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Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Royalty Left I on the News can support

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, gets knighted (OK, being knighted is not exactly becoming "royalty." It doesn't even come with a hearty handshake or cold cash, just a tap on the shoulder with cold steel. But congratulations to Tim anyway, without whom Left I on the News would just be me ranting and raving around the house and sending hundreds of unpublished letters to the editor).


See no evil

In a New York Times article describing the latest bombing in Iraq which missed a U.S. convoy and killed an Iraqi civilian, we read this:
"Another soldier pushed away two Western women who were trying to videotape the scene."
What exactly were the soldiers preventing? The Iraqis know and see what is going on in their country. The only purpose of preventing someone "videotaping the scene" is to limit the impact on Americans. Which means that the soldiers, like police suppressing demonstrations in the United States, were actually carrying out a political task, not a military one.

Incidentally, the women aren't identified, but there's a good chance they were part of Occupation Watch. This quote from them is a clue:

"'There's a reason why this has happened,' one of the women yelled. 'Go home. People are after the Iraqis because of you.'"


See no leftists

An article in USA Today yesterday discusses political blogs. Here's what they see:
"There are liberals, conservatives, libertarians and near-anarchists."
Socialists, communists, leftists (pick your own word)? As far as the mainstream media in America, they simply don't exist. "Liberal" is as far left as they are willing to admit exists. And "near" anarchists? You mean there aren't any actual anarchists writing blogs? Hard to believe.

One amusing quote from the article:

"Their audience tends to be an elite crowd of political junkies who have almost non-stop access to a computer and large amounts of time to surf the Internet for breaking news. In short: political consultants and journalists."
I'm willing to believe there are some journalists reading this blog. Political consultants? I doubt it. Elite? Definitely, if we define "elite" (from Dictionary.com) as "A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status." I doubt my readers enjoy superior social or economic status, but intellectual? The fact that you're reading this blog proves it. It's practically a tautology. :-)

And a not so amusing quote from the same article:

"Blogging comes with new ethical questions. Bloggers do things that would be firing offenses in most newsrooms. 'There's no pretension of being fair or balanced or impartial,' Moulitsas says. 'We all wear our ideology on our sleeve.'"
Of course, most (practically all) bloggers do not pretend to be news sources, but news commentators. And virtually all news commentators "wear their ideology on their sleeves" without fear of being fired. Of course, plenty of news "reporters" do so as well - Judith Miller of the New York Times and Nedra Pickler of the AP are two who come immediately to mind, along with countless news "anchors" like Shepherd Smith.


Class warfare

Paul Krugman has a good column about the economy and the "so-called boom." It explains clearly how, whatever improvement is occuring, it isn't being shared by working people.

The column is marred, however, by Krugman's trivialization of a very serious subject - class warfare. Describing how the richest 1 percent of Americans are reaping 49% of the increased corporate profits, Krugman writes "'Class warfare!' the right shouts." But, as it would seem Krugman knows but isn't willing to say for fear of being too far out of the "mainstream," "class warfare" isn't a verbal construct, it's a fact. Saying that the rich are getting richer isn't "class warfare," and the fact the right wants to trivialize the matter by claiming so should simply be ignored as ludicrous. The real class warfare is being conducted not by the mouths of the left, but by the actions of the rich, whose corporations and politicians continue to accelerate the transfer of money to themselves from working people. This is a deadly serious issue, not a laughing matter.


The news from Israel

Israel rightly deserves worldwide condemnation for its actions virtually every day. But occasionally they do something right:
Israel to suspend Microsoft buys
Government To Seek Open-source Options

"Israel became the latest government to embrace the open-source movement in software, saying this week that it would suspend purchases of Microsoft's productivity software and explore less costly, open-source alternatives."
However, perhaps this isn't such good news after all. If they had to spend more money on Microsoft software, perhaps they would have less money for things like this:
Israel Plans to Expand Settlements

"Israel approved a plan to spend at least $56 million to expand settlements on the occupied Golan Heights, prompting accusations from Syria today that Israel was wrecking peace efforts."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


Israeli soldier admits racism

"An Israeli soldier who three days ago mistakenly shot and seriously wounded a Jewish demonstrator in the northern West Bank has told interrogators that he thought he was shooting a Palestinian, not a Jew.

"'I am sorry, I never thought I was shooting at Jews, I would never shoot a Jew,' the soldier reportedly said." (Source)


Who or what kills Americans?

Still another entry in a continuing series on the things Americans should be worried about if they're worried about dying. At its peak, terrorism killed fewer than 3000 Americans in 2001; historically, the number is an order of magnitude or two lower (as far as I know, the number has never exceeded a hundred in a year, and most years has been far less). The U.S. government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars (not to mention ripping up the Constitution) to "fight" this problem.

According to John Stauber, author of Mad Cow, U.S.A., speaking this morning on Democracy Now!, 5000 Americans die every year from eating tainted food. Needless to say, a fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent to kill people in Iraq and Afghanistan could have saved many of those 5000 lives had it been spent on food safety.

Monday, December 29, 2003


What's preventing elections in Iraq?

We've been told repeatedly that elections can't be held in Iraq until a census is taken, because no good records exist on which to base voter rolls. In light of that, an article in the Washington Post on the recruitment process for new Iraqi police officers is rather interesting:
"Steve Casteel, the Coalition Provisional Authority's senior adviser to the Interior Ministry, said safeguards were built into the hiring and training process, such as checks of two computer databases to determine whether candidates served in the Iraqi security forces when Saddam Hussein was president or if they were among the thousands of convicts Hussein released from Iraqi prisons shortly before the war."
So we're to believe that computer databases exist of all those who served in the Iraqi security forces, and all those who were in prison, but not those who voted in the last Iraqi election (and regardless of how "democratic" they might have been, there certainly were elections in Iraq)?

As an aside, since I've just finished watching season 4 of "The Sopranos" on DVD, I can't help but note that it appears that the Soprano family has opened up operations in Iraq:

"Roughly 2,500 people on the payroll of the Facilities Protection Service, which guards government buildings, either do not exist or have not been showing up to work, investigators say."


The unknown poet laureate

Back in October Laura Bush recited a poem she said President Bush greeted her with when she returned recently from France, where President Jacques Chirac had kissed her hand twice. It read in part:
"Roses are red/Violets are blue/Oh my, lump in the bed/How I've missed you.

"Roses are redder/Bluer am I/Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy."
Now along comes Laura on Meet the Press and we learn:
"The first lady also said that the 'Roses are red, violets are blue' poem she read at a National Book Festival gala in October was not actually written by her husband even though it has been attributed to him. She did not say who wrote the poem."
So does this mean that George Bush has his speechwriters write poems to his wife for him? No wonder he's so hot on "no child left behind." He, evidently, was one who was. Or should have been, at any rate. And the even more amazing thing is, he and his handlers allowed this poem to become public, as if it reflected positively on George Bush. I suppose they thought it made him more "human." As opposed to the frickin' idiot he really is. The dangerous frickin' idiot with his finger on the button of the U.S. military, terrorizing the world, and his hands on the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, ripping them to shreds.


The end is in sight!

Headline in the Christian Science Monitor:
US sees tide turn on Iraq insurgents
I wonder if they can also see the light at the end of the tunnel? And, oh by the way, that massive, coordinated bombing attack at coalition bases and the governor's office on Saturday that killed 13 and injured more than 170? Evidently just a freak tsunami.


Washington Post on Venezuela

Blogger xymphora takes apart a recent editorial in the Washington Post which virtually advocates another Washington-supported coup against Hugo Chavez.


Who "sacrificed" in Iraq?

Tom the Dancing Bug (Ruben Bolling) takes George Bush at his word when he announced that "only those who sacrificed and risked their lives will be eligible for Iraq reconstruction contracts."


"Roaring" economy, part II

Another aspect of the "roaring" economy, from the Detroit News via Counterspin Central:
"The annual income of middle-class Americans fell by almost $500 last year and the number of people in poverty rose by 1.7 million, the Census Bureau reported Friday [Sept. 26]...There were 3 million more poor people last year than in 2000 shortly before the economy slipped into recession."
Think about this the next time there's a piece on "the economy" and how it's "roaring" back on your TV news. Because the people reporting the news sure won't be.


"Relative calm" in the Mideast

On Friday, Left I wrote about some of the latest violence in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Electronic Intifada looks at a different aspect of the same story - headlines which talked about the end of a period of "relative calm" (a subject Left I has also discussed previously):
"In fact, the period since 4 October [the date of the last previous Palestinian suicide bombing] has been one of intense Israeli violence, in which 117 Palestinians were killed, including 23 children. At the same time, Israel destroyed almost five hundred Palestinian homes throughout the Occupied Territories."
Of course, Palestinians, like Iraqis, Afghans, and so many others, don't count as actual human beings whose lives matter, in yet another demonstration of the racism which permeates Western media. Rest assured that if it were up to the U.S. media or the U.S. or Israeli governments, there wouldn't even be a count of the number of Palestinian dead.


"Combat-related" death in Iraq

The national media, TV and press, have been reporting the deaths of two American soldiers in Iraq in the last 24 hours. But here in San Jose, a third death makes the news, because it was a local boy (and I do mean "boy" - 18 years old), a Milpitas High School graduate. The San Jose Mercury News insists this was a "non-combat-related car accident." Even without knowing the circumstances, that's a preposterous assertion. American soldiers are in Iraq because of "combat," because the United States chose to invade another country, depose its leader, and become an "occupying power" (in the words of the U.N.). If any death that occurs there isn't "combat-related" I don't know what is. Perhaps it wasn't a "combat death," but it sure was "combat-related."

Knowing the circumstances, however, makes it even more so. According to his father, "It was dark and he didn't see a traffic circle. He hit a berm, and his Humvee flipped and he was ejected [and then crushed by the Humvee]." Why didn't he see the traffic circle? Probably because the street lights weren't on because of the insufficient electricity supply - caused by the invasion. Or perhaps, like so many other soldiers, he was driving at an unsafe, high rate of speed to avoid being killed by a bomb as he drove along. Quite possibly both causes were involved. "Non-combat-related"? I don't think so.

When the statistics are subsequently publicized by the Mercury News and other media outlets, however, the tragic death of Michael Mihalakis won't be counted as a "combat" death, and in some small way, will be forgotten, not "counted" as important enough to be included in the "cost of war."


Quote of the Day

"There are three types of fools in the 21st century: People who smoke, people who don't appreciate music and people who cannot use the computer." -- Kim Jong Il, quoted by AP in an article on North Korean computer usage.
Left I, no fool he, is sitting here not smoking and listening to music on his computer. :-)


"Illegal" Israeli outposts

A headline in Ha'aretz this morning reads "NRP's Eitam: We will support removal of 4 illegal outposts." Of course all Israeli "outposts" and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are illegal under the Geneva Convention, but the very first sentence of the article clarifies that what they really were talking about was "unauthorized" outposts. So an "authorized" outpost is, by Israeli definition, a "legal" one.

In light of Ariel Sharon claiming that he is going to have to act unilaterally because the Palestinians have done "nothing" to advance the peace process, it's enlightening to read about the process for removing these outposts:

"The head of the Israel Defense Force's Central Command, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, signed Monday an order for the removal of four unauthorized West Bank outposts. On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz both signed the order, paving the way for the four settlements to be removed.

"Those wishing to challenge the orders now have three days to petition the Civil Administration's planning department. Thereafter, they have three days to petition the High Court against the decision."
And what are these outposts for which such an elaborate, multi-level signature process and multilevel legal appeals process is provided?
"Only one of the outposts - Ginot Aryeh - is inhabited, with about 10 families living there as well as a few single people. The outpost, however, is just 50 meters from an area with building permission and a deal to move the outpost may be worked out with the settlers.

"The other outposts are currently empty."
By contrast, a Palestinian building an "unauthorized" house just one meter "from an area with building permission" will have it bulldozed by the "IDF," no questions asked and no appeals process provided.

Is there a chance Israel will ever abandon "real" settlements with thousands or tens of thousands of illegal settlers, as envisioned by various peace plans and required by international law? You be the judge.


The real jobless rate

Beginning with day 2 of Left I on the News back in August, Left I has noted that "the 'unemployment' numbers are 'cooked' to hide the truth about what is happening in this country." Today, amazingly, the Los Angeles Times "breaks" the story to its readers:
Jobless Count Skips Millions
The rate hits 9.7% when the underemployed
and those who have quit looking are added

"The nation's official jobless rate is 5.9%, a relatively benign level by historical standards. But economists say that figure paints only a partial — and artificially rosy — picture of the labor market.

"To begin with, there are the 8.7 million unemployed, defined as those without a job who are actively looking for work. But lurking behind that group are 4.9 million part-time workers such as Gluskin who say they would rather be working full time — the highest number in a decade.

"There are also the 1.5 million people who want a job but didn't look for one in the last month. Nearly a third of this group say they stopped the search because they were too depressed about the prospect of finding anything. Officially termed 'discouraged,' their number has surged 20% in a year.

"Add these three groups together and the jobless total for the U.S. hits 9.7%, up from 9.4% a year ago."

Sunday, December 28, 2003


"Shooting peaceful demonstrators is 'unremarkable'" - New York Times

On Friday, Left I on the News reported the story of two demonstrators in Israel, demonstrating against the "separation barrier," who were shot with live ammunition by Israeli troops. Evidently, this story has now taken on bigger proportions in Israel, so it has now made its way into the pages of the New York Times.

Why has the story become bigger, and made the U.S. press? Because, unbeknownst to the Israeli soldiers, one of the two people they shot was an Israeli.

"At first glance, the confrontation on Friday along Israel's separation barrier seemed unremarkable.

"About 20 protesters shook the chain-link fence, and some then took out pliers to cut it. After calling out warnings and firing shots into the air, Israeli troops shot at the legs of the protesters with live ammunition, the military admits. One man was hit in both legs and seriously wounded.

"The surprise was that the man, Gil Naamati, is a 22-year-old Israeli who had just completed three years of military service as a combat soldier.

"The soldiers apparently did not realize that Israelis were among the demonstrators. In a statement, the military said soldiers shot at the man 'who led the rioters.' A woman was also lightly wounded, a 26-year-old American, Anne Farina.

"The episode happened on Friday afternoon 25 miles from here, on the edge of a Palestinian village, Masha, in the West Bank. By today, almost everyone in Israel, from President Moshe Katsav on down had joined a national debate on why soldiers had used live ammunition to shoot the unarmed Israeli demonstrator."
So shooting at demonstrators who might be Palestinian, or members of the International Solidarity Movement like Tom Hurndall, with live ammunition, would be completely "unremarkable." Only the fact that one of them was an Israeli made it "remarkable" and subject for debate in Israel (and subject for mention in the pages of the Times). Note that by the last quoted paragraph, the debate is not about using live ammunition to shoot unarmed demonstrators, but about using live ammunition to shoot an unarmed Israeli demonstrator. Could there be any clearer evidence of the racist nature of Israeli society?

Followup: Lawrence of Cyberia summarizes some recent sentences given to Israeli soldiers:

Of course, as he points out, the vast majority of Israeli soldiers who commit crimes like these are never even charged; this is the worst that happens to them, not the norm.

Although, to give the Israelis credit, just this small sampling of Israeli soldiers charged and actually sentenced with crimes against Palestinians, probably exceeds the number of American soldiers who have been charged, or sentenced, with similar crimes against Iraqis, Afghanis, or the residents of a host of other countries that have been bombed or invaded by U.S. troops over the years, despite all the "investigations" we're always told are occuring when such incidents are reported.


Cutbacks in the newsroom?

Why report on new news when you can just recycle the old stuff at no cost? Via Atrios I am led to blogger Needlenose (Swopa), who spots this interesting lesson:

AP, December 28:: "Gunmen and other fighters [in the Iraqi resistance] that were rumored to be paid somewhere around $250 per attack are now said to be demanding as much as $1,000."

AP, August 7:: "Guerrilla organizers have been forced to increase the amount they pay for attacks on coalition forces to $1,000 from $250."

Well, at least they reversed the order of the comparison! Wouldn't want to think those reporters weren't doing something to earn their money!

Whenever you read unsubstantiated claims like this, remember they are just as likely to be black propaganda aimed either at the American public, the Iraqi resistance, or both, as to be true. As Left I has said on more than one occasion, you should believe nothing the government says without actual independent proof. Is Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Muhammed really leaking details about key members in his organization, or their plans for using anthrax or other bioweapons? Or is the U.S. government just saying he is in order to keep the American public in fear? Or to demoralize the remaining members of Al Qaeda, or to make them think Muhammed is a "snitch" so they won't try to free him with some future action? There is virtually no way you can know the truth about things like this; given that, a constant vigilance against simply accepting what the U.S. government says (especially via its mouthpiece Judith Miller in the New York Times!) is absolutely essential. It simply can't be said often enough.


The "roaring" economy

CBS Evening News this evening featured a piece on the economy, which has now come "roaring" back according to CBS (by "the economy," they really mean the stock market, of course). 2004, according to CBS, promises to be a "banner year" for the economy. The very next item informed viewers that personal bankruptcies hit an all-time high in 2003, and that there are now more children in families which have gone bankrupt than in families which have gone through divorce. CBS, like all capitalist media outlets, thinks that the economic problems of ordinary people, like joblessness, lack of health insurance, and bankruptcy, aren't actually indicative of "the economy," but some "other" thing.


Quote of the Day

"My defense: I was a soldier. I saw the end of a conscientious day's effort. I watched through the portholes. I saw every Jew burned and turned into soap. Do you people think yourselves better because you burned your enemies at long distance with missiles without ever seeing what you had done to them?" -- Norman Solomon, quoting Lenny Bruce quoting Thomas Merton quoting (apocryphally) Adolf Eichmann.
The Jews, of course, were not the "enemies" of Germany, which makes the first part of Eichmann's supposed thought despicable in our eyes. But the Iraqi people or the Afghan people were equally not the "enemies" of the American people, who cavalierly murdered tens of thousands of them in the name of "self-defense." And, it must be noted, there are even better ways to kill more of your enemies at a distance, without guilt, than with missiles, as the embargo of Iraq and its hundreds of thousands of innocent victims demonstrated so clearly.


Public service announcement

The AP reminds us of something that you can rest assured you will not be hearing from Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman or any other government officials:
" In Britain, 143 people died of [Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease] after an outbreak of mad cow in the 1980s."


Political Humor of the Day

"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.'" -- Rev. Al Sharpton, addressing the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco
Rev. Sharpton also had this to say:
"This is an administration where the Vice-President says, 'I'm not going to tell you what I was meeting with Enron about in the executive office of the White House, but I want the right to know what your librarian gives you as a book to go to your home. We want the right to eavesdrop on lawyer-client conversations; we want the right to do anything we want to invade your privacy, in the name of [fighting] terrorism.' We cannot say to the world to join us, we are the land of the free and the home of the brave -- and then say, we are going to suspend freedom and you better not be brave enough to question us."
You can listen to the audio of the entire speech here; transcript not available as of this writing.

Saturday, December 27, 2003


NAFTA 10 Years Later

The New York Times explores the results of NAFTA, 10 years after its passage. The overall spin of the article is shown in its first quote from an expert:
"Gary Hufbauer, a senior analyst at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington research group that supports free trade, said the gains for the United States — lower priced consumer goods and increased corporate earnings — are large compared to the losses."
But even Hufbauer can't hide the reality:
"'However, the gains are so thinly spread across the country that people don't thank NAFTA when they buy a mango or inexpensive auto parts,' he said."
Guess what, Gary? People who have lost their jobs don't figure cheaper mangoes were worth the cost, people like Bonnie Long:
"'We're the losers,' said Bonnie Long, one of at least half a million American manufacturing workers who lost their jobs due to NAFTA, despite the surge in trade. 'We lost our health care, our living wages. The winners are the corporate executives who don't even live here and can locate their factories wherever they find the cheapest labor.'"
The sub-heads in the article paint a very different picture from the one Mr. Hufbauer does:The bottom line is actually well expressed in the body of the article:
"But the benefits of stable prices and rising 401(k)'s are largely invisible compared with the blight of a shuttered factory. The consumers of the United States or Mexico or Canada are also each nation's workers, farmers and small town residents, and NAFTA left many with lower consumer costs at the expense of their old way of life. [Emphasis added]

In Canada, where NAFTA helped shape a more competitive economy, those growing pains were cushioned by a strong social safety net. Not so in Mexico and the United States.
Note, however, the disingenuousness of the phrase "at the expense of their old way of life." You know, like actually having a job, or having a job which actually pays enough to support a family. That way of life.

The emphasized point, of course, goes to the heart of Marxist analysis. Marx noted the fundamental contradition of capitalism - in order to make a profit, companies must pay their workers less than the value of the goods they produce. But workers are also consumers, and the result of this underpayment is that workers can't afford to buy all the goods that they produce. Capitalists continue to hope that workers won't understand this contradition and, even more, that they won't realize that the solution is socialism.

Friday, December 26, 2003


Concentration Camp X-Ray

Left I on the News has been referring to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo as a concentration camp for quite some time. People imprisoned for indefinite periods without having committed (or even being accused of) a crime, mistreated so badly and so devoid of hope that suicide attempts are routine. What other term is appropriate other than concentration camp?

Finally the government has joined Left I in this description. OK, it's the Cuban government, but still. At least someone else is willing to call a spade a spade.


Mideast violence, press bias continue unabated

The Washington Post reports today's news in a neutral fashion: "Eleven Killed in Mideast Violence." The New York Times, by contrast, features a completely one-sided version of the same news: "Suicide Attacker Kills 4 in Blast at Tel Aviv Bus Stop" - only in the article itself do we learn that 5 Palestinians were killed in an airstrike almost simultaneously with the suicide attack described in the headline.

The San Jose Mercury News goes with the story from the Post, with an interesting choice of headlines. The main headline is the neutral "Violence in Mideast shatters relative calm." The online edition features just one sub-head: "Tel Aviv Blast: Palestinian Kills 4 Israelis Near Tel Aviv." The print edition actually has a second, equal subhead reading "Israeli Strike: Gunships Kill Militant Leader in Gaza City." Note two things about that headline. First, no Israeli actually killed a Palestinian, it was an inanimate "gunship" which did the deed (kind of the opposite of the old NRA "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" bumpersticker. "Israelis don't kill people, their gunships do"). Second, the headline suggests just a single Palestinian death, whereas actually six occured.

None of the stories actually explores who the dead Palestian civilians were. Were they men, women, children? Did they have families who mourn them? We'll never know, rest assured there will be no followup of this in the U.S. press. By contrast, the Mercury News article features a full color picture of a wounded Israeli soldier being carried away from the site of the suicide bombing.

Again I pose the question to supporters of Israeli - what moral code, what religion says it is permissable to kill 4 or 5 (number unclear in this case) innocent people and wound 14 more, in order to kill one person who you accuse (without any actual proof or legal charges or trial) of planning an attack sometime in the future? What's next? Killing someone who might decide sometime in the future to plan an attack even further in the future?

Not one of the reports in the American press informs the reader that one of the dead Palestinians was a child, even though the Israeli press is reporting this fact.

Incidentally, there has also been absolutely no reporting in the U.S. press about this incident (again, reported in the Israeli press) where two peace activists, one Israeli and one foreigner, were wounded when Israeli troops fired on a demonstration against the separation wall. The misnamed Israeli "Defense" Forces opened fire on protestors with live ammunition.

Thursday, December 25, 2003


Quote of the Day

"I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional." -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, dedicating a new "faith-based" prison
Really? I'll bet the inmates can think of about a thousand better places. :-)

News coverage of the event tells us that "the Lawtey Correctional Institution will offer religious studies, choir practice, religious counseling and other spiritual activities seven days a week. Participation is voluntary and inmates are free to transfer out." However, not a single article reporting on this development thought to ask the obvious question - which religious studies and spiritual activities exactly will they be allowing in this prison? Are Muslims getting "equal time" with Christians? Are those who think smoking ganja is a "spiritual activity" having their faith respected? Why is it, reinforced by Bush's quote at the ceremony, that I think "faith-based" is a code word for "Christian-based"?


Terrorism? No. Capitalism? Definitely.

Discussing the discovery of a "mad cow" in the United States, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman "said the incident is not related to terrorism and is in no way linked to the nation's heightened Code Orange terror alert status." Although I don't see how Veneman could deny this categorically, since it isn't yet known exactly how this cow did contract this disease, chances are Veneman is correct anyway.

There is, however, one certain source of the disease - capitalist greed. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, author of the highly recommended (by Left I on the News and many others) new book Weapons of Mass Deception, wrote another book a few years ago entitled Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?. The answer, as you might expect, was "yes." As Stauber explained yesterday on Democracy Now! (Listen to the show here), it has been known for years that the practice of feeding dead cows to living ones is the main (only?) source of the disease, and there have been recommendations to ban this practice. This, however, would decrease profits. The practice has been banned in the U.S. since 1997 (well after the outbreak of the disease in Britain), but given the enforcement (or lack thereof) by the USDA, many ranchers still do so anyway. Doing their part to aid the possible spread of the disease, the U.S. government has even refused to test for the disease, presumably to avoid "offending" rich ranchers.

None of this was mentioned by Veneman, needless to say. Terrorism, no. Capitalism? That's the unspoken word in the media. Who would even dare to suggest that it might be responsible? Rampton and Stauber, Democracy Now! and Left I on the News, just to name a few. Although of those, only Left I calls it by its right name.

Followup: An excellent article in the San Jose Mercury News discusses another aspect of the situation - the use of "downer" cows for human consumption. "Downer" cows, who cannot stand, may have a variety of problems, among them mad cow disease. It is illegal to sell the meat from downed cows in school lunch programs, and McDonald's, Arby's, Wendy's, and other restaurants issued statements saying that they do not purchase downed meat, but it is not illegal to sell such meat for human consumption. The Mercury News reports:

"Earlier this year, the Senate passed a ban on downer animals in the food supply as part of the USDA appropriations bill. The amendment was defeated in the House by three votes, 199-202, on July 14 after Texas Democrat Charlie Stenholm and other farm-state leaders argued it would harm farmers economically and was not necessary.

"After the vote, the measure's sponsor, Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., said: 'It's not really about cows, its about pigs. It is about greed. Unfortunately many in the cattle industry today put profit over human health considerations and further eroded consumer confidence in our nation's supply of beef.'" [Emphasis added]
Quelle surprise! (et bon appetit!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Color me shocked

Left I's favorite comic/political commentator Jon Stewart makes the cover of Newsweek.


Palestinian children

While American soldiers distribute toys to Iraqi children (see item below), Palestinian children have no such luck. Nine of them were wounded today as Israeli forces invaded Rafah refugee camp; along with the children, 8 adults were killed (among them at least three civilians), and 33 wounded. No words of sympathy or outpourings of help for those children and their families from official U.S. sources.

Barbara Lubin of the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) just returned from a trip to Rafah (and elsewhere in the Gaza and West Bank) and reported on that trip tonight on Flashpoints radio (audio download of the show). Children in Rafah are literally starving, and MECA has just begun a project of food distribution there to stave off the consequences. It is 100% certain you won't be hearing about these children, or MECA's efforts, on CNN or in any other "mainstream" American media.

As an aside, Lubin reports that during her trip she talked to dozens of leaders of different Palestinian organizations, as well as ordinary Palestinians, and asked every one what they thought of the Geneva Accord. Of all the people she talked to, only one - Yasser Arafat - thought it was a good thing for Palestinians. The rest thought it was a disaster.


Iraqi children

The previous post (just below) quotes Jackson Browne discussing how we "give a little to the poor if the generosity should seize us, but if any one of us should interfere in the business of why they are poor, they get the same as the rebel Jesus." Well, the media certainly won't be doing any of that "interfering in the business of why they are poor," that's for sure.

Just caught CNN showing a piece on "Chief Wiggles" (an American reservist in Iraq) who is distributing toys to Iraqi children for Christmas (never mind that they don't celebrate Christmas, it's the thought that counts, I guess). Aaron Brown, who was narrating the piece, discussed how the children were poor, hungry, in some cases homeless, etc. Not once did the fact that some of them might be orphans, and were orphaned by the actions of the U.S. armed forces, come up. Or that they might be hungry because their parents are among the millions of Iraqis who have become unemployed as a result of the invasion. Or that they might be homeless because their home was destroyed by American bombing.

Nor, amidst all this new-found sympathy for Iraqi children, was there any mention of the half-million or so of them who died because of a decade of U.S./U.N. sanctions. Not to worry, though, Americans, we can ease our consciences (those of us who even know about the children who died because of sanctions) by giving toys to the ones who are left.


Holiday Wishes from a Heathen and a Pagan

Well, I was going to wait until Christmas Day, but actually I think this has more relevance for the days before Christmas so here, as a public service, the lyrics for Left I's nominee for best Christmas song - The Rebel Jesus, by Jackson Browne, available on the wonderful, though hardly as politically meaningful in its entirety, album The Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains.
All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
We’ll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.
And while we're on the subject of religion, I just watched last night, for the third or fourth time, one of the best (funny and thought-provoking at the same time) movies on religion ever made - Dogma, a Kevin Smith movie featuring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman and a host of others. If you have never seen this movie, do yourself a favor and rent it over the holidays (or, if you get cable, wait until the next time it comes on Comedy Central, which is fairly often). Believe me, you do not have to be religious to appreciate this movie, and you also don't have to be a big fan of Kevin's Smith's penis-oriented humor, which is present in the movie but in tolerable amounts.


(Requoted) Quote of the Day

"If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company. We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers products." -- Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays, quoted by Norman Solomon in an article on his "P.U.-litzer Prizes," Solomon's awards for the "foulest media performances of 2003."

Monday, December 22, 2003


David Copperfield couldn't do any better

Yet another "espionage" case against a Muslim member of the armed forces employed by the U.S. at the Guantanamo concentration camp vanishes into thin air:
"The Air Force has dropped three counts in an espionage case against a Syrian-born airman who worked as a translator at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"The lawyer for Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi, Donald G. Rehkopf Jr., said on Saturday that once those charges were removed, 'simply the gut of the case was gone.'

"A single count in the charge that accused the airman of 'aiding the enemy,' a capital offense, was dropped. Also dropped were counts that dealt with e-mailing information about detainees and committing espionage by transmitting information to unauthorized recipients."


Robbing Peter to kill Paul (or Muhammed)

Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein discusses the appalling health care situation in the United States:
"The number of Americans without health insurance now equals the population of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina combined. From 2000 through 2002 alone, the number of uninsured Americans jumped by nearly 4 million, to 43.5 million overall. Today almost one in six Americans lacks health insurance.

"And the problem is about to get worse."
Brownstein then discusses the myriad ways in which states are cutting back their support for health care, and finally gets to the key reason underlying that change:
"States are facing perhaps the worst fiscal crisis since World War II, with combined deficits last year of nearly $80 billion."
Hmmmm. $80 billion. That figure sounds familiar. I remember now, it's almost exactly the amount that the U.S. government just decided to spend to keep fighting a war in Iraq, killing people. One wonders what the lifetime costs for medical care will be for the thousands of U.S. soldiers seriously wounded in Iraq. No doubt those soldiers will find themselves fighting for those costs sometime in the future, as the U.S. government backs out of its pledges of support when it needs the money to go fight another war.

Actually, a lot of that $87 billion has yet to be spent; that was only the supplement to previously authorized (and spent) expenditures. The money already spent to kill thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans and others is estimated at $91 billion.



Today's lying headline ("headlie"):
Two US soldiers killed in bomb attack, pushes US death toll over 200
Not even close. 463 U.S. soldiers in uniform are dead as a result of the American/British invasion of Iraq, not to mention 85 uniformed soldiers from other members of the "coalition," a small but very real number of non-uniformed "contractors" (including mercenaries and CIA agents as well as "real" contract workers), and thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of Iraqis.


Libyan WMD

Bush and Blair have been trumpeting Libya's "giving up" of weapons of mass destruction. From most press reports, you might get the idea such weapons actually existed. AP provides some information which sheds some light on the situation.
"Intelligence officials who were involved in clandestine overtures to Libya over the past nine months said they found no direct evidence of any biological weapons. They also saw no evidence that Libya had tried to produce weapons-grade uranium. Libya's primary chemical stockpile -- 'tens of tons' of material for mustard gas -- was about a decade old."
Note how in the middle of that paragraph, we switch from "weapons" to "material for mustard gas." Mustard gas can be synthesized from ethylene, a common industrial chemical, and sulfur monochloride, which is a chemical used in manufacturing pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and dyes. Even mustard gas itself, when kept under ideal conditions, only has a shelf life of ten years.

Of course there was more:

"However, U.S. and British weapons experts who examined Libya's arsenal as part of the disarmament negotiations did find a centrifuge that could be used to produce weapons-grade uranium. They also found dual-use biological agents that could be used legitimately or in weapons, and a program to develop long-range missiles."
A centrifuge (that's one!) that could be used to produce enriched uranium. Of course, it takes hundreds of centrifuges and a massive industrial development to produce any serious quantity of enriched uranium. Then there are those "dual-use" biological agents, probably a bunch of petri dishes for all we know. That leaves a "program to develop long-range missiles" (not long-range missiles themselves, of course).

Something less than an ominous threat, to say the least.

At the same time, Libya, Egypt, and other countries have called on Israel to give up the only real weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East - Israel's nuclear arsenal. At this time, this aspect of the story has been reported only by Agence France Presse; we'll see if it makes its way into mainstream U.S. coverage. It seems unlikely.


Quote of the Day

"We say to you today, we will no longer give our hands to the oppressive reign in the territories and the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians, and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlement enterprise." -- 13 members of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit of the Israel Defense Forces, in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declaring their refusal to serve in the occupied territories (Source)
Interestingly enough, that's twice in a week that Sayeret Matkal has been in the news; just a few days ago, we learned that five members of Sayeret Matkal were killed in 1992 while rehearsing an assassination attempt against Saddam Hussein when other members of their team "mistakenly fired a real missile at Israeli soldiers serving as stand-ins for Mr. Hussein and his bodyguards."

Saturday, December 20, 2003


Another shocking headline

Yesterday we reported on the suit brought by the Partnership for Civil Justice against the Washington, DC. police for police spying, brutality and pre-emptive arrests. Today the scene shifts to Miami:
Judge: I saw police commit felonies

"A judge presiding over the cases of free trade protesters said in court that he saw 'no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers' during the November demonstrations, adding to a chorus of complaints about police conduct.

"Judge Richard Margolius, 60, made the remarks in open court last week, saying he was taken aback by what he witnessed while attending the protests.

"'Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career,' he said, according to a court transcript. 'This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.'"

Friday, December 19, 2003


Hypocrisy on parade

On tonight's news, first Tony Blair and then George Bush (you can tell I was watching BBC News; on American media, it was only Bush, of course) speak about Libya's "giving up" "weapons of mass destruction" (consisting, as far as I could tell from tonight's news, of a 20-year old stash of chemical weapons, probably beyond their expiration date, and most likely capable of causing fewer deaths than a single American "Daily Cutter" bomb). No indication of when Britain and the U.S. will be giving up their weapons of mass destruction, the world's largest collection by several orders of magnitude.

Also on the news tonight, the tragic story of a man who had been dipped in acid by the Hussein regime for speaking out against Hussein. Omitted from the report was today's news from Tikrit that "Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon." Murder, of course, being so much more civilized than acid-dipping.


Compassionate capitalism

"No child left behind" sounds like a great slogan. The reality in America is somewhat different, as reported by CBS News:
"The Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the state of Mississippi, alleging abuse of juvenile offenders at two state-run facilities.

"Among the abuses uncovered: suicidal girls were stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement in a dark cell with only a drain for a toilet, boys were forced to run with mattresses strapped to their backs, girls who threw up while running in the heat were forced to eat their vomit, and youths were tied to poles or hog-tied."
If this had taken place in a country which was on the U.S. "hit list," no doubt it would have been cause for invasion, and the cause of the atrocity would be attributed to socialism, or religious fundamentalism. Anything but capitalism:
"[The assistant attorney general] said that both facilities have less than two-thirds of the needed staff and the shortages have prevented state officials from dismissing abusive employees."
But the most revealing statement in the story is this one:
"Investigators found the camps...violated the youths' First Amendment rights by 'forcing them to engage in religious activities.'"
One may wonder exactly what "religion" that might have been. Just one more thing that makes Left I proud to be a heathen and a pagan.


Planning for the future the socialist way

A socialist government is actually able to look into the future, and organize its economy to plan for it, as shown by this story in Granma:
"The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the urban population will reach four billion inhabitants by the year 2025, which represents a nearly 90% world demographic growth. Given that tendency, Cuba, with 75%-plus of its population living in cities, has been promoting the development of urban agriculture for more than 15 years.

"During this year, 3.7 million metric tons of fresh vegetables and condiments have been harvested in city farms, intensive orchards and plots located in urban areas throughout Cuba, a significant growth in comparison with that of 1997, when only 140,000 tons were produced."


Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S. -- Americans still in the dark

This Monday, a rather interesting story hit the news. A local paper, Florida Today, reported that:
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

"Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

"Nelson said he couldn't reveal who in the administration gave the briefing.

"The White House directed questions about the matter to the Department of Defense. Defense officials had no comment on Nelson's claim.

"Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones."
Well now, that is one hell of an interesting story, made even more interesting by this rather bizarre tidbit:
"Nelson delivered the news during a half-hour conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. The senator, who is on a seven-nation trade mission to South America, was calling from an airport in Santiago, Chile."
What on earth would prompt this Senator, calling from an airport in Chile of all places, to drop this bombshell? No explanation is offered by Florida Today.

In any case, I've been holding off posting about this story waiting for more elaboration or some other kind of followup in the media. After all, Sen. Nelson says 75 Senators (!) were given this information; surely one or more of them would come forward to confirm or elaborate on Nelson's statements. Surely some national media outlet would pick up this story and run with it.

Nope. Nothing. The story simply disappeared. And, with George Bush now saying that there is "no difference" between Iraq actually having WMD and just wanting them, and no significant reaction to that bombshell either from the media or even from the Democratic Presidential contenders, who can be surprised?


New poll

Our last poll asked Left I on the News readers to indicate which sites they read regularly, basically as a way of providing a recommendation to other Left I readers. Here are the results, in descending order:
Of all these results, I'm most surprised by the response for Antiwar.com, which to me is an absolutely indispensible guide to the most important of the day's news articles from the world's press.

Anyway, the new poll (at right) goes to what seems to be the subject which arouses the most passion on the web, far more than the war on Iraq, Bush's mendacity/moronicity (?), Ashcroft (and Bush)'s war on civil liberties, etc. I refer, of course, to the question of Ralph Nader and the Greens, and whether they should run a Presidential campaign in the upcoming election. Let's see what Left I readers have to say (non-U.S. citizens, feel free to vote as if you were one).


A shocking headline

As evidence that the strike/lockout by/of supermarket workers in Southern California is engendering significant public support, even in unexpected places, I offer this article from the Los Angeles Times:
Veteran Strikebreaker Helps Keep Ralphs Supplied

The supermarket chain is relying on Clifford Nuckols,
who has a history of legal problems.

"To keep its warehouses stocked and its delivery trucks running without the Teamsters union, Ralphs Grocery Co. has turned to a convicted felon with a history of legal woes.

"Clifford L. Nuckols, a veteran of the strikebreaking business, has hired hundreds of people and brought them from around the country to the Los Angeles area, where the supermarket strike and lockout are in their tenth week."
When is the last time you saw a big-business newspaper referring to "strikebreakers," nevertheless providing this view of the kind of workers being brought in by Nuckols to break the strike, not to mention the way they are treated by Nuckols:
"A coordinator at the [hotel where the strikebreakers are staying], who gave his name as Andrew, said the Personnel Support workforce was volatile and that fights broke out regularly.

"This month police were called to the Burbank Hilton to investigate a rape allegation by one of the few female replacement workers, said Det. Brian Llewellyn of the Burbank Police Department.

"Andrew said he signed up with Personnel Support in St. Louis on his brother's advice but decided to call it quits after a few weeks in Compton. 'My wife wants me to come home,' he said in late October as he waited for a ride to the airport. 'She's worried.'

"Nearby, about a dozen workers gathered at the hotel entrance, grumbling that they hadn't yet been paid for three weeks' work. 'We haven't gotten a check,' said a man from Detroit.'

"Nuckols has been accused before of failing to fulfill his obligations.

"Christopher J. Carney of Cleveland, a former prosecutor for the Labor Department, said it took three years and legal wrangling to get Nuckols to pay $25,000 in back wages and interest in 1990.

"Attorney James M. Brown of Mississippi said he was still trying to collect $1.3 million awarded in 1993 to a former Nuckols security guard who was injured during a strike at Monsanto Co. in West Virginia. Brown said he was stymied at every turn by Nuckols, who had filed for bankruptcy protection for three of his companies.

"Brown said he tried to pursue Nuckols as an individual but couldn't find a bank account, property or other holdings in his name."


(Unintentional) humor of the day

Headline in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Lieberman charges that Dean is a divisive force among Democrats"


Iraqi history

For our readers' reading pleasure today, Left I recommends an important piece on Counterpunch by history Professor Gary Leupp, discussing the history of U.S.-Iraqi relations, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the recent "memo" connecting Hussein to 9/11.



Blogger xymphora has a good post up today on Tony Blair as war criminal, Dianne's Sawyer's grilling of George Bush, the difference between having WMD and having the potential to have them in the future, and David Kay's planned resignation from the futile search for the non-existent WMD. The entire post is worth reading, but here's the conclusion:
"With Saddam in custody all the war criminals seem to feel comfortable about brazenly admitting that the weapons that provided the excuse for the attack didn't exist. Complex diplomacy and the lessons of the Second World War have been laid waste, and the world is a more dangerous place."


Clark vs. Milosevic - who said what?

All the press accounts describing Gen. Wesley Clark's testimony in the trial of Slobadan Milosevic feature headlines like this one from the New York Times - "Clark Testimony Links Milosevic Directly to '95 Massacre." But it's interesting to compare the omissions from various articles. Both the Times and the Washington Post feature this exchange:
"And so I simply asked him. I said, 'Mr. President, you say you have so much influence over the Bosnian Serbs, but how is it then, if you have such influence, that you allowed General Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?' And Milosevic looked at me and he paused for a moment. He then said, 'Well, General Clark,' he said, 'I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me.' "
But only the Times includes Milosevic's full response:
"Mr. Milosevic shot back: 'General Clark, this is a blatant lie. First and foremost because we did not talk about Srebrenica at all and secondly because I, throughout this time, through all those years, never issued a single order to General Mladic or was I in a position to issue him an order.'"
Here's an interesting exchange that appears only in the Post:
"He hammered away at Clark as a 'war criminal,' and accused him of deceitfulness and of commanding a 'terrorist' army by siding with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

"At one point, Milosevic displayed a picture of a KLA soldier holding up two severed heads of Serbs and asked, 'Are these allies of General Clark's infantry in Kosovo?' Later, Milosevic asked, 'Do you think you are a war criminal, General Clark?'
Shorter accounts of Clark's testimony, such as that appearing in the Los Angeles Times or the San Jose Mercury News, include neither of these exchanges, and basically only parrot Clark's charges in a one-sided report.


The U.S. government at work...spying

The following press release was issued yesterday by ANSWER, and discusses one of the critical fights in this country - the fight for freedom of political expression under the First Amendment, free of spying and disruption efforts by the government:
Police Spying Operation Exposed

The lead editorial in the December 17 Washington Post, commenting on a public D.C. City Council investigation into police spying, brutality and pre-emptive arrests against demonstrators, is evidence that the national campaign to defend the First Amendment is effectively striking back at the war waged today by various law enforcement agencies against dissent in the United States.

Citing the litigation brought by the Washington D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice (International Action Center, et al., v. The United States, et al.) the Post Editorial opens with an excerpt from July 10, 2003, ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler:

"The District of Colombia, through [assistant police chief Alfred Broadbent] seems to be admitting that it maintains widespread, extensive spying operations on the activities and operations of political advocacy organizations, such as Plaintiffs [International Action Center, et al.], on the basis of their political philosophies and conduct protected under the First Amendment. Moreover, Chief Broadbent admitted in his testimony that such operations are carried on even in the absence of allegations of criminal activities by the organizations being spied upon." The Post editorial goes on to cite three other major protest cases being handled by the Partnership for Civil Justice.

The Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), along with the FBI, Secret Service and National Park Police, have been the subject of a broad-based legal and political action campaign to win justice for those who have been the victims of police misconduct.

The Partnership for Civil Justice (PCJ) has filed four major lawsuits in Washington DC in the past three years that have uncovered a body of evidence showing that law enforcement agencies have been engaged in systematic and coordinated efforts to spy on and disrupt political organizations engaged in First Amendment protected activities. Evidence obtained in the discovery phase of litigation also includes police undercover operatives engaged in violent assaults against peaceful demonstrators protesting against George W. Bush during the January 20, 2001 Inaugural Parade. (For more information on the lawsuits go to http://www.justiceonline.org)

In the last few weeks more than 20,000 organizations and individuals have signed on to a petition opposing the FBI's illegal spying operation against the U.S. antiwar movement. The FBI operation was revealed in an internal FBI memorandum, written ten days before the October 25 demonstration in Washington DC that demanded Bring the Troops Home Now, End the Occupation of Iraq, that was the subject of a New York Times story on November 23. To see the petition go http://www.votenowar.org or http://www.internationalanswer.org.

As the spotlight on police and law enforcement misconduct gets brighter as a result of the litigation and political action campaigns, elected officials in Washington D.C. have scheduled two days of hearings to scrutinize the police department in the District of Columbia.


The U.S. government at work...lying

The "war on terror" was really a "war on immigrants", as report by the New York Times:
" A report released yesterday by the Department of Justice's inspector general concluded that at one federal prison in Brooklyn, some staff members physically abused many illegal immigrants arrested after the Sept. 11 attacks, taunted them and illegally taped their meetings with lawyers.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants in the New York area were detained after the attacks. Almost all were found to have no tangible connection to terrorism."
It's interesting to compare that last sentence to a corresponding sentence to an article covering the same story in the Washington Post:
"None was ever charged with terrorism-related crimes, however."
Note that from the Times story, one might conclude that some of the detainees did have "tangible connection with terrorism," or even that all of them had some "intangible connection" (whatever that might be).

That isn't the only problem with the Times story, however. The secondary story, perhaps more important because of its wider implications, is the official lying and coverup which accompanied these illegal actions, and is completely absent from the report in the Times. Here's what the Post says:

"Corrections officers who had been interviewed earlier had denied that many of the incidents occurred. MDC Warden Michael Zenk and other officials repeatedly told Fine's investigators that the videotapes had been destroyed as part of a recycling policy, the report said. [Emphasis added]

"The tapes eventually located in August had not been included on inventory sheets provided by the prison and were held in a storage room that also had not been disclosed to investigators, the report said. Many tapes from the period are still missing, and there are unexplained gaps the ones that were found, the report shows.

"Many detainees also told investigators that, in the month before the installation of the camera system in October 2001, jail conditions and abuse had been much worse, the report noted. The cameras were installed in part to protect jail officers from unwarranted allegations, Fine said."

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Mass murder in the Middle East continues

No need to "uncover" mass graves in Palestine; the killing occurs right out in the open. Well, unless you follow the U.S. press, where it's pretty much hidden. Fortunately, there are other sources of news; unfortunately, they're seen by a tiny fraction of a percent of Americans:
While there have been no Palestinian attacks inside Israel for ten weeks, Israeli attacks against Palestinians have not stopped for a single day.

In the last two weeks alone, Israel has killed 21 Palestinians and injured 55 others.

In an attack on Palestinian civilians and property yesterday, the Israeli military completely destroyed 18 homes in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, leaving 25 families (178 Palestinian civilians) homeless. In addition, homes belonging to 6 Palestinian families (approximately 40 civilians) were damaged so heavily that they are now uninhabitable.
But don't worry, fellow Americans. We're safer now that Saddam Hussein has been captured. So I hear, anyway.


Jose Padilla and "enemy combatants"

In major breaking news on the Jose Padilla case, Reuters reports:
"The president of the United States does not have the power to detain an American citizen seized on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, in a serious setback to the Bush administration's war on terror."
Shouldn't that read: "in a serious setback to the Bush administration's war on civil liberties"? The assertion that this court ruling is in any way a "setback" to any alleged "war on terror" is, of course, an editorial judgement on the part of Reuters.

Incidentally, the administration has routinely ignored court rulings, such as in the Cheney energy task force case as well as in the Zacharias Moussawi trial, so jumping to conclusions that this ruling will actually amount to anything is definitely not justified.

Now we'll see what happens to the rights of the thousands of non-U.S. citizens currently being held prisoner by the U.S. in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Some Americans, no doubt (hopefully no readers of Left I!) don't give a rat's ass about the fate of alleged foreign terrorists. But anyone who claims to "support the troops" should care deeply about this issue. Because if the U.S. can claim some kind of legal basis for seizing someone anywhere in the world and holding them indefinitely without charges or rights, then of course any other government has exactly the same "legal right" to do the same to U.S. citizens, soldiers and civilians alike.

You don't see this mentioned very often, if at all, but how did people seized during the invasion of Afghanistan get to be illegal "enemy combatants" anyway? Left I, and many others, consider the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. to have been illegal. But even if it were legal, it was an invasion of a sovereign country designed to overthrow its government. Doesn't any citizen (or even any resident) of that country, whether they are in uniform or not, have the right to resist such an invasion? Wouldn't all U.S. citizens have the right to resist a foreign invading force? How does such resistance turn you into a "terrorist"?

Followup: It turns out there was another court decision today, in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "detainees held at Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba should have access to lawyers and the American court system." Unlike Reuters in the story above, AP rightly calls this "a rebuke to the Bush Administration," rather than a "setback to the war on terror." Like the story above, however, the fat lady hasn't sung yet (and even if she does, the Bush Administration is likely to turn a deaf ear to her singing).

More followup: Incidentally, lest anyone get too complacent, both of these court decisions were 2-1 decisions. It might seem to any rational person that these rulings were completely obvious, but evidently 33% of the judiciary in this country doesn't agree.


A "hmmmm" moment

From the New York Times:
"Officials said the C.I.A. might not be able to use the full range of interrogation techniques on Mr. Hussein that have been employed with Qaeda leaders. Unlike Qaeda operatives, Mr. Hussein seems destined to face some sort of public judicial review, either through an international war crimes tribunal or other trial, and so the agency's handling of him may eventually come under scrutiny.

"Pentagon and C.I.A. officials have denied that they use torture against detainees captured in either Iraq or the wider campaign against terror. The agency's officials have declined to comment on the techniques they use with detainees, but a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday that interrogations conducted by the Pentagon followed 'well-established techniques' that do not violate the human rights of the detainees."
So just what is it about these "well-established techniques" that "do not violate human rights" that would make the CIA loathe to have them come under "public scrutiny"?

In a related story, Professor of Religious Studies Ira Chernus reads between the lines of the news to discuss the ethics of the "torture lite" which led to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Apparently, the guy who fingered Saddam cooperated involuntarily. CNN explained: "It is unclear whether anyone will receive the $25 million bounty because the information leading to his capture came under duress." A "senior administration official" confirmed to Newsday that the man "didn't provide any information willingly." Col. Hickey told reporters that the informant first gave false information, and "there was three or four hours of questioning before he blurted Saddam's location."

What happened in those three or four (some reports say five or more) hours? Probably not torture, in the technical jargon of U.S. officialdom. No electric shock, no hot irons, no fingernails pulled. At least that's what U.S. officials insist.

They say it was just "interrogation," which is torture lite. Things like bags over the head, tight handcuffs, no light (or constant bright light), no food or bathroom, endless shouting or blaring music or noise, bits of light violence. And, of course, the constant psychological torture of fearing that serious physical pain might start at any moment.

But it wasn't only this one key informant who got torture lite. According to Newsday: "Weeks ago, U.S. forces decided to identify anyone who might have current knowledge of where Hussein was, including former bodyguards, and then to go after them with a vengeance, rounding up their families and friends -- women, children, grandparents, everyone. Many of the key clues came in involuntary interrogations of informants."

Of course, the U.S. also ships some suspects out to third countries that definitely do torture. And the models for the more aggressive U.S. policies in Iraq, the Phoenix Program and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, certainly involve torture. The line between torture lite and torture heavy can be very thin, indeed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Words of mass deception

Dianne Sawyer:
"But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --"
George Bush:
"So what's the difference?"
Well George, let me know the next time some guy holds you up with his finger in his pocket, and you ask "is that a gun?", and he says "no, but if I can get a job and make some money, and if I can get a permit, and if I can find a gun store, then I'm going to get one some time in the future." Now pretend that guy lives thousands of miles away, and the gun that guy might buy has a range of a hundred yards, and he never actually held you up, or uttered any threats against you whatsoever, not to mention that you walk around the streets with a submachine gun and could blow him to smithereens if he ever pulled a gun on you.

This entire section of the interview is actually remarkable, in that Dianne Sawyer actually interrupts Bush (and is interrupted by him), and speaks twelve different times on this one subject, pressing Bush harder than he has ever been pressed on the subject of the "missing" weapons of mass destruction, with questions like this:

"When you take a look back, Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, not programs, not intent. There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Powell said 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons and now the inspectors say that there's no evidence of these weapons existing right now. The yellow cake in Niger, in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn't have been in your speech. Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs. Again, the intelligence — the inspectors have said they can't confirm this, they can't corroborate."
Bush's replies are largely evasive, and of an intellectual quality that corresponds to his quote above (but read it for yourself and decide).


Love that passive voice

Headline from the San Jose Mercury News:

Saddam loyalists protest in anger
18 Iraqis die in clashes with U.S.

Yup, they just keeled over and died.

The article itself does "admit" that they were killed by U.S. forces, but presents only the official U.S. picture that these were "insurgents" killed in "clashes." Other reports, which claim that the dead were simply Iraqis demonstrating against the capture of Saddam Hussein, are not mentioned.

Incidentally, I can't find this in print anywhere, but TV reports tell me that it is now a crime punishable by up to one year in prison and "loss of any civil service job" to demonstrate in favor of Saddam Hussein. Of course the "one year" part is not really true, since we know that the thousands of Iraqis locked up for various offenses, real and imagined, have no sentences (or charges or trials for that matter) at all, just indefinite detention until the U.S. decides otherwise.


The Daily Double

It's so nice living in a country where the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the country, is a law-abiding citizen.

Today's news, part I: "FEC Fines Ashcroft's Senate Bid For Breach" - "The Federal Election Commission has determined that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's unsuccessful 2000 Senate reelection campaign violated election laws by accepting $110,000 in illegal contributions."

Today's news, part II: "Ashcroft apologizes for ignoring gag order" - "In an extraordinary rebuke, a federal judge Tuesday publicly admonished Attorney General John Ashcroft for violating a gag order covering a high-profile terrorism case in Detroit, prompting the attorney general to issue an unusual apology to the court."


Meanwhile, back in the real Iraq...

Remember months ago when we were told that electricity in Iraq was back to pre-war levels? Baghdad blogger Riverbend says it ain't so:
"The electricity only returned a couple of hours ago. We've been without electricity for almost 72 hours- other areas have it worse. Today we heard the electricity won't be back to pre-war levels until the middle of next year."
Of course, predictions like this about things that are going to happen by the "middle of next year" are one part reality, three parts wishful thinking, and six parts spin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Is Saddam a P.O.W.?

Strangely conflicting stories in the news today. From the Independent comes the headline "US accused of double standards after granting Saddam prisoner-of-war status" with the story claiming that "the Americans and the Iraqi provisional council [have] guaranteed Saddam access to a lawyer, the right to be tried within a reasonable period and adequate facility to prepare his own defence."

But old wily, weasely Donald Rumsfeld said no such thing, as reported by the New York Times; what he said was "while Mr. Hussein was being afforded full protection matching Geneva convention standards, he had not been classified as a prisoner of war." In other words, once again the U.S. declares that it has no obligation to treat its captives according to international law. They may treat them similar to that, but without subjecting themselves to any actual pesky rules.

As evidenced by the report in USA Today about the interrogation that is taking place, an interrogation which makes one wonder if Hussein has been "Mirandized" or if anything he says under these circumstances could ever be submitted in a legitimate court of law:

"Saddam Hussein is being shown videotapes of anti-Saddam protests in Iraq, the unearthing of mass graves and the torture and execution of prisoners during his reign, two U.S. officials who are receiving reports on his interrogation said Tuesday.

"The goal is to provoke him into making unguarded statements by confronting him with evidence that could be used in a war-crimes trial, according to the two officials, one in the administration and one in an intelligence agency."


What is a "petard" anyway?

Who knows (well, Dictionary.com does), but it looks like the U.S. has been hoist by it (not hoist "on" it, by the way; you'll understand why if you consult the Dictionary.com link):
"Incensed that foreign countries were playing favorites in doling out billions of dollars to build airports, roads and dams, the U.S. became a prime cheerleader for a global agreement on government procurement.

"Now, the U.S. stands accused of violating the very pact it worked so hard to create.

"The Pentagon said last week that companies from France, Canada and other countries that didn't contribute militarily to the Iraq war would be barred from bidding on $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts. That sent officials from excluded countries to their lawbooks, looking for ways to strike back.

"The European Commission, which called the Iraq bid decision 'ill-thought-out,' is considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Under the WTO procurement pact for which the U.S. heavily lobbied, governments in most cases must open their purchasing processes to international competition and treat domestic and foreign firms equally."


Another "another Hitler" back in the news

With the news dominated by the future war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein (a.k.a. "another Hitler"), the trial of the previous "another Hitler", Slobodan Milosevic, has coincidentally resurfaced in the news, thanks to the fact that Gen. Wesley Clark is now testifying at his trial. Clark's testimony, unlike that of every other person who has testified, has been so far kept secret so that it can be edited for "national security" reasons, reminiscent of the way that 8,000 out of the 11,800 pages of Iraq's weapons declaration to the UN was confiscated and kept secret by the U.S., allegedly for those same "national security" reasons, but actually to keep secret the identities of U.S. companies and government agencies which had helped supply weapons (including chemical and biological weapons) to Iraq. The fact that Clark's testimony wasn't public, and that he wasn't allowed to tell reporters what he said, didn't prevent CNN's Walter Rogers this morning from announcing that Clark had testified that Milosevic had foreknowledge of alleged Serbian atrocities (Clark a seer?), and that he had also testified about Milosevic's "intent" (Clark a mind-reader?). Rogers didn't mention that a strong case can be made that Wesley Clark himself is a war criminal (Google "Clark war criminal" for a sampler). One does have to wonder about the nature of this trial and its evidentiary rules if an American General can be called to testify about what Milosevic knew and felt.

Two recent articles provide a good insight into what is going on in this trial - this one from Workers World newspaper, and this one, an article by author Michael Parenti entitled "The Demonization of Slobodan Milosevic." One small excerpt from the Workers World article:

"Clark already published his observations in his 2001 book, 'Waging Modern War.' The Kosovo war, he writes, 'was coercive diplomacy, the use of armed forces to impose the political will of the NATO nations on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or more specifically, on Serbia. The NATO nations voluntarily undertook this war.'"
The Parenti piece, which is primarily a review of a book about Milosevic by Louis Sell, is an excellent analysis of propaganda, showing how the use of specific words, along with the unquestioning use of certain allegations and the omission of known facts which don't fit one's case can be used to accomplish one's political aims, in almost exactly the same way as was done by the Bush administration to lay the ground for the invasion of Iraq. Parenti's conclusion:
"In sum, Sell's book is packed with discombobulated insider details, unsupported charges, unexamined presumptions, and ideologically loaded labeling. As mainstream disinformation goes, it is a job well done."

Monday, December 15, 2003


World's smallest avalanche

The New York Times, under the headline "Dean's Speech on Iraq Brings Rebuttals From Rivals," tells its readers today that "Howard Dean declared on Monday that 'the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer,' provoking an avalanche of new attacks from rivals." In the entire article, there is exactly one rival, the predictable Joe Lieberman, who is quoted as saying "If he truly believes the capture of this evil man has not made America safer, then Howard Dean has put himself in his own spider hole of denial."

Since the invasion of Iraq in March, 458 Americans have died in Iraq, and more than 2500 (probably a lot more) have been seriously wounded, many with life-changing injuries. No weapons of mass destruction which posed an imminent threat (or any threat) to the United States have been found in Iraq, and no evidence of any support that was being provided by Iraq to Al Qaeda. A serious article in a serious paper might call into question the sanity of anyone who claims that this war, or the capture of Saddam Hussein, has done anything to "make America safer." The New York Times prefers to invent non-existing "avalanches" of criticism against those who announce that the emperor has no clothes.

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