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Thursday, March 31, 2005


 

Quote of the Day


"Our collection and analysis of intelligence will never be perfect, but in an age where our margin for error is getting smaller, in an age in which we are at war, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives."

- George Bush, commenting on today's WMD report and his decision to invade Iraq.
Bush failed to note that the consequences of overestimating a threat have already proven to be many tens of thousands of innocent lives, quite likely more than a hundred thousand, and arguably more than a million if we include all the Iraqis who died as a result of the decade of sanctions which were imposed to enforce a disarmament which had already, in fact, taken place.


 

Capitalism kills


News that acute malnutrition has doubled among Iraqi children was reported in the American press, and I've commented on it. But there was another part of that same report, which doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere but, where else, Prensa Latina:
"Globalization of neoliberal capitalism and its resulting injustice is the main cause of the expansion of hunger in the world, said UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler.

"In a report presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) here, Ziegler said than in less than a year, 10 million people have joined the planet's army of starving people.

"At least 100,000 people die of lack of food every year, and one of every four is permanently blinded due to lack of vitamin A, he said."
And I'm sure you won't be surprised to read that the U.S. is opposing the reelection of Ziegler to his post. "Don't shoot the messenger" is definitely not part of their belief system; quite the opposite, in fact (as some would say the shooting of Giuliana Sgrena proves).


 

Colin Powell is "furious and angry"


Colin Powell continues to lie to try to recover something of his reputation:
"Former US secretary of state Colin Powell claims he is 'furious and angry' about being misinformed over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

"'Hundreds of millions followed it on television,' Mr Powell said of his testimony. 'I will always be the one who presented it. I have to live with that.'

"Mr Powell told Germany's Stern magazine that before appearing at the UN he had spent four days with the Central Intelligence Agency inspecting every photograph and word.

"'The CIA believed there were weapons of mass destruction,' Mr Powell said. 'The President believed it. I believed it. Still, it was wrong. I did not know this at the time.'"
The facts are otherwise. The CIA believed there might be weapons of mass destruction. And anyone with half a brain could see through the case presented by Powell at the U.N., which was thinner than the gruel served to Oliver Twist, as I documented here more than a year ago. If what Powell presented at the U.N. was the best evidence, and we have to assume it was since the U.S. definitely wanted to pursuade the world that it had a case for invasion, then it is 100% clear that they didn't "know" anything with remotely the certainty conveyed by Powell during that speech, with such phrases as "This is evidence, not conjecture. This is true. This is all well documented."

WIIIAI writes today that he (?) is agnostic about my claim that the Bush administration really didn't believe its own lies, and suggests that the lackadaisical search for WMD was due simply to incompetence. So I need to elaborate on my argument. The entire public justification for the invasion was that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD, was collaborating with Al Qaeda, and was likely to give some of those WMD to AQ at any time to be used against the United States. If that was something you believed, then your entire war strategy would be geared toward preventing such a thing from happening. As soon as possible you would be dropping special squads of commandos at known or suspected sites like Tuwaitha and Al Qaqaa and securing them (instead of securing the oil fields). But not only wasn't that done with the highest priority, in some cases (like the two mentioned), it was barely done at all! Incompetence? Sorry, not buying it.

(Hat tip to WTF Is It Now? for the Powell story lead)

Added note: By the way, if Powell were really "furious and angry", wouldn't it be appropriate for him to be denouncing his former boss and co-workers on Meet the Press or some other American news show, instead of revealing his supposed anger to Stern magazine in Germany? Evidently he's not all that angry.


 

Irony watch


Did the "Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction" intend to be ironic when they wrote "We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction"? Because there are several thousand Americans, British, and others, and many tens of thousands of dead Iraqis who are unfortunately no longer alive to appreciate the irony.


 

Terry Schiavo died today


And so did 17,000 children under the age of 5, who shall remain nameless and faceless in the Western media. A businessman offered Michael Schiavo one million dollars to change his position on his wife's feeding tubes. How many of those 17,000 children could have been kept alive for that one million dollars? How many of them could have been kept alive just using the money spent by the networks and cable channels to cover the Schiavo tragedy?


 

Innumeracy


Media Matters catches The New York Times in one of my pet peeves - confusing "four percent" with "four percentage points" (it's only a factor of 16 off in this case):
"In the March 31 edition of The New York Times, reporter Edmund L. Andrews greatly understated the amount of payroll taxes that President Bush's Social Security plan would allow workers to divert into private accounts. Andrews wrote that 'workers would be allowed to divert up to 4 percent of their payroll taxes to personal retirement accounts.' In fact, the plan would allow workers to divert up to 4 percentage points of their payroll taxes. This amount represents 64.5 percent of the employee contribution and about 16 times the amount that Andrews claimed. Employees and employers each pay payroll taxes equal to 6.2 percent of a worker's salary up to $90,000 to fund Social Security.


 

Iraqis are free...to starve to death


[First posted 3/30, 10:02 a.m.; updated]

Here's some of that "progress" in Iraq that George Bush (and many others) are always touting:

"Malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis has almost doubled since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a hunger specialist told the U.N. human rights body Wednesday in a summary of previously reported studies on health in Iraq.

"By last fall, 7.7 percent of Iraqi children under 5 suffered acute malnutrition, compared to 4 percent after Saddam's ouster in April 2003.

"Malnutrition, which is exacerbated by a lack of clean water and adequate sanitation, is a major killer of children in poor countries. Children who survive are usually physically and mentally impaired for life, and are more vulnerable to disease.

"Iraq was generally regarded as having good nutrition rates in the 1970s and 1980s [Ed. note: under Saddam Hussein, imagine that!], but problems emerged when the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 [Ed. note: sanctions which were kept in place by the U.S. and U.K. completely contrary to the motivation for their original imposition, Bill Clinton declaring that the sanctions would never be lifted as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power, regardless of disarmament].

"Worldwide more than 17,000 children under 5 die daily from hunger-related diseases." [Emphasis added]
Methinks you'll wait in vain before you hear any of the Terri Schiavo protestors (or anti-abortion protesters in general) complaining about how those people (more than 6 million a year, a holocaust each and every year), completely innocent young people with actual functioning brains, are starving to death (some news reports have reported that Jesse Jackson "urged Schiavo’s supporters to bring the 'same passion' to the fight against world hunger," but I'm highly skeptical that they, or even he, will do so).

(Hat tip to First Draft)

Update: Unsurprisingly, Jesse Jackson was just interviewed at length by Daryn Kagan on CNN, and not a word was spoken about "world hunger".


 

WMD - The lies continue


The report is out placing the blame for the illegal invasion of Iraq on "intelligence failures". Nonsense. I've written about these things many times before, but it's time to review:

First, in my opinion the administration as a whole never really believed that Iraq had WMD; I have offered as proof of this assertion the decidedly lackadaisical search for WMD after U.S. troops had taken control of the country (even if they did believe it, of course, I don't believe that was the major, or even a significant, reason for the invasion, only the public justification).

Second, there will always be limitations and uncertainties in "intelligence". The issue is in how that information was used. Bush & Co. claimed repeatedly that it was a fact that Iraq was sitting on stockpiles of WMD and had active WMD programs, rather than being honest and claiming it was a supposition. And that fact does not appear anywhere in the just-released report.

And finally, we have the U.S. "guilty until proven innocent" "foreign policy"; the completely illegal and immoral idea that the U.S. has both the right (and even the duty) to attack other countries "preemptively" who we "think" might have weapons that can hurt us and who we "think" might be planning at some future time to use those weapons against us (once again, these were in my opinion not the actual reasons Iraq was attacked, but they were the justification). Given this policy, "intelligence" barely comes into play. After all, if this is a reasonable policy, then it must be reasonable if there's only a 99% chance that the information that our "enemies" have WMD is correct. Or 95%. Or 75%. Or 50% - why take a chance if there's even odds that such a thing might happen? Heck, the entire future of our country is at stake - why not 10%? Or even 1%? If there's any chance at all someone might attack us, we'd better prevent it.

The irony, as I have also written before, is that this policy comes at a time when there is no credible threat either to the existence of the United States as a nation, or even to the lives of significant numbers of Americans. Al Qaeda may have gotten lucky and killed nearly 3000 people, but they were hardly in a position to overthrow the government of Manhattan, nevertheless the United States.

But, rest assured you won't be hearing any of this from the corporate media - all they'll be talking about is "intelligence failures". Talk about the total lack of intelligence (and integrity) in American foreign policy? Look for that elsewhere.

Update: I forgot to mention that David Corn makes some of the same points (and more) in an article in this week's Nation, as does Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005


 

Looking for real information? Try non-corporate media


While the corporate media are almost literally in "all-Schiavo, all the time" mode, there is lots going on in the world. Why should you listen to (or read) non-corporate media, like Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints! show? Consider today. The corporate press did report on the release of a memo from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez approving torture (of course you won't find that word in the corporate press). If you dug a little deeper, and turned to the blogs, you would have learned an important additional fact, which is that this memo directly contradicted Sanchez's testimony to Congress in which he denied ever approving such measures (thus making him guilty of perjury, lying to Congress, and probably multiple other offenses aside from aiding and abetting torture). But only if you were listening to tonight's Flashpoints! would you have been reminded that the release of this memo is part of a civil lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Sanchez and Donald Rumsfeld, and gotten to hear a long interview with the lead attorney in that lawsuit, Lucas Guttentag, and heard him discussing the memo and its implications for the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Left I on the News discussed the case of Nicaraguan revolutionary Dora Maria Tellez, and the sparse (to put it mildly) coverage in the press of the U.S. government's denial of a visa for her to teach at Harvard on the grounds that she was a terrorist. But tonight, on Flashpoints!, you could have heard an interview with Tellez herself, speaking by phone from Managua, discussing the denial, the state of things in Nicaragua today, and so on.

Your chances of ever seeing Guttentag or Tellez on any corporate media talk or news show? Zero.

Want to know what's happening in Haiti? If you read or listen to the corporate media, it would seem the answer is nothing; I've seen or read literally not a word about Haiti in ages. But in fact, as you could hear live on Flashpoints! on Monday, there was an assassination attempt against leading Haitian pro-democracy activist and liberation theologist, Father Jean Juste. On Tuesday, U.N. forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators. Where could you learn about these developments? Only on Flashpoints! Certainly not from the corporate media, even from the "serious" news shows like Aaron Brown's Newsnight on CNN or from the "serious" newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

And the good news? All of the previous (or at least the reasonably recent) broadcasts of the two most important shows, Flashpoints! and Democracy Now!, are available for download.


 

Afghanistan - a history lesson for Laura Bush


Exhibiting the typical American insensitivity to the depletion of the planet's resources, Laura Bush flew halfway around the world to spend five hours in Afghanistan. While there, Bush had this to say:
"It's very hard to imagine the idea of denying girls an education, of never allowing girls to go to school."
Indeed. Let's turn back the clock to 1978, when a revolution led by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan took control of the country. At the time, female illiteracy was 96%. One of the first acts of the government, which was in power until 1992, was to set up extensive literacy programs, especially for women, and in a multitude of ways bring women into public life.

And what brought that period to an end? You all know the answer. The United States government, working through the CIA, put together a reactionary fighting force, the Mujahedin, in which Osama bin Laden played a key role, which eventually took power, defeating the armed forces of the Soviet Union which had come to the defense of the Afghan government. That led directly to the rule of the Taliban, and the complete reversal of all the gains that women had made under the Communist PDPA government.

So Laura, can I imagine denying girls an education? Yes, I can imagine it, only, unlike you, I remember exactly who is responsible for that state of affairs. The U.S. government, including not just Republicans like your father-in-law and your husband and their associates, but Democrats as well, like Jimmy Carter and his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005


 

Psst! Don't tell Michael Crichton...


...but the news today is somewhat depressing:
"The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

"The study contains what its authors call 'a stark warning' for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"'Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,' it says.

"The report, prepared in Washington under the supervision of a board chaired by Robert Watson, the British-born chief scientist at the World Bank and a former scientific adviser to the White House, will be launched today at the Royal Society in London."
Now as usual, one interesting thing about this article is its source, which is the Guardian, a British newspaper. This isn't just some random academic study, it's a report, prepared in Washington by the chief scientist at the World Bank, and yet, as I write this, not a word about this report appears anywhere in American media, according to a search of Google News, Yahoo News, and the web pages of the New York Times and Washington Post.

Update: The story has now filtered into some U.S. media outlets, although with little or no prominence as far as I can tell.


 

Quote of the Day


"If someone is coming to try to disrupt [one of the President's Social Security rallies], then obviously that person would be asked to leave. There is plenty of opportunity outside of the event to express their views."

- White House flak Scott McClellan, asserting that the White House welcomes a variety of voices into events but discourages people from coming to heckle the president or disrupt "town hall forums", in attempting to explain why three people were ejected from one such event based on a "No Blood for Oil" bumper sticker on their car.
As I have written, "freedom of speech" is a misnomer; the key is the freedom to be heard. And McClellan knows well that, while the press will dutifully cover everything the President says inside these meetings, they won't even mention the presence of any protesters outside the meetings, and for sure the President himself will never hear, or in most cases see, any evidence of any such protesters.

Daily KOS has an email from the three people involved, who seem to assert (it's not completely clear) that they were told that these events are indeed being paid for by taxpayers (which is certainly the likely assumption), but neither the Washington Post story linked above, nor any other article I have read about these events, have raised or answered that seemingly basic question, despite its obvious connection to the restriction of attendence at such events to supporters of the President.


 

Money talks


And talks and talks and talks. How much money are Arnold Schwarzenegger and his rich friends spending to attack the working people of California? During the half-hour evening local news show I just watched, there were three (maybe four) broadcasts of an ad attacking greedy teachers, and another one (maybe two) ads attacking greedy nurses, only interested in their own selfish financial benefit (unlike the hospitals, who, as we all know, are in it solely out of humanitarian concerns).


 

Roland Hedley attacks Hugo Chavez


The gaggle-obsessed Holden at First Draft makes note of this question at today's White House press briefing:
"Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has made some extremely strong anti-American statements. Is there a concern that he could turn into the Saddam Hussein of Latin America and be a haven for al Qaeda in the months or years to come?"
Holden correctly notes a few things wrong with that question - Hugo Chavez is a democratically-elected leader, has never threatened the U.S., and neither he nor Saddam Hussein ever provided a haven for al Qaeda. Presumably we're supposed to think this kind of setup question comes from some right-wing Jeff Gannon/J.D. Guckert replacement, shades of the role Roland Hedley has been fulfilling in recent Doonesbury strips.

In fact, it doesn't take any kind of planted reporter to ask this kind of loaded question, since this kind of Chavez-bashing is a stock in trade of the most mainstream of U.S. media outlets. For example, in an AP article of a week ago (mentioned here), the reporter talks about a "more confrontational stage in U.S.-Venezuelan relations." And how exactly is Venezuela "confronting" the U.S.? By training reservists to defend the country if attacked, warning that oil exports to the U.S. will be cut off if the U.S. backs any attempts to overthrow the elected President of the country, and accusing the U.S. of backing a plot to assassinate Chavez (which would just be so out of keeping with U.S. history). In other words, preparing to defend yourself if attacked, and to respond in some other way if not directly attacked, is "confrontational".

Another recent article in the Washington Post claimed that "Chavez Casts Himself as the Anti-Bush" (discussed here). Along with the usual litany of complaints about Chavez (meeting with Fidel Castro, accusing Washington of plotting to assassinate him, etc.), this article strangely throws in "travel[ing] to Libya to receive an award from Moammar Gaddafi." Apparently the author didn't get the memo that Gaddafi is one of the "good guys" now. Less amusing, and more telling, is the author's claim that "Chavez has worked feverishly in recent months to match his words with deeds." And what are those "deeds"? "He recently signed energy deals with France, India and China" and "has made a series of arms purchases." That's it. Working on diversifying and strengthening the economy of his country, and making sure the country is prepared to defend itself militarily. Well, it doesn't get more "confrontational" than that, does it? Well, I guess when you're used to countries around the world touching their figurative foreheads to the ground in front of you, having any of them actually stand up on their own two feet qualifies as "confrontational".

Looking for accurate information about what is happening in Venezuela? Try Socialism & Liberation magazine, or Workers World newspaper. But don't look to the corporate media, be it "right-wing" or "mainstream". Because they all represent that segment of the American population that stands to lose as the Venezuelan people take control of their own destiny, i.e., the ruling class. As for the rest of us? Not only aren't we threatened in the least by Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people, we stand only to gain from the example of a country where economic resources are used to advance human needs instead of feeding corporate greed.


Monday, March 28, 2005


 

Rihab Taha reappears - but only on paper


As I write periodically, the U.S. continues to hold Iraqi scientists in prison with no charges, and no justification whatsoever - a completely illegal violation of their human rights. One such scientist is Rihab Taha, and today, almost as an afterthought in an article about what she allegedly has told U.S. investigators, we learn that, indeed, she is still being held prisoner (or "in U.S. detention", as the article euphemistically puts it).

And what has she told investigators? According to the article, that she and her team destroyed all Iraqi anthrax back in 1991, following "Iraqi orders" (which in turn followed U.N. dictates). One point of the article seems to be to put the part of the blame on Taha for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. You see, some of the anthrax, after being deactivated, was allegedly dumped near one of the Presidential palaces, and Taha was too scared to admit publicly that's where it was dumped for fear of angering Saddam Hussein (apparently that didn't stop her from dumping the anthrax there in the first place), and so, you see, that "stok[ed] suspicions of those who contended Iraq still harbored biological weapons." As if anyone would have believed her, or cared what she had to say.

By the way, the article indicates that these admissions were part of the report of the Iraq Survey Group. That report was issued last October 6, which means Taha's admissions to investigators came well before that (and, in all liklihood, very shortly after she voluntarily surrendered to the Americans in May, 2003; interestingly enough, her interrogation was conducted by the now dead Dr. David Kelly). So again we ask, why is this woman being held prisoner?


 

Quote of the Day


"We ask all wise men in the American nation to advise the administration to leave this country. It would save much blood and suffering for the Iraqi and American people."

- Sheik Harith al-Dari, Sunni leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars
My sentiments exactly.

The New York Times article which quotes al-Dari also notes this: "At a recent conference in Baghdad convened by Sharif Hussein, all the applause was for speakers who praised the insurgency. Some tribal leaders tried to shout down those who spoke in favor of joining the new government."


 

Giuliana Sgrena - presente! Media? Assente!*


*Absent

Readers may have read Jeremy Scahill's article on CommonDreams today which provides new detail on the shooting of Giuliana Sgrena and the murder of Nicola Calipari -- the fact that they were shot from the back, on a special "high security" road only accessible from the Green Zone, and that there was no order to stop and no checkpoint. Other than that, the story is just like the U.S. military said. ;-)

Scahill's article sums up the current state of knowledge best, but in fact this story was broken by Naomi Klein (the originator of the story, who interviewed Sgrena in a Rome hospital) on Democracy Now! on Friday, three days ago. Now this is an absolute blockbuster story. The U.S. military story appears to have been a complete lie (yes, I know, it was shock to me too). But here's the kicker - Americans don't know about any of this, because, at least according to a search of Google News and Yahoo News, this story has yet to run in a single American media outlet other than Democracy Now! (and possibly other progressive, non-corporate outlets). Nor has the very much related story, broken by the Italian paper Corriere della Sera last week, that the U.S. military is refusing to let Italian policemen examine the car (the one which a few days ago they were saying they "couldn't find").

Well, to be fair, I'm sure there just isn't time for such news, in between reporting that Terri Schiavo is still alive, Michael Jackson is still on trial, and the Pope is still sick. The fact that the story exposes the "truthfulness" of the U.S. government? I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that the corporate media is ignoring it.

Update: There are several more things I want to say. The first is to ask: what would have happened if this has been some Drudge Report rumor favorable to the right-wing (think "Swift Boat Liars" for an example)? It would have been discussed on the Sunday morning talk shows, and by today would be the main subject of discussion on Hannity & Colmes & O'Reilly, quickly moving on to the "mainstream" media. Far from being a rumor, this story is a first-hand interview with the principal in the event. And yet, it has had no coverage at all from the corporate media. None. Now is it possible that Ms. Sgrena is lying, or exaggerating, or is just confused because of the "heat of battle"? Yes, any of those are possible, although not likely, but at worst that should mean that a story that runs covering this breaking news would include yet another pro forma denial from the U.S. military. Nothing wrong with that. But of course even that didn't happen.

The other thing to add is to note that this story is, yet again, a demonstration of how sins of omission, just as much or more than sins of commission, are the stock-in-trade of establishment propaganda. Now some stories which aren't covered, like say for example what's going on in Haiti these days , you could argue are just too complicated to be explained in a few seconds to an audience. Others, like the story just below about aerial bombing in Iraq, you could argue are just "routine", barely qualifying as "news" since they're just the same old story. But you can't make any of those excuses for the Sgrena story, which is more like a CSI:Baghdad story -- precisely the type of story which readers/viewers could "get into" and don't need any background to understand. And yet, despite that, still no coverage. Ask yourself: why?


 

Wes Clark - Defender of Freedom of the Press?


Visiting Daily KOS just now, I came across an ad reading "Join Wes Clark--Stop FCC Censorship Now!", which leads to this page where Wes Clark steps forward as a defender of freedom of the press. I guess he's forgotten about the ten Serbian journalists whose lives he terminated prematurely when he gave the order to deliberately bomb Radio-Television Serbia, an action he defends to this day. But I haven't forgotten.

A murderer of journalists as a defender of freedom of the press? Spare me.


Sunday, March 27, 2005


 

Idiotic Question of the Day


Discussing current developments in Iraq, and why Iraq is still without a President and a Prime Minister two months after their "free and fair" elections, CBS anchor Mika Brzezinski asked the correspondent, "Why is Iraq having so much trouble with democracy?" Gee, I don't know, could it have anything to do with the absurd system forced on them by Jerry Bremer and the U.S. government, which requires a three-quarters two-thirds majority in order to elect the President or Prime Minister?

And just so we're all clear on this, this was not some accident, or miscalculation, on the part of Jerry Bremer. Rather, it was a very deliberate calculation, designed to make sure that the figurehead leaders of Iraq were chosen in the back rooms, and not by the people of Iraq. Because the people might actually have voted for someone who was prepared act as if Iraq really were a sovereign state and kick the Americans out, and that just wouldn't do.


 

Everything old is new again


[First posted 3/26, 7:49 a.m.]

Antiwar, anti-clerical, anti-ruling class, anti-misogynist, and decidedly anti the idea that everything that happens in this world is part of God's plan. Oh, and written in 1759! Yes, I'm talking about Candide, by Voltaire, and more specifically the musical (!) version of it scored by Leonard Bernstein in 1956. The musical has apparently had a checkered past, with short runs on Broadway, multiple versions, cuts, additions, rewrites, and the like, but the version I got to see last night, performed by the incomparable Lamplighters of San Francisco, was a decided triumph. All is definitely not for the best in this certainly not best of all possible worlds, but spending three hours (yes, three hours!) with Voltaire, Candide, Pangloss, Bernstein, and the Lamplighters is certainly an entertaining, and thought-provoking way to spend an evening. If you're in the Bay Area, there are upcoming performances in San Francisco (tonight!), Walnut Creek, and Napa, so do yourself a favor and catch this rare treat before it disappears.

What a long way it is from the "Age of Enlightenment" to the age of Hannity and Colmes, Bill O'Reilly, and Chris Matthews (just to name a few).

Update: When I wrote this I realized that 1759 was a long time ago (just under 250 years!), but today (Sunday) I got a real perspective on that fact. Hiking in a place called Sweeney Ridge (south of San Francisco), I came to a monument commemorating the first European (a member of the Portola party) to set eyes on San Francisco Bay (needless to say, the Ohlone and the Miwok had preceded him by several thousand years). The year? 1769, ten years after Voltaire wrote Candide.


 

Aerial bombing continues in Iraq


This story has been reported, according to a search on Google News, only by the godless Communists at Xinhuanet and Prensa Latina:
"US occupation forces' fighter planes have attacked civilian populations in the Iraqi cities of Haditha and Haqlaniyah, in the western province of Al Anbar, one of the key regions of the so-called Sunni Triangle or 'Triangle of Death'.

"Despite the fact that the US command denied today that it had carried out aerial operations against these cities, eye witnesses and those wounded confirmed the attacks by the foreign air force."
Not a single Western source has carried a word about this. Anyone want to bet whether history will prove it to have been correct or not?

Not that this is anything new, mind you. The U.S. has been carrying out aerial strikes against the Iraqi population on a regular basis for nearly 15 years. Not two years. 15 years.


 

Headline of the Day


"Texas Official Admits Missteps That Helped Railroads in Suits"
And just what were those "missteps", as The New York Times so delicately puts it?
"At the behest of the rail industry, Mr. Kosmak on about 100 occasions over the last 11 years signed sworn statements about warning signs at railroad crossings, according to court testimony. The affidavits were mostly drafted by the rail industry, which then used them in case after case as a critical defense against claims that unsafe crossings had caused deaths and serious injury, court records show."
Oops! Just a "misstep"! Who's worse? Mr. Kosmak, whose lies prevented accident victims from suing, or the esteemed New York Times, which helps to cover up his crime by minimizing it in its headline, thus minimizing the outrage which is called for.


Saturday, March 26, 2005


 

War criminals run amok


A lot of people have noted this story:
"Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

"Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations."
None of the coverage of this development makes note of the connection between this result and the United States position on the International Criminal Court. Because, if I understand correctly, it is precisely this situation (the country involved has declined to press charges against their own soldiers) where the jurisdication of the ICC takes over. Or would, if the U.S. were a signatory.

None of this is surprising, but the most interesting part of the story to me was this:

"In the third [case], they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement."
So, evidently, ignorance of the law is an excuse. At least if you're an American soldier accused of killing some poor foreigner.

Don't the "rules of engagement" apply to meeting the enemy on the battlefield? These were prisoners we're talking about, not actively fighting combatants. And, whether they really mean "rules of engagement", or the Geneva Convention, or anything else, if the soldier was really "not well informed" about the law, doesn't that mean that the responsibility lies with his superiors? And ultimately, with the person who just loves to dress up in embroidered jackets to remind everyone that he's the "Commander in Chief"?


 

Iraqis have (or had) lives too


It's so rare that anyone in the American media remembers that Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion, and not just 1500+ American soldiers (virtually no one except Left I on the News remembers the contractors, or the soldiers of other nationalities), that I have to post this as evidence that there are exceptions, in this case Mike Smith of the Las Vegas Sun:


Even Smith, however, only acknowledges Iraqi civilian casualties. Here's something I wrote back in February of last year:

The Independent also says that "no one knows Iraqi military deaths to the nearest 20,000," which is a pretty grim statement, since it suggests that the number is very high. And, as Left I on the News periodically reminds our readers, Iraqi soldiers were equally "innocent," and no more deserving to die, than Iraqi civilians. Most of them were conscripts, but even if they weren't, they died protecting their country from an illegal foreign invasion, surely not a "crime" punishable by death no matter how heinous the leadership of their country.


Friday, March 25, 2005


 

Quote of the Day


"[George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi] are war criminals and should be hung."

- Bobby Fischer, en route from Japan to Iceland
I'm in total agreement with respect to George Bush; as for Koizumi he's strictly a minor-leaguer in the war criminal business compared to dozens of Bush's American and British cohorts. One interesting thing about this quote -- you're hard pressed to find it, even though I knew to look for it because I did hear it on TV. A search with Google News reveals many stories about Fischer's comments, virtually all of them based on an AP reporter, and most of them carrying identical or virtually identical language. But, given that, almost none of them include the "war criminal" comment; the CBS News link above is one of the few.


 

The hot, sensuous glow of the blogosphere


It looks like today is comics day; I can't resist posting this cartoon from not well-known cartoonist Jen Sorensen, who I am herewith adding to my list of recommended comic strips in the right-hand column:


 

Lying about North Korea - the media takes a pass


Good followup by Media Matters about last week's Washington Post story that the U.S. had knowingly lied in claiming that North Korea had sold nuclear material to Libya. Media Matters documents how the subject was only discussed on a single talk show the following day, and even on that one, George Stephanopoulos was happy to let Donald Rumsfeld weasel his way out of responding in a serious way.


 

Arnold not welcome in San Jose



More than a thousand people came out to "greet" Arnold Schwarzenegger in downtown San Jose last night. In the first, earlier picture, people stretch as far as the eye can see (to the far corner of the very long block); in the second picture, the crowd had grown to fill both sides of the street.


You might shrewdly guess that that's my hastily made (and excessively wordy) sign in the third picture (but that's not me, just someone holding up my sign so I could take a picture).

It wasn't the largest demonstration San Jose has ever seen, but it probably was for one that started at 5 p.m. on a weekday evening. The people of San Jose and surrounding towns are hopping mad at the threats to teachers, schools, nurses, firefighters, and everyone else who works for a living posed by Gov. Schwarze-"reneger" and his proposals for California. Unfortunately, although they all could see where money isn't being spent (or isn't going to be, if Schwarzenegger and his pals have their way), very few (based on their signs, anyway) made the connection with where the money is being spent; my sign was one of only a handful.

Schwarzenegger talks about fighting the "special interests", but last night, as often, the contrast couldn't have been clearer. Outside more than a thousand people, extremely mixed in terms of age, gender, race, and nationality, protested his appearance; inside, a grand total of 40 people (according to press reports) contributed anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 to have dinner with the Governor and raise money for his ballot propositions. Their spokesman Reed Dickens, interviewed on KTVU this morning, is literally straight out of central casting as an upper-crust type; he could easily have been named Thurston Howell IV.

While the press covered the event extensively, none took note of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the underlying situation. Schwarzenegger was in San Jose to raise $50 million to push his ballot propositions attacking unions and working people in general. Why does he need $50 million? To pay people to gather signatures to get them on the ballot, and then to saturate the airwaves with one-sided messages urging the voters to support them. The entire process is completely undemocratic. If citizens' initiatives are to represent the will of the people, then citizens should collect signatures, not paid employees, and if there is to be a democratic discussion of their merits so that we can have "free and fair elections" where people make informed decisions, then biased ads in favor of such propositions should be banned in favor of moderated, informative discussions.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid putting that system into place will take more than just a ballot proposition. More like a revolution.

[Bloggers note: in this post, I'm taking my first advantage of the new ImageHosting.us service, which allows me (at no charge!) to upload pictures which can be linked to from a blog like this one. Not sure what (if any) ill effects that might have (for example, in terms of loading speed), but I'm giving it a try anyway (previous pictures on this blog have simply been links to the original sources, which has the disadvantage that sometimes such links expire or otherwise become inaccessible, so in principle this new system should be better).]


 

No terrorism involved. Move along.


This happens so often it's almost comical:
"The FBI has ruled out terrorism as the cause of Wednesday's blast at a Texas oil refinery. The explosion killed 15 people and injured more than 100.

"Authorities say they still don't know what caused the blast."
How can you possibly "rule out" terrorism is you don't know what caused the explosion?

You will notice, however, that the FBI hasn't ruled out "greedy capitalism" as the cause of the blast. I certainly haven't.


 

Nick Anderson sums up recent developments on the religion front...


...and suggests a solution for those of us who are dissatisfied with those developments:


Thursday, March 24, 2005


 

Imaginative protest - gotta' love it!


This picture, painted by a British graffiti artist/"prankster", actually hung in the Brooklyn Museum for some period of time before it was taken down. Gotta' love it!


 

Hero worship


Some readers will accuse me of hero worship by publishing excerpts from this article which appears today in Granma. Guilty as charged. Except for the "worship" part. But "immense admiration", that's a charge I'll cop to:
"Some of those made-in-the-USA slanderous articles, the sort that circulate on newspaper stands around the world and describe it in their image and likeness, are once again attacking Fidel Castro by publishing fabulous figures related to his 'personal fortune,' given that they actually think they can keep fooling all of the people all of the time.

"Nevertheless, I would be so bold as to assure you that Fidel is truly the richest man in the world, although his riches cannot be measured in dollars, in annual income any other financial or stock indicator.

"Fidel's immeasurable fortune is rooted in knowing that he has always had the support of the immense majority of a people proud of having as president and head of state a man who has fought without rest or respite from his youth for the genuine social justice deserved by billions of this chaotic world's poorest people.

"His fortune, sir, consists of sleeping very little and dreaming a lot, and employing all of his inexhaustible energies, molded by his strength of courage and determination, to make all of those dreams come true, one after another.

"Yes, Fidel is the richest man on the planet because, in a small country, he has been able to achieve the reality that jobs, health, education, culture, sports and social security are the privileges of all Cubans, not just a few, and are not unattainable pipe dreams as they are in most countries that have not had to suffer constant threats and terrorist aggressions, nor the most prolonged, genocidal blockade ever known in history.

"If only, sir, all of the peoples of the world had - at least for one day in their bitter lives - a president like Fidel, who doesn't make promises, but keeps them; who doesn't offer, but gives; who doesn't torture or assassinate or disappear people, but saves them, helps them, cures them, protects them and defends them tooth and nail.

"Believe whatever you want, sir, but billions of people in every geographical latitude will pay no attention whatsoever to those rotten, slanderous libels, because they know very well that Fidel has lived for his people and for all of the peoples of the world, willing since day one to die for them and with them on the frontline of combat, and not hiding out in a bunker in the fashion of Hitler or Mr. W, because for many years now, with the great riches of his example, he has cast his lot with the poor of the Earth, and has demonstrated that he is - among other things - the president of all of the lowly, and that is an immense personal fortune indeed."


 

Pompous right-wing hypocrites


It's an age-old subject, but I can't resist this one. Last night flipping channels I stumbled on Chris Matthews on Hardball interviewing Pat Buchanan about the Terry Schiavo case. The transcript will be online later today, so this is from memory:
Buchanan (looking as stern and stone-faced as I have ever seen him): "The President has a duty to defend the Constitution. He should send the troops in to rescue Terry Schiavo and reinstall a feeding tube."

Matthews: [Not asking what part of the Constitution the President would be "defending" by doing so, but instead asking another good question] "But what about the Tenth Amendment?" [which reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."]

Buchanan: "The Tenth Amendment has been dead for a long time."
Way to go, Pat! That sacred Constitution which Pat wants to see defended? Pat reserves the right to declare that any part of it is no longer applicable. Section 9, Clause 2 which prohibits the suspension of Habeas Corpus except in cases of rebellion or invasion? I guess Pat failed to notice that George Bush not only hasn't been defending that part of the Constitution, he's been suspending it.

Update: Here's the actual transcript (my memory wasn't too bad):

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  What George Bush ought to do right now is send federal marshals in and pick up Terri Schiavo and put that breathing tube back into her--excuse me, the food and hydration tube back into her, as this is taken up to the United States Supreme Court. He took an oath, Chris, to defend the Constitution of the United States. He has got an obligation, as well as these judges do, to defend that Constitution. And that means to protect this woman‘s life.

MATTHEWS:  What happened to the 10th Amendment?

BUCHANAN:  Look, the 10th Amendment has been dead as a door nail, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s our Constitution.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


 

The truth about the "85 dead insurgents" - and you read it first at Left I on the News


In my post below about the "85 insurgents killed by Iraqi government forces", I wrote in the comments:
"One thing I should have noted - the article talks about 'U.S. air support'. It is ENTIRELY possible that ALL of the 'insurgent' dead were killed by U.S. helicopters, and NONE by Iraqi government forces, and that the whole story is, in that sense, a fiction. I have no proof of that, of course, but it's interesting how little is being said about that 'air support'."
I also wrote in another post about how nice it would be if reporters actually investigated the incident and did such radical "reporter" things as asking to see the alleged 85 bodies, and so on. Well, now someone has. Not an American reporter, mind you, but an AFP reporter (and, at least as of now, the story is only running in Australian media):
"Up to 40 fighters were seen today at a Iraq lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces a day before and said they had never left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said. The correspondent, who went with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there.

"One of the fighters, who called himself Mohammed Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.

"He also said only 11 of his comrades were killed in airstrikes on the site."
As of this writing, AP's headline still reads quite definitively: "85 Militants Killed in U.S. Raid in Iraq." Is it possible that that is still true and that the AFP story is bogus? Yes, it is. Probable? I'd say definitely not.

Update: It's interesting to compare headlines. This morning's New York Times goes with "U.S.-Backed Iraqis Raid Camp and Report Killing 80 Insurgents," which gets the word "report" into the headline, and even mentions the U.S., although the wording clearly suggests that it was the Iraqis who raided the camp and killed 80 insurgents (although that's immediately contradicted by the first paragraph of the story, which starts, "Iraqi and American forces killed at least 80 insurgents on Tuesday"). By contrast, and far more typically, the San Jose Mercury News runs this unequivocal headline over the same story: "80 insurgents killed in raid of training camp."


 

What a difference a day makes


Bushian logic:
"Bush...has been traveling the country trying to convince older people that they don't need to fear his plans and that he does not want to change anything for people born before 1950.

"'A lot of people rely upon the check,' Bush said. 'It's an important part of their life. That's why none of us want to put a system in place that touches that check. It's essential that you hear that.'"
Born before 1950? "The check" is an "important part of your life." "No one wants to touch it." Born in 1950 or later? Guess it's not so important. People want to touch it. You should fear Bush's plans.

Is there really that big a difference between 56-year-olds and 55-year-olds? As someone who was 55 on Sunday and turned 56 on Monday, let me provide the answer: no.


 

On Media Bias


There's a lot of talk about liberal bias (or conservative bias) in the media. But the predominant bias in the media is neither - it's "establishment" bias - a bias toward the people and forces in power in society (and no, I don't think this is in original thought with me, it's just something that needs to be said periodically and pointed out with respect recent news stories).

Take, for example, the story just below about the raid on an Iraqi insurgent camp. The fact that there is no independent reporting on this event matters not; the media are happy to report the claims of the U.S. government or their surrogates. Now compare that to a a story from last week in which a named police captain in Iraq claimed that a named Iraqi Brigadier General had been shot and killed by U.S. forces at a checkpoint. As far as I can tell from Google News or Yahoo News, this story was never reported by a single American corporate media source (the link above is to an Australian story), even when the U.S. subsequently denied the story.

In today's news, reporters could easily have asked to see the bodies of 85 dead insurgents (not a simple thing to hide!), but there's no evidence they did - the word of the Iraqi government and U.S. government was good enough for them. But in a story which calls into question the actions of U.S. forces, even when there are completely obvious leads to follow, there's not only no followup, but no reporting of any kind. Does the named Brigadier General exist? Is he dead? When and where did he die? Was anyone with him? What is the police captain's evidence? All very obvious, simple questions, but, as far as we can tell, none of them asked.

Accepting the word of those in power? Easy. Challenging their words, or their actions? Only the exceptional media organizations, and the exceptional reporters, are capable of doing that. The rest are happy just to go along.


 

Unintended political humor of the day


Twice in the last two days I've seen a commercial running on TV proclaiming that "President Bush wants to save Social Security" (I'm quoting from memory there and in what follows). The ad, which is actually somewhat clever, then says, "Can you think of anything the Democrats have done to try to save Social Security? Go!" and then a stopwatch counts down 10 seconds while you try to think of an answer. At the end, the announcer says, "Tell Congress Social Security is too important for partisan games." So, praising George Bush and attacking Democrats in a TV ad isn't partisan?

By the way, the question is a perfectly fair one. Only a handful of Democrats have talked about eliminating the income cap on paying Social Security taxes, and for all the talk among Democrats and liberals about "framing" (the latest buzzword), none that I've heard have used the phrase "eliminate the regressive nature of the Social Security tax" to talk about that proposal.

Update: I should note, as I did in the comments, then when I said the question was a "fair" one, I meant it is reasonable for anyone to ask why the Democrats aren't speaking up on the issue other than to point out, accurately, that there is no "crisis." But of course the question isn't fair in the sense that the ad completely fails to note that George Bush has yet to put forward an actual plan, and he was finally forced to admit that the one thing he has talked about (private accounts) won't do anything to solve the long-term problems with Social Security. And it should also be noted that, along with the irony of an ad criticizing partisanship while praising Bush and attacking Democrats, comes the total hypocrisy of suggesting that the Democrats are playing a partisan "game", when in fact it is Bush who is playing a "game" (of chicken) by refusing to put forward an actual plan, hoping that the Democrats will be the first to publicly endorse benefit cuts as a long-term plan for Social Security, and thus pay the political price for doing so. Needless to say, as Democrats do point out, it is the party which controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress who has the obligation to put forward legislation, not the opposition who doesn't even have the ability to call hearings.


 

Who ya' gonna' believe?


The headlines today tell us that "Iraq Says 85 Iraqi militants killed at rebel base." Some headlines and some reports do make it clear that this is the claim of the Iraqi government, but others don't. The Reuters article does contain notes of skepticism ("It was unclear how all but one rebel came to be killed and how none were wounded. The government also could not explain the discrepancy between the high insurgent death toll and the relatively light police losses, saying only that the operation was a success."), but not until the 22nd (!) paragraph (they are short paragraphs :-)) do we read this:
"Notices distributed by a group called the Islamic Army of Tikrit, a local insurgent operation, said 11 militants had been killed, while 'many more' police commandos were killed."
The insurgents' claim seems a lot more credible to me (85 actual insurgents seems an awfully large group to be found in one place, unless it was really 20 "insurgents" and 65 family members), although it too probably minimizes their own losses and exaggerates their successes. But it really doesn't matter, because 99% of news consumers will never hear that part of the story anyway. The headlines have the most impact; the counterclaim in this story is so far down it doesn't even make the front page of the online story. Many newspapers will put this story into a "News in Brief" column, where only the first paragraph or two makes it into print anyway. And when it comes to the broadcasts media, there are no counterclaims - local news channels, CNN Headline News, radio (excepting of course Democracy Now! and Flashpoints!), etc., all have segment lengths far too short to accomodate such "nuances"; listeners will hear only that the Iraqi "government forces" are making great strides in taking control of their country, dealing resounding defeats to the insurgents.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005


 

The Schiavo case: media notes


[Updated and bumped; first posted 3/22, 12:49 p.m.]

Two notes from my lunchtime viewing. First up was Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who, unlike others (like Dr. Bill Frist) weighing in on the case, is actually a neurosurgeon and a professor of neurosurgery. Gupta presented the evidence on the case in standard media "he-said, she-said" fashion, with clips from a neurosurgeon hired by the family offering different opinions than one hired by the husband. That would be interesting, if we didn't all know that all sorts of medical ethics boards, courts, and the like have already considered all the evidence and every one of them has reached the same conclusion. It might also be interesting if the "parents'" neurosurgeon hadn't gone on from his diagnosis to talk about how good the prospects were for recovery; given proper therapy, he claimed, she could well be walking, resuming use of at least one arm, and more. Now I'm no doctor, and I've never met Terry Schiavo or seen the famous videotapes, but that just seemed to strain credibility way past the breaking point. Faith is one thing, self-delusion (or deliberate delusion of others) is quite another.

The "husband's" lawyer, in his clip, said that Schiavo's EEG was "flat". Now, I've never read an EEG, and perhaps there is some minor ambiguity about how flat is flat, but it sure sounded like a rather definitive statement based on concrete evidence. But then Dr. Gupta, the neurosurgeon, proceeded to inform the viewers that a "flat EEG" is synonomous with being "brain dead" and that being brain dead is a very significant state because that's the criterion often used to decide whether organs can be harvested for transplant. He then observed that, given her various eye motions, etc., Schiavo was definitely not brain dead (no ifs, ands, or buts about it). But he never returned to the evidence. Does she have a flat EEG or not? Is he calling the husband's lawyer a liar on that point? He didn't say, but one could certainly conclude he was.

Gupta's segment was followed by torture-advocate Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz proceeded to talk about how there was "rampant hypocrisy on both sides." Why? Referring to Bush, he noted that he wished Bush's "preference to err on the side of life" was evident in his treatment of death penalty cases when he was Governor, and referring to Republicans in Congress, he noted that their alleged commitment to states' rights was completely in opposition to their actions in this situation. And how are the Democrats/liberals being hypocritical? Because if this case was about a death penalty case, they would be on the other side. So they're "hypothetically hypocritical" (that's my term; to Dershowitz, it was just plain hypocrisy, even if it was totally imagined in his own mind). Except for the little detail Dershowitz forgot to mention, which is that no other Congress, be it Republican or Democrat-controlled, has ever done anything like this for any case, be it a medical situation or a death penalty case (indeed, Democrats like Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell have been in the forefront pushing for the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal). In his haste to skewer the Democrats for their hypothetical hypocrisy, Dershowitz must have forgotten to note the biggest hypocrisy of all - the fact that Gov. George Bush actually signed a law allowing doctors (not spouses, not parents) to cut off treatment in situations like the Schiavo case. In that omission, Dershowitz is not alone; other than in the liberal blogs, that fact has gone virtually unmentioned in the corporate media.

Update: Aaron Brown just finished interviewing Rabbi Marc Gellman on Newsnight. If he asked him once, he must have asked him ten times, what was "the theological view" of this or that aspect of the Schiavo case? Not the Reform Jewish theological point of view (which is Gellman's faith), but the theological view. I'll bet you didn't know that Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and everyone else has exactly the same "theology" on this point; of course they don't (just as an example, Suburban Guerrilla points us to a Salon story in whhich a Catholic priest discusses a theology rather different from the one offered up by Gellman). Indeed if you asked five different Rabbis you'd get five different points of view on the subject, but you would never think so from listening to Brown (or Gellman).

And while I'm discussing Brown, I'll just take note of his interview with the principle of Columbine High School, in which he spent ten minutes discussing security in the schools, kids turning in other kids, and other aspects of "how to prevent" tragedies like the one that just happened in Minnesota, without once mentioning the culture of violence and death which permeates the United States, from the violent video games to the foreign policy which believes that killing hundreds of thousands of people from other countries in the pursuit of our (make that "our") foreign policy objectives is a perfectly acceptable way of "doing business," where a former Secretary of State is able to say that the death of a half million Iraqi children is a price that is "worth it," and where respectable newscasters and politicians are able to talk with all seriousness about "taking out" leaders of foreign countries as if they were Tony Soprano talking about whacking an enemy.


 

Quote of the Day

"People all over the planet...know that there is an alternative to war. But war is about the only option available when the real motive is to steal natural resources that belong to someone else."

- Rep. Cynthia McKinney, speaking to the antiwar rally in Chicago on Saturday
And, just for the record, I don't agree with the position (and perhaps McKinney doesn't either) that the invasion of Iraq was "just" about stealing oil. It was that, for sure, but also more than that -- geopolitical power, feeding the war machine, domestic political power (keeping the American people in fear in the absence of the big red bogeyman), making clear that countries pursuing any kind of course independent of the United States won't be tolerated, and probably others. Different reasons motivate different members of the ruling class, not only because they have different economic interests, but also simply because they have different strategies, just like some bosses prefer a hard line with workers, while others think a softer line will be more profitable for themselves.


 

Robodoc


Various people have criticized others for attempting to diagnose Terry Schiavo based on looking at videos. No doubt that criticism is completely valid. But there's an amusing catch to this story, because here's the cover of this week's Business Week magazine:


And, believe it or not, this is not some kind of Photoshopped mockup for the cover - this is completely real, even down to the white lab coat (!). As the Business Week story discusses, this is a remote controlled robot, which doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J. are able to control remotely from a computer, maneuvering it through the hospital to visit their patients and discuss their cases using 2-way video communication, just like the doctor would do if making actual rounds. There are obvious limitations, but also clear benefits as well - allowing doctors to make rounds while they're stuck at home in a snowstorm or in bed with the flu, allowing outside experts to be brought in from anywhere in the world to discuss the case with a patient, etc.

It remains the case that, on a global scale, technology on a far, far lower scale (like clean drinking water) would save the lives of far more people for far less money than any number of robodocs ever will, but that's a false dichotomy, because, if the world (and especially the U.S.) would stop spending trillions on methods and devices to kill people, there would easily be enough money to do both.


 

The 43rd shot


Amadou Diallo was murdered by New York City cops firing 41 shots into his defenseless body; Rudy Giuliani was infamous for his defense of the cops in that incident (the 42nd shot). The cops were acquitted of criminal charges, but Diallo's family was later awarded $3 million. Now comes the 43rd shot, from the leading Democratic candidate for mayor of New York, Fernando Ferrer:
"Last Tuesday, Ferrer told a group of cops in the Bronx that the killing of the unarmed African immigrant in 1999 wasn't a crime and that prosecutors tried to 'over-indict' officers in the case."


 

Fallujah through rose-colored glasses


Last month we had one batch of "happy news" stories from Fallujah as some Western reporters (or should that be "reporters"?) were escorted through town; now another batch has turned up for the tour. This time the headlines (reflecting the word of some anonymous "American sources", not actually backed up with any data, you understand) proclaim that Fallujah is "the safest city in Iraq". Well, actually it may be, since the entire town is still under lockdown, with everyone searched coming into and out of town, curfews, and so on. Interestingly enough, the reporter writes that this is "an assertion that's impossible to verify," but that doesn't stop the newspaper from using it in the headline.

Here's the opening paragraph of the article from Knight-Ridder:

"Piles of rubble still line the streets here, but a few shops have opened on the main drag, schools are finally in session and a compensation program to help families rebuild made some token initial payments this month."
Sounds just great, doesn't it? We still have not seen a single aerial photo of Fallujah, nor is there any mention in this article of data - what percentage of homes are destroyed, how many people are now living in Fallujah, etc.? Are there still refugee camps where tens or even hundreds of thousands of Fallujans are living? No clue from this article.

Sorry, there is actually one, and exactly one, piece of data in the article. This one:

"So far, only 40 families have received compensation payments, out of an estimated 25,000 who suffered damages."
That's less than two-tenths of one percent. And, just a reminder from last month's post of how well even those 40 people are doing, this:
"Saad Khalifa, 39, a taxi driver who lives in northern Fallujah, said he returned to the city on Feb. 1 and found his house demolished.

"Khalifa said he applied for compensation from the Iraqi government to rebuild his house and was told he was eligible for the maximum, $4,000, 'which is nothing.'

"'We can build only one room and a kitchen with this money,' he said."
And while we're remembering, let's consider this line from the article:
"The second battle began in November, when U.S. Army and Marine units moved through the city, destroying buildings and killing hundreds of opponents."
Hundreds? Back in December, the "coalition forces" were claiming that "more than 2,000" had been killed. Of course, back then they wanted to make it seem like this was a resounding success over the "bad guys". Now that there are more people being killed every day in Iraq by far than there were back in November, they'd probably like you to forget that claim, and they'd also like to minimize just how bloodthirsty (and lawless) the assaulting forces were. And, needless to say, the corporate reporters are happy to cooperate in that fiction.


 

Government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations...


...and the people shall perish from this earth. Apologies to Abraham Lincoln, but it's the Bush Administration and its EPA who need to apologize, not I. In the latest "triumph" of profits before people:
"When the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a rule last week to limit mercury emissions from U.S. power plants, officials emphasized that the controls could not be more aggressive because the cost to industry already far exceeded the public health payoff.

"What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.

"That analysis estimated health benefits 100 times as great as the EPA did, but top agency officials ordered the finding stripped from public documents, said a staff member who helped develop the rule. Acknowledging the Harvard study would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls, said environmentalists and the study's author.

"The Harvard study concluded that mercury controls similar to those the EPA proposed could save nearly $5 billion a year through reduced neurological and cardiac harm. Last Tuesday, however, officials said the health benefits were worth no more than $50 million a year while the cost to industry would be $750 million a year."
$50 million, $5 billion. What's a couple of zeros between friends? Nothing. Especially when compared to a $750 million a year cost to the corporations.

This, by the way, is just one more example of why socialism is preferable to capitalism. Because a rational decision in situations like this one is almost guaranteed when competing costs (costs of health care vs. costs of mercury emission from power plants) are borne by the same entity, i.e., the people. Instead, what we have are costs which will be borne by different groups, and what results is an irrational decision based on the overwhelming weight of raw economic and political power.


 

A small crack in the dam


From Editor & Publisher:
"In a Sunday editorial marking the second anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq, The Orange County (Ca.) Register called for a U.S. pullout from that country, becoming perhaps the first newspaper in a Top 25 market to do so. The Register's daily circulation is around 300,000.

"'We opposed this war from the beginning and we believe the United States should withdraw its troops sooner rather than later, under a sensible exit strategy,' the editorial declared. 'While some argue that chaos would follow an American withdrawal, it is also true that U.S. troops have become a lightning rod, attracting the very attacks they are working to prevent.

"'Saddam Hussein is out of power, which is good. Now it is time to leave Iraq, for better and for worse, to the Iraqis.'"
I'm not familiar with the Register per se, but for non-locals and non-Americans, it's worth noting that Orange County, which lies just north of San Diego, is the most conservative of the major California counties.

(Hat tip to the indispensible Antiwar.com)


Monday, March 21, 2005


 

Quote of the Day

"The U.S. has no exit strategy in Iraq, because they're not planning on leaving."

- Larry Everest, being interviewed on Flashpoints! radio


 

Iraq - Remembrance of quotes past


I was just looking something up in an old archive (December 2003) of Left I on the News, and stumbled upon this great Al Sharpton quote, totally a propos of George Bush's recent speech on the subject:
"He had the audacity to say, 'It doesn't matter whether it was weapons or not, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and it was the right thing to do. That's like me coming to the Commonwealth Club and saying that we all must get out of the building, we are in imminent danger; and we all get outside on Market Street and you say, 'Reverend Al, where's the danger?' 'Ahh, it doesn't matter, you all needed some fresh air anyhow.'"


 

One more dangeous terrorist slips the U.S. grasp


Chess champion Bobby Fischer (whose political views I am not associating myself with) played chess in Yugoslavia in 1992, violating American law calling for economic sanctions against that country which was such a threat to us. Recently the U.S. has stepped up its efforts to have Fischer deported from Japan, where he has been in custody since July (can't have such dangerous criminals running around loose). Today, Fischer was granted citizenship in Iceland, which doesn't end his problems immediately, but quite probably will. And Americans are once again trembling in their boots, at the thought that this dangerous threat to our way of life may soon be on the loose.

He's lucky he didn't violate the economic sanctions against Cuba; the U.S. probably would have send a squad of commandos to Japan to take care of him, rather than entrusting the government of Japan with that delicate task.

And, I might add, it's lucky for those Icelanders they're not sitting on the world's second largest reserves of oil. Otherwise invasion might be imminent.


 

Imperialist Quote of the Day

Iraqis had better "be darned careful about making a lot of changes just to be putting in their friend or to be putting in someone else from their tribe or from their ethnic group.

"This is too serious a business over there, and the United States has got too much invested and too much committed and too many lives at stake for people to be careless about that."


- Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on Fox News as quoted elsewhere
And that ain't no "Donsense", just the voice of arrogant imperialism. Iraqis determining their own government free of outside interference? Perish the thought.


 

Blog roundup


It's my birthday, so I'm taking the easy way out today and passing you off to everyone else.

WIIIAI has some excellent analysis of what the U.S. (and the Washington Post) want to see happen in Bolivia (hint: "intervention").

Cookie Jill at Skippy TBK has the blockbuster news that the BBC is in the process of exposing Tony Blair's perfidy (and for my own contribution, this heartening story about the father of a British soldier killed in Iraq who will be running as an antiwar candidate against Blair in his local constitutency in the upcoming British election).

And over at First Draft, Holden explores the various reasons why George Bush might interrupt his precious vacation time (but don't fret for George, I'm pretty sure I heard he's headed right back to Texas to resume his vacation).


Sunday, March 20, 2005


 

Great idea for a protest


From one of the comments below from reader DoDo in Budapest, Hungary, comes this great suggestion for a dramatic protest, a great improvement on the standard candlelight vigil.


Saturday, March 19, 2005


 

Unclear on the concept


In today's news spin, we learn:
"U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a visit to Seoul today that the U.S. has no intention of attacking North Korea.

"'We understand North Korea is a sovereign state,' Rice said."
Gee, that's funny. I was under the impression that Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, and Grenada were all sovereign states, just to name the latest countries that the U.S. has invaded and/or bombed into submission.

Update: And in a case of very clear on the concept, the concept being lying to the world in order to justify war, this just in:

"In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

"But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

"Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states."


 

Baghdad Burning, the play


Back in November I suggested that someone should turn Baghdad Burning into a play. Well, now someone has, and it's playing in New York City. Unfortunately it appears they did a poor job staging it, at least according to the New York Times theater critic. Too bad because Riverbend's writing continues to be extraordinary.

For pure unadulterated Riverbend, without the staging, there's still the book of her blog (and of course the blog itself!). Originally scheduled for publication in March, it has now been postponed until May.


 

Bush comes clean (more or less)


While thousands were marching in the streets against the war, here's what George Bush had to say to defend the invasion:
"On this day two years ago, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world from a grave danger."
And, except for that post-hoc addition of "freeing the Iraqi people," that is in fact the rationale put forward by Bush before the invasion, and one which neither he nor other war supporters seem all that willing to mention (hence my surprise to hear George mention it).

Now some clarification is necessary. When Bush talks now (or two years ago) about "disarming a brutal regime," he isn't talking about guns, or tanks, or hand grenades, because there was never a mandate from the U.N. to "disarm" Iraq in the traditional sense of the word. What there was, as everyone knows, was a mandate to disarm Iraq of "weapons of mass destruction" - chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. And according to the best information we now have, Iraq was in fact disarmed of such weapons in 1991 (or so), 12 years before the invasion to "disarm Iraq". And furthermore, that "grave danger" of which Bush speaks today was, of course, the "grave danger" that they would give some of those non-existent weapons to people who allegedly were, but in fact were not, their allies - al Qaeda. So there was no grave danger, and the regime was already disarmed. Facts which George, in his speech today, for some strange reason neglected to mention.

And in today's humorous side note, Bush had this to say: "The victory of freedom in Iraq is strengthening a new ally in the war on terror." Oh yeah, that Iraqi government is strengthening day by day. No doubt any day now they'll be arresting Osama bin Laden. The fact that the U.S. forces are getting weaker day by day - killed, maimed, unable to recruit new members, etc. - only outweighs the value of that "new ally in the war on terror" by an order of magnitude or so.


 

Don't read this!


Go out and demonstrate against the war instead! Be the first in your contingent to try out the new slogan: Not one cent more for occupation and war!


 

Quote of the Day

"Our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international [forums], judicial processes and terrorism."

- New "National Military Strategy" document issued by the U.S. Department of War, which puts in writing the United States' long-standing (long before George Bush) policy of launching preemptive strikes ("active deterrence" in the language of the report) against nations thought to pose a threat to the United States.
A clear case of the criminals screaming like stuck pigs when caught in the act, and blaming the U.N. and the International Criminal Court and other courts for potentially exposing those crimes. One wonders if the Department of War includes the "judicial processes" of the United States as a potential enemy they're planning to preemptively attack, after they run out of places like Afghanistan (see item below) where they can go to hide their crimes.

Neither international forums, judicial processes, nor terrorism, even of the grand scale Sept. 11 kind, do anything to challenge "our strength as a nation-state". It is the actions of the American government (the PATRIOT act, "rendition", illegal invasions of other countries, spending money on war instead of on human needs) which do that.

(Hat tip to WIIIAI)


Friday, March 18, 2005


 

Quote of the Day

"Afghanistan is being transformed into an enormous US jail. What we have here is a military strategy that has spawned serious human rights abuses, a system of which Afghanistan is but one part."

- Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, established in 2003 with funding from the US Congress to investigate abuses committed by local warlords
The Guardian has gone where no U.S. media dares go, into the hinterlands of Afghanistan, to uncover the global torture and human rights abuse center being operated there by the U.S. military. With the nose of the court under the Guantanamo tent, the U.S. is doing its best to keep one step ahead of the law by getting out of town, and hiding out in the wild west (or, in this case, the wild East). The right to accuse other countries of human rights abuses at the U.N.? Don't make me laugh. Read the story and weep.


 

Speech of the Day - Felipe Perez Roque


If you live in the United States, or in most of the "West", the words "Cuba" and "Fidel Castro" are synonomous, at least in the corporate media or the mouths of corporate politicians. But the Cuban people are blessed with many capable and eloquent leaders - Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque being one of them. Two days ago, in Geneva, he responded to United States attempts to condemn Cuba before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Since the speech is online here, I'll try to keep my excerpting brief, but it's going to be hard, because it's a gem:
"The guarantee of the enjoyment of human rights today depends on whether you live in a developed country or not - and it also depends on the social class that you belong to. Therefore, there will be no real enjoyment of human rights for all as long as we fail to achieve social justice in the relations among countries and within countries themselves.

"In [the] developed countries, incredible as it may seem, the unemployed, the immigrants and the impoverished do not enjoy the rights that are most certainly guaranteed for the rich.

"Can a poor person in the United States be elected Senator? No, they cannot. The campaign costs, on average, some US$ 8 million. Do the children of the rich go to the unjust and illegal war in Iraq? No, they do not go. None of the 1,500 American youths killed in that war was the son of a millionaire or a Secretary. The poor die there defending the vested interests of a minority.

"In [130 countries in the Third World ], the poor and the indigent, who account for the majority, do not even have the right to life. For that reason, every year we see the death of 11 million children under five years of age, a portion of which could be spared with barely a vaccine or oral rehydration solutions - and also the death of 600,000 poor women at childbirth. They have no right to learn to read and write. It would be dangerous for the owners. They are kept in ignorance to keep them docile. That is why this Commission should be ashamed of the nearly 1 billion illiterate people in the world. That is why in Latin America 20 million children endure ruthless exploitation as they work on the streets instead of going to school.

"The Cuban people strongly believe in freedom, democracy and human rights. It took them a lot to achieve them and are aware of its price. It is a people in power. That is the difference.

"There cannot be democracy without social justice. There is no possible freedom if not based on the enjoyment of education and culture. Ignorance is the cumbersome shackle squeezing the poor. Being cultivated is the only way to be free! - that is the sacred tenet that we Cubans learned from the Apostle of our independence.

"There is no real enjoyment of human rights if there is no equality and equity. The poor and the rich will never have the same rights in real life, proclaimed and recognized as these may be on paper.

"That is what we Cubans learned long ago and for that reason we built a different country. And we are just beginning. We have done so despite the aggressions, the blockade, the terrorist attacks, the lies and the plots to assassinate Fidel. We know that the Empire is chagrined by this. We are a dangerous example: we are a symbol that only in a just and friendly society; that is, socialist, can there be enjoyment of all rights for all citizens.

"Therefore, the Government of the United States attempts to condemn us here at the Commission on Human Rights. It is afraid of our example. It is strong at the military level but weak on the moral front. And morality, not weapons, is the shield of the peoples.

"Everybody in this hall knows that there is no reason to present a resolution against Cuba at this Commission. In Cuba, there is not a single - and there has not been ever in 46 years of Revolution - an extrajudicial execution or a missing person, not even one! Let anyone come up with the name of a Cuban mother who is still looking for the remains of her murdered son or daughter! Or a grandmother searching for her grandchild handed over to another family following the parents' murder! Let anyone here come up with the name of a reporter killed in Cuba - and 20 of them were murdered in Latin America only in 2004! Let anyone come up with the name of a prisoner vexed by his keepers, a prisoner ordered down on his knees, prey to terror, in front of a dog trained to kill!

"President Bush has a plan for Cuba, but we Cubans have a plan of a different sort. We Cubans have a clear idea about our course. And nobody will move us away from it. We will build an even more just, more democratic, more free and more cultivated society. In brief, more socialist.

"We will not cooperate with the Representative of the High Commissioner or with the spurious resolution behind her. Why is it not such a prestigious lawyer appointed Special Representative of the High Commissioner to the Guantanamo Naval Base? Why is she not asked to investigate the flagrant violations of the rights of five courageous and pure Cuban youths imprisoned in the United States and their families? Because it cannot be done. Because it is about the human rights violations committed by the United States and they are untouchable. It can be done against small Cuba but not against the United States.

"The Commission on Human Rights before us today is illustrative of the unjust and unequal world in which we live. There is no longer nothing left in it from the friendly and respectful spirit that brought its founders together after the victory over fascism.

"Therefore, the Cuban delegation will cease to insist that we must transform the Commission. What we have to change is the world, go to the roots. A Commission on Human Rights without selectivity, politicization, double standards, blackmail and hypocrisy will only be possible in a different world.

"Cuba does not consider that to be a dream, but a cause well worth fighting for. That is why it fights and it will continue to do so."


Why stop here? There's more...

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