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Sunday, August 31, 2003


 

North Korean nuclear test threat - fact or fiction?


On Friday, a major story in the press and on the talk shows was how a U.S. official claimed that North Korea had announced at the then-ongoing meeting that North Korea was planning to test a nuclear weapon. By today, the hearsay aspect of this report had vanished, at least on NPR's "All Things Considered," which reported that "North Korea announced they were planning to test a nuclear weapon."

However, it turns out that an AFP report on the same day reported the following:

Russia's top negotiator on North Korea on Friday denied claims by US officials that Pyongyang had threatened to conduct a nuclear test during crisis talks in Beijing.

"The North Korean delegation did not make such a declaration" at the Beijing talks, RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov as saying.
Interestingly enough, however, this report has, as far as I can determine, not appeared in a single American media outlet of any consequence whatsoever.

Saturday, August 30, 2003


 

Get out of the way?


The mainstream media make it a habit to denigrate third-party efforts, either by mostly or totally ignoring them, or by constant references to how they are "spoilers" or "a vote for Nader is really a vote for Bush," etc. Tom McClintock isn't part of a third-party, he's a Republican, and in fact he's the only actual Republican elected official (a state Senator, unlike Schwarzenegger, Simon, or Ueberroth) running, but as far as the establishment is concerned, he might as well be a third-party candidate. Hence the headline in this morning's San Jose Mercury News: "McClintock refuses to get out of the way." Could they be any more pejorative if they tried? It is conventional wisdom that some Republican leaders would like McClintock to withdraw from the race, although the entire article, which spans a third of a page, couldn't find a single one to actually quote, even anonymously - the only person in the entire article calling on him to withdraw is "Janet", a caller on a talk-radio show! So not only is the headline pejorative, it doesn't even really describe the article, which is essentially a summary of his campaign.

I doubt Tom McClintock and I agree on a single issue, but I'm sure we agree on this - it isn't the place of a Mercury News headline writer to suggest that he is "in the way" of anything.

The entire concept of "spoilers" would disappear in an instant if California were to adopt Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) (scroll about halfway down the page), which would allow McClintock voters to have their votes automatically transferred to their second choice if McClintock didn't win, and would ensure that the winner of the election actually had a majority of voters supporting them (even if only as a second choice). Even though the next California governor could theoretically win with the votes of less than 1% (!) of actual voters, not a single candidate other than the Green Party's Peter Camejo, nevertheless any newscaster, commentator, columnist, or editorial writer, has seen fit to mention IRV as the solution to this problem (not to the immediate problem of this particular election, obviously, but the longer-term solution).


Friday, August 29, 2003


 

Blair admits lies, media yawns


From the Independent (UK):
Tony Blair was forced to admit yesterday that he was personally responsible for Dr David Kelly's identity being disclosed, in direct contradiction to his denial at the time of the scientist's death.

During his much-awaited, historic appearance before the Hutton inquiry, the Prime Minister conceded his central role in the process that led to Dr Kelly's name being confirmed to the media.

The hearing was also told that Mr Blair was the first member of his administration to reveal outside Whitehall that an official had come forward as the source of the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's claim that the Government had "sexed up" the Iraq weapons dossier. He broke the news to Gavyn Davies, the BBC chairman, in a telephone call early on the morning of Sunday 7 July, more than 24 hours before the information was made public in a press statement issued by the Ministry of Defence. Mr Davies refused Mr Blair's request to retract Mr Gilligan's report.

During, by the Prime Minister's own account, an extremely busy time for him in both domestic politics and international diplomacy, he found the time to "scan" the MoD press statement, after it had been passed to his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell. He also chaired a series of meetings in Downing Street solely to discuss what to do about Dr Kelly.

What was decided at the meetings set off the chain of events that was to lead to the public exposure of Dr Kelly to an intense media spotlight, to his appearance before two parliamentary committees and to his death.

Mr Blair told the inquiry that he had been guided by senior civil servants over the affair. But he added: "The responsibility is mine, at the end of the day. I take the decision as Prime Minister, but I wanted to be able to say that we had played it by the book."

Just over five weeks ago, on learning of Dr Kelly's apparent suicide during an official flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, the Prime Minister had "categorically" and "emphatically" denied he had played a part in revealing the scientist's name.
As far as I can determine, not a word about this blockbuster in the U.S. press. The Washington Post reports Blair's admission of involvement in the outing of Kelly, but neglects to note his previous adamant denials. The NY Times writes that "Mr. Blair was also asked about his role in making public the name of Dr. Kelly," but fails to even note his answer, nevertheless the contradiction with earlier statements.

Of course, this has special significance not just because Blair has now admitted lying, but because of the many other things about which Blair has been "categorical" and "emphatic." Recall, for example, his speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in which he said he believes "with every fiber in my body" that the war was justified. Or his continuing claim that he still believes the famous "45-minute" claim was "perfectly justified." Slowly but surely, the wall is crumbling, the curtain is being pulled back (pick your own metaphor).


 

Innumeracy in the media


This morning, my local TV newscaster was discussing the Laci Petersen murder case and issues relating to the autopsy of her body. "The majority of medical experts think..." he said. Really? Have a majority of medical experts even heard of Laci Petersen? Has a poll been taken of medical experts to determine what a "majority" think? Have more than a handful even examined the evidence? This kind of sloppy language is all too common.

Then, over in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a story about a computer programmer who has said that "she and a few expert friends could crack Georgia's $54 million touch-screen voting system in a matter of minutes," we read that "Brit Williams, a retired Kennesaw State University professor who helped design the state's touch-screen security system...put the odds of corrupting the software undetected at 1 billion to one." News flash for Professor Williams - there are no "odds" of this happening. Since this event (the attempt to hack the system) isn't going to happen a billion times, nor are there "sub-events" from which one can calculate the probability of a larger "joint event," this statement is completely unscientific. What he means is that he thinks that it's very unlikely that they will succeed. He should say so. If he really thinks the "odds" are a "billion to one", then I've got a dollar I'd like to put up as a bet.


 

Quote of the Day - Tom Tomorrow

But boy, did those people [who bought the administration lies which led to the invasion of Iraq] ever get played. The honest ones are beginning to acknowledge it, the rest are busy trying to convince themselves that the mountain of bullshit they bought is actually delicious ice cream, and never mind that weird smell.

 

The Stalin School of Falsification


Leon Trotsky wrote a book called The Stalin School of Falsification, which describes the Stalinist practice of rewriting history, including airbrushing people out of photos to make them into "non-persons". Of course the practice of rewriting history is also straight out of George Orwell's 1984. Thanks to the indispensable Memory Hole, we have this evidence that the Bush Administration are avid practitioners. The Internet makes rewriting history a lot easier, but it also makes getting away with it a lot harder.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


 

Nice work if you can get it


From Reuters:
The New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday said it paid out almost $140 million to Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Grasso in accrued savings, benefits and incentives, and extended his contract until 2007. The exchange said...it provides for the same base salary of $1.4 million and the same annual bonus of at least $1 million.
Now will someone please tell me what on earth this man is doing to "earn" that kind of money? Is he running a company that has a problem with competition? Has to introduce "new products" every year or go out of business? Has a significant number of employees to supervise? Is constantly on the hunt for new companies to buy? Well, let's just all be thankful he just got a nice tax cut so he can "stimulate the economy." Most likely he'll take his money and buy some stocks. That'll certainly create more jobs.

 

Fox News - Not even close to being Fair and Balanced


From the Wage-Slave Journal, the claim from Brit Hume on Fox News (scroll to lower-right) that "statistically speaking U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California." As Wage-Slave notes, Iraq and California may be the same size, but there are 34.5 million people in California, and only 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and, in fact, U.S. soldiers in Iraq stand a 46 times greater chance of being murdered than do the residents of California. Well, what's a little factor of 46 among friends, eh Brit?

By the way, note how Hume refers to the "citizens" of California rather than "residents." Presumably he's aware that there are one heck of a lot of people in California who aren't citizens, but considers them not worth worrying about. Maybe he figures they should be worth 3/5 of a person, kind of like the original U.S. Constitution view of black people.


 

Missing stories


A short item in today's paper: "U.S., Afghan forces retake mountain pass." Gee, that's funny, I don't remember any story in the paper about how Taliban guerrillas had taken control of that mountain pass in the first place.

A few months ago, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq; that's now down to at most 14,000, and possibly fewer. Australia had 2,000 troops in Iraq, they are either entirely or almost entirely gone. Remember reading about those troop reductions in the U.S. press? I sure don't.

So often, it's not just what you read, but what you don't read.


 

Paying for war crimes - $16 billion to restore Iraq's water


A big story in the last 24 hours is that it is going to cost us (and I do mean us - you and me, assuming you're a U.S. taxpayer) $16 billion to fix the problems with the Iraqi water system. Most news stories just leave it at that, but at least one TV report I heard added that this was the results of 13 years of neglect.

But what was it that happened 13 years ago, and what was it that was happening during the last 13 years? You won't find out listening to or reading the U.S. mainstream media, not a word. What happened 13 years ago, in fact, was that a major war crime was committed, on a scale of staggering proportions - the U.S. deliberately and systematically destroyed the Iraqi water system. Article 54 of the Geneva convention states:

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive."
And what was it that was happening during the last 13 years of "neglect" of the Iraqi water system? Of course, it was the UN sanctions, kept in place that entire time by the refusal of the US and UK to consider their repeal, and with the US and UK repeatedly vetoing attempts by Iraq to import "dual-use" chemicals which were needed to repair the water filtration system. And the consequences? An estimated half million Iraqi children died because of the lack of clean drinking water.

Was this an accident? A surprise to the U.S.? Any civilized person might like to think so, but, sadly, the answer is absolutely no. In 2000, Professor Thomas Nagy of George Washington University managed to obtain military documents written before the Gulf War. These documents make absolutely clear that the U.S. had studied in detail all aspects of Iraq's water system, had planned a strategy for preventing Iraq from reconstructing that system (via the sanctions), and knew in advance that "this could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease."

What happened in Iraq during the Gulf War was a deliberate war crime, one of the greatest in history, without any question. A half million children died as a result of that war crime, and now the people of the U.S. will end up paying $16 billion to pay for that crime. The war criminals, meanwhile, continue to be "respected" citizens.


 

Fixing the grid with voodoo economics


Estimates are that $100 billion dollars are needed to upgrade the power grid in this country. According to news reports on this subject, "The Edison Electric Institute, a utility lobbying group, says consumers would pay an average of $100 more annually for the fixes and would reap $500 a year in savings."

Now I don't have a degree in economics, but this doesn't make any sense at all. If the power companies could lower their costs by $500 per customer per year, then wouldn't it make sense for them to invest the $100 per customer per year to do that, keep their prices the same, and pocket the extra $400 per customer per year as profit? Isn't that the way capitalism works? For any business, an "ROI" (return on investment) of 400% would be the holy grail. And it's not as if money is tight and the utilities would have any trouble borrowing the money to get started - interest rates are at something like 47-year lows, and banks are desperate to find customers who actually want to borrow money to invest.

Of course, if they (the companies with the help of the media) can convince consumers that we have to pay in advance, then in the future they can come up with an excuse why prices can't be lowered, and pocket the entire amount. That's really the way capitalism works.


 

Quote of the Day - Schwarzenegger

"Gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman." - Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Sean Hannity radio show
Yes, I know it was a slip of the tongue, but it's still funny.

While we're on the subject of humor, if you aren't familiar with the political humorists listed in our links, take some time and check them out. Each and every one of them is a gem. In particular today I'll recommend you visit Mark Fiore, whose animated cartoons are unlike anything anyone else is doing. His latest effort, "Summer Tour", is about Ashcroft, and is only good, but if you browse through his "Animation Gallery" you will find some things which are absolutely priceless. Because he uses "flash animation," you'll probably need a "modern" operating system like OS X or Windows XP, but if you can handle that, make sure to check him out.


Wednesday, August 27, 2003


 

Journalists Find "Calm" When Only Palestinians Die - FAIR

During this six-week period of "relative quiet," [in July and early August] however, some 17 Palestinians were killed and at least 59 injured by Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
As usual, FAIR has the facts to illustrate the media bias in this country, in spades. In the words of Carly Simon, "Nobody does it better."

 

Political jokes of the day


Thanks to Danny Schechter for finding these gems:
"Well, we're all excited because President Bush has started his 35-day vacation. He's down there in Crawford, Texas and on the first day of his vacation he went fishing. He didn't find any fish but he believes they're there and that his intelligence is accurate." --David Letterman
"President Bush's economic team is now on their jobs and growth bus tour all across America. I think the only job they created so far is for the guy driving the bus." --Jay Leno
"President Bush has refused to declassify portions of the congressional 9/11 reports about the Saudis, because he says it will help the enemy. Not Al Qaeda, the Democrats." --Jay Leno

 

Lying about Arianna


During elections, the San Jose Mercury News runs a "Reality Check" column in which it analyzes the truth and lies in campaign commercials. An excellent idea, if done fairly. Today's column deconstructs an Arianna Huffington commercial (which can be seen online on her website) in which she says "There's a California we can live in where teachers are paid more than prison guards." Criticizing this statement, the Mercury News says: "The claim that prison guards make more than teachers isn't true today, but could be soon. The average teacher salary in California for the 2001-2002 school year was $54,348 according to the NEA [aside - was that the average teacher salary, which is irrelevant, or the average public school teacher salary, which is the only thing of concern to the Governor of California?]. The current average salary for correctional officers is $53,113 but will rise to $56,723 effective July 1." Well, excuse me, but wasn't July 1 last month? And wouldn't it be worth noting that, under laws already passed and signed by Gray Davis, the average salary for correctional officers will rise to $73,428 by 2006, thereby underscoring the significance of Huffington's comparison?

 

Judy Woodruff - Fair and Balanced


Interviewing Gubernatorial candidate Peter Ueberroth (a Republican running as an independent) on her "Inside Politics" show today, Woodruff spent virtually all of her time discussing the "horse race" - would he drop out since Schwarzenegger was the Republican favorite, etc.? Finally she turned to her one question on issues - taxes. A fair and balanced reporter would have simply asked "What is your plan or expectations for taxes in California?" But not Woodruff. Instead, she framed the question like this: "Will you take a pledge not to raise taxes?" Nothing like a nice neutral question.

 

Those wacky polls


On CNN today, Bill Schneider reports the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. 57% of those surveyed "approve of the way George W. Bush is handling 'the situation with Iraq'" (I just love that euphemism - the "situation with Iraq"). But when asked "Do you think the Bush administration does – or does not – have a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq?", only 44% answered yes, and 54% no. So evidently 13% of people approve of not having a clear plan. Interesting. Schneider managed to avoid commenting on this apparent anomaly.

 

Russia booming?


Nicholas Kristof has a column today which concludes with this: "Russia is now booming along at more than 6 percent this year, Ukraine at almost 5 percent - both much faster than the United States or Western Europe." The headline in the San Jose Mercury News summarizes the column: "Communist system wrecked the economy, but growth is now booming."

Unfortunately, Kristof seems not to have read his own column, which contains the following items: the Ukraine experienced a total economic decline of 59 percent (!) after the fall of the Soviet Union, "ordinary people commemorate not new freedoms but deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and drunkenness," life expectancy has fallen, and "work is so elusive that it is possible to hire a person for $1 a day." It's been more than ten years since the fall of the Soviet Union, and Kristof's one-time family home (now used as a village office) lacks not only indoor plumbing but even an outhouse, and Kristof is still blaming communism for this.

Even the growth Kristof touts (presumably of the GNP, although he never says) is a less than meaningful statistic when you start from an extremely low base (remember the decline of 59 percent). Lots of startup dot-com companies had growth of 1000% in their first year. As in the United States, while unemployment is rising, budgets for schools and hospitals are being cut, and people's lives are not improving, talk of "growth" is just that, talk.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003


 

Headlines can be so revealing


Within the past few hours, Israeli helicopter gunships killed a 65-year-old shopkeeper in Gaza, and wounded approximately 26 others, in a failed attempt at assassinating another Hamas member. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz headlines: "Bystander killed in failed IAF assassination attempt in Gaza." CNN uses this headline: "Israeli strike kills 1, wounds 23 in Gaza." But in the heart of the "liberal media," things are quite different. Here's how the NY Times titles their story: "Israeli Helicopters Fire Missiles Into Gaza Strip." And over at the Washington Post there was this: "Israeli Helicopter Fires at Car Near Gaza City." And no, the Times and Post stories were not filed before the outcome of those helicopter-fired missiles was known; their stores have all the details of what happened. It's only the emphasis, or should we say de-emphasis, on what happened, that distinguishes them.

Followup: I didn't think it could get worse, but it has. Over on MSNBC, the anchor reporting the story on the noon news led off with this: "Israel made good today on it's promise to continue targeting Hamas members." "Made good"? Could we bias the viewer any more, do you think? Over on the MSNBC web site, it's a similar story: "Deadly Israeli strike misses target." Well, at least the killing and the injuries made the subhead and weren't relegated to the story itself as they were in the Times and the Post.

More followup: I didn't make this explicit above, but read the headlines from the Times and the Post carefully. Notice anything? Not only don't they mention the victims of this attack, but they even euphemize the targets. In the Times, missiles are just being fired at the "Gaza Strip" (pretty big target); in the Post, they're being fired at a car. But not at actual people.


 

Iraq - the ever-changing (?) story


Back on Aug. 17, this story was reported: "A Danish soldier and two Iraqis were killed in southern Iraq in a shootout between troops and a group of looters stealing power cables." Another source reported the story like this: "A Danish soldier died after being shot during a gun battle with armed Iraqis whose truck had been stopped during a routine patrol in southern Iraq." The AP story which ran in a number of papers was headlined: "Danish soldier killed in clash with gunmen in Iraq."

All seems pretty clear, right? Lots of details like "stealing power cables" and "armed Iraqis in a truck" to make you think it couldn't possibly be pure fiction. Until this from the Danish press:

A Danish soldier who died last week after a shooting in Iraq was reportedly shot by his own [troops] in an attack on unarmed fishermen. Danish defence authorities are investigating the incident at the moment. Danish TV channel TV 2 reports that Pedersen's fellow soldiers mistook him for one of the Iraqis, and that the Iraqis were not thieves but unarmed fishermen. Two of them were killed by the Danes.
So far, no word on this in the U.S. press - we wouldn't want to give the wrong idea about how the "mission" is going, would we?

Monday, August 25, 2003


 

Out-and-out lies about casualties in Iraq


Just last Wednesday (scroll down), we commented on a story from the Salt Lake City Tribune, which reported: "So far, 1,007 U.S. military personnel have been wounded since March 19 when U.S. troops crossed the border into Iraq, said Lt. Ryan Fitzgerald from Central Command." But evidently, Lt. Fitzgerald was simply lying. Because in Sunday's Knight-Ridder papers, Joseph Galloway reports: "More than 1000 injured American soldiers have flowed through Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] since the war in Iraq began in March." So 1,007 is not the number of U.S. military personnel wounded, it is the number of such people wounded so badly they had to be evacuated from Iraq to just a single Army hospital. Clearly, the number of actual wounded must be much, much higher.

The article also contains an accidental commentary on the question of "supporting the troops." One soldier is now missing his right arm and has a smashed left ankle and foot because "he and his friend drove off base to buy some soda from peddlers on the streets of Baghdad." So despite the rhetoric from war supporters, they don't even "support the troops" enough to provide them with enough soda to keep them from getting killed or injured like this soldier. Of course, sending soda to Iraq isn't what's needed to solve this problem - bringing the soldiers home now is the only real solution.


 

Laying the groundwork for the next (?) war


Two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and still very much in progress, but the ground is being prepared for the next (?) war, this one against North Korea. One thing that paves the way for such a war, just as in Iraq, is a constant drumbeat about the "evil" nature of the leader of another country (the "next Hitler" syndrome). With North Korea, the drumbeat is particularly loud and comes from all directions. Unless you're a reader of Workers World newspaper, you're unlikely to have read a single positive statement about North Korea in your entire life.

Appearing on the Larry King show yesterday, Bill Maher referred to Kim Jong Il as "Little Kim," (I know Maher is a comedian, but this kind of figurative and in this case literal belittlement is hardly limited to him) and told how a German doctor returned from North Korea and claimed that a "holocaust" was taking place there. Maher talked about people "starving to death," but of course, if they were just starving due to a poor economy or drought or similar reasons, the proper response would be for the world to rush in food aid to prevent people from dying. But to Maher, what is happening in North Korea is "evil" we can't "tolerate," which, when coupled with a German referring to a "holocaust," certainly gives the listener the impression that the government is systematically killing or "ethnically cleansing" its own people. Of course nothing of the kind is happening in North Korea.

Meanwhile, over in the San Jose Mercury News, Karl Schoenberger (the Mercury News' Asia-Pacific correspondent who has covered Korea and Japan for the past 20 years), has his own "fun," asking whether North Korea is like the country in "The Mouse That Roared," pretending it has the "Q-bomb" in order to get aid and attention. Here are some of the phrases we find littered throughout this deadly (potentially, quite literally) article: "threaten[ing] the world with nuclear blackmail," "Kim's paranoia," "kicking out weapons inspectors in a tantrum," "recklessness," "obstreperous mouse." This kind of juvenile language is what passes for serious journalism on the subject of North Korea - the article was accorded the respect of nearly a full page in the "Perspective" section of the paper, starting on the first page on the upper right.

"Nuclear blackmail"? North Korea has never once threatened to use nuclear weapons except in self-defense. Only one country in the world has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in a first-strike situation - you guessed it, the United States.

"Paranoia"? I hate to state the obvious, but "maybe you're not paranoid, maybe they really are out to get you" as the saying goes. Surely, given the American record in Afghanistan and Iraq (and a host of other countries before that), thinking that there is a possibility that the U.S. might attack North Korea and, if you are North Korea, trying to do something about that could hardly be considered "paranoia."

A "tantrum"? North Korea is a country, who made a decision that they thought was in their best interests. It's the Bush administration which has been throwing its toys (unfortunately, deadly weapons) around the world like a baby out of control.

"Recklessness"? Let's see, let's name all the countries North Korea has invaded in the last 40 years. Hmm, let me think. OK, it's coming to me...none. OK, now let's name all the countries that the U.S. has invaded, bombed, or helped in the overthrow of their government in just the last decade or two: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty more. And we're going to say that it's North Korea who is reckless?

"Obstreperous mouse"? Let's see, "noisily and stubbornly defiant, "aggressively boisterous." Just which country is it that fits those descriptions? North Korea, who has been peacefully minding its own business? Or the U.S., which insists on describing North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" that must be dealt with and clearly is threatening military action? The "mouse" goes right along with Maher's "Little Kim" and George Bush calling Kim a "pygmy" - the kind of insults we expect to find in the third grade, not in serious political discourse.

I saved the best and most serious (although in some ways the funniest) section for last. Schoenberger writes this:

What's required is a willingness to chip away at Kim's post-Iraq paranoia by responding seriously to his shrill and unbending demand for a "non-aggression pact.'' No U.S. president would sign such an agreement, and Congress would never ratify it. But the U.S. delegation could break the ice by making an unambiguous statement that America does not intend to strike militarily at North Korea.

The statement would carry more weight than past assurances because it would be witnessed in a formal context by North Korea's sympathetic former benefactors, China and Russia, who are party to the talks along with U.S. allies South Korea and Japan.
A "shrill and unbending demand" for a "non-aggression pact"? What a downright dastardly, bellicose thing to ask for! It speaks volumes that North Korea is asking for such an elementary thing, and that the author thinks that "No U.S. president would sign such as agreement and Congress would never ratify it." And then, almost laughably, he procedes on to claim that we could solve this problem not with a "non-aggression pact" but with a "statement from Congress" that was "witnessed in a formal context." This just has to be the funniest thing I've read in quite a while. The U.S. tears up treaties (e.g., the ABM treaty) it decides are no longer in its best interests, it has its president sign treaties which it then renegs on (e.g., the international criminal court). And Schoenberger thinks that a "statement from Congress" would be worth anything more than the paper it's printed on?

Readers can make up their own minds about the nature of the North Korean state, I won't address that here. But whatever your opinion on that front, you should be aware that the ground is being prepared, and your minds are being prepared, to make North Korea the next "enemy" "threatening our national security" and "putting us at great risk" who we "must" invade or take other military action against immediately. It is up to those of us who can see through these lies to make sure this doesn't happen.

Followup: Oops! I don't know how I misread that quote, but it's actually worse than I thought! Schoenberger didn't say a "statement from Congress" was the answer, he says that a statement from the "U.S. delegation" would do it. Carrying even less weight on the already weightless scale.


Friday, August 22, 2003


 

Keeping editorial writers honest


Here's a radical concept - compare what people say with what they said just a few months ago. At the Washington City Paper, Eric Wemple does a nice job comparing editorials advocating the invasion of Iraq, with editorials now being written in the same papers offering some of that good old "historical revisionism" when explaining their current positions.

Here's what he says about the Washington Times:

"According to a Gallup Poll released yesterday, 86 percent of Americans continue to be certain, or at least believe it is likely, that before the war Iraq not only had the facilities to develop weapons of mass destruction, but that it also possessed biological or chemical weapons," reads a June 17 editorial. Translation: If John Q. Public doesn't feel hoodwinked, where's the crisis?

 

A "clean" hit?


Yesterday, six missiles were fired from Israeli helicopter gunships at a car in a crowded intersection in Gaza (since Gaza is the most densely populated place on the planet, I doubt there are many uncrowded intersections). My local TV news described this as a "clean" hit on Hamas leader Abu Shanab, with video showing a devastated car all by itself in the middle of the intersection. From most coverage, you would get the idea that Abu Shanab was the only one killed. CNN reported: "In the past, with these sort of attacks, bystanders have been killed or injured. This appears not to be the case this time. This is a very busy street, but the missiles appear to have hit the car and the car only, and the only dead or injured are, in fact, Abu Shanab and his bodyguards," (at least they mentioned the two bodyguards; to most channels, they were non-persons) and went on to describe the assassination this way: "This is clearly what Israel calls a pinpoint prevention hit." Even though the claim is attributed to Israel (but note that Israel doesn't even have to say it, the reporter is happy to speak for them), both the words "pinpoint" and "prevention" are as loaded as can be. Imagine my surprise, reading the paper today, to learn that this "clean" "pinpoint" attack not only killed three people, but also injured seventeen (17) people (some of whom may die, undoubtedly without their deaths and certainly without their names ever appearing in the U.S. press).

One wonders what was being "prevented" by the murder of three people who were not even accused (nevertheless convicted) of any crime (nevertheless any crime punishable by death). Indeed, writing in today's NY Times, James Bennet reports: "An Israeli security official acknowledged that the missile strike would increase violence. 'There is almost no doubt about that.'"


Thursday, August 21, 2003


 

Who's responsible for ending the ceasefire?


John King reporting on CNN, echoing sentiments I've heard on several other news reports today, claims that the end of the ceasefire (between Israel and Palestinians) was "all set in motion by the suicide bombing two days ago," clearly placing the blame on the Palestinians for this turn of events. But just last week, it was Israel who killed a leader of Islamic Jihad in Hebron, bringing vows to avenge that death. That may or may not have been the immediate trigger for the suicide bombing, since the NY Times claims that "in a videotaped statement, the bomber who committed the attack tonight attributed it primarily to an incident that took place before the cease-fire was declared, the army's killing in June of a local Hamas leader in Hebron." Of course the Palestinians don't have an army with tanks and helicopter gunships, and when they retaliate for a murder, it can take months of planning and doesn't necessarily happen with 24 or 48 hours of the triggering event. In any case, any objective observer would understand that the claim that the breakdown of the ceasefire was "set in motion by the suicide bombing" is complete nonsense. American news commentators, however, and even news anchors like King, unfortunately don't qualify as objective observers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


 

Still more curious news editing


In today's New York Times, a report on John Ashcroft's latest's speech notes that the speech was delivered to "the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group." But when that article found it's way into the San Jose Mercury News, the AEI had become a "conservative-leaning group." Perhaps it's the geographic location of the Mercury News, since the only place in the country where the AEI could be considered merely conservative "leaning" would be at the nearby Santa Cruz Mystery Spot (a place where optical illusions - or mysterious natural forces, should you be a believer - severely distort one's view of the vertical).

 

Quote of the Day - George Bush

The terrorists that struck today again showed their contempt for the innocent.
This from a man who is not only responsible for the deaths of eight thousand innocent Iraqi civilians, along with an unknown number of equally innocent Iraqi soldiers, but whose contempt for those people extends to referring to those deaths as "collateral damage" and not even bothering to count them ("We don't do body counts").

 

Unreported casualties and misreported deaths in Iraq - the story continues


From the Salt Lake City Tribune:
Jesus Vidana dropp[ed] like a rock when shrapnel crashed through his helmet and into his skull on April 8 during during a fierce street fight in Baghdad...His head wound was so severe that their commander radioed he was dead...Cpl. Vidana, 25, survived and has undergone three operations and months of rehabilitation to learn all over again how to feed himself, talk and walk. A fourth surgery is scheduled to remove more shrapnel from his brain...He is among 17 Marine reservists from Fox Company, drawn mainly from Utah and Nevada, awarded Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat.

They are called WIAs for wounded in action, but their numbers are not listed under casualty postings from the U.S. Central Command or the Pentagon. Reporters must specifically ask for those tallies...So far, 1,007 U.S. military personnel have been wounded since March 19 when U.S. troops crossed the border into Iraq, said Lt. Ryan Fitzgerald from Central Command. That number compares with 467 "nonmortal wounds" in the 1991 Gulf War, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.."I know of no other war in which WIAs have not been listed among the casualties," said Robert Voyles, director of the Fort Douglas Museum. "I have no idea why this conflict would be any different." Fitzgerald said WIA numbers are not publicized because the military has no way of determining the severity of the wounds. "Someone could get a couple of stitches for a cut and return to duty that same afternoon," he said. "That's why we give these numbers on a response basis to reporters."
So, let's get this straight. They have the numbers, and they provide them to reporters on a "response basis" (i.e., when asked a direct question), but they won't provide them voluntarily. And in the meantime, they would very much like us to forget, or to never know, that people like Jesus Vidana exist. When is the last time you saw a followup like this one from the Salt Lake City Tribune in any major media source, letting you know what happened to those anonymous soldiers who show up in articles as "3 soldiers wounded today in Iraq"?

Meanwhile over in the Telluride (Co.) Daily Planet (!), we read:

The press has gone along with the U.S. government's specious policy of separating out deaths caused by hostile action and KIAs from accidents, friendly fire and the like. Aside from the message it sends to the friends and kinfolk of such dead G.I.s, it is dishonest - a blatant attempt to minimize the losses our soldiers are taking over there.

In one incident, a Humvee racing to the scene of an ambush on the notorious Baghdad Airport road crashed, and one of the men in it died. He wasn't included in the weekly figures of Americans killed in Iraq.

This is ridiculous, totally bogus, and, again, an insult to the man and those who mourn him.
The article from which this quote is taken is entitled Lies, damned lies, and news, which is a nice headline, but unfortunately, somewhat misleading, since more often than not, it's not the out-and-out lies in the media which are the problem, but the omissions, the emphasis, the distortions, and so on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


 

Jenin, Jenin


Just back from a sold-out (300+) screening of the film Jenin, Jenin, which documents the aftermath of the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp in April, 2002, and in particular the state of mind of the people who survived and still live there. An extremely powerful film which, quite naturally, is banned in Israel. Here in the "land of the free," we don't believe (for the most part, anyway) in "banning" films, but even with 100 channels on your TV, your chances of seeing the film outside of an Arab film festival or a showing by your local solidarity group are zero. PBS? Forget it.

But if you get lucky, and you do get a chance to see the movie, don't miss it. And, if you have the opportunity to put on a showing yourself to your group or in your town, do that too (click on the film title above to get contact info). The Israelis, the U.S. government, and, sadly, most of the world wants you to forget what happened in Jenin. They want you to concentrate on trivial issues like "does the number of people killed there qualify as a 'massacre' or not?" rather than on the real issues - the continued oppression of the Palestinian people, and the countless war crimes committed by the Israeli army in the course of that oppression. This film will help you remember.


 

Quote of the Day - George Bush

We've got about 10,000 troops there [in Afghanistan], which is down from, obviously, major combat operations.
In fact, as noted by the Washington Post, "the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country." I admit this comes as a surprise to me, but one presumes it shouldn't be news to the "Commander in Chief."

 

Now can we forget about May 1?


There is a minor media flap over whether George Bush has "changed his mind" about Iraq. For hopefully the only time in my life, I agree with Bush - he quite clearly said on May 1 that "major combat operations have ended" in Iraq, not that "combat operations have ended" (although evidently a headline on a White House web site did say that, leaving out the word "major"). And now we have further confirmation that the U.S. considers that combat continues in Iraq. In conjunction with the death of Reuters photographer Mazen Dana (see item below), U.S. military spokesperson Col. Guy Shields is quoted in the San Jose Mercury News: "Under the current rules of engagement, Shields said, soldiers do not fire warning shots. 'It's still a battlefield,' he said."

So there we have it, nothing changed on May 1 other than our impression of George Bush as a swaggering popinjay. Now will the media please give up the totally unjustified compartmentalization of soldiers deaths in Iraq, and report the true extent of coalition deaths (316 as of this writing) rather than the bogus 5x lower "since May 1" number?


Monday, August 18, 2003


 

Just 5 words


In Iraq, a Reuters cameraman, Mazen Dana, was deliberately shot and killed ("engaged" as the military obscenely puts it) by US troops. On MSNBC/CNBC, reporter Dawna Friesen noted that Dana had an extensive background in reporting from dangerous areas, notably the West Bank, and had been shot and beaten many times during the course of his work. She "neglected," however, to include five key words in her story - "by Israeli troops and settlers." Over on CNN, during the Lou Dobbs show, a similar report, noting that while reporting from Hebron, Dana had been "beaten and attacked." Again, no mention of who might have been responsible.

From the Committee to Protect Journalists, part of Dana's story:

In May 2000, Dana was shot in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet while filming Palestinian youths throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. Two months later, Jewish settlers beat him unconscious while he tried to film a conflict. The next day, an Israeli police officer slammed Dana's head in the rear door of an ambulance while he was filming the evacuation of a Palestinian youth wounded in clashes. Dana was shot again last October, in the same leg, two days in a row.
Followup: This (not so) curious omission is not limited to the broadcast media. Here's how the New York Times puts it: "During his career, Mr. Dana, who was married and had four children, had been threatened, beaten and shot at on several occasions." And don't think for a second that the Times isn't aware of who did the threatening, beating, and shooting, since they quote extensively from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

More followup: Thanks to Arash from Afghan Voice, this link to video footage of Mazen Dana being shot by Israeli soldiers.


 

Depleted uranium - another MIA (Missing in America) story


Depleted uranium weapons, unique instruments of death which combine elements of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons along with conventional weapons, were used extensively in urban areas during the recent invasion of Iraq (as well as in many previous U.S. military actions). Although their use is extremely controversial, and arguably criminal, coverage in the U.S. press is limited in the extreme. Googling turned up just a handful of references in the mainstream media, and only one of any real significance, this one from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from November, 2002. The only U.S. source to cover the subject extensively, and repeatedly, is Workers World newspaper; the latest issue carries coverage of an ongoing, very real controversy over the deployment of Dutch troops in Iraq. As usual when the U.S. government is involved, the story revolves not just around the horrendous weapons themselves, but also official lies - the government assuring the government of the Netherlands that DU weapons were not used in the area where Dutch troops are to be deployed, when in fact the evidence is quite to the contrary. Let me know when you read this story in your local paper.

Followup: From a reader, two more stories. One prewar story (or post-Gulf War I story, more accurately) from the San Jose Mercury News, and a second, very recent, story from the Christian Science Monitor. The latter just the type of story that should have been, but wasn't, picked up by other media outlets.


 

Pursuing the "Just 16 words"


As we (and many others) have pointed out (see stories below), the "just 16 words" argument was ludicrous from the get-go since, among other things, Bush & Co. have uttered literally dozens if not hundreds of lies pushing the invasion of Iraq. But even concentrating on just that one issue ("Niger-gate"), there is more than has previously been disclosed, as we learn today in a well-documented report on Unknown News:
President George W Bush chaired two National Security Council (NSC) meetings in December 2002 where "the lead item on the agenda was to settle on an official response" to Iraq's UN-mandated inventory of weapons.

These meetings took place on the mornings of Dec. 18th and 19th. On the afternoon of the 19th, the US released its response to Iraq's report. Under the heading "Nuclear Weapons," a State Department "fact sheet" stated:

"The [Iraqi] Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. -- Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?" This State Department fact sheet was the only official US response to Iraq's weapons report. The obvious, unavoidable conclusion is that it must have been discussed at these NSC meetings, where the President holds the gavel. If so, then this statement about uranium from Niger was either tacitly or explicitly approved by the President and the National Security Council.
Of course, one may rightly ask why this kind of publicly accessible information hasn't been previously assembled by the "liberal" media like, say, the NY Times.

 

Judith Miller & the New York Times


Alexander Cockburn has a excellent piece out in today's Counterpunch documenting the full trail of the lies emanating from the NY Times and its star "WMD" reporter Judith Miller, which helped lead this country into the invasion of Iraq.
We don't have full 20/20 hindsight yet, but we do know for certain that all the sensational disclosures in Miller's major stories between late 2001 and early summer, 2003, promoted disingenuous lies. There were no secret biolabs under Saddam's palaces; no nuclear factories across Iraq secretly working at full tilt. A huge percentage of what Miller wrote was garbage, garbage that powered the Bush administration's propaganda drive towards invasion.

What does that make Miller? She was a witting cheer-leader for war. She knew what she was doing. And what does Miller's performance make the New York Times?

 

The shifting sands of the Mideast


Just last Friday, three days ago, news outlets were giving prominent play to this story: "Israel has agreed to hand control of four West Bank cities back to the Palestinians." By today, though, it turns out there was no such "agreement," as reported for example here: "Israeli and Palestinian commanders failed to reach an agreement late Sunday night over Israel's planned transfer to Palestinian security control of two West Bank cities." The other two cities? They've already become an afterthought, a mere "possibility": "Mr. Mofaz also held out the possibility of withdrawing later this month from two more cities, Ramallah and Tulkarm, if Israel judged that Mr. Dahlan's approach toward terrorism and the wanted men was effective."

Sunday, August 17, 2003


 

Propaganda/Prop-agenda


Two excellent new articles on the subject of propaganda, known more gently as media manipulation or "spin," and sometimes just plain old lying. Both are reviews of the new book "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq" by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton: one from Jeffrey St. Clair writing for Counterpunch, and the other from Brian Eno in the Observer. Both are must-read articles (as, apparently, is the book). One obvious but rarely-thought-of fact: propaganda consists not just of what we are told to think, but also in what we are told to think about (and, implicitly, what we are made to ignore) - what Eno dubs "prop-agenda."

 

Irony - 1, Truth - 0


Under the suitably ironic headline "Aides Say Bush Waited for Facts Before Commenting on Blackout", yesterday's NY Times informs us that Bush was "huddl[ing] with aides in San Diego to sort out the crisis" for 4 1/2 hours before speaking to the nation, because "it was more important...for the White House to be sure of the facts before the president said the power failure was not caused by terrorism. 'Even if within two hours it was pretty clear, for a president to say something, it's got to be more than pretty clear, it's got to be 100 percent certain,' said one Republican with strong ties to the White House."

Evidently this "one Republican" wasn't around for the State of the Union address, which fell about 98% short of the 100% target, not to mention hundreds of other speeches including the "he wouldn't let them in" claim and many, many others. Compounding the irony of this ludicrous claim, the article reports that one of the people huddling with Bush while he was deciding on what to say was Stephen J. Hadley, one of the several people who fell on their sword over Niger-gate.

As a side note, this column pointed out several days ago that no one could possibly have been 100% sure that the blackout wasn't caused by terrorism after just 4 1/2 hours, since the cause and even the origin of the blackout still isn't "100% certain" as this is written.


 

Quote of the Day - Bruce Springsteen

Lying the country into war isn't a Republican or a Democratic thing, because both of them have done it. Asking whether we were misled into a war where our sons and daughters are dying isn't a liberal question or a conservative question, it's an American question. The truth will out.

Bruce Springsteen, Pacbell Park, San Francisco, CA, Aug. 16, 2003

[Ed. note - this quotation is from memory; if anyone reading this happens to have been recording things, and can provide the exact wording, I'll be happy to replace this with the exact quote. The gist, however, is as above.]


Friday, August 15, 2003


 

Heat waves


Between 1500 and 3000 people are reported dead in France due to the latest heat wave, where temperatures have barely hit 100. In Iraq, temperatures have been 120 for weeks, and, unlike in France, electricity and water have been in limited supply. There have been reports of a small number of U.S. soldiers dying from the heat in Iraq, but I have yet to see a single report of similar deaths of Iraqis. Is it possible that the Iraqis are hardier than the French, or just more used to the heat? Or is it possible (or probable) that we just aren't hearing about the deaths of those "non-persons"? And why hasn't a single reporter asked this (seemingly obvious) question?

 

Yet another MIA (Missing in America) story - Yugoslavia as a precedent for Iraq


From the Guardian, this story about how Iraq was not the first illegal invasion of a sovereign state by the U.S., nor the first case of fabricated atrocities. Some excerpts:

"Iraq was not the first illegal US-led attack on a sovereign state in recent times. The precedent was set in 1999 in Yugoslavia...Yugoslavia was a sovereign state with internationally recognised borders; an unsolicited intervention in its internal affairs was excluded by international law. The US-led onslaught was therefore justified as a humanitarian war - a concept that most international lawyers regarded as having no legal standing...In Yugoslavia, as in Iraq, the ultimate goal of the aggressor nations was regime change. In Iraq, the justification for aggression was the possession of weapons of mass destruction; in Yugoslavia, it was the prevention of a humanitarian crisis and genocide in Kosovo. In both cases, the evidence for such accusations has been lacking...Despite claims by western leaders that Yugoslav forces were conducting "genocide" against the Kosovan Albanians, reports of mass killings and atrocities...were often later admitted to be wrong. Atrocities certainly were carried out by both Serb and KLA forces. But investigative teams did not find evidence of the scale of dead or missing claimed at the time, responsibility for which was attributed to the Yugoslavs. The damage inflicted by US and British bombing, meanwhile, was considerable."

Sound familiar? Oh, and by the way, George W. Bush was not the President of the U.S. in 1999. Just a reminder.


 

A rare case of "fair and balanced" news


Thanks to an AP story which has received fairly wide circulation, George Bush and Gale Norton's claim that the administration has made "significant progress" on reducing the maintenance and repair backlog of the National Parks was balanced by the claim by the National Parks Conservation Association that, of the $2.9 billion spent so far by the administration, just $370 million of that was actually new funds, with the overall backlog remaining "essentially unchanged." Not noted in the article is the fact that the $4.9 billion pledged by Bush over five years is identical to the amount that is being spent each month on fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, money that was committed with virtually no debate and, it appears, an equal amount of thought. Also of interest is the fact that it was evidently the aggressive work of the National Parks Conservation Association PR people who are responsible for this rare case of balance in the news; rest assured that, absent that effort, the reporters would have happily reported Bush's claims without bothering to seek out the truth themselves. Also rest assured that most TV coverage of this event will feature only Bush making his claims in a suitable photo-op, without any balance.

 

Quote of the Day

George Bush said - "Bring 'em on." We say, "Bring them home now." - Nancy Lessin

Bush and Rumsfeld care for soldiers like Tyson Foods cares for chickens. - Stan Goff
Lessin is a co-founder of Military Families Speak Out. Goff is a member of Veterans For Peace. As evidence that the tide may (finally) be turning against the Bush cabal, the source of these quotes is the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Both the NY Times and the Washington Post (and many others) covered the press conference. Neither carried the Goff quote; only the Post carried the Lessin quote, which was a centerpiece of the conference.

 

MIA = Missing in America


In yet another story that has appeared in the UK but not in the US, the Independent is reporting today that "Spain ordered its permanent representative to the United Nations to break his holiday and return to New York after he said the invasion of Iraq was 'questionable'' if no weapons of mass destruction were found." Those who watched the UN debates or remember the famous Azores meeting between Bush, Blair, and Aznar, will recall that Spain was among the most vociferous proponents of war against Iraq at that time. Of course, that support didn't extend to actually sending troops to take part in the invasion, a fact that might have had something to do with the fact that more than 2 million Spaniards marched against the war.

Thursday, August 14, 2003


 

The media and the blackout


The Northeast is experiencing a major blackout, and it now seems like the cause of it was a lightning strike on a particular power plant. But before that was being reported, the standard line on several different stations I was monitoring went like this: "The cause of the blackout is unknown, but it was definitely not terrorism." Now if the cause was unknown, how on earth could you say with certainty that it was not terrorism?

Of course, the other blackout is on the word "capitalism." I'm speculating here, and maybe I'm way off base, but it sure seems likely that a system in which one power plant going off line can produce a blackout in six different states can only have been designed that way to maximize profits. Because it certainly doesn't seem like a rational design created to satisfy people's needs.

Followup: By the next morning, it seems definite that not only was it not a lightning strike that caused the blackout, Niagra Power says that the weather there was beautiful all day and there wasn't even a hint of lightning anywhere in the area. An interesting lesson in "rumorology" and media dynamics how such apparently definite information can be 100% wrong. Most newspapers are being more circumspect about terrorism than the broadcast media were last night, using language like "no evidence of terrorism." However, considering that as of this moment it isn't even known where the blackout started, it would seem more accurate simply to say that there is no information whatsoever about the cause of the blackout. I mean, if it turns out that a fire caused the blackout, which is another rumor, until you know how the fire started, how could you possibly know that it wasn't a terrorist who started it?

More followup: Investigative reporter Greg Palast has a great take on the situation, highlighted by its headline: "Power Outage Traced To Dim Bulb in White House." (Despite the headline, this is a serious article, not a joke).


 

News beneath the radar


One of the ways that the "free press" maintains its hold on that title is not by suppressing news totally, but in what it chooses to emphasize day after day (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson) and what it reports, briefly, on the inside pages of the newspaper, and then quickly drops from sight.

One such story from yesterday - "Nearly 8,000 US physicians are calling for government-financed national health insurance". You will find this rather important story reported in some newspapers, but definitely not all (among the missing, from what one can tell from such sources as Google News - the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others). In other cases, as in the Washington Post, the story is found in the "Washington in Brief" section, buried. Likewise on TV, the story appears on some but not all of the networks and cable channels, and in all cases, is treated as a minor story, not receiving repeated play on the cable news stations. In short, if you blinked yesterday, or didn't happen to watch TV or read the paper very carefully yesterday, your chances of knowing about this development are nil. Your chances of knowing that Gary Coleman is running for Governor of California - 100%. Value of the "free press" in America - priceless. Or should that be "worthless"?


 

Quote of the Day


Rob Nichols, chief Treasury Dept. press officer, had this to say in reference to the "human shields" who went to Iraq before the invasion and who are being threatened with $10,000 fines:
The right to free speech is not a license to violate U.S. or international law. The irony here is that their actions, under Saddam Hussein's Iraq, would be met with execution. The irony is thick.
It is indeed. Just what "actions" is he thinking of that would have been met with execution in Iraq? Spending money in Iraq? Obviously not. OK, how about travelling to the U.S. and spending money there? No, Iraqi citizens were certainly permitted to do that. The only thing that Nichols can possibly be referring to is the act of speaking out against the actions of your own government, the very thing he claims the people are not being fined for.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


 

Injuries matter


I have written several times (see earlier postings) about the hidden rate of injuries to US soldiers in Iraq, something the military and the administration are doing an even better job of covering up than of the deaths (which are at least mentioned, even if only those which occured after May 1 and were due to hostile fire). Injuries are often mentioned in individual stories ("one soldier was killed and three injured today...") but virtually never followed up on or summarized.

Here's a letter that appeared in the "Backtalk" section of Antiwar.com which poignantly illustrates the situation:

My son in law is in Ward 57 at Walter Reed. Lost his right leg to an RPG attack - the press is ignoring the number of injuries - especially amputees.

Except for the Washington Post article they want to forget it. When I asked at Walter Reed why in my son-in-law's attack near Kirkuk on July 9 did the Army Public Affairs officer say no one was seriously hurt - I was told it would not be good for the President. My son-in-law was then in very serious condition in a field hospital in Kirkuk flown shortly later to Germany in very serious condition. Yet the public announcement was "no one seriously injured."

 

Howard "Internet-savvy" Dean?


In today's email, an email message from DeanForAmerica.com, with a subject line "Presidential Candidate Gov. Howard Dean, M.D." After a typical campaign pitch, the following line: "The following message was sent to you by SuperEmailBargains.com."

So this "internet-savvy" candidate is not only sending out spam, he does so by paying money to the kind of company whose business is sending out spam pitching viagra and similar nonsense. Brilliant!

The thought did occur to me that this could be a "black operation," with some right-winger attempting to smear Dean's reputation by sending out spam in his name, but all the evidence (like the link you can click on in the email which takes you straight to Dean's site to register as a supporter) suggests that this is 100% legitimate. And 100%, Grade A-1 spam.


 

Quote of the Day - Bremer

Freedom matters. I think it's important to ... look beyond the shootouts and blackouts and remind ourselves of a range of rights that Iraqis enjoy today because of the coalition's military victory.
Let's see...that would be the right to not vote, the right to not have a job, the right to not appear on the street after curfew, the right to be killed if you happen to be anywhere near American soldiers conducting operations... I wonder if that's the "range of rights" that Bremer was referring to?

 

The shorthand gets shorter


On Good Morning America this morning, while interviewing Paul Bremer, Dianne Sawyer mentioned (sorry, transcript not available, this is approximate) "the 55 soldiers that have died." She didn't even bother to add the usual "by hostile action since May 1" qualifier. To the mainstream media, it's a "given" that the only soldiers who "count" are the ones who have died since Bush's May 1 speech. No, Dianne, if we count all "coalition" soldiers, 310 have now died as a direct result of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The media treats May 1 as if it represented the signing of an armistice or in some way the official end to a war. It was not. It was a speech, nothing more. It does not deserve the significance it is being given. Also in this morning's news (and receiving some TV time on my local news, anyway), military families are speaking out and demanding that the troops be brought home now. If I were part of a military family whose loved one had been killed prior to May 1, it seems to me I would be particularly incensed at the continued media trivialization of their death.


Tuesday, August 12, 2003


 

Good news on the California recall front!


From the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Films and television shows featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and other celebrity candidates in California's gubernatorial recall election will likely not be broadcast in the state for the next few months so that stations can avoid having to give rival candidates equal time."

I mean, have you seen "Batman and Robin"? I haven't seen any of Arnold's other films, but from that one, I can see how he's made his reputation playing robots. If we're going to have an actor for Governor, at least let's get one with some talent!


 

Iraq - the disinformation keeps coming


All over the news, for example here, is the story that US weapons inspector David Kay, currently searching Iraq for WMD (or, some would say, attempting to plant evidence of WMD programs), has reported to Congress that "Republican Guard commanders were ordered by Hussein's regime to launch chemical-filled shells at oncoming coalition troops." As usual, this story has been reported totally uncritically by the press.

David Kay revealed his colors prior to the war with his scurrilous attacks on Scott Ritter, but it isn't necessary to apply such prior knowledge to analyze what he has to say now. A little rational thought is all that is needed. We are told by Kay and various unnamed officials that one or more of the following may true: Iraqi field commanders were convinced by US broadcasts not to use the weapons, or that in the chaos that ensued during the war, the weapons could not be delivered to front-line units, or that they were hastily hidden and have yet to be found, or finally they were destroyed by Iraqi officials or US air attacks.

All of these theories, however, founder on one simple problem - people. As I began writing back in May (pre-blog), whether weapons (or weapons programs) existed, or were hidden, or were destroyed, or (in this case) whether orders were received to use them, there were people involved - lots of people. And not just the "key scientists" and generals, but ordinary soldiers, technicians, truck drivers, etc. -- people who would have received the orders to deploy chemical weapons, been guarding the warehouse where they were stored, driven trucks out to the desert to hide or destroy them, received training in how to use them, etc. Now, given the financial (and asylum) incentives being offered for actual evidence of any of this, it is at all plausible that not a single person would have come forward with this evidence? Indeed, it is reported that some of the key people who have come forward, like Obeidi (he of the buried centrifuge parts) and Gen. Amer al-Saadi (senior Iraqi science advisor) have been squirreled away, kept from the prying eyes of the press precisely because they have said that there were no weapons; we wouldn't want them repeating that on CNN. No doubt pressure is being put on them and others like them to change their story (i.e., lie) in return for rewards or the promise of more lenient punishments. And, it is certainly arguable that people like that could be lying to avoid being prosecuted for war crimes. But the ordinary Iraqi soldiers who were in charge of guarding a warehouse where chemical weapons were stored would have no fear of punishment. So there can only be one explanation why none have come forward, and that is that no such people (and hence no such weapons) exist.

And if that isn't convincing enough for you, think about the "last-minute destruction" theory, which has been advanced by Kay, Rumsfeld before him, and others. Consider this article from today's San Francisco Chronicle. Dioxin, part of the chemical weapon Agent Orange which was deployed extensively by the US against Vietnam, is still detectable in Vietnam 30 years after its use. Is it credible that Iraq managed to destroy its chemical weapons (or that they were destroyed by US bombs) without leaving a trace behind? Hardly.

Followup:Slate is reporting from a story in Monday's Los Angeles Times, quotes from "several former Iraqi officers": "Commanders interviewed for this article said they were issued no orders regarding chemical or biological weapons. And they denied that Iraq ever possessed such weapons."


 

Capitalism kills...it's own soldiers


According to the US military, there are almost equal numbers of soldiers dying from "non-combat" causes in Iraq as from "combat" causes. Some of that, there is no doubt, is the result of a coverup - every death which can not be absolutely, positively identified as resulting from hostile action is classified as "non-combat" in order to minimize the "combat" numbers (and, they hope, the impact on the American people). But, as Paul Krugman points out today, at least some of the deaths are coming from heat stroke and similar causes, as a direct result of "penny-pinching and privatization." Apparently "supporting the troops" doesn't extend to actually providing them decent food and sufficient water, and "some civilian contractors hired by the Army for logistics support failed to show up." No need to worry, though. At least, not if you're a Halliburton stockholder.

Followup: For a detailed look at privatization and the military, see this article.


 

Democracy - it can't be rushed


Yesterday, according to the San Jose Mercury News, "Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council named a 25-member committee that is to propose a way to select the people who will draft the country's new consitution."

 

Middle ground?


The San Jose Mercury News announces the appointment of a new head of the EPA with this headline: "Bush's nomination of Governor seen as middle ground," and starts its article by telling us (in the voice of the newspaper) that "Leavitt is something of a moderate." Eight paragraphs later we read: "Leavitt's nomination prompted predictable reactions: dismay from environmental groups and delight from polluting industries." And that's what passes for a "moderate" in the "middle ground" these days.

Monday, August 11, 2003


 

The search is on...for "rebuilding capacity"


The US invaded Iraq because of the "imminent threat" of "stockpiles" of "weapons of mass destruction." More recently, when the completely bogus nature of those claims became clear, "weapons" morphed into "weapons programs." But now it appears that there won't be any of those found either, so it's time to go one step further. Yesterday, on Meet the Press, former Senator Sam Nunn had this to say: "We ought to be looking for rebuilding capacity which is probably what Iraq had rather than massive storehouses of weapons." Nothing like "rebuilding capacity" to provide an "imminent threat." There's a Maxwell Smart joke in here somewhere.

Senator Dick Lugar was unrepentent on the same show. Asked if there was an "urgency to go to war," he replied: "We believe that Saddam Hussein...he had really the intent to be aggressive and to try to find weapons of mass destruction. That was sufficient reason in my mind to give the president the authority to go to war." The intent to try to find weapons of mass destruction? It doesn't take much to give this guy a sufficient reason to go to war, does it?

Note, of course, the implicit coverup of history. Bush & Co. did not ask for authority to go to war because Iraq was "trying to find weapons of mass destruction," they asked for the authority because they claimed that Iraq had such weapons, massive stockpiles of them. Lugar, of course, conveniently wants us to forget that.


Sunday, August 10, 2003


 

Just 16 words? Hardly.


Today's Washington Post carries an extensive story detailing the history of Bush administration lies about Iraq's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, summarized thusly:
The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied.

Saturday, August 09, 2003


 

The other side of US casualties


How US troops react to the fact that they are being shot at and killed every day:

Family shot dead by panicking US troops
Firing blindly during a power cut, soldiers kill a father and three children in their car
The abd al-Kerim family didn't have a chance. American soldiers opened fire on their car with no warning and at close quarters. They killed the father and three of the children, one of them only eight years old. Now only the mother, Anwar, and a 13-year-old daughter are alive to tell how the bullets tore through the windscreen and how they screamed for the Americans to stop.
Full story here, from the British press, which notes the following irony:
In Washington yesterday, Mr Bush declared in a radio address: "Life is returning to normal for the Iraqi people ... All Americans can be proud of what our military and provisional authorities have achieved in Iraq.
As usual, please don't hold your breath waiting for this story to appear in the US press.

 

More on body counts in Iraq


In today's Counterpunch, Paul de Rooij provides an extensive, well-documented study of the issue of body counts in Iraq, covering questions such as the misclassification of deaths as "accidental," misreporting of the body count, etc. Well worth reading.

The author does make one statement with which Left I has to strongly disagree:

If you support the troops then this must mean bringing them home--alive. If one supports the troops--and most are decent well-meaning folks--then the best thing one can do is to clamor for a substitution of US troops by UN troops with a wide mandate.
So evidently the author believes in supporting US troops by bringing them home alive, but thinks it's ok for UN troops to die in their place. No, "Troops out now" means just that - all troops out now, and return Iraq to the control of Iraqis.

 

Quote of the Day - Alexander Cockburn


Grey Davis...proclaims that he is going to fight "like a Bengal tiger". It takes one to know one. Bengal tigers like to hang out near some village and eat small cows, fearing even the stately water buffalo. When its teeth go bad the Bengal tiger gives up on the cows and starts attacking elderly, defenseless humans.

This from a very good article on the subject of the "lesser of two evils," the Democrats, Peter Camejo and the Greens, and the California recall election.


 

Links, Ties, and Media Lies


Large numbers of Americans think (or thought at one point, anyway) that a majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. Substantial numbers of Americans think that weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and even that they were used against American troops. How does this happen?

In some cases, of course, this happens because people that Americans trust, like their President, tell them lies, like claiming that Iraq didn't let weapons inspectors in or claiming that biological weapons had been found when in fact what had been found were some empty trailers once used to make hydrogen.

In other cases, though, the media is very directly to blame, such as this case study from today's San Jose Mercury News, which carries this story:

Car bombing tied to terrorists
Baghdad embassy blast linked to new enemy in postwar efforts
Thursday's car bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, which killed 19 people and wounded more than 60, could be the work of Ansar al Islam, a Taliban-style extremist group with alleged ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network, officials with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq said Friday.

Notice the difference between the headline, which most people read and remember, and the article, which is less important. The article, the remainder of which carries similar qualifying phrases like "if the group carried out the bombing" and "the bombing could signal a growing Islamist militancy," is actually perfectly reasonable. Note also that, in the article, these claims are attributed to "officials" (wouldn't want to actually name them, now would we?). But the headline, written as it is in the passive voice, is the newspaper speaking, and people trust their newspaper. After all, there are hundreds of verifiable facts in the newspaper every day - who won the ball game, who's running for Governor, what the weather was yesterday in your town, etc. So when the newspaper tells you that a bombing was "tied" to terrorists and "linked" to a new enemy, it's natural to believe it.

Now here's an even more interesting observation. Just like a few days ago (scroll down to the story "Is there a method in the (media) madness"), the online story is different than the print version in very interesting ways. First, the headline of the online story is much simpler, and accurate: "Officials suspect Islamic group in Iraq bombing." Both the key problems with the headline are solved - the origin of the claim is clearly identified as "officials," rather than the passive voice of the print edition which implies editorial endorsement, and the Islamic group is now merely "suspected," and not "tied" and "linked" to the bombing. Curiously, however, Ansar al Islam is described in the body of the online article as "a Taliban-style extremist group with ties to the al-Qaida" rather than "alleged" ties as in the print edition.

I'm not sure what kind of struggle is going on over at Knight Ridder between their online editor and their print editor, but it certainly makes it clear once again that little details like this are the result of conscious decisions on the part of editors and are certainly not accidents or random occurances.


Friday, August 08, 2003


 

The News in a Parallel Universe


An absolutely brilliant article by Normon Solomon, showing what the news could be like in a parallel universe where actual objective journalism was practiced.

 

On Polls


Polls can be biased by the questions that are asked, or by the people that are asked. Illustrating the latter point, the latest Newsweek poll says that 57% of the 1000 people polled "approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president," but the results of their [Warning - clicking the next link will crash a Safari browser!] online poll (at 9762 responses as of this writing) shows a 64% DISapproval rating. Of course the latter is unscientific, the respondents being self-selected, but there's no particular guarantee that the former is any more valid (since the group of people who are even home to answer the telephone, nevertheless who agree to be questioned, is by no means representative of the population at large).

However, even if the questions are fair, and the poll sample representative, polls can still be biased just in the way they're written up. Consider these two lines from the Newsweek article:

"Almost half of Americans-49 percent-would like to see him reelected." What would be the effect on the reader if the sentence read "More than half of Americans-51 percent-do not want to see him reelected"?

Or this sentence: "Forty-six percent say they would support a withdrawal of U.S. troops in response to the attacks; 40 percent would support increasing the number of troops in Iraq. How about if we re-write that sentence like this: "Nearly half of all Americans now support a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, while a smaller number believes we should increase troop levels"?

In the words of the bumper sticker: "Question authority"


Thursday, August 07, 2003


 

Quote of the Day


Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US forces in Iraq, when asked whether officers had apologized to the families of five Iraqis killed during a botched raid:
Apologies are not something that we have as a normal procedure in the military processes.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe

 

Rene Gonzalez defends Cuba


There have been many things written defending Cuba from the charge of having unfairly imprisoned 75 "dissidents," some very detailed and some very eloquent, but few more moving than the latest, written by Rene Gonzalez. Gonzalez, one of the "Cuban Five," is currently serving a sentence of 15 years in the US for the "crime" of attempting to prevent terrorist acts from being carried out against his homeland by right-wing Cubans based in Florida. Naturally, in this era of the "war on terrorism," his tragic story (and that of the other four members of the Cuban Five) has been completely ignored by the US media. Read more about the Cuban Five, and get involved with their case, at the Free the Five website.

Two selected paragraphs from Gonzalez's letter:

I can't imagine that somebody can consider himself a progressive person and then take at its word the endemic slandering and lies of the U.S. media in regards to Cuba. It would only take a little bit of intellectual honesty and some research to discover that the money to pay "dissidents" is appropriated, overtly and openly, by the U.S. authorities to be distributed through entities like NED and USAID among whomever, on the island, decides to make a living as a dissident.
...
Those mercenaries [the 75 "dissidents"] were dealt with through the legal system. They weren't arbitrarily declared "enemy" or "illegal" combatants, or disposed of through a drone-launched rocket so that Fidel could pose to the cameras declaring them "no longer a problem," or subjected to secret military tribunals, nor were their families' homes demolished by the Cuban military.

 

28,000 Iraqi civilian casualties


The Iraq Body Count Project is now estimating "at least 20,000 civilian injuries [in Iraq] on top of the maximum reported 7798 deaths." Now we'll wait for the mainstream media to report this story. Please, don't hold your breath; Left I needs all the readers we can get.

 

Saddam on the run?


In an effort to give the American people the impression that "we've got Saddam on the run," the US media are now dutifully reporting the military's claim that Saddam moves three times a day. I have yet to hear a single news reporter or commentator ask the two obvious questions: 1) How on earth could you know such a thing unless you actually knew where he was? and 2) Wouldn't it be much less safe to move around three times a day than to stay put? Wouldn't there then be three times (more or less) as many people who knew where you were and who could betray you? Wouldn't spending time out in the open in transit from one hiding place to another put you at great risk of discovery? Would Anne Frank have been safer from the Nazis if she had moved around three times a day instead of hiding in an attic?

 

It's official! The world began on May 1!


The death of two more US soldiers in Iraq is noted in the press in the usual way. Even with extensive Googling, you will be hard pressed to find a single source which does not report the event as the AP did: "The deaths...brought to 55 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat since May 1, when President Bush declared major fighting over." Even the BBC used the same language: "The latest attack brings to 55 the number of US soldiers killed by hostile fire since the war in Iraq was declared largely over on 1 May." Even the 11 British soldiers who died after May 1 are non-entities for the BBC, nevertheless the hundreds of US/UK soldiers who died before May 1.

A good source for the real information is here. The totals as of today show 301 US and UK troops dead in Iraq, nearly six times more than the 55 which is being drummed into the readers/viewers consciousness. Gee, could this be intentional? Ya' think?

Followup: It's amazing how even most progressive "blogs" use this May 1 date as the date from which one should start counting deaths, as if the ones that preceded that aren't relevant. Evidence of the power of the media to influence even people who should know better.


 

Political Joke of the Day


From Jon Stewart, commenting on George Bush's statement that "We have lawyers looking into [ways to codify that marriage is between a man and a woman]":
Lawyers, huh? Wow, he must be serious about this. He didn't even use lawyers to check if going to war was legal.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


 

Fool me twice?


Thanks to the Bush and Blair administrations putting it forward as one of their "talking points," in recent days the media have started to trumpet the claim that 300,000 bodies lie in mass graves in Iraq, offered as a post-facto justification for the invasion of Iraq. Things to note about this claim:


Why stop here? There's more...

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