Monthly political posting

It’s that time again, folks…

  • Last night, inbetween Doctor Who episodes on videotape, my antenna-less VCR managed to pick up Channel 25, the local French-language repeater for the CBC. They had the translated version of this BBC Panorama story about squeezing more dollars out of chicken by pumping it full of water prior to selling by weight. That might be unethical (some of the tested samples were as much as 49% water!), but the clincher is truly disgusting: they use hydrolized protein made from other animals, including pork and beef. One company interviewed found a way to mask this beef and pork protein by removing the DNA from the cells so it couldn’t be tested for by the authorities. This is immoral, unethical, dangerous (and not just because of BSE and CJD). Check your purchased chicken patties and hams, folks. Or better yet, insist on organic, free-range, local produce.
  • I’m hoping most of you have already heard about the Project for a New American Century (if not, give them a read). The underground media in the US has been clamoring about this for a while, but I’ve found that many of my Canadian friends don’t know about their agenda. Read the (clearly biased) reviews of what they do here and here, then make up your own mind. Post about it here; let’s get a discussion going. Postulate 1: The US has been a colonial empire at least since WWI. Discuss.
  • Been following the Diebold scandal yet? Even Wired has an article about it now. Check out the original company memos here (or websearch for them if the site’s been taken down). Rumor has it that “…no fewer than five elections” were lost by “exactly 18181 votes.” That’s a nasty coincidence, but the security of the product is what’s really at question here. Anyone with even a basic understanding of computing can tell that the system is completely insecure. Read more from Bev Harris at Black Box Voting.
  • Torture. Love it when it’s consentual. Decry it when it’s not. But Alan Dershowitz thinks it should be made legal by “torture warrant.” Of course, it’s “just for terrorists.” What happens when they decide you are a terrorist? Think about it.

16 thoughts on “Monthly political posting

  1. Postulate 1: The US has been a colonial empire at least since WWI.

    Hmmm, I’d argue more since WWII; America certainly has had colonial impulses before then (like in Thoreau’s time, with the Spanish/American war), but there was too much isolationism for it to be colonial. It was Hiroshima that really turned the tide in America, and made them become colonial, I think. But, then, I’m not a history expert, so I could certainly be wrong. But, from what I do know, I’d say WWII was the starting point of the American Empire.

  2. As countries are based on people, I tend to feel the US is justifiably a colonial empire whenever its personality began exhibiting such principles.. and certainly by the time it started behaving as such (whether inadvertently or intentionally).

    I’d place this time at least well into the period of widespread continental expansion. Alaska, California, Louisiana were all colonies by the definition I read.

    The only other question then would be at what point it became an empire. Again, I’d also judge this based on character, and again I’d have to say sometime during the continental expansion and certainly by the time of reaching the west coast. At some point the natives must have felt the US had become an empire and probably would have recognized the fact sooner than the US’s own citizens.

  3. I dunno what to do anymore.. we’ve got the right-wing whackos trying to take over the world, and the left-wing whackos trying to enslave us. The fact that members of both groups are able to win elections scares the crap out of me. I need to make a couple million dollars and go build my reinforced compound out in the woods or something.. the ostriches hiding their heads in the sand are plenty happy. :)

    RE: the voting machines.. how freaking hard can it be to write software for these things? All you have to do really is duplicate the function of mechanical voting machines that have been around for years. Simple state machines and counters. Maybe our first clue to the problems should be the fact that they used WINDOWS as an underlying operating system. How smart was that?

    People just piss me off..

  4. Let me preface this by saying that by no means do I think torture should be legalized. Just the contrary, in fact. But let me throw a little scenario your way.

    Somebody has planted a bomb at an elementary school. The police catch a suspect who admits to planting the bomb, which he says will go off at 2 pm, killing hundreds of children, but he won’t tell them where it’s located. It’s 1:45 pm. There is no chance to evacuate the students in time, but there is a chance that the bomb can be deactivated if it is found in the next 15 minutes.

    And before someone comes up with some hi-tech, bomb-sniffing robo-dog, let us assume that all other methods of locating the bomb have been exhausted.

    What happens?

  5. You evacuate as many students as you can, as immediately as possible. You also attempt to track down the bomb by any practical means necessary — check blueprints for locations that would cause the most damage, think about locations in the building that the suspect could reasonably have accessed unseen, get out the real dogs, etc. There are scanning technologies whose details aren’t generally known to the public, and I’m sure these would be applied as well. When was the last time that such a scenario occurred, and the bomb was not found and/or diffused in time, anyway? Law enforcement is good at this stuff.

    And I don’t know about you, but we had fire drills in school. If the school wasn’t cleared out in 10 minutes, it was considered a failure. And we had 4,000 students in our school…

    I don’t think that even this case is sufficient to endorse torture. About the farthest I’d even CONSIDER going is the administration of something like Versed, a strong benzodiazepine often used as a truth serum. This is still incredibly controversial, and to be honest, completely unacceptable even in the scenario you’ve described.

  6. I was attempting to create a scenario where there is no conventional means of success. Like I said, let us assume that all other efforts to locate the bomb had been exhausted. Everything you said is true, but it’s missing the point I was trying to make.

    Let me attempt to make it a little more clear and realistic. It’s September 11, 2001. Four planes have just been hijacked and are en route to their final destinations. Again, a suspect is in custody who knows the precise targets of each plane, but he refuses to talk. There’s 20 minutes before the first plane hits, so, assuming the FAA knows the current location of the plane, let us also assume that there is not enough time to mobilize any type of counter-attack.

    Realistically (meaning that attempting to evacuate every major corporate or defense centre in the USA is out of the question), how do you prevent a tragedy from occurring?

  7. Despite what Kirk might say, there is such a thing as a no-win situation. You can install remote-control plane control systems, but I could envision potential terrorists constructing their own ballistic missiles as well. You could start another cold war by creating a giant “defensive” missile system, but…this line of reasoning gets you nowhere.

    The point is to start figuring out the issues that cause humans to lose the ability to communicate with each other in meaningful ways. OBL and the rest of the crew out there are upset with the US for lots of very valid reasons (and some invalid ones as well). It’s only when the US as a whole refuses to listen to these concerns, and both sides stick their heads in the sand, that you end up with escalation that costs human lives.

    I don’t pretend to have the secret to ending war permanently, but I can emphatically state that the solution does not lie with torture or violent military action. Non-violent control weapon technology has developed rapidly over the past few years; I’d like to see similar solutions proposed for combatting terrorism rather than clear violations of basic human rights.

  8. I don’t think anyone would pretend that torture is a key to winning a war on anything. Torture is a means to an end, that end being getting information as quickly as possible.

    I was merely trying to point out that even issues as seemingly abhorrent as torture are not black and white. I am idealogically opposed to all forms of torture, but I can tell you with no shame that if my family were the potential victims in the previously described scenarios, I would be first in line with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.

  9. So what do you do if it’s the wrong guy, once you’re done?

    Sets a really bad precedent.

  10. A key condition of the aforementioned scenarios was a suspect who admitted committing or being part of the act, but refusing to share information that would save lives.

  11. This is to answer to the seeming justification of the use of torture.

    What makes you believe that these people won’t die with the secret?

    The price of freedom is forever vigilence. Once a precedent is set there is reason to erode everyones rights and freedoms. Its the responsibility of all people to protect everyones rights. The public good is a myth created by those in power who want to control the actions and thoughts of the individual.

    Also in the scenerios where you believe tortue may make the difference between life and death, it is not justified even if it could. You don’t fight fanatics by becoming one.

    When did the U.S. become a colonial empire. The Monroe document is when it started. When did it become an Empire, mid seventies after the first oil shock. That was when policies were put in place to control its allies.

    About election abnormalities. The minute people were taken out of the vote counting process there is reason to suspect the results. This goes back to forever vigilent concept.

    About screwing with chicken. I’m annoyed. Not surprised, just annoyed. Wonder how many people have to die before the regulators get off their ass and do their job.


  12. I came across your journal while looking for the most straight-forward articles about voting machines in hopes of spreading the word. I was thinking about secretly mass-emailing different user groups at my university encouraging involvement, but I can’t decide if that’s a wise decision. Any thoughts?

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