Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Published: February 27 2007 02:00 | Last updated: February 27 2007 02:00
The country is developing weapons of mass destruction; its leader is a new Hitler; he has connections with terrorists; time is running out; containment has failed; we must strike before it is too late.
If you think you have heard it all before, you have. The arguments for an attack on Iran are almost exactly the same as the arguments that were made for an attack on Iraq. The people making the case have not changed either.
Here is James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, speaking at a conference last month about Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, president of Iran, and his talk of wiping Israel off the map: "Hitler meant it when he said he wanted to exterminate the Jews. It was spelt out in Mein Kampf. We need to take seriously what people like Ahmadi-Nejad and others say to their own followers. They are not lying; they are stating their true objectives." And here is
Mr Woolsey, speaking on American television in January 2003: "Saddam sounds very much, with respect to the 250m people or so in the Arab world, as Hitler sounded before world war two, with respect to Europe. The Ba'athist parties really are fascist parties . . . they're anti-Semitic like them; they're fascist."
And here is the official summary of comments made at the same conference in Israel last month by Richard Perle, a former Pentagon official: "In possession of nuclear weapons, Iran is capable of using their terrorist networks to enable damage . . . The issue is one of timing and intelligence. You can't afford to wait for all the evidence." Once again, this is a reprise of a favourite tune. Appearing on American television in February 2003, Mr Perle argued: "Let us just agree that Saddam Hussein had those weapons and he is perfectly capable of transferring them to al-Qaeda." Mr Perle emphasised the urgency of the problem: "There is a threat and
I believe it is imminent."
Newt Gingrich, a likely candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency next year and a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, argued only last month that "the US should have as an explicit goal, regime change in Iran" because Iran is "the leading supporter of terrorism in the world". In 2002, Mr Gingrich wrote: "The question is not should we replace Saddam? The question is should we wait until Saddam gives biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to terrorists."
The people arguing for an attack on Iran allege that containment is failing. They said the same thing about Iraq. As early as 1997, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, was arguing that: "Rather than try to contain Saddam, a strategy that has failed, our policy should now aim to remove him from power." Nine years later, Mr Kristol was urging a military strike against Iranian facilities and demanding: "Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained?"
Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, was one of the most enthusiastic advocates for an attack on Iraq and is also a leading hawk on Iran. In 2002 he told America's Veterans of Foreign Wars that "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction" and linked Saddam to terrorism. This month, he was warning that a nuclear Iran would be particularly dangerous because of the country's "history of sponsorship of terrorist organisations".
Of course, just because somebody has been catastrophically wrong in the past does not mean that he will always be wrong in the future. Even the boy who cried "Wolf!" was ultimately vindicated.
As it happens, the evidence that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction is much stronger than it ever was in the case of Iraq. Colin Powell's feeble presentation to the United Nations about Saddam's WMD programme was an embarrassment. By contrast, Iran undoubtedly does have an active nuclear programme - the UN has just reported that it plans to have a large-scale uranium enrichment facility ready by May. From that point on, estimates for the length of time it could take Iran to develop the bomb vary from 18 months to 10 years. By sponsoring Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, Iran is clearly also stirring up trouble in the Middle East - much more actively, in fact, than Saddam was in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Advocates of a strike on Iran could also point out that nobody, this time, is arguing for a full-scale ground invasion or a long-term occupation. The idea would be to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities through air power - although any bombing campaign could last several weeks.
It might be possible to make a convincing case for an air strike on Iran if you could somehow erase the memory of the disaster of Iraq. But such amnesia is neither possible nor desirable. There are valuable lessons to be learnt from Iraq. "Intelligence" is often highly unreliable. Talking about a "new Hitler" is a shopworn rhetorical trick that should be banned. Military actions that look straightforward when they are launched have a nasty habit of developing in unexpected ways. (The very fact that American and allied troops are on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan increases the possibility of unpredictable escalation.) And America and its allies pay a huge price in political capital around the world every time they resort to force - particularly if the use of military power is "pre-emptive".
The fact that the neo-conservatives and their allies are unabashed by their failure in Iraq does not mean that the rest of the world should be so forgiving. After all, these people positively begged to be judged by the results of the Iraq war.
In a notably smug editorial written on the eve of the war with Iraq, the editors of The Weekly Standard wrote: "The war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction." Well, indeed. And they ended with a flourish: "History and reality are about to weigh in and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts." Well, the verdict's coming in, chaps - and it is not looking good.
In most professions, a record of failure counts against you. Architects whose buildings fall down and doctors who maim their patients tend to suffer some sort of consequence. The same rules should apply to people who advocate disastrous wars. Take a look at the people who are arguing for an attack on Iran, consider their records - and run a mile in the opposite direction.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
In case you missed it, last Friday we declared the month of March Boycott the RIAA Month. We've gotten sick and tired of always seeing the RIAA pulling deplorable moves and decided it was time for us to do something about it. We're kicking the month off with this, our manifesto. We want to be absolutely clear about what this fight is about and why it's so important. This is an overview of what the RIAA does, why it's damaging, and what we need to do to stop it. Consider this our planted flag.
First off, we want to be clear that this battle won't be over on March 31st. We declared March the Boycott the RIAA month to draw a line in the sand and to make a strong statement, but this is merely the beginning. Everything we're going to lay out here will still be true in April, in May, in June, and in the months that follow. March will be not the entirety of our efforts, but rather a kick off of our organized campaign to make a difference. We'll be posting tips for how to get the word out, ways to support artists without supporting the RIAA, and keeping you updated with everything that's going on throughout the entire month. With your help, we can educate people about how important this issue is and really make a difference.
Who We're Up Against
The RIAA is the industry group that represents the four major record labels — Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal, and Sony BMG — and all of their subsidiaries. They work on behalf of their members, and they have been accused of a wide range of offenses, from price-fixing to stifling innovation. They're able to perpetuate these crimes due to their huge bankroll, but that happens to be the one aspect of their organization we have control over. As consumers, we are the ones who stuff their coffers. By buying albums released by RIAA labels, we're giving them the money they use to sue our peers, stifle innovation, and force DRM down our throats. By cutting off their income stream, we can help make the RIAA less effective and therefore less damaging.
We're huge music fans here at Gizmodo, and that's why it's really hard to advocate not purchasing albums from artists we love. However, what everyone needs to understand is that we are in no means advocating piracy or not supporting musicians. The fact of the matter is, the RIAA's practices do not, in the end, support musicians or put money into their pockets. A fraction of the money from album sales actually makes it to artists, and not a single penny that the RIAA has received from their series of lawsuits has actually made it back to the artists that had their "copyrights infringed" in the first place.
Piracy Lawsuits: Extortion and Privacy Invasion Under the Guise of Copyright Enforcement
The goal of the RIAA's lawsuits is to make people so afraid of being sued that they will stop downloading music. However, in their lawsuits they circumvent the law and extort money from people who haven't been given the benefit of a legal trial.
The process that the RIAA has in place to find and sue plaintiffs is designed not to provide a fair trial and prove guilt, but rather to confuse and intimidate people into settling out of court. What exactly happens is too detailed and lengthy for me to go into here, but Grant Robertson's Layperson's Guide to Filesharing Lawsuits is a must-read for anyone interested in what exactly happened in the 20,000+ lawsuits (so far) the RIAA has brought upon the citizens of this country.
Recently, the RIAA began looking to streamline the entire lawsuit process by cutting courts, lawyers, and any semblance of due process out altogether. Their new plan is to have ISPs point people to p2plawsuits.com (catchy!) and offer to discount their settlement by $1,000 if they pay up without going to court at all. By avoiding the court system, the RIAA can avoid paying those pesky lawyer's fees. Even better for them, they plan to require ISPs to retain all of their customer records for at least 180 days in order to be eligible for the $1,000 discount. This would make everyone's surfing and downloading history available to a non-governmental organization in order to make it easier for them to gather evidence for their intimidation lawsuits.
Smothering Innovation: If You Can't Access the Internet, You Can't Pirate Music
Beyond the harassment, extortion, and privacy invasion that the RIAA commits under the guise of lawsuits, they also stifle innovation by treating any open Internet source as a potential way for people to violate their copyrights. Recently, they filed a "motion for reconsideration" in a suit claiming that anything downloaded via an Internet connection is the responsibility of the owner of said connection. While the RIAA is trying to make it easier for them to get money out of the parents of kids they sue, the precedent that it would set would make it difficult, if not impossible, for open WiFi hotspots to exist. That means that the RIAA would make it impossible for you to connect to the web for free while out in a city that provides Internet access merely because you might use it to download music.
DRM: Pay More, Get Less
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is the software that makes it so music you buy from the iTunes Music Store can't play on any other player other than the iPod, such as a Zune or Sansa. In an effort to keep people from sharing legally purchased music, DRM actually goes much farther than copyright law dictates, denying paying customers the fair use of the music they buy. You should be able to do what you want with an album once you've paid for it; like a CD or a record, you now own it for life.
However, music wrapped in DRM software cannot be played on devices other than those explicitly tied to the store you brought it from. Furthermore, listening to your music across multiple computers, or moving your music to a new computer when you upgrade, is often a huge headache that ends with you needing to repurchase your songs.
In effect, the RIAA's insistence on strict DRM takes value away from legally purchased music. People have a choice: they can either pirate unrestricted MP3 files that will let them use them however they'd like, or they can pay for files that won't allow them the freedom to listen where and how they choose. It only makes sense that many tech-savvy people choose to download MP3s rather than pay for crippled files. The RIAA wants people to pay for restrictions and like it.
Rescuing Artists From Those Claiming to Support Them
As we're a technology website, we're most in touch with the RIAA's actions in response to music downloading as opposed to their history of poor artist management and unfair retail tactics. However, it's worth noting that issues such as the underpayment of artists and album price-fixing are quite serious and should be considered as good a reason as any to keep your money from going to their pockets. Two articles worth reading to study up on how major labels screw over the artists they claim to represent are Courtney Love's speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference and The Problem with Music by Steve Albini. Both are written by artists who have first-hand knowledge of just how badly major labels take advantage of musicians, and both are guaranteed to change how you view the music industry.
Out With the Old, In With the New
So what would we like to see happen? First and foremost, we want the lawsuits to stop. Treating normal people like common criminals and using fear tactics and intimidation to extort thousands of dollars from them goes against everything that this country stands for. Secondly, we want them to stop insisting that DRM software be used on all of their music being sold online. People are willing to pay for their music, but they deserve to be able to own that music and use it however they'd like once they purchase it. And lastly, we want the RIAA to stop trying to stifle innovation and control the future of the Internet merely because the possibility exists for piracy to happen using upcoming technologies.
But all these things, in the long run, are temporary solutions to a problem that will eventually end with a permanent solution. The fact of the matter is, the RIAA is becoming more outdated and unnecessary by the day. Their seeming inability to grasp the reality of today's music industry has doomed them, and there will come a time when they will cease to exist.
That's because the era of the major label is over. Why should a new band want to sign with one? They no longer need a $50,000 recording budget; more sophisticated and powerful home recording equipment and software is released every day. Music videos are cheaper to shoot and edit as well due to the lowered costs of cameras and computers. Promoting for radio is increasingly unnecessary, as more and more bands are discovered via blogs rather than through traditional channels. And manufacturing is slowly being erased from the picture altogether, allowing artists to distribute their music online with little overhead costs.
While twenty years ago a band needed a record label to discover them, help them record, help them shoot a video, manufacture and then distribute their album, a resourceful band can do all of those things themselves. Eventually, bands will be able to sell their music online direct to fans with minimal reliance on a record label. The RIAA is teetering on the edge of irrelevance, and it's our job to give it a hearty shove. They can still do a hell of a lot of damage on their way down, and that's what we need to try to stop. Stay tuned. –Adam Frucci
But why is gold falling at the same time. This is real wierd.
Bush's Future Iran War Speech
By Michael T. Klare
Sometime this spring or summer, barring an unexpected turnaround by Tehran, President Bush is likely to go on national television and announce that he has ordered American ships and aircraft to strike at military targets inside Iran. Continue
Glimmers of Hope in Iran Report?
By Eric Hundman
Amid all the gloom, there were a few encouraging facts buried in the IAEA report. I don’t intend to discount the severity of the Iranian situation or how difficult it will be to stop Iran’s nuclear program – rather, I’d like to provide some context for the debate on how to proceed. Continue
U.N. Calls U.S. Data on Iran's Nuclear Aims Unreliable
By Bob Drogin and Kim Murphy
Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran. Continue
Building a Fraudulent Case Using Coercion
By Daniel M Pourkesali
Bush administration officials and their Zionist allies in the media are trying hard to portray Iran as a rogue and defiant nation that is "thumbing its nose at the international community"  by ignoring United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737  which gave Iran 60 days to halt its uranium enrichment program. Continue
War pimp alert: U.S. Says Raid in Iraq Supports Claim on Iran : The assertion that the latest find greatly bolsters the theory of the Iranian origin of the E.F.P.’s is significant because it could provide the United States with a new justification to take action against Iran
War pimp alert: U.S. forces in Iraq say found more Iran-made weapons: 'I don't think there is any way for us to know if it is tied to any government,' Major Jeremy Siegrist said of the cache.
Seymour Hersh on planned invasion of Iran: Video: Covert operations have already begun in order to destabilize Iran, among other things by supporting Al Qaida affiliated groups against the Shiites in Iran.
American Is Preparing To Invade Iran : There Are Eight Battle Groups At Sea
Glimmers of Hope in Iran Report?: I don’t intend to discount the severity of the Iranian situation or how difficult it will be to stop Iran’s nuclear program – rather, I’d like to provide some context for the debate on how to proceed.
War pimp alert: Ready for war: There may not yet be gas masks in the street in Tel Aviv but no one should underestimate Israel's determination to prevent a nuclear Iran
Manufacturing consent for war: Have they no shame? New York: Targeted By Tehran?: Increasing tensions between Washington and Tehran have revived New York Police Department concerns that Iranian agents may already have targeted the city for terror attacks.
Ex-Congressional Aide: Karl Rove Personally Received (And Ignored) IranianPeace Offer in 2003 : Rove's involvement was revealed by an aide to former Republican congressman Bob Ney.
Monday, February 26, 2007
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is stepping up covert operations in Iran in a new strategy that risks sparking an "open confrontation" and benefits Sunni radicals, a US magazine reported Sunday.
In The New Yorker magazine, Seymour Hersh reports that US military and special-operations teams have increased their activities inside Iran, entering from Iraq to gather intelligence and to pursue Iranians who operate inside Iraq.
Hersh also reports, citing unnamed sources, that the US Defense Department recently formed a special planning group to plan possible attacks on Iran "that can be implemented, upon orders from the president, within 24 hours."
The planning group, though, has in the past month turned its focus from targeting Iran's nuclear sites and attempting to oust the current Tehran leadership to hitting targets "involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq."
Hersh said US clandestine operations in Iran, Lebanon and Syria aim at strengthening Saudi-supported Sunni Islam groups and weakening Iran-backed Shiites.
He said that since last August US-led forces in Iraq have been rounding up Iranians there to be interrogated, and were at one point holding 500 -- though some were just humanitarian and aid workers.
The operations under the new tack have been guided by Vice President Dick Cheney and rely heavily on Saudi Arabia's national security advisor Prince Bandar bin Sultan, according to the report.
However, Hersh said, "a by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al-Qaeda."
"The 'redirection,' as some inside the White House call the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims."
Some US aid distributed to Sunni groups in Lebanon falls into the hands of radical groups, US, European and Arab officials told Hersh, who named Fatah al-Islam, based in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, and Asbat al-Answar in a Palestinian refugee camp in the country as beneficiaries.
The article also suggested the US policy was benefiting the radical Sunni Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and that influential Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt had encouraged US support for the group in a meeting late last year with Cheney.
But unnamed officials told Hersh that the approach was dangerous, enhancing radical groups which also consider the United States an enemy.
"We're spreading the money around as much as we can," a former senior intelligence official said.
"In this process, we're financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. ... It's a very high-risk venture."
In some cases, the clandestine operations rely on Saudi Arabia and Bandar, who was the ambassador to Washington for two decades, to provide the funding so that operations remain secret.
Hersh wrote that, according to one source, a government consultant, Bandar and the Saudi government have assured Washington that they will keep any dangerous Sunni groups potentially strengthened by the new policy under control.
Hersh said, however, that one of the key Shiite targets of US policy in the Middle East, Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah -- which Washington says is directed by Tehran -- said it opposed a sectarian Islamic conflict and was willing to talk with the United States.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told Hersh in an interview that he believed the US, together with Israel, was trying to split Islam, and to partition Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
However, he said: "If the United States says that discussions with the likes of us can be useful and influential in determining American policy in the region, we have no objection to talks or meetings."
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who should know their rights?
All people should be trained to assert their constitutional rights in order to avoid the hassle and humiliation of police misconduct and illegal searches.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on citizen-police contacts, about 21 percent of the population age 16 years or older -- or about 44 million people -- had contact with the police during 1999. More than half of these face-to-face interactions occurred because of traffic stops.
Of the 19.3 million traffic stops documented in the study, about 1.3 million motorists said they or their vehicle had been searched. In almost 90 percent of these searches, police found no evidence of a crime whatsoever! There is reason to believe that many, if not most, of these searches could have been avoided if the motorist had properly asserted his or her rights by refusing to consent to a warrantless search.
Still, while all Americans should be prepared to exercise their constitutional rights during police encounters, certain groups must be particularly aware of these rights due to systemic biases in law enforcement. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that minorities and young people are disproportionately likely to be searched by police.
The debate that has emerged in recent years over racial-profiling by law enforcement officers highlights the significance of constitutional provisions intended to prohibit discriminatory police practices. Flex Your Rights believes that educating citizens about their constitutional rights can play a significant role in reducing the harms associated with racial profiling.
2. When are police legally allowed to search me?
Police officers are legally allowed to search your home or your property if they obtain a search warrant. To obtain a warrant, police officers must write out an affidavit -- a written statement under oath -- to convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime may be found there.
As a general rule, searches conducted without a warrant are automatically unreasonable and hence violate the Fourth Amendment. But in fact most searches occur without warrants because police take advantage of these many legal exceptions to the Fourth Amendment:
- Consent Searches If the police ask your permission to search your home, purse, briefcase or other property, and you freely consent, their warrantless search automatically becomes reasonable and therefore legal. Consequently, whatever an officer finds during a consent search can be used to convict the person.
- Plain View Rule This is common sense: Always keep any private items that you don’t want others to see out of sight. Legally speaking, police do not need a search warrant in order to confiscate any illegal items that are in plain view.
- Searches Made in Connection with a Legal Arrest Police do not need a warrant to make a search "incident to an arrest." After a legal arrest, police can legally protect themselves by searching the person and the immediate surroundings for weapons that might be used to harm the officer. Consequently, whatever an officer finds during such a search can be used to convict the person.
- Exigent Circumstances A judge may uphold an officer’s warrantless search or seizure if "exigent circumstances" exist. Exigent circumstances were described by one court as "an emergency situation requiring swift action to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence."
WARNING: If you ever face a real-life police encounter where the officer is urging you to consent to a search, do not try to figure out whether or not the search is legally permissible. You must assume that the search is not legally permissible and that the search will only be legal if you consent. If an officer is in fact legally allowed to search you, you have nothing to lose by refusing to consent.
3. What is "probable cause"?
4. Why do police want to search me?
Simply put, the number of arrests an officer makes is a major factor used to determine his job performance. And police officers know that the easiest way to make arrests is to find people in possession of illegal drugs.
To make one drug arrest, an officer generally has to search ten people. This means that nine innocent people will likely endure the inconvenience and humiliation of a police search so that one law-breaker can be arrested. In some officers’ minds, the nine searches that turned up nothing are easily justified—especially if those people willingly consented to his warrantless search requests.
5. Isn’t refusing to let the police search me an admission of guilt?
No. If a police officer asks your permission to search, you are under no obligation to consent. The main reason why officers ask is because they don’t have enough evidence to search without your consent. If you consent to a search request you give up one of the most important constitutional rights you have -- your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
A majority of avoidable, improper police searches occur because citizens naively waive their Fourth Amendment rights by consenting to warrantless searches. As a general rule, if a person consents to a warrantless search, the search automatically becomes legal. Consequently, whatever an officer finds during such a search can be used to convict the person.
Don’t expect a police officer to tell you about your right not to consent. Police officers are not required by law to inform you of your rights before asking you to consent to a search. In addition, police are prepared to use their authority to get people to consent to searches, and most people are predisposed to comply with any request an officer makes. For example, the average motorist stopped by an officer who asks them, "Would you mind if I search your vehicle, please?" will probably consent to the officer’s search without realizing that they have every right to deny the officer’s request.
If for any reason you don’t want the officer digging through your belongings, you should refuse to consent by saying something like, "Yes, I do mind. I have private, personal items in my [car, backpack, etc.] and do not want you looking through them." If the officer still proceeds to search you and find illegal contraband, your attorney can argue that the contraband was discovered through an illegal search and hence should be thrown out of court.
You should never hesitate to assert your constitutional rights. Just say "no!"
6. If I’m not doing anything illegal, why shouldn’t I let the police search me?
The sad fact is that most people believe that they are under some kind of obligation to acquiesce when an officer contacts them and asks permission to search them or their belongings.
The truth is the exact opposite -- you have a right to associate with, and speak to, whomever you please. In this respect, there is nothing special about a police officer. Assuming you would not let a complete stranger look through your purse or search your pockets, why would you allow a police officer to do so -- especially if you’re doing nothing illegal? Just say "NO" to police searches!
7. When do I have to show ID?
This is a tricky issue. As a general principle, citizens who are minding their own business are not obligated to "show their papers" to police. In fact, there is no law requiring citizens to carry identification of any kind.
Nonetheless, carrying an ID is required when you’re driving or flying. Driving without a license is a crime, and no one is allowed to board an airplane without first presenting an ID. These requirements have been upheld on the premise that individuals who prefer not to carry ID can choose not to drive or fly.
From here, ID laws only get more complicated. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, the Supreme Court upheld state laws requiring citizens to disclose their identity to police when officers have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity may be taking place. Commonly known as 'stop and identify' statutes, these laws permit police to arrest criminal suspects who refuse to identify themselves.
Currently the following states have stop and identify laws: AL, AR, CO, DE, FL, GA, IL, KS, LA, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, ND, RI, UT, VT, WI
Regardless of your state's law, keep in mind that police can never compel you to identify yourself without reasonable suspicion to believe you're involved in criminal activity. Rather than asking the officer if he/she has reasonable suspicion, test it yourself by asking if you're free to go.
If the officer says you’re free to go, leave immediately and refrain from answering any additional questions.
If the officer detains you, you'll have to decide whether withholding your identity is worth the possibility of arrest or a prolonged detention. In cases of mistaken identity, revealing who you are might help to resolve the situation quickly. On the other hand, if you're on parole in California, for example, revealing your identity could lead to a legal search. Knowing your state's laws can help you make the best choice.
Keep in mind that the officer's decision to detain you will not always hold up in court. ‘Reasonable suspicion' is a vague evidentiary standard, which lends itself to mistakes on the officer's part. If you're searched or arrested following an officer's ID request, always contact an attorney to discuss the incident and explore your legal options.
8. What if the police call in drug-sniffing dogs?
Your rights do not disappear if the officer threatens to call in the dogs, so don’t let this all-too-common tactic intimidate you into consenting to a search.
Before the dogs arrive, you have the right to dismiss yourself by asking if you are free to go. But if the officer detains you until the dogs come, remain silent and refuse to consent to any searches.
If a K-9 unit arrives, you should never consent to a dog sniff even if the officer claims you have to (which would be a lie). Remember: Unlocking your car at the officer's request or handing the officer your keys is the same as consenting to a search.
9. What if the officer says he'll go easy on me if I cooperate?
Unfortunately, many people get fooled by some version of this commonly used police officer's line: Everything will be easier if you cooperate. That might be true sometimes, but when it comes to consenting to searches and answering incriminating questions, it couldn't be further from the truth.
10. Aren’t police required to read me my rights?
No. The courts have made clear that police officers do not have to tell people that they can refuse to consent to a warrantless search. In other words, a police officer does not need to read you your rights before asking you to consent to a search. Also, despite the widespread myth to the contrary, an officer does not need to get your consent in writing. Oral consent is completely valid.
Many people believe that an officer must automatically read a person his or her Miranda rights as part of performing an arrest, either immediately before or immediately after an arrest is made. This is also myth.
The truth is that the only time an officer must read a person his or her Miranda rights is when: (1) the person has been taken into custody, and (2) the officer is about to question the person about a crime.
Police officers are often pretty tricky about trying to get someone’s consent to a search. They know that most people feel intimidated by police officers and are predisposed to comply with any request by a police officer. For example, the average motorist stopped by a police officer who asks them, "Would you mind opening the trunk, please?" will probably consent to the officer’s search without realizing that they have every right to deny the officer’s request.
11. Is Flex Your Rights anti-police?
No. we believe that most police officers are good, hardworking people who are doing a tough job. We need police to safeguard the life, liberty, and property of all people.
To do this best, police officers should be trained to serve as peace officers whose goal is to preserve people’s constitutional rights. In other words, the number of arrests an officer makes should not be a factor used to determine his job performance. Instead, performance should be measured by the officer’s ability to maintain a safe, peaceful neighborhood and earn the residents' trust.
12. Aren’t you teaching people how to get away with breaking the law?
No. We teach people that they have rights, and these rights are secured by the principal documents protecting our civil liberties—the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our nation’s founders, who were keenly aware of the dangers posed by unchecked government power, created these documents to protect individuals from overzealous law enforcement officials.
For example, an informed individual who invokes his constitutional protections whenever a police officer asks to conduct a warrantless search is doing exactly what the founders intended. The catch is that these rights only apply if they are effectively asserted. Otherwise, people may knowingly or unknowingly waive these rights.
13. How do my rights apply during security checks?
Be aware that private security personnel outnumber police officers in the United States by three to one. As a result, you may be more likely to be confronted by a security guard than by a police officer. You must also be aware of the following places where security personnel (governmental or otherwise) are permitted to search you without a warrant:
Border Searches The Supreme Court has held that an officer does not need a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion to search you, your car, or your belongings, at a border. Therefore, any time you cross a U.S. border, you in effect consent to a search.
Airport Searches Be aware that airport security personnel do not need a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion to search you or your belongings before boarding any commercial airline. Again, any time you board a commercial airline, you in effect consent to a search.
Private Security Checks Private security personnel have a right to search you as a condition of entry into private property, for example. It is up to the individual to decide if a search is worth the price of admission. As long as you are free to walk away, the security personnel do not pose a threat to your constitutional liberties.
Keep in mind that a security guard can turn illegal drugs over to a police officer. In such a case, the drugs are then admissible in evidence, because the search was conducted by a private security guard. And at the present time the Fourth Amendment does not apply to searches carried out by non-governmental employees like private security guards.
14. What should I do if I am the victim of police misconduct?
If you feel that your rights have been violated by police, do not panic. There are several steps to the process of combating police misconduct, and you must approach them in a calm and organized manner.
Step 1: Write everything down
This step is extremely important and must be completed as soon as possible following the incident. It’s easy to forget small details over time, and there’s no way to know which facts will make a difference later on.
In your own words describe everything that took place from the very beginning of the police encounter to the end. When quoting yourself or the officer try to use exact words. Be specific about the location, time of day, etc.
Also include witness’s names and contact information and the officers’ names, physical descriptions, and badge numbers. If necessary, be prepared to return to the scene of the incident in search of possible witnesses. Doing so may also help jog your memory about other important details.
Step 2: Consult with an attorney
This step is essential if you were arrested following the incident. It is optional, but recommended, if you were not arrested.
Victims of police misconduct are often vigorously prosecuted in order to gain leverage in case the victim files a lawsuit. If you’re caught in a situation like this, you need a good police misconduct attorney immediately. Police misconduct cases are challenging, and lawyers meet a lot of difficult people, so separate yourself from the pack by being calm and well-organized. The materials you prepared in Step 1 will help demonstrate that you are a competent defendant whose case is worth taking.
If you were not charged with a crime following the incident, you may still wish to pursue a civil suit against the police department. An attorney will help you determine whether you have a strong enough case. Proving police misconduct is extremely difficult, so your attorney will choose whether to proceed based on the strength of the evidence, rather than the severity of the misconduct. Do not become upset if you can’t find an attorney to take your case, simply proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: File a Police Misconduct Report
This step cannot begin until all criminal charges and civil actions have been resolved. Filing a police misconduct report prematurely will hurt your chances in court by revealing too much information to the police. Of course, if you weren’t charged with a crime and you’re not suing, the complaint should be filed right away.
The materials you prepared in Step 1 will form the body of your complaint. You’ll be glad you wrote it down back then, because you might be filing your complaint weeks or months after the incident.
Where to file your complaint depends on your jurisdiction, but there’s usually a citizen review board or an office within the police department that accepts them. Entering “police complaint” + “(name of your town or city)” into Google will usually direct you to the correct office. If your town has a civilian review board and an office within the police department that both accept complaints, you should send your report to both offices.
Also take note of whether there’s an official form that you’re required to use. If so, you may have to transfer the information you wrote down in Step 1 onto the correct form. Failing to do so could result in your complaint being rejected arbitrarily. In some areas you might have to call or visit a police office in order to obtain the proper form. When doing so, refrain from discussing the nature of your complaint with any police officer. Police might try to intimidate you by claiming that your particular complaint has no merit. Worse, they may warn the officers involved, which could lead to a cover-up.
Finally, before sending your complaint, be sure to make copies and place them in a secure location. Send your complaint by certified mail so the police cannot deny having received it. You should also send copies to your local ACLU and NAACP chapters.
Finally, keep in mind that filing a complaint does not ensure a prompt response from the police department or civilian monitoring agency. Police departments receive many complaints, so your concerns won’t necessarily receive the individual attention they may deserve. Remember that your complaint creates documentation of an incident and could be used in conjunction with other complaints to illustrate a pattern of misconduct. This information is useful to community activists who work to prevent systemic police abuse in your community. Similarly, your complaint could become relevant in the future if the same officer is accused of additional misconduct. In short, your complaint is important even if you don't get a response.
15. Does the information on this site apply to minors?
Yes. Minors generally have the same rights as adults. For example, minors can refuse searches and decline to answer questions without an attorney present.
Nonetheless, minors face unique challenges when attempting to exercise these rights. Young people are highly susceptible to coercion by authority figures, and are easily convinced to waive their rights. Police will often take advantage of this by telling young people: “You’re underage. You don’t have any rights.” This, of course, is a lie.
Just like adults, minors must understand and confidently assert their constitutional rights in order for these rights to protect them.
The rights of minors are also undermined by the fact that young people tend not to own property. Young people often use shared spaces, both at home and at school, which are controlled by adults. Since property owners may grant access to police and even authorize searches in many cases, young people have a reduced ability to protect their 4th Amendment rights when sharing space with others. The best protection is to clearly mark your own property so that it’s clear that it’s yours. Even your parents can’t consent to a search of something that’s clearly yours alone.
16. Can I be arrested for videotaping or photographing police?
Videotaping or photographing police in public places is usually legal, so long as you don’t interfere with their activities. Nonetheless, doing so will often get you arrested.
Police don’t like to be watched or documented in any way, so they’ll sometimes bend the rules to stop you. We’ve heard many stories about people who got arrested for taping police, and the charges are usually dropped. If you’re taping or photographing police, make sure you don’t interfere, because “obstruction” is the most likely charge, and you’ll want to be able to defend against it.
Despite the risk of arrest, we don’t discourage the taping and photographing of police. Video evidence is uniquely effective in exposing police misconduct. If you acquire video or photographic evidence that warrants an official investigation, create and secure copies of the evidence, then forward it to local police monitoring groups such as civilian review boards, ACLU, and NAACP chapters. You should also obtain legal representation for yourself in case the police department retaliates against you.
17. How does the PATRIOT Act affect my rights during police encounters?
It doesn’t! There are many reasons to be concerned about the PATRIOT Act, but it doesn’t reduce your rights during a routine police encounter. Anti-terrorism legislation gives federal agents broad powers to investigate potential terrorist activities, but it doesn’t apply to the local cops in our neighborhoods or the state police patrolling our highways. If you’re accused of terrorism, you’ve got big problems, but chances are you won’t be sent to Guantanamo Bay for refusing a consent search.
18. What are my rights regarding DUI?
In addition to compromising your safety and the safety of others, drunk driving is one of the easiest ways to create overwhelming legal problems for yourself.
DUI laws vary from state to state, but they have become increasingly harsh over the years. Refusal of breathalyzer and sobriety tests generally carries a punishment equivalent to being found guilty of DUI. While drunk driving enthusiasts often taut “silver bullet” strategies for beating DUIs, there’s really nothing you can do except find a good lawyer and hope you get your driver’s license back someday.
19. When can police order me out of the car?
During a legitimate traffic stop, police may order the driver and any passengers out of the vehicle. This rule is intended to protect officers’ safety, but it’s often used for investigatory purposes. Police who order you out of the vehicle probably suspect you of criminal activity, so be prepared for a pat-down and maybe a search request.
20. What are the rights of passengers during traffic stops?
Traffic stops typically occur as a result of suspected moving violations committed by the driver of the vehicle. Passengers cannot be held responsible for the driver’s conduct, and are generally free to leave, unless police become suspicious of them during the course of the stop.
Unfortunately, this happens frequently and the amount of evidence required to detain passengers is minimal. For this reason, passengers must remember to refuse search requests and refrain from answering questions without an attorney present. Police who suspect criminal activity will often separate the occupants of an automobile and question them separately. If their stories differ, this could lead officers to claim that they have probable cause to prolong the detention or conduct a search.
21. Are police allowed to lie?
Yes. Police are generally permitted to lie if it helps them make arrests. The best example of this is when undercover officers claim not to be police. The rules regarding entrapment usually tip in favor of law-enforcement, so police won’t hesitate to trick you into incriminating yourself or others. This is particularly common during interrogations in which officers might tell you that “your friend already gave you up, so you might as well come clean.”
22. Where does Flex Your Rights get it’s funding?
From people like you! Most of our funding comes in the form of small tax-deductible donations from people who support our educational mission. We’ve also received grants in support of our film projects and a few generous donations from individual philanthropists, but we rely heavily on modest donations and DVD sales in order to cover our operating expenses.
To help support our work, please click here.
23. Can someone else consent to a search of my property?
This depends on the circumstances. The Supreme Court has ruled that any occupant of a residence can refuse consent, even if other roommates agree to a search. Unfortunately, you must be present in order to assert your refusal. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that your roommates understand their 4th Amendment rights in case something happens when you’re not around. You may want to talk to your roommates about how to handle police visits and reach an agreement about how to handle such situations just in case.
As a general rule, police can obtain consent to search from anyone with control over the property. Someone who has a key, or whose name appears on the lease, can legally consent to a search of the property if no one else is present, or if no one else objects. If you rent the property, be advised that your landlord can also let the police in.
Finally, keep in mind that the courts often determine your “expectation of privacy” on a case-by-case basis. Keeping your room locked and maintaining control of your personal space can help protect you if a roommate ever lets police in. If your room is off-limits to your roommates and their friends, courts will often rule that it is off-limits to police as well.
24. I refused a search, but the officer searched me anyway. Was it an illegal search? What should I do?
Unfortunately police sometimes search you even if you refuse consent. If they find anything illegal, you’ll have to get a lawyer and fight it out in court.
If the officer convinces the judge that there was probable cause to search without your consent, then the evidence will be admissible in court. If your lawyer convinces the judge that there was no probable cause, then the evidence will be thrown out and your charges will be dropped. Every case is different so it’s hard for us to tell you how good your chances are in your particular case. Your attorney should be able to tell you what to expect from the judges in your area.
If you’re searched illegally and nothing is found, you should still consider taking legal action or at least filing a complaint. Local attorneys, as well as your local ACLU and NAACP chapters may be able to help you.
25. You recommend never lying to police, but what if they ask if I have illegal items and I do? Should I admit to having illegal items? Should I lie?
This is a tricky situation. Of course you should never admit to having illegal items, but you should also make every effort to avoid lying to police. You’re always free to remain silent, and police may not hold your silence against you as evidence of wrong-doing.
Nonetheless, this is a rare situation where some experts secretly recommend lying. The main reason to avoid lying is because police are good at detecting it, but in this case that doesn’t matter as much because you’re already a suspect if they ask about contraband.
The most important thing is to be prepared for the inevitable next question: “Do you mind if I search you/your car?”
Always say no, and remember that you can’t get in trouble for refusing a search.
26. When can police search a parolee?
The Supreme Court has recently upheld laws permitting searches of parolees. Currently, only California has such a law, but other states might follow suit in the near future.
In California, parolees can be visited and searched in their homes, as well as on the street. If you live with a parolee, surprise inspections are a possibility. To protect yourself, make sure that your room is kept locked and that your roommates do not have access to it. Even during a surprise visit from the probation officer, your property should not be searched if it’s clear that it was off limits to other residents.
If you’re on probation or parole, or you live with someone who is, always be mindful of the possibility of surprise inspections.
27. What are my rights when I’m boating?
Boater’s rights vary from state to state. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good source on this, so if you find reliable information on boating rights, please send it to us.
As a general rule, treat your boat like a car and refrain from consenting to random searches and inspections.
28. Roadblocks: What’s the deal?
There are several types of roadblocks and they’re quite different:
Also known as DUI Checkpoints or sometimes Driver’s License Checkpoints, these are the most common roadblocks you might encounter. They function as a general purpose investigatory tactic in which police get a good hard look at passing motorists by detaining them briefly. A roadblock stop is quick, but it gives police a chance to check tags and licenses, while also giving officers a quick whiff of the driver’s breath and a chance to peer into the vehicle for a moment.
Remember that your Constitutional rights still apply in a roadblock situation. Though police are permitted to stop you briefly, they may not search you or your car unless they have evidence against you or you agree to the search. Bear in mind, however, that if you’re driving under the influence, your Constitutional rights provide very little protection in this situation.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Illinois v. Caballes police also have more leeway to use drug-sniffing dogs in roadblock situations. Unfortunately, the Constitution provides very little protection against this. There’s no need to waive your rights simply because dogs are present, but be advised that your legal options are limited if you’re arrested as a result of a dog sniff during a roadblock. Keep this in mind when decided who or what to bring with you in the car.
Also keep in mind that police closely monitor cars approaching the roadblock. You’re not likely to have any success evading an upcoming roadblock.
Sobriety Checkpoints are generally permitted by the courts, but only if conducted properly. If you’re arrested at a police roadblock always consult an attorney before confessing or agreeing to a plea bargain. There might be some legal options that your lawyer can pursue.
Sometimes police will set up temporary roadblocks after a serious crime occurs. The purpose of emergency checkpoints is to capture suspects or to identify possible witnesses. In this situation, police will often allow you to pass through once they confirm that you’re not the person they’re looking for. Of course, police are free to arrest you for minor crimes even if they’re investigating something more serious.
If a serious crime occurs in your area, keep in mind that more police will be on the streets. Officers are often required to work longer hours during emergency periods, which can make them tense and irritable. Use caution in such situations even if you haven’t done anything wrong, and remember that dealing with emergencies is something we want our police officers to do.
Checkpoints Near the Border
Police sometimes set up checkpoints near national borders. These are similar to other checkpoints in that officers may ask questions and check your documents. Police may try to intimidate you in consenting to a search, but remember that being near a border is not the same as crossing it. You have a right to refuse searches at these checkpoints just like the others.
Drug checkpoints are a trap! The Supreme Court has ruled that random checkpoints for the purpose of finding illegal drugs are unconstitutional. However, police sometimes put up signs warning drivers of up-coming drug checkpoints and instead pull over people who make illegal u-turns or discard contraband out the window. If you see a sign saying “Drug Checkpoint Ahead”, just keep driving and don’t panic. If there’s a rest area following the sign, DO NOT pull into it. If you do, you’ll find yourself surrounded by drug-sniffing dogs.
Police Departments, especially in the Mid-west, have been pushing their luck with this tactic, so if you encounter anything resembling an actual drug checkpoint, please contact that state’s ACLU Chapter. Similarly, if you’re arrested as a result of a real or fake “drug checkpoint”, you must contact an attorney to explore your legal options.
29. Do I need special permission to screen BUSTED in public?
No. Public use of our film BUSTED: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters is always fully authorized. If you host a screening, please feel free to let us know how it went and how many people were in attendance. Thank you for sharing this valuable information with your community.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
US 'Iran Attack Plans' Revealed
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure. - It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres. Continue
In Iraq, Anyone Can Make a Bomb
By Andrew Cockburn
In November, U.S. troops raiding a Baghdad machine shop came across a pile of copper disks, 5 inches in diameter, stamped out as part of what was clearly an ongoing order. This ominous discovery, unreported until now, makes it clear that Iraqi insurgents have no need to rely on Iran as the source of EFPs. Continue
Iran Offers "Evidence" That Terrorists Use US-Gifted Arsenals : These arsenals have been confiscated during a raid on the hideout of a terrorist group known as Jondollah in the provincial capital city of Zahedan on Thursday.
Iran: We'll Halt Uranium Enrichment If West Does: Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in northern Iran one day ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline that it was no problem for his country to stop, as long as western nations did the same.
White House Dismisses Iran Nuclear Offer: Questioning whether it was even a "serious offer," the White House is dismissing a suggestion from Iran's president that his country would stop its uranium enrichment program if Western nations did the same.
Iran to discuss nuclear time-out : Larijani and other Iranian officials have suggested that Iran place a formal limit on the degree of its enrichment as a guarantee that it is not developing an atomic weapon.
Iran bomb is 10 years away, says ElBaradei: Iran may be able to enrich uranium on a mass scale in six months but it could be 10 years away from being able to build a nuclear bomb, the chief United Nations nuclear monitor says.
Bush's Iran 'attack plan': GEORGE Bush will launch missiles against Iran if it is proved to be behind attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, it was claimed last night.
War pimp alert: U.S. Navy's Mideast buildup came after Iranian provocations in crucial Gulf, U.S. Navy commander says: "The Shahab-3 most recently went into waters very close to the traffic separation scheme in the straits themselves. This gives us concern because innocent passage of vessels now is threatened," Walsh said in the interview Monday on the base of the Navy's Fifth Fleet in this tiny Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain.
Tehran alarm over US tough talk: What will alarm Tehran about the latest details of US military planning for a strike on Iran is the fact that there are now two possible triggers for an attack.
Durrani: Any US strike on Iran will mean attack on Muslim ummah: Chief Minister of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province Akram Khan Durrani said here Tuesday that any US strike on Iran would be considered as attack on Muslim Ummah.
Iran - This, Mr President, is how wars start: Andrew Stephen in Washington warns that war could easily be triggered by the Bush administration's sheer incompetence.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
We just finished the translation, and you can download it by clicking here. [pdf]
Please feel free to widely distribute this document. It's important to start a stronger debate and to try to educate Iraqis and Americans about this catastrophic law that will facilitate the further looting of Iraqi oil, and will achieve nothing other than increasing the levels of violence and anger in Iraq.
This law legalizes PSAs (production sharing agreements) in Iraq. Iraq will be the only country in the middle east with such contracts privatising Iraqi oil and giving foreign companies crazy rates of profit that may reach to more than three fourth of the general revenue. Iraq and Iraqis need every Dinar that comes from oil sales. In addition to the financial aspects of this law, it can be considered the funding tool for splitting Iraq into three states. It undermines the central government and distributes oil revenues directly to the three regions, which sets the foundations for what Iraq's enemies are trying to achieve in terms of establishing three independent states.
Privatizing Iraq's oil and splitting Iraq into three regions are just two negative features of this 29 pages law. I am translating some important analysis written by Iraqis and other Arabs, and am also working with British and U.S. experts to publish more analysis soon.
Monday, February 19, 2007
The bill, dubbed the Safety Act by sponsor Lamar Smith, a republican congressman from Texas, would impose fines and a prison term of one year on ISPs which failed to keep full records.
"A crime is still a crime, whether it occurs on the street or on the internet," said Congressman Smith.
"In this age of increasing digital and technological sophistication, cyber-crimes and cyber-terrorism pose a serious threat to the US. Law enforcement and the private sector must be prepared to deal with these crimes."
The bill includes a separate clause that would force the owners of sexually explicit websites to include warning labels on their web pages, or face jail.
Also included is a 20-year "jail tariff" for anyone ordering child pornography that crosses state borders, with a $150,000 fine for the ISP that allowed the transaction to take place.
The provision, signed into law in October, weakens two obscure but important bulwarks of liberty. One is the doctrine that bars military forces, including a federalized National Guard, from engaging in law enforcement. Called posse comitatus, it was enshrined in law after the Civil War to preserve the line between civil government and the military. The other is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which provides the major exemptions to posse comitatus. It essentially limits a president’s use of the military in law enforcement to putting down lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion, where a state is violating federal law or depriving people of constitutional rights.
The newly enacted provisions upset this careful balance. They shift the focus from making sure that federal laws are enforced to restoring public order. Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.”
Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate. The president made no mention of the changes when he signed the measure, and neither the White House nor Congress consulted in advance with the nation’s governors.
There is a bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, and backed unanimously by the nation’s governors, that would repeal the stealthy revisions. Congress should pass it. If changes of this kind are proposed in the future, they must get a full and open debate.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
"The Year of the Pig will not be very peaceful," said Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo.
Feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of trying to achieve health, harmony and prosperity by using specific dates, numbers, building design and the placement of objects.
The pig is one of 12 animals (or mythical animals in the case of the dragon) on the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. According to Chinese astrology, people born in pig years are polite, honest, hardworking and loyal. They are also lucky, which is why many Chinese like to have babies in a pig year.
"Any children born in The Year of Pig will receive help from others throughout their lives," Lo said.
Ronald Reagan was a pig. So are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Woody Allen and Elton John. Not to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But a word of caution to the presidential candidate.
The pig finished last in the race that determined the zodiac's order, behind the dog.
Other animals in the zodiac are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey and rooster. The zodiac runs on a 12-year cycle, and each year is associated with the five elements that Chinese mystics make up the universe: metal, water, wood, fire and earth.
Therein lies the trouble.
Pig years can be turbulent because they are dominated by fire and water, conflicting elements that tend to cause havoc, Lo said.
"Fire sitting on water is a symbol of conflict and skirmish," he said. "We'll also see more fire disasters and bombings."
He noted that the Russian AK-47 rifle, a weapon of choice among insurgents around the world, was invented during a pig year.
"So it will not be surprising to see more gunbattles, murder with guns and bombing attacks in 2007," he said.
Malaysian feng shui master Lillian Too agreed.
"I wish I could say that there won't be natural disasters, but I am afraid it could be as bad as last year," she said.
"There could be epidemics," she said. "I am very worried about bird flu. Eat healthy foods and take care of your health."
Few Chinese seemed to be worried about the warnings, though, as they prepared for their biggest bash of the year -- Saturday's Lunar New Year's Eve -- celebrated by one-fifth of the world's population.
It's an occasion to have family feasts, buy new clothes and exchange red envelopes stuffed with gift money.
Not everything about the future looks bleak.
Most soothsayers said the world economy will continue to boom, though they advise people to be cautious about their investments.
"Because of the water element in the Year of the Pig, the economy will continue to grow, which also paves the way for another round of interest rate hikes," said Peter So, a celebrity fortuneteller in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong soothsayer Alion Yeo is predicting North Korea will undergo a power struggle that will bring leadership changes around May. Last year, the Year of the Dog, Yeo warned that the North Korean nuclear crisis would worsen.
The North conducted a nuclear test in October.
Singapore fortuneteller John Lok predicted the situation in Iraq will not settle and President Bush will have a bad year.
He also said the next president of France may be a woman -- no surprise there since one of the main candidates is a woman, Segolene Royal of the Socialist party.
While the pig is beloved by the Chinese, the animal is offensive to Muslims, who consider it unclean. For that reason, Chinese New Year celebrations have to be handled with care in Malaysia and Indonesia, mainly Muslim countries with large ethnic Chinese minorities.
For the first time in its history, Indonesia introduced a special set of postal stamps to mark the Lunar New Year. But concerns over Muslim sensitivities led the postal service to drop plans to put a large pig on the stamps. It chose a Chinese temple instead.
"We took the middle path," said Hana Suryana, director of the Indonesian postal service.
Still, that was progress for a country where ethnic Chinese, who make up 5 percent of the population and have long faced discrimination, once were not allowed to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
"That has changed now, but we still feel uncomfortable celebrating the day in a large way because there are some people who cannot accept that Chinese culture is a part of Indonesian culture," said Jhony Tan, a trader in Jakarta's bustling Chinatown.
Yusri Mohammad, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, said he had no problem with the Chinese celebrating the pig year in his country. He said decorative pictures of pigs in shopping malls are fine -- as long as Chinese don't start using live pigs or eat pork in public.
And if we invade Iran the rest of the world will shun us like a leper. This is going to make a real mess of thing in the whole world. Probably the beginning of World War 3.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
- NEW MEXICO SENATE BILL 498, to ban Aspartame, the artificial sweetener, was killed on Sunday February 11, about 9:30 PM, by the Senate Public Affairs Committee, voting the way the 11 corporate lobbyists hammered them to do so, by a vote of 6-2. The House Consumer committee killed the House equivalent two days later 4-2.
- The motion to kill, or "table," was made by Senator Dr. Steve Komadina, OB- GYN, the only physician in the New Mexico Legislature, who, curiously enough, strongly recommends to his pregnant patients, that they never ever use Aspartame, for fear for the obvious harm the formaldehyde and methanol it metabolizes into, will do to the unborn fetus.
- Why he could not extend his "compassionate concern" and medical expertise to protect the 1.8 million citizens of New Mexico, and the 70% of the population that use Aspartame, and the 40% of the children, is far beyond me.
- I am so very much reminded of the lemmings all agreeing to jump off the cliff together. Perhaps any 8 of them, after consulting with the same corporate lobbyists, would be able to put together the same 6-2 majority.
- Gradually, the legislators who drink aspartame beverages will drop out (or drop dead) by attrition, after their intellectual faculties wane, yet are still in charge and entrusted with serious decisions and allocating billions of dollars.
- Some have already dropped out. The largest consumer of Aspartame in the Senate, the former Finance Chairman, actually resigned just before this legislative session! His successor, David Ulibarri, said it was because he just got old, and I asked, "What could make you older faster than the formaldehyde and methanol in 12 cans of Diet soda every day?"
- Dr. Komadina is likely destined for a brilliant future as physician- legislator to extend his sophistries in the name of Republican Libertarianism, since the corporations who make and distribute aspartame are now so happy with his "legislative efforts," maybe even enough to run his name up the flag pole as a possible candidate for Governor i 2010.
- On the surface, especially to those who still like the still brilliant Howard Dean, M.D., that might sound great to some: a physician as Governor, eh? Heal the sick, raise the dead, keep Big Pharma in business, a real "expert" who has delivered so many babies, as the Chief Executive of New Mexico?
- That prospect even made sense to me as recently as 2004 when I was dazzled after meeting Komadina, but having seen him in action, it makes no sense to me at all, now. A legislator's bills and actions give you an idea of what kind of Governor they might make, and one of Komadina's bills is very disturbing, his Freedom to Eat Enchiladas Act, which give blanket corporate immunity to all food businesses, not only for causing obesity, which is only logical, but for all related food caused illnesses resulting from overeating, which is both pathetic and frightening, to me.
- The Freedom to Eat Enchiladas Act, would prevent any victim of aspartame poisoning from suing for damages resulting from the formaldehyde and methanol-borne afflictions they would face, or trans-fates, or bovine growth hormones, or food colorings, or even proven carcinogens, that the FDA had been forced in prior years to approve.
- In other states, similar corporate immunity from liability was called the "Freedom to Eat Cheeseburgers Act," and has been enacted in many of them. Komadina and/or his corporate sponsors wanted something with a little more ethnic appeal to Hispanic legislators in New Mexico. Same was shot down in 2005 as an obvious "ethnic ploy."
- In voting for that bill, the "Freedom to Eat Enchiladas," Senator Mary Jane Garcia of Las Cruces stated that she, too, as a diabetic, would get sick if she ate 3 pieces of pie. Prior to this hearing, Garcia had said she would vote for the bill to ban Aspartame, but the deluge of corporate lobbyists convinced her to change her position, despite the testimony of the expert witnesses, a pediatrician and a neurotoxicologist, who urged the committee to protect the children of New Mexico. Garcia stated to these experts, just before the vote, that she "hadn't understood a word they said."
- Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces voted without comment to kill the bill, and Grants Senator David Ulibarri voted to kill the bill, although he had actually signed it at the beginning of the session as an ostensible supporter! Three of the Republicans all voted to kill the bill, in concert with their darling doctor Senator leader, Steve Komadina. Donald Rumsfeld, who forced the approval for Aspartame in 1981 as CEO of Searle, must also be very happy with New Mexico's compliant legislators.
- There is so little truth in the media about Aspartame, none of their votes are likely ever to come back to haunt the legislators, unless they too come down with a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis and they can still remember their votes.
- No doubt, there will be jubilant proclamations by friends of the Aspartame industry, probably even a few editorials touting the reaffirmation of those freedoms to eat artificial sweeteners, which they are calling "substitute sugars," since that sounds more palatable.
- Eventually, both all of the manufacturing mega corporations and the American fast food corporations will have a perfectly docile and compliant citizenry, thanks to the likes of all of the Dr. Komadina's in so many legislatures, and despite the Uniformity of Food Regulations Bill failing in the United States Senate.
- The Japanese corporation, Ajinomoto, which lobbied so hard to kill the Aspartame bill, is the world's largest manufacturer of both Aspartame and the other neurotoxic and carcinogenic food additive, Monosodium Glutamate. Their lobbyist, Richard Minzner, spoke vehemently in favor of corporate theories of "federal pre-emption" by FDA pronouncements that Aspartame must still be "safe." But if that specious logic were true out in the rest of America in the real world, we'd still have asbestos, leaded gasoline, Thalidomide, and DDT; Eliot Spitzer would never have sued large pharmaceutical companies; we would might be using Agent Orange to defoliate America; New York City and Philadelphia would never have been able to ban transfats, and California would never have considered putting carcinogen labels on French fries, due to acrylamides. The fast food companies in California used the defense that the FDA never required such labels.
- New Mexico seems to like to capitulate to corporate theories of FDA pronouncements having the preemptive powers of Federal Laws, two entirely different things.
- Monsanto is out of the Aspartame business now, and so is G.D. Searle, the corporation that originally patented it in 1966. FDA turned down approval until 1981, based on the obvious and rudimentary chemistry and the metabolized compounds that result from its being digested: methanol, formaldehyde, and diketopiperazine (the last is a particularly nasty cause of brain tumors). So is Holland Sweeteners, I think partially due to my letters in Dutch to the Queen of the Netherlands, Her Majesty, Beatrix.
- Donald Rumsfeld is out of the Aspartame business and also out of the Defense Department business, as well, "gone but not forgotten," but the neurodegenerative harm done by his profitable regulatory coup in 1981 to force aspartame's approval will be around for many generations.
- Things look pretty grim for Consumer Protection efforts in New Mexico and in the USA in general at this moment. I had much higher hopes for New Mexico's new Attorney General, Gary King, Ph.D. Chemistry. I still hope that King will see the similarities between Big Tobacco and Big Aspartame enough to sue those corporations, but that honor will more likely befall a proven champion of Consumer Protection, perhaps Governor Eliot Spitzer, California's Attorney General Bill Lockyer, after his french fries warning about cancer prove to save lives in California.
- Perhaps efforts to ban Aspartame in Indonesia, South Africa, and other nations may ultimately vindicate ours in New Mexico. Perhaps not, even if other nations get to such obvious medical imperatives before the USA, since corporate America has constructed a very thick skin to externally or internally shield public consciousness in the USA from such embarrassing questions as product liability, neurodegenerative harm and illnesses resulting from their products, and other irksome inconveniences.
- Where is Bill Richardson on all of this? Try writing a letter or sending him an email to ask him. If you are lucky, once in a great while, his sometimes attentive staff just might answer.
- New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer told me once: "the FDA is a Joke." Very true, but no one seems to be laughing....
- Stephen Fox firstname.lastname@example.org New Millennium Fine Art Santa Fe, New Mexico