracy until they're blue in the face. Until they stop supporting anti-democratic coups and fascist dictators it's very hard to believe them."
    This becomes addictive ... but I'll stop now, it's too easy.

    Monday, May 06, 2002

    Bocce at Victoria Park, Vancouver, Fall 2001

    The older Italian men gather for a game of bocce in the park.

    Hiding the Hogs and the Inhumanity

    In a vote that was so lopsided it just had to be pro-forma, the Illinois House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 5793 by 128 votes to 0. The Bill -- "Farm Animal and Agricultural Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act" -- seems innocuous enough at first glance, reminding everyone that the standard laws on theft, sabotage and damage from households and businesses also apply to farm property. However, as Eric Zorn points out in the Chicago Tribune, the real purpose of the 1,000-word Bill is hidden away in a 16-word sentence.

    The tendentious clause makes it a criminal offence punishable by 6 months in jail for taking photographs or videos of animals in "animal facilities," a term defined as anywhere an animal is "kept, housed, handled, exhibited, bred, raised, or offered for sale or purchase" without the permission of the facility owner. Aimed directly at animal rights' activists and others concerned with the humane production of food, this prohibition would also stop State Food Inspectors from documenting regulatory abuses at such animal facilities .

    This little beauty is buried on page 3 in Section 10, Subsection C, paragraph 4 where it's a good bet most lawmakers didn't even see it. "I didn't know I voted for that," said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who is considered a pro-animal legislator. She explained: "We try to read the full texts of all the bills, but we often have to rely on analysts and lobbyists. I guess this one snuck by us."

    The pushers of the bill claim the wording is primarily to protect copyrighted activities in research facilities. "A lot of these facilities do high-tech biological research," Kevin Semlow, a pro-Bill lobbyist, said. "We've had problems with people making videos of copyrighted technologies, such as the way feed systems work for livestock." However, as Zorn points out, that sort of espionage is already and specifically covered by a 1990 piece of legislation.

    No, this Bill is for one purpose only -- to keep the public's knowledge of how their food supply is managed to a minimum. As anyone who has read Fast Food Nation and similar works knows, this ain't a pretty business. "When you tell people what goes on at some of these farms they say, `Oh, really?'" said Don Rolla, lobbyist for Illinois Humane PAC. "But when you show them a picture or a video, they're horrified." Corporations claim to hate government regulation -- except when they want something, of course.

    The Illinois Bill is currently sitting in the Senate with no date set for debate.

    Words From An IDF Veteran #5

    Captain Haim Weiss, a long time veteran IDF officer, has written to the Israeli Defence Minister explaining why he has to refuse service in the future. It is, he says, a moral question concerning a military man's right to refuse an "illegal order."
    "The most critical question that arises is 'what exactly is an illegal command?' What is immoral as opposed to just inconvenient or unpleasant, and into which category does the current situation in the territories fall? An order to fire on a child standing before a roadblock is clearly illegal. But if the order is to shoot above his head to chase him from the roadblock, does the emotional damage the shooting causes the child make the order illegal? Is it illegal to continually enter Palestinian citizens' homes in the middle of the night? Is it illegal to prevent the free movement of Palestinian citizens? Aren't the searches, the humiliation, our many mistakes, an indication that our treatment of the Palestinian population under our rule is clearly illegal?

    Military law does not define what a clearly illegal order is, but leaves it to the soldier. My interpretation of the law does not limit it to orders involving attacking, killing or injuring people. Rather, it includes any command that, when obeyed, leads to humiliating human beings, robbing them of self-respect, and depriving them of the basic human rights protected under the UN declaration of human rights, a document signed by Israel.

    I used to believe there was a purpose to my presence in the territories. I believed the solutions I offered would prevent problems. Today, I believe my presence cannot solve those problems and that the orders issued are illegal because they deprive the Palestinian population of its basic rights and freedoms. Prohibiting Palestinians from travelling along roads without providing alternative routes, the never-ending delays at roadblocks, the many hours required to travel short distances, the humiliation, the destruction of homes, the incessant searches, the need to aim weapons at innocent women and children - all these actions turn the Israeli Defence Force into an immoral occupying force, and in these I refuse to participate.

    These actions on the part of the IDF provide no protection to Israel. They protect only the settlements built on conquered territory, where Israel has no right to establish settlements. The friction with the Palestinian population is caused by the need to provide settlers with freedom of movement, not by the need to prevent suicide bombers entering Israeli territory. As long as Israel continues to hold the settlements, it will be forced to act immorally toward the Palestinian population."
    -- Haim Weiss, Captain, IDF Tank Corps

    Palestine Daily Log

    An 11-year old Palestinian boy was killed by tank fire during an IOF incursion into Tul Karm yesterday. In addition, the IOF is reporting the killing of 4 Palestinian militants last night during two infiltration attempts in the northern Gaza Strip. These last deaths are not yet being reported in Ha'aretz or Jerusalem Post.

    From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PDT May 6th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,467. In the same period, 463 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 556 Palestinians and 214 Israelis have been killed.

    Aung San Suu Kyi is Free!

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest by the monstrous military brutes who rule Burma as their private fiefdom. This is great news for her and for the National League for Democracy. Thousands of people turned out to see her yesterday, and the U.N. advisor who negotiated the release, Razali Ismail, goes so far as to predict that Burma would have an elected government "in a couple of years".

    I have a lot less hope than that. As Aung San Suu Kyi has said: "My release should not be looked at as a major breakthrough for democracy. For all people in Burma to enjoy basic freedom - that would be the major breakthrough." I hope I am wrong, but I don't see the Generals giving up power at any time without a fight. They have insulated themsleves entirely from both local and international public opinion and, so long as U.S. and European companies continue to supply the military with the cash they need, why would they change?

    Sunday, May 05, 2002

    Budding Prospects

    This afternoon, my wife and I went along to the Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening Exhibition at Canada Place. A neighbour operates a hydroponic supply company and he had suggested we would enjoy the show. It was one of those Vancouver spring days that started brightly, gave us a massive hail storm in the morning, and followed that up with alternating bright sunshine and light drizzle. The wind was up and the walking was good along the waterfront.

    At the show I was immediately surprised. I guess my assumption had been this would be some kind of laid-back home-grown show with tie-dye and interestingly-patterned rolling papers. So, the brightly-lit booths -- some filled with machinery, others piled high with free samples of product like a hair salon on steroids, and yet more stacked with pots of healthy basil and lettuce -- were a shock at first. The sheer trade show commercialism of it all was completely unexpected.

    The machinery was impressive: industrial-strength ventilation and odor-reduction systems the size of large refrigerators, square yard after square yard of shiny stainless steel vents and tubing. Less exciting, I thought, were the control systems -- timers, water flow and temperature monitors -- which seemed clunky, reminding me of props in 1950s B movies.

    The "product" -- fertilizers and boosters for every stage of a plants life from rooting through harvest -- was available in fire-sale quantities, often packaged in small brightly colored plastic bottles like shampoo. We filled up a very pretty complementary canvas shopping bag with everything going. Much of it was specialized for hydroponic growing, which we don't do, but I'm sure there will be enough suitable stuff to see us through the next couple of seasons.

    Of greatest interest to me were the various designs of compact hydroponic systems. There were a dozen or more very creative ways of packing plants around a light and getting a steady water supply. Tiered systems, systems that looked like minature trees, circular interlocking systems, stainless steel mirrored cabinets -- all designed to deliver the greatest weight of dried herb for a particular number of lights. Our neighbour markets a tall circular design that holds 300 plants with a single light.

    My favourite design was the Omega Garden. Just for the look of it, really. It seemed to be pretty efficient, too, though.

    Omega growing chamber

    I'm not about to move into production any time soon, but it was interesting to see how "industrial" and "retail" this business has become. There were perhaps a few more tattoos and piercings than at the average Plumbing Expo, but in general the sales people here were just like sales people at any other sales event. The Marijuana Party had a booth but, probably significant, it was outside the actual exhibition hall.

    By the time we left the show, the rain had started and the weather was too rough for us to fly the kite we had brought with us. Now that was a shame.

    Tulips at Canada Place, 5th May, 2002

    These tulips were resisting the sea breeze at Canada Place this afternoon.

    What We Do And Why We Do It

    I am fascinated by advertizing, how it works, how it makes us do what it wants us to do. It is for this reason that AdWeek and Advertizing Age are in my package of required daily reading materials. Whenever I can, I also try to visit ContentBiz which imparts "Practical news on Internet marketing." It was on this latter site that I found an entertaining and informative piece called "How To Sell More Internet Advertizing."

    While this is practical advice aimed specifically at the media-to-media marketplace, we "eyeballs" are really what it is all about. I am glad to learn that these folks think about how we read the page:
    "There are a lot of things sites can offer to add premium to CPM, including reducing the amount of clutter on the page, above-the-fold positioning, targeted positioning, not accepting competitors' ads, sequencing of ad units, the ability to do a surround-session, combination of units on the page …etc.
    And, as if we didn't know why sites ask us so many personal questions and referal logs are so detailed, the author explains in detail what advertizers need.
    "Don't just include typical NetRatings data. Not just percent male/female, education, income. Tell why they come to this site, and attach log data to it. We know they come and spend X amount of time, and here's some qualitative data on their buying habits and their appreciation for the site from a third party study. Get panel-type data, combine it with your log file ... If you want to get out of CPC, you sure better give them some more information about who you're reaching ... What's the behavior of people coming to your site? How's that differentiated from others? Why might they be good
    candidates for your stuff? That's the bar you have to pass to be a good publisher."
    It seems that no-one online asks "how are you?" out of innocent motives! That's good to know.

    Palestine Daily Log

    The Middle East situation is one of the most vital foreign policy issues facing the United States at this time. I doubt I would get much disagreement with that. So, when the leader of the President's party in the U.S. House of Representatives proclaims a major policy statement concerning that region, it is reasonable to assume that major media coverage of that statement would follow. But, when Dick Armey, Majority Leader in the House publicly proclaimed himself in favour of ethnic cleansing the Occupied Territories, the elites realised he had said too much, given up too much of the end game in advance, and moved the Propaganda Machine into action. Armey's support for ethnic cleansing was essentially buried, hidden from the mass of the American public.

    In the New York Times, for example, the only reference that comes up on a search is a report of Congress passing the Support Israel motion last week. Armey's statement is briefly mentioned in the 13th paragraph in a story I understand was buried deep inside the print edition. Similarly, the Washington Post report mentions Armey at the bottom on the story, buried on page A18, and softens the tone considerably. Online searches for "Armey" produce nothing at all about this story on CNN, MSNBC and other mass media sites. I don't watch too much network TV news, but the little I did see at the end of this week had nothing about Armey's statement.

    Why is this? If the number three or four man in the Palestinian Authority had said that all Israelis should be pushed into the sea, do you think that statement would have been buried, withheld from the mass of the American public? No, it would have been splash headlines and grist for a thousand warbloggers for weeks. But apparently when a senior American politico says the same thing (with only the cast members reversed), it should only be whispered or, preferably, ignored all together. The Propaganda Model seems to be working just fine.

    This morning, an unarmed Palestinian woman and her two children were killed by a shell fired at them by an IOF tank. From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:00am PDT May 5th, 2002), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,462. In the same period, 463 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 551 Palestinians and 214 Israelis have been killed.

    Saturday, May 04, 2002

    The Inevitable Logic of "Free" TV

    Jamie Kellner is Chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting Systems, which is made up of the ad-supported networks that belong to AOL Time Warner. In previous jobs, Keller helped make Fox the fourth broadcast network and created the WB as the fifth network. His current slew of properties includes CNN, Headline News, the Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS and the WB.

    As an absorbing article at CableWorld (to which I was directed by Follow Me Here via 2600) has it: "A big piece of the future of television is in the hands of Jamie Kellner."

    The interview with Kellner is standard fare until this Master of the Universe complains about VCRs:
    "I'm a big believer we have to make television more convenient or we will drive the penetration of PVRs and things like that, which I'm not sure is good for the cable industry or the broadcast industry or the networks .. Because of the ad skips.... It's theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming ...

    I guess there's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips certain second increments, you've got that only for one reason, unless you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They've done that just to make it easy for someone to skip a commercial ...

    The only payment for a lot [of content] is the willingness of the viewer to watch the spot, the commercial. That's part of the contract between the network and the viewer. For anybody to step in between that content and encourage the viewer to disregard the payment in time that he's making--I think everybody should fight those people."
    With the power of these people and corporations, I am certain it won't be long before we won't be allowed to avoid the commercials. A technological solution will be found to "protect" commercial TV, and the only answer then will be what it already is -- don't watch!

    Eye of the Beholder

    Whenever I visit the Cold Fury site (or Little Green Footballs, for which Cold Fury acts almost as a mirror, for that matter) I feel a good shower and scrub down is necessary before moving on to the real world. Against my better judgement, influenced no doubt by a less than satisfactory Chinese supper, I arrived at Cold Fury tonight to find, in a rant about those who disagree with his xenophobic views on foreign policy, this gem. It is, he claims an accurate description of the views of those opposed to the War on Some Terror:
    "Anybody who fights against America is fighting the good fight, be they a common murderous thug like Arafat or bin Laden or a genocidal madman like Pol Pot or a slightly more subtle megalomaniac like Castro. The common denominator is America as the enemy, and especially American capitalism. Nothing else matters."
    My only interest in this passage, to be honest, was its obvious possibility for reversal:
    "Anybody who fights for capital is fighting the good fight, be they a common murderous thug like Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan or General Pinochet or a genocidal madman like Suharto or a slightly more subtle megalomaniac like the Shah of Iran or Guatemala's Rios Montt. The common denominator is America as the leader, supported by American capitalism. Nothing else matters."
    The real difference? The first quote is full of lies and projections, the second is true.