17 November 2007

Fun with Republicans

Having long ago made up my mind on who to support in next year's Presidential election in the USA (Barack Obama), I haven't been bothering to pay much attention to what the other Democrats -- particularly Hilary Clinton -- have to say. Clinton is in fact one of the worst apologists for Israel amongst all United States Senators, a body long infamous for its extreme pro-Israel bias. I knew this about her long before her decision to support the Lieberman legislation that attempted to pressurise Iran over its civilian nuclear programme, even whilst Israel's 200 illegal nuclear weapons are ignored. But she has many other bad positions on a range of issues. One that particularly irritated me was her vocal support of the requirement adopted in 2003 that requires passengers simply transiting a US airport -- but not entering the country -- to have a US visa. At the time, Clinton made a number of irritating public statements, complaining to Tom Ridge that the lack of a visa requirement would allow a potential terrorist "to take a flight from a country with less-stringent security to a U.S. airport and possibly roam that U.S. airport during a layover." Just imagine! Someone freely ROAMING -- Buffalo style -- around in an airport! Possibly stopping at Starbucks for a skinny latte, wandering unmonitored down the single malt aisle at the duty-free, or even purchasing uncensored reading material from Hudson News! I contacted one of her staff, an apparent policy-wonk wannabee named Josh Albert, and asked how Clinton planned to handle things when the airlines started moving their transit hubs and the thousands of jobs that go with them out of the USA as a result of her short-sighted policies. He said he doubted that would happen, but in 2004, Iberia airlines did exactly that. So no need to waste our time over at the Hilary for President web site.

For pure entertainment value, however, the Republican candidate sites are unbeatable. Most amusing is their fascination with Nazi-style political slogans and tag-lines. Tom Tancredo is For a Secure America, Mike Huckabee's tag-line is Faith-Family-Freedom, whereas Fred Thompson prefers the decidedly non-alliterative Security-Unity-Prosperity. Mitt Romney offers the more verbose True Strength for America's Freedom, whereas Guiliani uses the unoriginal but still catchy Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer! Actually I just made that up -- "Rudy" not only doesn't use his surname, he also is the only Republican without a campaign slogan or tag line. Next time he runs, he'll probably take things a step further by stealing the Jenny Craig weight loss centre approach to branding by sticking an exclamation point after his name (Rudy!) as if it's impossible to articulate without getting excited.

All of them clearly are trying to adopt the proven election-winning approach pioneered by Cheney and Rove, which is to try to convince voters that letting anyone else into the oval office is essentially the equivalent of handing the country over to an unholy alliance of job-stealing Hispanics and wild-eyed jihadists. Tancredo, who earlier displayed his leadership skills by advocating that the US bomb Mecca and Medina in order to "deter" terrorism, has a new ad that opens with the words "Tough on Terrorism" (just in case you didn't get the message with his For a Secure America slogan) and closes with the tag line "Tom Tancredo: Before its too Late". In this ad, Tancredo first softens up his audience with images from the Atocha and London Underground (7/7) bombings as well as the Beslan incident, with ominously Rovian narration and music. Having put us in a suitably fearful state of mind, the narrator then solemnly informs us that foreigners pose a threat "beyond the 20 million aliens who've come to take our jobs," and blames "spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who've come to kill" and then shows an anonymous terrorist (in silhouette only -- no need to show him for the viewers to just know he has dark skin) depositing a bomb in a crowded shopping mall. Also no need to specify the kinds of measures those "spineless politicians" are refusing to take -- it goes without saying that Tancredo is just itching to expand the Guantanamo-Bagram-Abu Ghraib gulag system into the USA.

Mike Huckabee prefers to stick to discussions of more abstract concepts such as "leadership" on his campaign web site, allowing him to avoid more embarrassing topics, such as the fact that he's a racist, immigrant bashing, anti-abortion, gun-toting fruitcake whose supporters appear unable to articulate any reason for backing him other than their conviction that he was chosen by God.

Fred Thompson takes a more traditionally conservative view -- all problems are caused by foreigners and poor people, whom he intends to deport, kill or imprison until life gets better.

Mitt Romney is one of several Republican candidates who pledges to "punish sanctuary cities", those annoying municipalities who have the bad taste to try to provide some limited protections to immigrants, and worse, do it through legislation and initiatives enacted by democratically elected officials supported by voters. To his credit, he is the only republican who has a site in Spanish as well as English. But clicking on "en español" changes more than just the language. While the English press release section contains a long list of threatening declarations explaining how, as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed legislation to "allow state troopers to enforce Federal immigration laws," how he made immigrants pay higher tuition for the same education at state universities, forced them to learn English and prevented them from getting driving licenses, the message from el Romney hispanicó is entirely different. In the spanish press release list we learn that "Romney favorece más visas para trabajadores extranjeros" (Romney favours more visas for foreign workers) and the very short page on "migracíon" quotes Romney as saying "Queremos que Estados Unidos sea más atractivo para los inmigrantes legales" without, of course explaining how his extensive plans to harass, track, and intimidate them is going to achieve that.

Strength through Joy! Work Makes you Free!

BlognDog
Doha
23 November 2007

16 November 2007

Censors 2, BlognDog 1

As I blogged earlier, I thought I had finally put the net censorship issue behind me for good after finding some proxy sites that allow you to get through Qtel's filters. It's been working great, and one reason I was pleased is that one of the blocked sites, TorrentSpy, is where I've been getting my "LOST" fix every week. LOST is an American sci-fi/drama televsion show that I have become terribly addicted to, and until the season ended in May, I would wake early each Thursday morning, log on to TorrentSpy, and download the latest episode, which was always reliably uploaded by a contributor named "DEATH734" who did this for nothing more than the eternal gratitude of myself and thousands of others like me around the world. The files are high quality, no commercials, and they would be there just a few hours after the show finished airing in eastern Canada, where he lives. The site was not blocked in Saudi Arabia during the several weeks I spent there in January and February (thankfully, because I would have been apoplectic if I hadn't been able to get my weekly fix), but for whatever reason, the Qataris block it.

Although LOST is not being aired again until February, I logged on to TorrentSpy today to see if I could download an episode or two of the daily show, but upon attempting to search, I was presented with a message announcing "Torrentspy Acts to Protect Privacy - Sorry, but because you are located in the USA you cannot use the search features of the Torrentspy.com website. Torrentspy's decision to stop accepting US visitors was NOT compelled by any Court but rather an uncertain legal climate in the US regarding user privacy and an apparent tension between US and European Union privacy laws." Obviously, the site's operators are concerned about the growing power of the media industry in the USA, which has been successful to some degree in forcing ISPs to reveal private information about their customers. What wasn't so obvious is why I was getting this message, but a quick visit to IP Chicken showed that because of my proxy server, which had permitted me to visit the site, it appears to sites I visit that I am located in Dallas, in the USA. Bastards.

Somewhere I remember seeing another service similar to the one I am using, if I can find it, I'll have to see if it is based in Europe or somewhere.

In my efforts to search around today and see if I could find an alternative proxy solution that would allow me to use TorrentSpy, I happened across this site maintained by Harvard Law School, which lists many of the sites blocked by the Saudis. Unsurprisingly, this list includes numerous non-Muslim religious sites (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Scientology, and even the "Neo-Pagans"), anti-drug law sites, gay sites, human rights organisations, etc., but the list also included other sites such as anti-pornography sites (Porn-Free.org), "sex addiction" recovery (www.sexaddict.com), and the Warner Brothers Records site. But the most surprising of all was iVillage, a site for "busy women sharing solutions and advice". I had a look around the site (whose lead story today was titled "Tales of Turkey Trouble") to see what might have attracted the ire of the mutaween, but couldn't find anything that couldn't be honestly described as totally innocuous. Maybe they just don't like women going somewhere besides their husbands for advice.

Some excitement coming to Doha this weekend -- the World Powerboat Championship, which I last managed to see a couple of years ago in Oslo, is starting tomorrow, and on Sunday there will be an airshow put on by the Red Arrows, the RAF's precision flying team. And there isn't a better vantage point in the world to see both events than from the balcony outside my office on the 24th floor of West Bay Centre.

BlognDog
Doha
15 November 2007