The Right Thing
Everyone in the blogosphere is talking about President Bush's backing of the
The Blog of an Open Source Librarian, in which there is no shushing.
"Part mythic cycle, part fictional history of Moore's hometown, part collection of fireside ghost stories, Voice of the Fire is as clever and well-crafted as Moore's other genre experiments, and by taking his dialogue out of word-balloons and panel arrangements, it gives his limitless literary ambition room to stretch out into new and fascinating forms." ~Tasha Robinson, The Onion
...For perspective, it should be remembered that the ideology of Lowered Expectations arrived on the historical scene immediately after the upsurge of Rising Expectations. That is, after the Utopian hopes of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, almost as if in reaction, an employee of the British East India Company, Thomas Malthus, created the first "scientific" argument that the ideals of those documents could never be achieved. Malthus had discovered that at his time world population was growing faster than known resources, and he assumed that this would always be true, and that misery would always be the fate of the majority of humanity.
WASHINGTON - A group of more than 60 top U.S. scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates and several science advisers to past Republican presidents, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of manipulating and censoring science for political purposes.
In a 46-page report and an open letter, the scientists accused the administration of "suppressing, distorting or manipulating the work done by scientists at federal agencies" in several cases. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a liberal advocacy group based in Cambridge, Mass., organized the effort, but many of the critics aren't associated with it.
"I don't recall it ever being so blatant in the past," said Princeton University physicist Val Fitch, a 1980 Nobel Prize winner who served on a Nixon administration science advisory committee. "It's just time after time after time. The facts have been distorted."
White House [Science] adviser Marburger, also a physicist, said, "I don't think that these incidents or issues add up to strong support for the accusation that this administration is deliberately acting to undermine the processes of science."
President Bush has announced his plan to select Dr. W. David Hager to head up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. The committee has not met for more than two years, during which time its charter has lapsed. As a result, the Bush Administration is tasked with filling all eleven positions with new members. This position does not require Congressional approval.
Dr. Hager is a practicing OB/GYN who describes himself as "pro-life" and refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. Hager is the author of "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now." The book blends biblical accounts of Christ healing women with case studies from Hager's practice. In the book Dr. Hager wrote with his wife, entitled "Stress and the Woman's Body," he suggests that women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome should seek help from reading the bible and praying. As an editor and contributing author of "The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies and the Family," Dr. Hager appears to have endorsed the medically inaccurate assertion that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient.
For some women, such as those with certain types of diabetes and those undergoing treatment for cancer, pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition. We are concerned that Dr. Hager's strong religious beliefs may color his assessment of technologies that are necessary to protect women's lives or to preserve and promote women's health. Hager's track record of using religious beliefs to guide his medical decision-making makes him a dangerous and inappropriate candidate to serve as chair of this committee. Critical drug public policy and research must not be held hostage by antiabortion politics. Members of this important panel should be appointed on the basis of science and medicine, rather than politics and religion. American women deserve no less.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. SEND THIS TO EVERY PERSON WHO IS CONCERNED ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS.
2. OPPOSE THE PLACEMENT OF THIS MAN BY CONTACTING THE WHITE HOUSE AND TELL THEM HE IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE ON ANY LEVEL.
Please email President Bush at email@example.com or call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 and say "I oppose the appointment of Dr. Hager to the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Mixing religion and medicine is unacceptable. Using the FDA to promote a political agenda is inappropriate and seriously threatens all women's health."
The Bush administration has decided that people with bad hearing have bad judgment, too, and need special guidance from the federal government.
So the U.S. Department of Education is declaring about 200 television programs inappropriate for closed-captioning and denying federal grant requests to make them accessible to the hearing-impaired.
The government is refusing to caption Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, apparently fearing that the deaf would fall prey to witchcraft if they viewed the classic sitcoms.
"...My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it, she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."
...[I]f enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age - in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset - and the mid-case scenario would be a period like the "little ice age" of a few centuries ago that disrupted worldwide weather patterns leading to extremely harsh winters, droughts, worldwide desertification, crop failures, and wars around the world.
For early humans living in Europe 30,000 years ago - when the cave paintings in France were produced - the weather would be pretty much like it is today for well over a thousand years, giving people a chance to build culture to the point where they could produce art and reach across large territories.
And then a particularly hard winter would hit.
The spring would come late, and summer would never seem to really arrive, with the winter snows appearing as early as September. The next winter would be brutally cold, and the next spring didn't happen at all, with above-freezing temperatures only being reached for a few days during August and the snow never completely melting. After that, the summer never returned: for 1500 years the snow simply accumulated and accumulated, deeper and deeper, as the continent came to be covered with glaciers and humans either fled or died out.
Most scientists involved in research on this topic agree that the culprit is global warming, melting the icebergs on Greenland and the Arctic icepack and thus flushing cold, fresh water down into the Greenland Sea from the north. When a critical threshold is reached, the climate will suddenly switch to an ice age that could last minimally 700 or so years, and maximally over 100,000 years.
In spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
Morality has very little to do with choosing sides. It can tell us that a given act is dreadful, but it canít tell us whether to say, ëThis is dreadful, therefore Öí or ëThis is dreadful, but Öí We still often believe that we oppose our enemies because of their crimes, and support our allies despite their crimes. I wouldnít be surprised if Margaret Thatcher was quite sincere in condemning ZAPU as a terrorist organization because it shot down a civilian airliner, and in supporting one of the mujahedin factions, despite the fact that it had deliberately blown up a civilian airliner. Sometimes our moral justifications can blunt our moral sense. Think of the incendiary bombings of Germany and Japan. Suppose they were a military necessity. If so, better to accept that what ëour sideí is doing is wrong and do it anyway than to persuade ourselves it is right because it is in a just cause.
~ Ken MacLeod via Theresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light
The emailer from earlier also pointed out that Laura Bush hasn't been a librarian since '77. I say once a librarian, always a librarian.
They have a page with library signs concerning the Patriot Act. For some reasons people have a problem with the fact that we are not allowed to warn patrons if they have been investigated. It would seem that some librarians would like the right to give a terrorist a heads-up so they can get out of country quick or something worse.
The classical view that categories are based on shared properties is not entirely wrong. We often do categorize things on that basis. But that is only a small part of the story.
~George Lakoff, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind
OSLO, Norway -- President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the European Union were among known nominees for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize...
Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified "under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less" because Saddam "did not let us in.")
So where are the apologies? Where are the resignations? Where is the investigation of this intelligence debacle? All we have is bluster from Dick Cheney, evasive W.M.D.-related-program-activity language from Mr. Bush and a determined effort to prevent an independent inquiry.
True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup. (Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people including a majority of the British public, according to polls regard that report as a whitewash.)
In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.
"Weapons of mass destruction including evil chemistry and evil biology are all matters of great concern, not only to the United States but also to the world community. They were the subject of U.N. resolutions," Ashcroft said [snapping his rubber gloves].
You can ask Trina Magi anything; she's ready to help you find the answer. Who, exactly, was on Richard Nixon's "enemies list"? How do you create a cranberry bog? Where do you find the marketing data you need to write a business plan? How can one find a photograph of Jesus Christ?
No question is foolish, she believes, though that last one -- which a student truly did ask -- still draws a smile. In fact, it's the very unpredictability of what's on people's minds that makes her daily stint on the reference desk at the University of Vermont's Bailey/Howe Library, in Burlington, so rewarding. "We want to nurture a love of inquiry in others," she says, "not squelch it or make people afraid to ask questions."
These days, it's not people fretting about what she might think of their questions that worries Magi; it's their unease about what the federal government might think. When the USA Patriot Act passed in October 2001, it contained language in Section 215 making it easier for federal agents to look into the business records of, among other places, libraries and bookstores. In particular, agents no longer need to show probable cause before getting a judge's approval to round up private records; the act also makes it illegal for the keeper of those records to tell any one else -- including the customer or patron involved -- about the investigation.
To Magi (whose last name is pronounced "Maggie") and other librarians, all of this strikes at the heart of free inquiry: the right to privacy. "It's one of the basics of librarianship, to respect privacy," says Gail Weymouth, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Vermont Library Association, "to understand that what people read isn't necessarily what they believe, and to give them the ability to come in and find information without any chilling effect."
The fear of that chill -- the possibility that people will not explore questions because of how that might look to the authorities -- has turned Magi into an anti-Section 215 crusader.
~ Rob Gurwitt. "Defender of the Free Word: Librarian Trina Magi stands up to the Patriot Act." Mother Jones. January/February 2004.
In truth, librarians are hardly the only people alarmed by the Patriot Act, which has sparked a groundswell of ideologically diverse opposition. Yet it is the foursquare defiance found in libraries that seems to have nettled the Bush administration most, as suggested by John Ashcroft's rebuke last fall that the nation's librarians have fallen prey to "baseless hysteria."
Department of Justice spokesman Mark Corallo says that Section 215 simply allows investigators to do what they have been able to do all along -- gather evidence. Exempting libraries, he argues, "would create a terrorist safety zone." But librarians like Magi across the country have rejected this you're-with-us-or-you're-with-the-terrorists logic, buying paper shredders, purging borrowing records, and warning patrons that their records are no longer private.
Go looking for the earliest stirrings of this resistance, and you'll be led back to Magi. During the fall of 2002, she met over dinner with fellow UVM librarian Peter Spitzform, former state ACLU head Ben Scotch, and writer Judith Levine. They drafted a letter to Vermont's congressional delegation arguing that the Patriot Act threatens "the community of readers, researchers, and information-seekers." Magi had just stepped down as president of the Vermont Library Association; she took the letter to its executive board and persuaded them to sign on and become the first state library association to go on record opposing Section 215.
"We thought we'd get a nice response saying, 'Thanks for your letter, I share your concern,'" says Magi. Instead, the office of Vermont's lone representative, independent Bernie Sanders, called to say that Sanders planned to introduce a measure to exempt libraries and bookstores from Section 215. "I voted against the USA Patriot Act and knew it was not a good piece of legislation," he says. "But the truth is, I was not as familiar with all aspects as I should have been." The librarians' letter, he explains, along with a similar request from the New England Booksellers Association, persuaded him to act; so far, his measure has picked up more than 140 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Magi, in the meantime, is still talking to anyone who will listen about Section 215. Raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, she cut her teeth on protest when she agitated -- unsuccessfully -- for the church to ordain women as ministers." I don't feel uncomfortable about being out here," she says of her increasingly public role. "We need to have a conversation -- we need to have the debate that didn't happen before the law was passed."