Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Thought On Iraq

Salman Rushdie has things to say, and say well. Go read it.

This I agree with. This expresses my ambivalence about Iraq, my pro-regime-change stance, my anti-unilateral-US-action stance.

I don't want war, as a rule. War is an atrocity by itself, that turns living, thinking human beings into "others", preparatory to trying to convince you that it's OK to kill them. And yet, violence, well-applied, can also do more good than harm under the right conditions.

I don't want the US to wage war, on Iraq, because of allegations -- allegations -- of terrorist connections. What I want is for the global community to follow through all the way to "force as necessary" to apply its resolutions. What I want, is a US-supported war of liberation in Iraq. Either one of those are reasons that could make me proud of our action.

If we go to war with Iraq, what will it be for? What will be our stated mission? By what meterstick do we measure success or failure? When will we know it's over? As Rushdie points out, war on Iraq is not the same thing as war on al Qaeda, and the whole shift in attention from Afghanistan to Iraq sure does feel like someone changing the subject.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of "Review"

So, let me get this straight. The FISC, which "considers surveillance and physical search orders from the Department of Justice and US intelligence agencies", already of questionably broad powers, has itself been circumvented by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and John Ashcroft.

In May of this year, the FISC concluded that proposed actions designed to "intensify the use of secret surveillance in the United States", "...are NOT reasonably designed, in light of their purpose and technique, 'consistent with the need of the United States to obtain, produce, or disseminate foreign intelligence information' as defined in §1801(h) and §1821(4) of the [Federal Intelligence Surveillance] Act."

The FISC released declassified material regarding this ruling in August of this year, which specifically includes reference to 75 instances of abuses of surveillance warrants under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

So, just to nutshell it, here, this Court rarely turns down requests for warrants, yet dug in its heels this year against the motion that the Court "rescind all 'wall' procedures in all international terrorism surveillances and searches now pending before the Court, or that has been before the Court at anytime in the past".

They said no. More specifically, they said,

"Under the normal 'wall' procedures, where there were separate intelligence and criminal investigations, or a single counter-espionage investigation with overlapping intelligence and criminal interests, FBI criminal investigators and Department prosecutors were not allowed to review all of the raw FISA intercepts or seized materials lest they become defacto partners in the FISA surveillances and searches. Instead, a screening mechanism, or person, usually the chief legal counsel in a FBI field office, or an assistant U.S. attorney not involved in the overlapping criminal investigation, would review all of the raw intercepts and seized materials and pass on only that information which might be relevant evidence. In unusual cases such as where attorney-client intercepts occurred, Justice Department lawyers in OIPR acted as the 'wall'. In significant cases, involving major complex investigations such as the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Africa, and the millennium investigations, whem criminal investigations of FISA targets were being conducted concurrently, and prosecution was likely, this Court became the "wall" so that FISA information could not be disseminated to criminal prosecutors without the Court's approval. In some cases where this Court was the "wall," the procedures seemed to have functioned as provided in the Court's orders; however, in an alarming number of instances, there have been troubling results."

So, of course, if the judges you're in front of say something you don't like, well, go get some different ones. Empanel a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, and let them say "yes" to you. Which is exactly what happened.


Monday, November 18, 2002

Huh. Neat.

Faz sent this my way over the has something called the Belief-O-Matic. That is, hands down, the best name for a religion quiz ever. But, man, it was weird taking it. I mean, for me, so many of the questions just had no relevance. That doesn't mean it wasn't worth taking, just that I wasn't too surprised by the prevalance of Buddhism of one flavor of another at the top of the results list.

An interesting exercise.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Chamber of Secrets

Janis has already written a review that shares several of my perceptions, I almost hesitated to add anything of my own. But I'll try. I'll also try to not actually spoil, or much.

1. I loved Professor Sprout and the mandrake babies.

2. Quite possibly, and I know this is silly, my favorite part of the movie may have been the 2-cart pileup when Ron and Harry couldn't get to the platform. There was just something so, so perfect about it. The way everything goes flying and attracts Muggle attention. It's just one of those little moments to treasure.

3. Gilderoy Lockhart -- Kenneth, you were perfectly cast and perfectly played. Thank you. And thank you to the costume department! His outfits! In fact, well I've got that a number of its own, farther down.

4. I'm somewhere between Ron and Harry's reactions to spiders, and I just loved Ron's escalation of fear during their traipse through the Forbidden Forest.

5. Polyjuice Potion.

6. Costuming. Harry, having access to money after a fashion now, still dresses pretty dowdy as a Muggle, but it fits better. Quite appropriate. Every knitter I know is dying to do some of the work seen ALL OVER THE PLACE in these movies. Mrs. Weasley's outfit -- the crochet sleeves when we first see her, perfect, the little froth of whatever at her throat when she was in robes, everything she wears and does places her so perfectly as Molly Weasley it is really a joy to see her anytime she's onscreen. (I am overjoyed that we get to see more of all the Weasleys as a rule, as the books go on.)

7. The Howler!! God, I loved it, including the polite aside to Harry and the message to Ginny.

8. Ron and Hermione at the end. Nice foreshadowing.

Some more general remarks:

1. The effects really stayed in the background this time -- not dull, just in the background. I'm kind of subtly amazed by that. See, the first movie [Sorcerer's Stone, or Philosopher's Stone, depending on your locale], just like the first book, spent a lot of time introducing the world to you, through introducing it to Harry. You expect a lot of gee-whiz moments, and rightly so. Now that we've been around a year, it's natural to take things for granted that were stunning and in the front of our minds when we first saw them. However, in movieland, it's very easy for sequels to fall into the "bigger, better, faster" trap. It is a pleasure to find that Secrets did not. Must be the distance from Hollywood. In addition, the CGI work was really natural and seamless. Nothing irritating leapt out at me.

2. Keeping the character's voices while they're transmogrified -- and thus actually played by others -- was absolutely inspired. It really keeps you aware as a viewer that you're still watching Our Heroes. Very, very finely tuned choice on that.

3. As a fan, I want to point out something before people get worked up about it. Two things, actually. One is that actors frequently play ages other than their own, and since Rowling says little on so-n-so suffering growing pains in any particular book or anything, there's no canonical reason Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and the rest of the gang can't play these characters all the way through 7 films worth of books, spanning their school years. Shit, Hollywood has us watching people in their mid-20s play high schoolers all the time. So, don't go thinking you have to recast anyone just because they're gotten tall and gangly, or that they'll be 22 by the time they're playing some of age 17. Not a problem. Please. Please don't think you have to changing a winning team on my account. Number two is that it is very difficult for an actor to play the same person for years on end. Movie-making is grueling, and making 7 Harry Potter movies [assuming Rowling does write 7 books, one for each year], however exciting an experience, will also be a harsh one. I hope as many of the original cast as possible keep coming back -- I want the visual continuity of seeing the same people, and I love this group of actors -- but I can't scream my head off if someone were to decide at some point to walk away. For the record, I'm not responding to any rumors of recasting or actors not coming back for something, this is just related to a couple pet peeves I have about American perceptions of actors.

Hm! Guess I had some original remarks to make after all.