Strange Loops Journal Archive: April 2003

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April 24, 2003 top

The Decaying Freedom page has been updated with new information and an improved design.

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April 13, 2003 top
Tonight, I watched the movie Fight Club for the second time (I'm surprised it took me this long!). I really enjoyed it the first time, partly because of the message but perhaps more because of the presentation. It's a flawlessly put together movie, and the plot is superb. But this time, knowing the plot already, I was able to sit back and really absorb what the movie had to say to me. More than anything, this is a movie made to cut through the bullshit of life, to lift the transparent veil of programmed reality that we have all accepted and see life out of our own eyes. More than anything, it is a call to act, a call to live rather than to survive. Our lives are so unconsciously altered and programmed, and our basic vision of reality set, by arbitrary external forces like big companies advertising products, media conglomerates trying to out-rate each other, magazines aiming to catch our attention long enough to pick our pockets, dogmatic religious condemnations, pre-written euphamism-filled political speeches, parents who grew up in an age of completely different technology, etc. How often do we question the most basic assumptions about how society works, how life works, how reality works? About things like what is necessary to survive, to make a person happy, even what happiness is? How often do we ask ourselves tough questions like "why do I work where I do" or "why do I buy what I do" or even "is money a necessity for civilized life"? How many people reject change (on the small or large scale) because it seems impossible by the reality-vision they've been given by corporations, governments, religions and parents?

Along those lines, I present a reproduction of an article written (and adapted) by various authors over the years, entitled The Revolutionary Pleasure of Thinking For Yourself.

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April 06, 2003 top
IN THE NEWS, disturbing stuff plucked from the local paper recently:

New York Times, Mar 18. A pair of early morning Isreali army raids in Gaza killed 10 Palestinians on Monday. Hospitals and officials said that those killed included one militant, two Palestinian security force members and four civilians 19 or younger (the affiliations of the other three are not clear). One of the victims was 3-year-old Elham al-Assar, whose home was down the street from the attacking Isreali tanks.

Knight Ridder, Mar 19. Experts say it is easy to exaggerate the deadly potential of biological and chemical agents. The reality is that biological and chemical weapons are much better at scaring people than killing them. Most of the substances are hard to deliver in a way that kills very many people over more than a small area, and in most cases, there are readily available antidotes or treatments. Angelo Acquista, medical director for New York City's mayor's Office of Emergency Management believes "the only weapon of mass destruction is a nuclear detonation." He said biological and chemical weapons are more likely to kill a few people and frighten millions, as happened in the 1995 sarin gas attack in a Japanese subway (five deaths). Acquista said that even if terrorists released germs or deadly chemicals in a city like Philadelphia, most people would have a good chance of survival, and their odds improve the more they know and the less they panic.

Associated Press, Mar 23. A Las Vegas man, Irwin Schiff, who claims that federal income tax is voluntary under U.S. law was ordered by a federal judge to stop selling his book on the topic and to cease all related seminars.

Associated Press, Mar 28. The House and Senate have both approved money for a national child kidnapping "Amber Alert" system, named Amber Hagerman, a 9-year old abducted and murdered in Texas. The bill also aims to toughen laws relating to sexual abuse: people accused of raping or abducting children would automatically be denied bond and held in jail until their trials; the statute of limitations on those crimes would be eliminated and life-sentences would be required for twice-convicted sex offenders). It also contains another provision which bans computer-simulated "child pornography" [that is, non-child-pornography, in which no children were involved]

Associated Press, Mar 28. The Kansas State Senate passed a bill to punish the University of Kansas by withholding $3 million in funding to the school. Award-winning professor Dennis Dailey teaches a popular human sexuality class in which he uses educational films that show genitalia and assigns homework that includes students exploring their own genitalia. The films are designed for classroom use and made by educational organizations. In addition to withholding funds, the bill also requires public universities to ban the purchase of such "obscene" material or lose that department's funding.

L.A. Times, Mar 31. Isreali troops hiding in a vacant lot fired on a car in Bethlehem Tuesday night, killing two Hamas members and also spraying bullets into the passing car of a Palestinian family, the Saadehs. A ten year old girl died and her parents and sister were wounded. Another passerby, a 40 year old Palestinian man, was shot and killed as well. also reports that army officers originally claimed that soldiers had fired on the Saadehs' car because they feared it was about to run them over. But in a statement the next day, a military spokesman made no mention of this, and expressed deep regret over "a tragic turn of events." Christine's father, George Saadeh, 41, said: "I saw two army jeeps on Nasser Street and thought about reversing away, but Palestinians know that can be fatal, so I drove towards them very slowly. I put on my indicator to show I was pulling out to avoid their vehicles. Just as we passed in front of them, the windscreen was blown in and bullets started flying around the car. I pulled up and screamed at the soldiers to stop the firing, but it continued. I looked behind and saw Christine slumped down, covered in blood."

L.A. Times, Mar 31. In the West Bank, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead by army troops during stone-throwing clashes with Isreali soldiers in Jenin. The clash erupted as soldiers searched for Palestinian militants. In all, 25 suspects were arrested. Human rights groups say that more than 1,000 Palestinian suspects are being held without charges by Isreal.

Spokesman Review, Apr 01. A former University of Idaho student, Abdullah Al-Kidd, was release from week-long custody Monday after being detained without charges as a material witness in a terrorism-related investigation. The government had claimed that Al-Kidd was caught trying to use a $5,000 first-class, one-way ticket to Saudi Arabia. Attorneys later acknowledged that that was not the case: he actually had a 1,700 round-trip ticket with an open return date. He was traveling there on a scholarship to study law for a year. Al-Kidd was released on condition that he not travel, and that he testify at the trial of his friend Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, who is being held for immigration fraud (which authorities claim is somehow related to international terrorism).

Associated Press, Apr 02. Two leading evangelical Christian missionary organizations (The Southern Baptist Convention and Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse) said Tuesday that they have teams of workers poised to enter Iraq to address the spiritual needs of a large Muslim population. These two groups have been at the heart of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam (Franklin Graham has called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion"). Both organizations claim that humanitarian aid is their priority, but if the situation presents itself they will share their Christian faith. "Conversations about spiritual things will come about as people ask about our faith," says Mark Kelly of the Southern Baptists. President Bush is known to have close ties with Graham, who gave a prayar at his inauguration, and the Southern Baptists, who are among his more loyal supporters.

Spokesman Review, Apr 03. At the government's request, a Seattle immigration judge delayed for three weeks a release hearing for a jailed University of Idaho student Sami Omar Al-Hussayen. He is being held on charges of immigration fraud and making false statements on visa paperwork. The government alleges that he has connections to international terrorism, including a number of web sites he helped ran or design. Judge Anna Ho repeatedly stated that it is unclear to her whether there is a link between Al-Hussayen's web sites and two radical sheiks who allegedly advocated violence against America [in an old article on one of those sites]. Federal Magistrate Mikel Williams ruled last month that Al-Hussayen could be released under house arrest, but the Bureau of Immigration and Customs is keeping him in custody due to governmental pressure.

New York Times, Apr 04. At a meeting of library officials in Santa Cruz last week, it was decided that materials such as web-use signup logs and hand-written reference desk requests should be shredded daily. "The basic strategy now is to keep as little historical information as possible," said Anne M. Turner, director of the library system. The move was part of a campaign by the Santa Cruz libraries to demonstrate their opposition to the Patriot Act, the law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks that broadened the federal authorities' powers in fighting terrorism. Today, the libraries went further and began distributing a handout to visitors that outlines objections to the enhanced F.B.I. powers and explains that the libraries were reviewing all records "to make sure that we really need every piece of data" about borrowers and Internet users. In a survey sent to 1,500 libraries last fall by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois, the staffs at 219 libraries said they had cooperated with law enforcement requests for information about patrons; staffs at 225 libraries said they had not.

San Jose Mercury News, Apr 05. The recording industry filed copyright infringement lawsuits Thursday against four college students, accusing them of setting up Napster-like file-sharing services on their campus networks. The students allegedly operated "a sophisticated network designed to enable widespread thievery." [What did they use? None other than the popular Direct Connect, which is absolutely simple to setup, requires no sophisticated knowledge of computers or networking, and has thousands of file-sharing communities going all the time.] The suit seeks to slap each student with a maximum penalty of $150,000 per song (for a grand total of $150,000,000,000 maximum if the lawsuit's claim of a million songs traded is correct). Last November, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Seized the computers of 100 midshipmen accused of possessing pirated music.

Associated Press, Apr 05. An American peace activist volunteering as a human shield in the West Bank was seriously wounded Saturday by Isreali troops. Brian Avery, 24, heard shots fired and came out of his apartment building in Jenin to investigate just as an armored personnel carrier founded the corner. According to Tobias Karlsson, a Swedish activist in the same group (the International Solidarity Movement, which uses nonviolent methods to protest the Isreali occupation), Avery had his hands up and was wearing a vest that clearly identified him as an international worker when the army began firing. He was shot in the face by what appeared to be a heavy-caliber bullet. Karlsson says he, Avery and a Palestinian medical worker not with the group were approached slowly by the troops and stood with their hands up for about 10 minutes. There was no communication with the soldiers, who Karlsson says fired unprovoked. He did not see any gunman in the area, and said few Palestinians were on the streets Saturday because of a curfew Isreali troops were enforcing. This incident comes not long after the March 16 death of American Rachel Corrie, a member of the same group who was killed trying to block an Isreali military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip (she fell in front of the machine, which ran her over and then backed up over her, according to witnesses; the driver says he didn't see her). Another American peace activist, Eric Howanietz, was recently injured by rubber-coated steel pellets fired by Isreali soldiers as he watched Palestinian youths throw rocks at Isreali army jeeps. He says he and four others in his group were standing several yards away from the youths, were clearly visible and could not be mistaken.

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April 04, 2003 top
Been a busy week, so no blogging, but I did update the Decaying Freedom page with some more info and a new layout (summary on the main page with links to details, sources and further information). More to come soon.

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