Here's a nice long one for you...set aside some quiet time and enjoy.
While the recent bombings in Saudi Arabia were not, unfortunately, a big surprise, the attacks in Morocco were. If you need more information, begin your Internet gathering here:
Morocco, of all the countries in North Africa, is probably the closest to representative democracy. Although I'd hardly recommend the place for a gold star (active secret police, limited franchise for women, occupation of a neighboring country) a relatively enlightened monarch and proximity to Europe was very promising for their future as a gateway to Africa and the Islamic world. The reaction to these attacks in Morocco and Europe will be very telling...especially as the victims numbered three Spaniards, three Frenchmen, an Italian and 21 Moroccans. Extremely pointless...bitter...and the finger will alight on three men, Mr. Bush, Mr. Aznar, and Mr. Berlusconi. The finger's been on Mr. bin Laden for a long time, but I hardly think he could have much involvement in this from the lawless frontier of Pakistan (or, as I surmised in the past, a nice resort on the Arabian coast, with Mr. Hussein.)
We are also starting to see the bitter fruit of imperialism being brought home to our allies in Europe and the Middle East. Will they react by moving away from us, or towards our new brand of "closely-watched" democracy? Ask Mr. Ashcroft.
An interesting article about the crackdown on public drunkenness -- inside bars -- was sent to me by Ms. Soriano-Lightwood, but rather than reprint the entire thing, I refer you to the offending 'zine, which is pretty interesting in it's own right:
I was asked by certain parties to send the information regarding restrictions on travel to Cuba which have been recently reinstated:
>Eric Fenster wrote: From: "Eric Fenster"
>Date: Thu, 08 May 2003 19:11:04 +0200
>Subject: US blocks information about Cuba
>IFLA is right to insist that countries assure free access to information.
>The United States has just stopped granting the "educational licenses" that were the small crack in a draconian, decades old policy to prevent US citizens from getting information about Cuba by traveling there. (excerpts from NY Times article, below)
>The United States has been holding prisoners incommunicado for a year and a half ON THE ISLAND OF CUBA. Nobody can get information about them, and they and we have been told they are held in a location not subject to any national or international laws or treaties except the law of force.
>The United States, under the insulting name of the "Patriot Act," is surveying what people read in its libraries and buy in its bookstores. So far, librarians have complained on the one hand and practiced compliance on the other. There is no such thing as free access to information in a context of government intimidation.
>Let's hope IFLA will issue a parallel statement on May 10 that holds the United States to the standards it claims to represent.
>U.S. policy shift limits travel to Cuba
>David D. Kirkpatrick NYT
>Monday, May 5, 2003
>Duncan Beardsley . . ., director of the travel study program for Stanford University alumni, learned that the Bush administration was no longer granting special licenses that allowed alumni organizations, museums and other cultural groups to take American citizens on educational trips to Cuba.
>. . .
>Beardsley and his group brought up their complaints in a meeting at the United States Interests Section in Havana, the equivalent of an embassy. "We were told the educational license was being eliminated because it was being used primarily for salsa and the beach," he said. . . .
>. . .
>"The new regulations spell the virtual end of travel to Cuba for ordinary Americans," said Nancy Chang, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights group. The rules still leave exemptions for students on academic programs as well as for professional scholars, journalists, government officials and Cuban-Americans visiting family, but far fewer people fall into those categories.
>The Bush administration is ending the educational licenses because it believes too many people have been using them mainly to have fun. . . .
>"The license was being abused," said Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the Treasury Department. "It undermined the intention of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, which are to deprive the Castro regime of the financial wherewithal to continue to oppress its people."
>On March 24, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the branch of the Treasury Department that administers the long-running embargo, stopped granting new licenses and issued the rule eliminating the exemption.
And back to more (and more and more) benign forms of idiocy around the globe.
Race Driver's License Confiscated for Speeding
Cafe Toilets Get Makeover
Mafia Blamed for Rubbish Revolt
Deodorant Co. to Sponsor Armpit Festival
And finally, my favorite picture so far from Iraq:
Saddam Gets a Makeover
Okay, for those interested, I have a few articles which show what my colleagues have been up to on the home front, fighting the Patriot Act and the international destruction of libraries. Being a librarian is becoming much more interesting:
Pulling FBI's Nose Out of Your Books
By Bernie Sanders
U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders represents Vermont as an independent.
May 8, 2003
An unnecessary chill has descended on the nation's libraries and bookstores: The books you buy and read are now subject to government inspection and review.
After 9/11, the Bush administration, particularly Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, pushed hard for passage of the Patriot Act, which contained sweeping changes to our nation's surveillance laws and new intelligence powers for the FBI and other agencies. At that time of national outrage, Congress passed with little debate a bill the attorney general had crafted.
Few who voted for the Patriot Act - I did not - knew that among its provisions was one that gave FBI agents the authority to engage in fishing expeditions to see what Americans read. Although it does not mention bookstores or libraries specifically, the sweeping legislation gives the FBI the power to seize all of the circulation, purchasing and other records of library users and bookstore customers on no stronger a claim than an FBI official's statement that they are part of a terrorism investigation. Surely the powers the government needs to fight terrorism can be subject to more meaningful checks and balances than that, especially when the right to read without government intrusion is at stake.
Until the Patriot Act, the FBI had the authority to obtain bank records, credit records and certain other commercial records only upon some showing that the records requested related to a suspected member of a terrorist group. The Patriot Act expanded the FBI's authority in two ways. First, it gave the FBI the authority to seize any records of any entity. Most members of Congress probably didn't realize it, but this included libraries and bookstores. Second, Congress dropped the prior requirement that the FBI actually have some evidence that the person whose records it sought was a member of a terrorist group or otherwise involved in terrorism.
Now, one Patriot Act provision allows the FBI to obtain whole databases, including records of citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing. The FBI has a history of abusing its power: monitoring, keeping records on and infiltrating civil rights organizations, Vietnam War protest groups and others that had broken no laws but were considered controversial. Little has changed to prevent the FBI from abusing its powers again if it is left unchecked. The new powers appear to have been used already - a University of Illinois survey shows libraries were targeted at least 175 times in the year after 9/11 - yet the FBI refuses to explain how or why.
Such is the state of affairs that librarians in California and across the country are putting up signs warning patrons that the FBI may be snooping among their records. These librarians, along with booksellers, are particularly concerned because the proceeding for these warrants takes place in a closed court and the new law has a built-in gag order: Those who are asked to turn over records are not allowed to say that the search has occurred or that records were given to the government. In addition, under this provision the courts are no longer an arbiter of individual rights because judges are not allowed to determine whether there is probable cause to justify such sweeping searches.
We need law enforcement to track terrorists down before they do their evil deeds. But if we give up some of our most cherished freedoms - the right to read what we want without surveillance; the need for "probable cause" before searches are made - the terrorists win, for their attacks will have struck at the very heart of our constitutional rights.
To remedy the excesses of the Patriot Act that threaten our right to read, I have introduced the Freedom to Read Protection Act. The bill, which has the support of Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, will establish once again that libraries and bookstores are no place for fishing expeditions. Because this new legislation will allow the FBI to use the constitutional routes at its disposal, including criminal subpoenas, to get library and bookstore records, it will not tie the hands of investigators. At the same time it will require - as had always been the case - that investigations be focused and that the reasons behind them be subject to judicial scrutiny.
Before Congress begins any discussion of new powers for the FBI, as some in Washington are advocating, we must first focus on correcting the unchecked authority the Patriot Act already grants the government.
To view the entire article, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54029-2003Apr18.html
Burn a Country's Past and You Torch Its Future
By Robert Darnton
It happened here, too. The British burned our national library in 1814. It wasn't much of a library, to be sure -- just a collection of about 3,000 volumes assembled for the use of senators and representatives in the new capitol being built in the wilderness of Washington, D.C. But in destroying it, the British invaders struck at the heart of what would develop into a national identity.
Do libraries really matter for a nation's sense of its self? Evidently Iraqis felt the destruction of their national library, archives and museum in the past week as a loss of their connection to a collective past, something like a national memory. When asked to explain what the National Museum of Iraq had meant to him, a security guard answered, in tears, "It was beautiful. The museum is civilization." Even some of the looters are reportedly beginning to return what they had carried off, as if in response to a need to heal a self-inflicted wound.
The great collections in Baghdad bore testimony to the beginnings of what much of the world views as civilization. Some of its treasures were 7,000 years old, and they provided evidence about the earliest and perhaps the greatest achievement in human history, the invention of writing, somewhere between the Tigris and Euphrates 5,000 years ago. True, the damage may have been less than was feared at first, and archaeologists can study other clay tablets dug up from the ruins of the world's first libraries, the Sumerian temples of ancient Mesopotamia. But nothing remains of Iraq's National Library, which was burned to the ground along with the Ministry for Religious Affairs and its priceless collection of Korans, some of them more than a thousand years old.
The library burned by the British in the War of 1812 was four years old. Yet its loss was a national trauma, or at least so it seemed to Thomas Jefferson, who had a powerful sense of what libraries could contribute to the civic spirit of the nation. Already, in 1791, he had deplored the damage inflicted by the Revolutionary War on the historical record of America. In a letter to Ebenezer Hazard, who was about to publish two volumes of state papers from the colonial archives, he wrote:
"Time and accident are committing daily havoc on the originals deposited in our public offices. The late war has done the work of centuries in this business. The lost cannot be recovered, but let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."
As soon as he learned of the loss of Congress's first library, Jefferson offered to sell it his own, which was twice as big, a magnificent collection of 6,487 volumes that would be valued conservatively at $23,950. The proposal provoked some partisan oratory about the "finery and philosophical nonsense" -- much of it French -- that Jefferson had collected, and it passed Congress by a margin of only four votes. But the Library of Congress stands today as the embodiment of our national memory. Imagine a horde of vandals burning it and the National Archives while an alien army guarded the FBI headquarters and the Treasury Department, and you may have some notion of how Iraqis felt when American troops erected a protective cordon around the ministries of oil and of the interior while permitting looters to demolish the National Library and ransack the National Museum. As many have remarked, the Mongol invasion of 1258 resulted in less damage to Iraqi civilization than the American invasion of 2003.
Jefferson was right. National libraries and museums provide the material from which national identities are built. There are other sources, too -- myths, ceremonies and the other forms of culture studied by anthropologists. But complex societies have been through so much that their history requires constant reassessment. Destroy the documents, and you will damage the collective memory, the sense of self that derives from the ties that bind a people to their ancestors. Libraries and museums are not temples for ancestor worship, but they are crucial for the task of knowing who you are by knowing who you were. That kind of knowledge must be continuously reworked. Destroy the possibility of replenishing it, and you can strangle a civilization.
The most famous case is the ancient library of Alexandria, one that supposedly aspired to include every book in the world -- that is, the Hellenistic world from the third century B.C. -- and whose destruction signaled the end of the world of antiquity. Difficult as it is to disentangle the facts from the myths surrounding the library's history, a few points seem clear: No, Mark Antony did not woo Cleopatra by giving her the rival library of Pergamum, nor did the collection in Alexandria at its zenith reach 900,000 papyrus rolls, although it represented the greatest stock of learning available anywhere in the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar did not burn it to the ground in 47 B.C., and the Muslims did not finish it off in a fit of fanaticism after conquering Alexandria in 642. It probably had disintegrated long before that, not from violence but from the rotting of the papyrus. In short, the library of Alexandria did not come to a dramatic end in a way comparable to the National Library in Baghdad.
But burning and looting has marked the history of libraries at crucial turning points, beginning with the sack of Athens in 86 B.C., when the Romans carried off the remains of Aristotle's library, the greatest in Greece and the model for the library of Alexandria. In the latest study of the Alexandrian library, Luciano Canfora invokes a series of catastrophes -- Athens, Rome, Pergamum, Antioch, Constantinople -- and concludes sadly: "By the middle of the fourth century, even Rome was virtually devoid of books. . . . Surveying this series of foundations, refoundations and disasters, we follow a thread that links together the various, and mostly vain, efforts of the Hellenistic-Roman world to preserve its books." The loss of the books meant the loss of a civilization. Classicists have been able to piece together pictures of antiquity by picking through the remains, but we probably know only a small fraction of what we might have known, had the libraries survived.
The obliteration of civilizations cannot be confined to the remote past, where we can deplore it at a safe distance and in an elegiac mode:
To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.
Vandals hack away at cultures all the time. They are doing so today in the jungles of Central America and Southeast Asia. Vast stretches of civilization disappeared irrevocably a few years ago when the libraries of Sarajevo and Bucharest went up in smoke. And the Khmer Rouge may have wiped out much of what can be known about Cambodia's civilization when they destroyed most of the contents of the National Library in Phnom Penh.
That in fact was the goal of Pol Pot's army, to obliterate the past and start anew at what they called "Year Zero." Not content with burning the books (at least 80 percent perished), they also killed the librarians (only three of 60 survived). The most valuable books were inscribed on palm leaves. Since the leaves decay in tropical humidity, they had to be recopied every few years by Buddhist monks. But the Khmer Rouge also destroyed the monks, so there was no one left to save what remained of the library.
Perhaps the Cambodians can overcome the trauma by turning it to their advantage, as if to say, "Very well, we shall begin again at ground zero, and now we will build something new." Fresh energy of that kind was generated by some of the destruction of the French Revolution. The Bastille was not merely stormed but dismantled, and its stones were sold off as relics of despotism, remnants of a culture to be replaced by a new political order. Something of the sort could happen in Iraq -- but how? How will the Iraqis fuse a national identity out of the diverse cultures that have come apart with the destruction that has robbed them of their common past?
Few people appreciate the fragility of civilizations and the fragmentary character of our knowledge about them. Most students believe that what they read in history books corresponds to what humanity lived through in the past, as if we have recovered all the facts and assembled them in the correct order, as if we have it under control, got it down in black on white, and packaged it securely between a textbook's covers. That illusion quickly dissipates for anyone who has worked in libraries and archives. You pick up a scent in a published source, find a reference in a catalogue, follow a paper trail through boxes of manuscripts -- but what do you discover in the end? Only a few fragments that somehow survived as evidence of what other human beings experienced in other times and places. How much has disappeared under char and rubble? We do not even know the extent of our ignorance.
Imperfect as they are, therefore, libraries and archives, museums and excavations, scraps of paper and shards of pottery provide all we can consult in order to reconstruct the worlds we have lost. The loss of a library or a museum can mean the loss of contact with a vital strain of humanity. That is what has happened in Baghdad...
Robert Darnton is the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of European History at Princeton University.
The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:
Sunday, April 13, 2003 (SF Chronicle)
Arcata the defiant/Town ordinance penalizes officials who cooperate with Patriot Act, but law may not stand up in court
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Arcata, that tiny North Coast bastion of the robustly liberal, has quietly made itself the first city in the nation to outlaw voluntary compliance with the USA Patriot Act.
Town leaders know their new law outlawing the bigger law is probably illegal. And they don't know anyone local who's had troubles because of the Patriot Act. But the very existence of the sweeping federal policy -- passed by Congress swiftly after Sept. 11, 2001, to expand powers to search, conduct surveillance and throw people in jail during terrorism probes -- so rubbed them the wrong way that they felt they had to make a stand.
So about a week ago, the Arcata City Council approved an ordinance telling its management workers they cannot "officially assist or voluntarily cooperate" with any investigators trying to carry out what the city considers provisions of the Patriot Act that violate the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Which, city leaders said, is pretty much all of the act except the heading on the governmental letterhead.
"We already had a resolution condemning the Patriot Act, and that was all well and good, but we needed something with some bite in it," said David Meserve, the councilman who introduced the ordinance. "A resolution makes a recommendation, but this now actually takes on the force of law. "Call it a pre-emptive attack. Only not a violent one."
The fine for breaking the new law is $57. The ordinance officially kicks in May 2. It applies only to the top nine managers of the city, telling them they have to refer any Patriot Act request to the City Council.
Brian Willson, the national peace protester who lost his legs trying to block a Concord munitions train in 1987, lives in Arcata and helped draft the law. "I think a lot of people are freaking out," he said. "You can see the developing police state, and we have to start opposing it."
Arcata has about 16,000 residents, about 5,000 of whom are students at Humboldt State University. Its biggest claims are the university, an annual race to determine the best or weirdest human-powered sculpture, and its liberal resolutions or legal actions to oppose seemingly everything from the war in Iraq to global warming. So even though few outside the city limits have so far noticed the new law, it is right in line with the city's tendency for "never a dull moment," said City Attorney Nancy Diamond.
The law also seems to be right in line with most townsfolk.
"I don't blame them (the council) for saying 'no,' " Susan Mattson said as she rang up customers at her Garden Gate gift shop overlooking the rustic little town square. "I don't know anyone in town who likes the Patriot Act."
She said she's never seen any FBI agents probing around Arcata. "But they're certainly welcome -- if they want to buy something," she said with a chuckle.
The vote on April 2 for the law in Arcata was 4 to 1, but even the lone "no" voter said his quibble was more with the tactic than the concept. "I find the act very troubling and very scary in many areas, but this is not the right venue to challenge it," said Councilman Michael Machi. "You take it through the court system."
CONSIDERABLE PUBLIC INPUT
Several council meetings leading up to the vote drew dozens of public speakers, and city officials recalled a stray few who thought the Arcata measure wasn't a good idea. Machi said he still feels "disappointed" the whole issue wasn't discussed more before passage. "Just remember that this is the only city in the whole United States that has done this, so I am not in the minority," he said.
Resolutions condemning the Patriot Act already have passed in 83 cities from San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley to Baltimore and Detroit, and Mill Valley joined the list just Monday. But no city had gone all the way to an ordinance, said Nancy Talanian, co-director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of Florence, Mass. Talanian, whose organization has been urging cities to pass anti-Patriot Act resolutions since 2001, was "delighted" that Arcata pushed the envelope.
Among the main objections to the act are that it gives investigators greater authority to jail suspects, plant wiretaps, sift through e-mails and scrutinize what library books people check out.
So far, there seem to be no opportunities to use Arcata's soon-to-be-enacted law, because no federal or state agents have ever tried to use the Patriot Act in Arcata. But that's not for a lack of wanting. City leaders are actually itching for a fight.
"We're not going to go looking for it, but we'd welcome it," said City Manager Dan Hauser. "Maybe then this act could actually be tested in court."
LAW PROBABLY ILLEGAL
He admitted that the law is "probably illegal, if you accept the Patriot Act as legal" -- and that viewpoint was shared by veteran San Francisco trial attorney John Keker, who compared Arcata's ordinance to local medical marijuana laws, which have been squashed in federal court challenges.
"I applaud Arcata, but the law is completely illegal," Keker said. "We used to have something called the U.S. Constitution, and supposedly we still do -- and the Constitution says the federal law is supreme in the land. So it's a nonstarter."
If City Manager Hauser or anyone else is hoping to stare down some agent holding a Patriot Act subpoena, he shouldn't hold his breath, cautioned LaRae Quy, spokeswoman for the San Francisco FBI office, whose jurisdiction includes Arcata. She said there are no plans to go dashing the 279 miles up to Arcata anytime soon. And even if there were, she doubted there would be trouble.
"I really don't understand what the concerns are with the act," Quy said. "What it did was primarily streamline existing laws on the books. I know some people feel their privacy rights are being violated, but I think there's some hysteria out there . . . some misunderstanding.
"We still have to show probable cause for any actions we take," she said. "It's not just an agent descending and saying, 'Hey, I want to go in and see what this person is doing.' "
Finally, an old article, but note the statistics at the end about support for anti-US/Britain boycotts in Europe. The ways of American hawks are many...
France will pay for war stance, Powell says
Administration's dove suggests trouble ahead as new UN confrontation looms over Iraq sanctions
Julian Borger in Washington, Paul Webster in Paris and Andrew Osborn
Wednesday April 23 2003
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, who is generally considered the most dovish member of the administration, warned France yesterday that it would pay a price for its opposition to the Iraq war.
His blunt remarks suggest that France's conciliatory proposal that most UN sanctions on Iraq should to suspend has done little to heal the US-French rift.
The White House clearly remains angry that France's threat to use its security council veto prevented it getting a further resolution authorising military action.
Asked on a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) talk show whether France would suffer consequences for trying to frustrate war plans, Mr Powell answered yes.
"We have to look at all aspects of our relationship in the light of this," he said.
"We didn't believe that France was playing a helpful role [at the UN], there is no secret about that."
Mr Powell is known to feel personally let down by his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, who insisted in January on attending a UN session on counter-terrorism and then, without warning Mr Powell, staged a press conference vowing to oppose military action in Iraq.
Mr Powell, who had persuaded President Bush to take his case to the UN, became convinced that Paris was determined to veto military action in any circumstances.
His subsequently hawkish line on Iraq helped to slightly narrow the gap between the state department and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. The two men had lunch together yesterday.
A US administration official confirmed yesterday that some steps would be taken to downgrade formal relations between Washington and Paris - possibly ending the regular four-way consultations between foreign ministry political directors from the US, France, Britain and Germany.
France may also encounter difficulties in exploiting its oil concessions in Iraq.
But the official said there was no question of broader economic sanctions.
"We have a broad and deep relationship, and this is not going to disturb that in the long run," he said.
The Pentagon is pushing for harder-edged measures, primarily in Nato, where moves are being made to squeeze Paris out of the inner councils for blocking plans to send Nato defence systems to Turkey before the war.
The long process of returning France to the integrated military structure of Nato, from which it withdrew in 1966, has yet to be completed.
Mr Powell's remarks make it clear that last week's telephone call from Jacques Chirac to George Bush, the first between the presidents for two months, did nothing to heal the worst split between the two nations since Charles de Gaulle's cooling towards Nato and closure of US bases in France in 1966.
The official French response to Mr Powell came from Mr De Villepin on a visit to Turkey.
He said: "Throughout the crisis France, along with a very large majority of the international community, acted in conformity with its convictions and its principles to defend international law"- a reference to a determination to reinforce UN authority.
"It will continue to do so in all circumstances."
Relations looked likely to worsen further yesterday as France made it clear that it opposed ending UN control over Iraq's oil exports in the near future. President Bush has called for all sanctions to be lifted, not merely suspended.
The move to block an immediate lifting of oil sanctions is part of France's attempt to ensure a "central role" for the UN in postwar Iraq, as opposed to the "vital role" proposed by the US presidency.
France also wants the return of the UN weapons inspectors, implying that it does not trust the US plan to send its own inspection team.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll released in Brussels showed a high level of French resistance to buying American goods. About 17% of those questioned by a PR agency, Weber Shandwick, said they were ready to boycott US imports.
The survey suggested that 11% of people in Britain and 13% of those in Germany held similar views. In France 11% of shoppers said that they also rejected British goods.
18 May 2003