Friday, December 03, 2004


Below is an email one of my readers recently sent to Amazon:

"Last year, when I asked Amazon why they said 'holiday' for the Christmas season (where undoubtedly, at least 90% of the gifts purchased are for Christmas) I was given some dribble about diversity, multiculturalism, etc..

Well, I went to my front page and saw in the movies section this: " This holiday season brings you Amazon Theater, an exclusive collection of five short films all centered on the theme of karma. "

Did you know 'karma' is overtly religious (Buddhism). So I am curious, why is 'Christmas' such a taboo word, even though the overwhelming majority of your December shoppers celebrate it, yet you have no problem showcasing a Buddhist belief?"


I am the event coordinator for the ''Rally Against Global Terrorism,'' which is to be held on January 16th, 2005 between noon and 3 p.m. I applied to the City of Berkeley on September 9th, 2004, for the use of Martin Luther King Jr. Park for the purpose of the rally. A grassroots coalition of groups has come together to co-sponsor the rally. The visual centerpiece of the rally is the wreckage of the Jerusalem #19 municipal bus, which was bombed on January 29, 2004 (Shevat 1, 5764, according to the Jewish calendar) in Jerusalem, Israel.

The City of Berkeley never responded to my application for a permit, although they cashed my check for the rental of the park on September 11th, 2004. After numerous phone calls to a Mr. Hector Manuel, of the Permits Department (, I finally received a call to come to a hearing at City Hall, which was attended by representatives of the Parks, Police, Fire Dept. (Safety and Emergency Services), and other city officials.

Several members of the rally coordinating committee were present at the hearing. The negativity towards the rally at the hearing was extraordinary. The spokesman said that the rally ''might be perceived as a pro-Israel Rally and this would make Women in Black, MECA (Middle East Childrens' Alliance), and other anti-Israel groups counter-demonstrate.'' Security might be impossible, as it was when Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to speak in Berkeley several years ago, but had to be cancelled because of a near riot. The City of Berkeley’s concern was ''security,'' they said.....

I really resent the denial of my free speech rights in Berkeley, of all places. Plus, it's a real double-standard. Other groups such as ''The Indigenous People'' and the ''Veterans'' have used the park recently for rallies. Pro-Palestinian groups regularly demonstrate in Berkeley and on the UC Berkeley campus. This Monday, for instance, a pro-Palestinian group is planning to build a mock ''Overpass over the Israeli Security Fence'' in the UC Berkeley Sproul Plaza.

The City of Berkeley has placed obstacles in my way at every turn.... I find it ironic that Berkeley, the so-called ''city of free speech,'' would deny (through endless bureaucratic stalling) a permit for a Rally Against Global Terrorism.

More here


There are striking parallels between the Nazi 'war on cancer' and the New Labour crusade against smoking. In Nazi Germany, every individual had 'a duty to be healthy'; furthermore, to ensure that individuals fulfilled this duty, the government insisted on 'the primacy of the public good over individual liberties' (2). Tony Blair acknowledges that smokers - and non-smokers - have rights. More importantly, however, 'both have responsibilities - to themselves, to each other, to their families, and to the wider community'.

To ensure that smokers meet these responsibilities, the government is planning further bans and proscriptions on their activities. In Germany in the 1930s, the medical profession played a leading role in the state campaign to restrict smoking. In Britain today, doctors again provide medical legitimacy and moral authority for state regulation of individual behaviour.

If anti-smoking campaigners have been slow to recognise the German contribution to tobacco epidemiology, they have been even more reluctant to acknowledge the parallels between their public health policies and those pursued by the Nazis. Yet the similarities are remarkable. According to Proctor, the government in Germany in the 1930s 'launched an ambitious anti-smoking campaign, involving extensive public health education, bans on certain forms of advertising, and restrictions on smoking in many public spaces'.

Women and youth were a particular focus of anti-smoking propaganda and restrictions on sales. Furthermore, 'activists called for bans on smoking while driving, for an end to smoking in the workplace, and for the establishment of tobacco counselling centres'. Enterprising firms marketed a range of anti-smoking preparations, from mouthwashes to intravenous infusions. Therapists offered hypnotism and a range of counselling techniques to encourage people to quit smoking.

A number of themes recur in the anti-smoking campaigns. In Germany, campaigners asserted that smoking caused infertility among women and impotence among men, dubious claims echoed in the recent British Medical Association report on 'the impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health'. Anti-tobacco activists have consistently emphasised the particular vulnerability of women, both to the physical effects of smoking and to the seductive power of cigarette advertising. National socialist propagandists railed against 'tobacco capitalism' and stigmatised tobacco as an 'enemy of the people'; they condemned 'smoking slavery' and even 'tobacco terror' - slogans with an alarmingly contemporary ring.

Scaremongering about smoking as an 'epidemic', even a 'plague', was as familiar in Germany in the 1930s as it is in Britain today. At the founding conference of the Institute for Tobacco Hazards Research in 1941, Professor Otto Graf warned of the dangers of 'passive smoking' and called for a workplace ban.

More here

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