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July 08, 2006

July 8 Review & linkfest (mostly war on terror)

A standard feature of many blog is a blogroll - that list that can be either long or endless. While I like checking out suggestions of my favorite bloggers, long blogrolls are overwhelming and not useful. So, I will be doing posts (hopefully one a week) that review a few highlights and point out some good material in blogs I recommend. They will all be filed under the 'linkfest/recommended' category.

While you probably think this should start out with Ken Lay, that's a bit too US centric...

Anniversary of London Bombings

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"Everything was all normal and then suddenly, it was not. People were going about their normal daily business and then bombs were going off,'' said Angelina Alcorn, 26, a nurse who helped the injured. "I will never forget the image of that bus. It is stuck in my mind.'' Londoners Mourn Victims of 2005 Bombings (Guardian, UK)
 
On 7/7, bombers killed 52 others and injured about 700 in the early morning attacks on the subway tube and bus system. London stopped for several minutes yesterday for a moment of silence to remember the victims and I hope many others will do the same, even if it is a bit late. In London,

Shop shutters came down but at first it was unclear how the silence would start. Then a bell tolled at the nearby St Botolph's and suddenly there was that stillness from July 14 last year, a week after the bombs and the last time London stopped.

Every bus and car came to a halt and the only movement came from the traffic lights changing on Aldgate. At the end there was a pause, and then applause, and then no one wanted to move. (From, One year on: stopping for silence and applause, Times UK)

For while today is in many senses a national event, with silences respected and prayers heard in places across the capital and beyond, it is a public affair that serves as a bandage to wounds that are truly private. Today is about those whose lives were taken or transformed, people for whom phrases such as “closure” or “moving on” have scant merit. The most that they can hold, as [C.S.] Lewis again noted, is the knowledge that: “The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” 

I'd recommend checking out the Times' page on the bombings - there's good info on the bombings, the victims, the bombers and what drives suicide bombers, along with various commentary. One story that especially jumped out at me was, So you think 7/7 has brought Britain and America together? Think again. Ouch. "on July 4 of all days, a YouGov poll in The Daily Telegraph suggested the British have never had a lower regard for America... One per cent — yes, 1 per cent — of the British public think George W. Bush is a great world leader."

While we can try to distinguish between a nation's people and their leaders, "they don’t think the President is some sort of aberrant figure in American society. What they dislike about him is that he represents the things they think they know about America and have always despised — its supposedly vulgar, brash, uncultured, uncivilised character." And this from one of our closest allies. 

-see also BBC: Nation Remembers July 7 

War on Terror (more): al Qaeda

Al Qaeda used the anniversary of the bombing to release a video of one of the bombers who died a year ago. Juan Cole's Informed Comment has a good brief discussion of the tape. They key point is that Al Qaeda was involved in the bombing, leaving Cole to reflect on the direction of our war on terror: 

What I regret most of all is that our efforts in combatting al-Qaeda have been so inadequate as to leave Zawahiri free to corrupt minds and subvert souls, and to continue to sow terror.
The best commemoration of 7/7 will be his capture, and that of Bin Laden.
I completely agree. On my StopViolence site, the Sept 11 photo has been the FBI Most Wanted photo of bin Laden, plus background info about him and a history of Bush's comments about 'wanted dead or alive' to 'we don't care.' While bin Laden's network and organization have sustained some setbacks, the problem with 'Osama bin Forgotten' is that we do not know what he is up to and cannot assume he's jsut sitting around doing nothing.
 
For some writing on terrorism I did, I used Reeve's book The New Jackals (1999). He notes that in 1996, the CIA formed a special bin Laden taskforce: "Ever since, the Osama bin Laden desk, manned by the elite staff of more than eleven federal agencies, has mounted the largest, most expensive investigation ever into a single individual charged with international terrorism" (p 184-5). That didn't stop al-Qaeda from bombing our embassies (1998), attacking the USS Cole (2000) or carrying out Sept 11 (2001).
 
Why should we assume he's not planning something else? And after all this, Bush goes after Heussein... and there's more discussion of attacking Iran.

War on Terror, More Generally 

-The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report: Racist extremists active in U.S. military. It's not a new problem, but recruitment pressures are leading to relaxed standards on policies to weed out neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other such groups. 

The obvious issue is that they can use miltary training here at home. But I'd add several others. First the military has been recruiting heavily in minority areas, trying to entice blacks and Hispanics with fewer prospects. More minorities and racists is a problem for unit discipline and overall cohesion. Second, increasing numbers of white supremacists increases the likelihood of atrocities against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and many of the other places the US military is stationed.

-On July 4, several bloggers posted the Declaration of Independence, with the question of how many of the list of abuses against King George also applied to President George (W Bush). Here's the answer, with links to news stories as back up.   

-In a final related thought, Bruce Schneier's blog discusses the Annual Report from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. "Why doesn't the United States have a Privacy Commissioner?" he asks. Of course the answer is obvious when you read what the Commission has to say:

The fundamental human right of privacy in Canada is under assault as never before... we are on a path that may well lead to the permanent loss not only of privacy rights that we take for granted but also of important elements of freedom as we now know it.

These initiatives are set against the backdrop of September 11, and anti-terrorism is their purported rationale. But the aspects that present the greatest threat to privacy either have nothing at all to do with anti-terrorism, or they present no credible promise of effectively enhancing security.

The Government is, quite simply, using September 11 as an excuse for new collections and uses of personal information about all of us Canadians that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society.

Of course anyone who spoke such a truth here would be atatcked by Fox "news" and a number of politicans would claim they are supporting the terrorists.

While I'm a bit reluctant to add more text to this post (and reproduce all of Bruce's blog entry), this aspect of the Commissioner's report is brilliant and deserves wide distribution:

A popular response is: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

By that reasoning, of course, we shouldn't mind if the police were free to come into our homes at any time just to look around, if all our telephone conversations were monitored, if all our mail were read, if all the protections developed over centuries were swept away. It's only a difference of degree from the intrusions already being implemented or considered.

The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.

If we allow the state to sweep away the normal walls of privacy that protect the details of our lives, we will consign ourselves psychologically to living in a fishbowl. Even if we suffered no other specific harm as a result, that alone would profoundly change how we feel. Anyone who has lived in a totalitarian society can attest that what often felt most oppressive was precisely the lack of privacy.

The full 2005 Canadian Privacy Report is here.

For Something Completely Sort of Different

Heavy topics. And while that's important, I'd also like the tone of this blog to have a lighter and playful side as well. Today, the item come from a blog dealing with more mature subject matter and may not be appropriate for younger readers or work computers.

Imagine you're "Radical Vixen" a "kinky hippie political activist who talks dirty on the phone." A lucrative caller on your phone-sex line is a rabid racist, which goes against your strongly held personal beliefs. What do you say? 

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