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Thu

22

Feb

2007

America on Lock-down
Thursday, 22 February 2007 13:36
by Rod Amis

Am I, inveterate world traveler, the only one bothered by the fact that the US government has decided, supposedly as part of homeland security, that AMERICAN CITIZENS can now longer go to nearby countries in the Carribbean, Canada, Mexico, etc without a passport - FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY?

To provide some history, up until now, Americans could go to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, with just a simple picture ID like a drivers's license. Your government has decreed that that freedom of movement for you is no more.

Ask yourself something, Gentle Reader, are we being locked in?

IF you read my last editorial, I suspect you'll understand how I feel about this latest government edict. In case you don't: I'm outraged.

Okay, while we're on the subject of personal freedoms being lost, I have one more thing to say. I use Skype (voice over the Internet, also known as VOIP) because it affords me the cheapest rates to call my relatives in Bermuda.

I occasionally like to talk to my sister-in-law, Martha Rudell Amis, and hear the sound of her laughter in my ear. Once in a great while, I'll call Serbia to talk to Dragana. I've called Ngozi, in Nigeria, and AJ in Kenya. I've talked to Ken Kamoche in Hong Kong. I have telephoned my friend, Logan, in Rome.
Using Skype, my rates are pennies on the dollar compared to most domestic telecommunications companies. Back when I was on a domestic service, for example, I would have to pay $1.00 (USD) per minute to call Bermuda. On Skype, I pay less than twenty-five cents. It's worth it to me to stay in contact with my family and NOT have them pay the outrageous fees of the corporate hegemony when they would call me. I discourage them from doing so.

NOW GET THIS: Something changed this year. Every time I try to directly deposit money into my international Skype account, it is blocked. The ONLY way I can add credit to my international account is to through a service in London, UK.

Every time I use the service in the UK, my account is frozen. The next time I attempt to make a transaction by debit card or check NOTHING HAPPENS until I spend the money to call my bank and ask them to un-freeze my account.

My bank apologizes each time and tells me it is a requirement of your government that they check my overseas transactions - even if it's only for $10 (USD) - normally the most credit I can afford to apply.

Think about that for a moment, Gentle Reader.

I realize that many of you don't have either friends or family abroad. But many of us do. If we would like to contact them from the convenience of our homes, relatively inexpensively, we are now being restricted.

I know what you are thinking: I could do what the Latinos do and go out and by a phone card and use a pay phone. I consider that option an infringement on my personal liberty, when I have the means of making the call here in my living room, no matter the weather or where the nearest open public phone might be - let alone thinking about whose ear was on that apparatus five minutes ago.

Having to telephone my bank each time I want to add credit to my personal and private account to make calls abroad, at least to me, seems a diminution of my freedom.

Taking away the right to travel is bad enough. Taking away the right to even speak is outrageous.

*****

The Beijing 2008 Olympics are coming up, Kids. China, the rising power in the global balance, will be in the spotlight.

The Chinese public relations machine has been in full effect for a while. Last year, they sponsored their African Summit (See KEN KAMOCHE's piece) and next year the world will have a chance to marvel at their achievements. This is not to mention that they are financing the United States these days. Oops! Just did.

One of the centerpieces of the Olympic Park the Chinese have build in Beijing is the "Water Cube" formally designated the National Aquatic Center. Your Interlocutor is personally fascinated by this architectural achievement. There is a certain and odd elegance to it. You can take a look at it, in advance of the spectacle here. Definitely take the time to scroll down the page, where you'll find an video of how this structure will actually look. I'm chuffed!

ON OUR G21 FOCUS ISSUE 2007, Relieving Global Poverty, I'd recommend you look at Mercy Corps assessment of what some of our brothers and sisters are enduring and we put under the rubric "silent disaster."

After that, because so many people think it is honky-dory here in the United States, read RAHEEM's column this edition.

I have to say something about that. Bear with me.

One of the most telling references, when I read (and later reviewed) Jim Wallis's book God's Politics, was his astute notice that most Christians believe that Jesus pronounced "... the poor you have will always," as the quote they most recognized but that - almost invariably - they took the quote out of context and failed to remember when the utterance was made. (Okay, I suppose I'm falling into that trap of doing what many of my friends accuse me of, thinking that everyone likes to keep things in context and, thus, closer to the true meaning, as I do.)

Wallis points out that the context in this instance was NOT that Jesus was endorsing the notion that there would always be poor people but rather as a refutation of the disciples upset that Mary Magdalene would waste money to buy precious oils to anoint Jesus's feet that they - the disciples - felt should be given to donations for the poor. Viewed in context, Jesus's statement takes on a new meaning. That meaning is, "This woman has recognized the value she places in my mission, that I might need succor today, and she can still provide for the poor later."

That statement DOES NOT feed into the notion that poverty is acceptable or perpetual.

[Oh Goodness! The writer is lapsing back into his theological/philosophical roots!]

From Over the Transom

Here are a few items that crossed my desktop since we last "talked."

My friend, Mary McGinn, in New Orleans sends this note for me to share with you:

Want to help the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library* by only lifting a finger (or three)?

GoodSearch.com is a new search engine that donates ad revenue, about a penny per search, to the charity its users designate. Use it just like any search engine, and it's powered by Yahoo!, so you get the same great results.

Just go to www.goodsearch.com and enter Friends of the New Orleans Public Library as the organization you want to support. Just 500 of us searching four times a day will raise about $7300 in a year without anyone spending a dime! Please spread the word!

The Friends of the New Orleans Public Library help fund programs and purchase equipment for NOPL, and they are also helping rebuild the library system with their Restoration Fund.

* DC Stultz wrote me from Florida asking if I'd heard about the giant new U.S. embassy complex being built in Bhagdad, scheduled to be completed this year. Oh yes, I told him. They say it can be seen from space. Look here.

You have been informed.

[NOTE: This Blog post originally appeared at G21 on 19 February, 2007. - Ed.]
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