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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Political humor of the day

"It is extremely delicate. We are at what could potentially be a turning point in Iraq."

- British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, explaining her government's opposition to a Parliamentary motion calling for an inquiry into the handling of the Iraq war.
Yup, things are turning alright...turning worse (for the occupation forces and their puppet government, that is).

Well, I shouldn't be harsh. At least she didn't mention seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The $64,000 question

A year ago, I wrote:
Has anyone else noticed that there are now allegedly 200,000 Iraqi troops "standing up," and not a single American soldier (not one!) has been "stood down" as a result?
Well, now the corporate media are finally asking the same question, as happened, for example, during a give-and-take between Anderson Cooper and embedded reporter John Roberts on tonight's 360 show. Which is part of the $64,000 question the title of this post refers to. The other part came just a moment later, as Roberts was discussing the problems with the Iraqi forces, and noting that one of the major ones was that the Americans were having a hard time teaching the Iraqis an "offensive" (accent on the first syllable) mindset. To which Cooper responded, "But the insurgents and the militias don't seem to lack an offensive mindset, do they?"

Unfortunately, but predictably, Cooper and Roberts didn't dare go any further in exploring the why of that observation. Because if they had, they would have come face-to-face with the reality of what being an occupying force means, and the fact that collaborating with an occupying force, and resisting an occupation, are two very different things.

In a related development, the Washington Post discusses the extent of infiltration of the Iraqi police forces, with this ominous conclusion:

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.
Not years. Decades. And the trend isn't even in the right direction, as today's news indicates - American troop strength in Iraq has risen to 150,000.

There is one group that can cause the American forces to withdraw from Iraq a lot sooner than that by standing up, and it's not the Iraq forces. It's us. Stand up. Speak out. Get involved. Stop the war.


North Korean nukes

The latest from Stephanie McMillan:


Terrorist pleads guilty. News at...5 minutes past never.

On Friday, not far from the White House, a terrorist plead guilty to the possession of a bomb and a gun and to planning to blow up a building with the bomb and murder people with the gun. Did you miss the major prime time announcement from the President and the Attorney General, and the wall-to-wall coverage on the cable talk shows? Yeah, me too. Perhaps that's because this particular terrorist was an anti-abortion terrorist, planning to blow up an abortion clinic and murder the doctors. And this was serious planning, including possession of weapons, not sitting around shooting the breeze "planning" (egged on by an agent provocateur) like the "terrorists" in Miami.

Press coverage of this terrorist? Searching shows that it has been limited to the local media - Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and the local Washington TV channels. No national coverage at all as far as I can tell. After all, it was just a white man about to kill some people in an abortion clinic, not Black people or Muslims engaged in gedankenterrorism. It wouldn't help instill any of that "war on terror" fear, so it isn't "newsworthy."

(Hat tip to Skippy)

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The right of self-defense

I've written recently about North Korea's right to self-defense "by any means necessary." Not everyone acknowledges that right, though, as two recent stories show.

The first is an article about Russian arms sales, where we read this:

Russia surpassed the United States in 2005 as the leader in weapons deals with the developing world, and its new agreements included selling $700 million in surface-to-air missiles to Iran and eight new aerial refueling tankers to China, according to a new Congressional study...the sales to improve Iran’s air-defense system are particularly troubling to the United States because they would complicate the task of Pentagon planners should the president order airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
The poor unfortunate Pentagon (and those it represents), no longer able to attack a defenseless country. How sad.

Nor are they the only ones lamenting the fact that a previously defenseless country might actually be trying to do something about that. Here's a recent development in Israel:

IDF Intelligence Research Chief Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz disclosed Sunday that arms smuggling into Gaza by the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority includes even anti-aircraft weapons.

Baidatz's assessment is that Hamas plans to use the weapons against Israeli fighter planes in future armed conflicts...The intelligence chief said that Israel must come up with a solution to protect its planes from the new weapons.
Hey Yossi, here's an idea -- stop flying your damn fighter planes over Gaza and killing Palestinians.

Of course, obtaining anti-aircraft weapons isn't a guarantee against imperialist aggression, as a decade of U.S. bombing of Iraqi anti-aircraft installations in prepartion for the 2003 invasion showed. Bombing (and the associated killing) which, by the way, went virtually unreported in the American media.


Sports news

How well is the U.S. doing in Iraq? And how large are those air bases they've already built and have no intention of giving up? The answer to both questions is in today's sports news. In Iraq today, the "Marine Corps Marathon Forward" was held to coincide with the real Marine Corps Marathon in Washingon, D.C. For two years now, the "Iraq/Boston Marathon" has been held in Iraq to coincide with the real Boston Marathon.

And, needless to say, you know where those marathons are being held, right? Within the confines of the huge American air bases in Iraq, naturally. Even an armed soldier wouldn't dare run a mile alone outside of the confines of their heavily guarded bases or the Green Zone, much less 26.2 of them. Because, no matter what George Bush and the American media want you to think, the American armed forces aren't welcome in Iraq. They are hated by virtually the entire population, and one of them wouldn't last an hour walking or running among that population without protection. And the armed forces know that very well. Which is why they should be back in the United States, where they can run as many marathons as they want, in front of cheering crowds of the native population.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Air strikes in Iraq

I've been writing recently about the lack of reporting of air strikes in Iraq, and musing on the question about whether they were actually occuring. Today we had the first confirmation in a long time:
The U.S. military said Mahdi Army militiamen fought back in the Sadr City raid and that the Americans called in an air strike and cordoned the sprawling east Baghdad region.

Late Wednesday the military said it had killed 10 suspected militia fighters and wounded two in the battle. It did not identify the wanted militia leader or say whether he was still at large. Earlier, police and hospital officials said four people were killed and at least 18 wounded.

Residents living near Sadr City said gunfire and air strikes began about 11 p.m. Tuesday and continued for hours. The neighborhood was sealed to outsiders before dawn.
This particular airstrike made it into the media for two reasons: 1) It occured in Baghdad itself; and 2) Prime Minister Maliki felt obliged to "disavow" it.

Incidentally, note the radical discrepancy between the U.S. military's claims ("an air strike") and the reports of witnesses ("air strikes continued for hours"). I'm sure you can guess which source I trust.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Dept. of "You can't make this stuff up"

This just in:
Oliver North visits Nicaragua, warns against Ortega's possible return to power

Oliver North, the former White House aide at the heart of the Iran-Contra controversy, commented Monday on presidential elections that could return Daniel Ortega to office, warning Nicaraguans against returning to a past of war and foreign intervention.
And, I ask you, what says "no foreign intervention" like a convicted felon from an imperialist country who helped overthrow the government of your country once before, showing up and "warning" you about what you should and shouldn't do?


A woman's perogative?

Not really. Just the usual imperialist hypocrisy.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing have reaffirmed the close ties between their countries and their determination to work together toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Seoul and Washington will add use of nuclear arms by U.S. forces in response to North Korean atomic weapons in a joint operation strategy codenamed OPLAN 5027, sources said Thursday. That would mean the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea 15 years after they were pulled out in 1991.
And what better way to create a "nuclear-free Korean Peninsula" than to put nuclear weapons back into South Korea? Kind of like that "nuclear disarmament" that the U.S. and the other nuclear powers agreed to when they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty .


Ethnic cleansing comes (further) out of the closet in Israel


It's official: Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right, racist Yisrael Beitenu party, will be joining the Israeli Cabinet. As Saree Makdisi put it on CounterPunch earlier this year:

Lieberman's party believes what all Israelis believe: that Israel is a Jewish state. Unlike the more respectable Israeli parties, however, Lieberman's party is willing to add that since Israel is a Jewish state, non-Jews are not welcome. Even if they were born there.
That is to say, Lieberman and his party call openly for the "transfer" (expulsion) of non-Jewish Israelis from the borders of Israel. And while ethnic cleansing has been the policy and practice of the state of Israel since its founding (and even before), rarely has it been so openly defended and advocated as it is by Yisrael Beitenu. A party which is now joining the U.S.-backed, U.S.-funded Israeli government.

And, just as the Democrats in the United States, the "loyal opposition" in Israel is more "loyal" than "opposition":

The Labor Party, with 19 seats, was divided over Lieberman's addition to the government and some lawmakers have vowed to fight it.

But some said Labor would eventually assent to Lieberman joining the government rather than drop out of the coalition.
As for the "loyal opposition" in the United States, even trial balloons of opposition to this latest development in Israel are highly unlikely.

Update: Two strong recommendations:

On Friday, the entire Flashpoints show was given over to a discussion and then a speech by Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, discussing his new book, One Country (a discussion of the "one-state" solution for Israel-Palestine). Very enlightening.

Equally enlightening, a lengthy article by Seth Ackerman in the latest issue of Extra!, the magazine of FAIR. The article, entitled "Nixed Signals," is about the reality of Hamas versus the picture ("sworn to the destruction of Israel") presented in the Western media. Very much worth reading.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The undead

With Halloween approaching, I continue my coverage of the "undead" - Iraqi resistance fighters who are no longer alive, yet who, according to all the media, never died. Consider:
So far this month, at least 907 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence, an average of 43 a day. That compares to an average daily death toll of about 27 since April 2005. The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces.
Like vampires, those resistance fighters simply don't cast a shadow. For example, consider this from the same article:
The United Nations has said at least 100 Iraqis are now killed daily.
But that's not true. As you can see from this article from two days ago, the U.N. figures are for civilians only, not for "Iraqis."

But for the media, "Iraqis" and "Iraqi civilians" are synonomous. The others? The "evildoers"? Evidently they aren't people. Which explains why they never die.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Shock (no awe)! CNN acknowledges non-American deaths in Iraq

For years I've been noting how the media and U.S. government (hard to distinguish the two most of the time), all too happy to refer to the "coalition" fighting in Iraq when it suits the occasion, are remarkably forgetful when it comes to the deaths of non-American members of that coalition. For example, here's something I wrote back in 2004 when the coalition death count was a "mere" 1000:
1000 dead in Iraq? Not the way I count

And no, I'm not referring to the 10,000+ Iraqi civilians who have been killed by U.S. forces in this invasion and occupation. But there are other forgotten bodies too. 131 British, Polish, Spanish, Italian, and other "coalition" forces have been killed by this war. When is the last time you saw that number in the paper, or any mention of those folks? And since the "Iraqi army" and police force are now on "our side" and part of the "coalition," should their deaths count too?
Remarkably enough, you can even find this omission echoed in the British media, who are just as likely to cite the "U.S.-only" death count as the American media (incidentally, that "U.S.-only" refers to members of the U.S. armed forces, not actual U.S. citizens, since dozens of the "U.S." dead have actually been non-citizens, hoping desperately--and being rewarded posthumously--to be awarded U.S. citizenship for their sacrifice).

So, imagine my surprise when I found this CNN article:

Coalition death toll in Iraq reaches 3,000

The death toll for coalition military forces in Iraq hit 3,000 Monday, according to a CNN tally.

The combined death toll includes 2,759 U.S. troops and seven American civilian contractors of the military.

Other coalition deaths include 119 British, 32 Italians, 18 Ukrainians, 17 Poles, 13 Bulgarians, and 11 Spaniards, as well as service members from Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Holland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, Salvador, Slovakia, and Thailand.
The U.S. toll alone is already well past the cited total, and the death of members of the Iraqi armed forces, supposedly very much part of the same "team," are still unmentioned (and uncounted), but still, it's a rare crack in the usual coverage.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Winning the "debate" over the John Hopkins study

I've expended a lot of words trying to underscore the "reasonableness" of the result of the Johns Hopkins study of Iraqi mortality. Among other things, I've written about the lack of reporting on the deaths of Iraqi resistance fighters, as well as the complete lack of reporting of the "post-incident" deaths of "innocent civilians," the ones who just happen to die from their wounds the day after a car bombing or similar incident, but whose only mention in the media came as one of the wounded. And I've repeatedly emphasized the evidently misunderstood point that that Johns Hopkins study is quite naturally larger than any other measure because it includes all Iraqis who have died, not just civilians.

Why am I doing this? Because just like the "debate" over global warming, this is not a scientific debate. The vast majority of people have never heard of a "peer-reviewed paper," have no idea what a "cluster" is, and couldn't spell "epidemiology" if their life depended on it. Trying to convince people that the science contained in the Lancet paper is correct is a hopelessly futile endeavor. The only way most people will come to accept its result is if they understand the reasonableness of the result (and by "reasonable" I obviously mean the result itself, not that the death of even one Iraqi is "reasonable" in any way).

All of which is a long introduction to one more piece of evidence in that effort. With a hat tip to Cursor, this effort by a blogger to calculate the number of bullets being used by American forces in Iraq. The answer? 275,000 bullets per day. Now, as he points out, some of those are used in training, some may be stolen, and most miss their targets. But if a mere 1% of that number actually hits an Iraqi, and let's say 10% of those shots are fatal, that would be 275 people a day (100,000/year) being killed, just by bullets (that is, not including tank shells, missiles, bombs, etc.). Now of course these are no more than "back of the envelope" calculations. But they certainly provide one more piece of evidence that the Johns Hopkins result is very much in the right ballpark.

Update: One more data point in the "confusion about what the Johns Hopkins study represents" issue - a major AP article headlined "Iraq PM Blocks Civilian Death Toll Release." Read the article and you will find eight references to "civilian deaths" or equivalent phrases, after which you arrive at this paragraph:

Other casualty figures for Iraq have varied widely. Earlier this month, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad released a study saying nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died in the war that began in 2003. That was far higher than other estimates, and President Bush has said he did not believe the numbers.
Although the paragraph accurately refers to "Iraqis" who have died, there is no attempt to distinguish that from the eight references to "civilians" which precede it, and hence no reason for all but the most perceptive of readers to assume that a "far higher" result would be perfectly reasonable, even if those other estimates were completely accurate.


Bush admits failure in Iraq

George Bush, yesterday: "I define success or failure as whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves."

News, today:

The Shiite militia run by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized control of a southern Iraqi city on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said.

Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, residents said, planting explosives that flattened the buildings in Amarah, a city just 30 miles from the Iranian border that was under British command until August, when it was returned to Iraqi government control.
Bush, yesterday: "I define success or failure as whether schools are being built or hospitals are being opened."

Reality, as revealed by the Times (U.K.):

Since the invasion not a single Iraqi hospital has been built, according to Amar al-Saffar, in charge of construction at the Health Ministry.

In fact, no hospital had been built since the Qaddumiya hospital opened in 1986 in Baghdad.
As far as those "rebuilt" schools, I explored that question in depth back in November 2003, and I have no reason to believe anything has changed since:
I have yet to find evidence that a single school has been "rebuilt." Refurbished, yes, no doubt. [By refurbished, I meant new windows, new desks, etc., no doubt to replace ones that had been destroyed by American bombs]

The truth is that "rebuilt" schools in Iraq seem as elusive as weapons of mass destruction. They exist in the pages and reports of the American media in order to condition the minds of the American public, but in reality they're as scarce as hen's teeth.
(Hat tip to WIIIAI for the link to the Times article)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The "benefits" of American "democracy"

There are a number of reasons why Riverbend has been posting very rarely. This, courtesy of Think Progress, is one of them:

2.4 hours of electricity per day. That, of course, is outside the Green zone.


Unreported deaths in Iraq

Some people may think I'm making too much of the question of non-civilian deaths in Iraq as they relate to the Johns Hopkins study. But there are real implications, other than just the question of the "believability" of the JHU study, to the answer. This morning, for example, I listened to an interview with author Niall Ferguson on the local news show. Ferguson asserted that there are more Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq than Muslims killing Americans or Americans killing Muslims. Is that true?

It's certainly true that that's what we read about. A car bombing here, bodies found tortured and beheaded there, etc. But there's something missing from the news. And that's precisely those Muslims being killed by Americans, specifically the Muslims who we can call resistance fighters.

Let's look at today's news. The Los Angeles Times reports on the deaths of 12 U.S. troops in the last 48 hours, with 71 so far this month. After reporting about all sorts of "Muslim on Muslim" incidents throughout a long article, they finally get around to mentioning a bit about the circumstances of the American deaths in the last two paragraphs:

The American deaths outside Baghdad included three soldiers attached to the 3rd Brigade of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, who were killed as a result of unspecified "enemy action" in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, the military said. A fourth soldier was wounded in the incident.

A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 and a soldier assigned to the 1st Armored Division died in operations in Al Anbar province, the Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold west of the capital that is the scene of daily battles with insurgents.
That puts them a step ahead of the New York Times, who also mention the deaths of the Americans, almost en passant, but say nothing about the circumstances. The Washington Post has the most complete coverage of the American deaths:
Five of the American troop deaths Tuesday were caused by bombs. Four soldiers were killed in Baghdad about 6:50 a.m. when a planted bomb exploded under their vehicle, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another bomb killed a single soldier north of the capital.

Three soldiers died in combat east of Baghdad, in Diyala province, the military said. One soldier was killed in north Baghdad when armed men attacked his patrol, and a Marine died in combat in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, in western Iraq. Since the summer, Baghdad has surpassed Anbar as the most hostile place in the country for U.S. and Iraqi forces.
OK, did you notice anything missing yet? In all of these articles, there is not a mention of a single Iraqi resistance fighter killed by the Americans. Not one! Now you can guess what you like about the IED deaths, although the traditional American response to those has been for the survivors to jump out and start shooting and killing everyone in sight. But at least some of these deaths were in firefights. Do you really think that, given the firepower, the manpower, and the proven vindictiveness and indifference to Iraqi lives of the Americans, that they didn't manage to kill a single Iraqi while losing so many of their own soldiers? No, I know you don't. Ten-to-one would be a minimum we would expect, and twenty or thirty to one is probably a lot more likely. With 71 Americans killed so far this month, that makes a thousand or so dead resistance fighters completely ignored by the media and everyone else (except myself and some future follow-up Johns Hopkins study).

Incidentally, there's something else missing from these reports - airstrikes. It once was normal to read, in articles like the ones above, about how, after ground troops ran into trouble, airstrikes were called in to demolish houses in which the resistance fighters were thought hiding. In Afghanistan, incidents like that occured a few days ago and again yesterday. Are we to believe the U.S. is no longer flying air combat missions in Iraq? Or is it simply that the press has ceased reporting on them? I honestly have no idea, but I can say that I can't remember the last time I read about one. They certainly don't appear with anywhere near the frequency they used to.

It's not too hard to see bias in the news that's printed. What's a lot more difficult is to see the bias in the news that's not printed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Those darn civilians

As in Iraq, the corporate press (and many others) give more significance to incidents in which civilians are killed by allied action. But you have to love this story, and what it says about the American reaction to such deaths:
Airstrikes by NATO helicopters hunting Taliban fighters ripped through three dried-mud homes in southern Afghanistan as villagers slept early Wednesday, killing 13 people and wounding 15 others, residents said.

Shellshocked, angry residents condemned the attack, which set back NATO's hopes of winning local support for their tough counterinsurgency campaign.
13 dead, and what are "we" worried about? Losing local support. The actual deaths? Really, they could hardly be of less consequence. Will this story, or the thousands of others like it (reported and unreported), ever make the news two days in a row? After the occupiers promise an "investigation" (they don't even seem to have bothered in this case, resorting only to the usual "U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces say they go to extreme lengths to avoid inflicting civilian casualties"), will any reporter ever bother to return a week later, or a month later, or a year later, and ask for the results of that investigation? No, they really don't care.

And when researchers from Johns Hopkins or somewhere else produce a study indicating just how many Afghans have actually died thanks to the U.S. invasion, that study will no doubt be met with skepticism on the first day, and silence thereafter.


Two views of the "bye-bye habeas corpus act"

Stephanie McMillan


Tony, Workers World


Quote of the Day

"It's a new time. And this is a new America. And we got to start showing the face of the new America, and stop showing the face of the old America, which is putting our nose in other people's business, other wars, spending billions of dollars on - on - on fighting, and not spending billions of dollars on rebuilding our nation, which needs education, health care and things like that.

And - and, you know - and - and it`s going to take - I feel it's going to take a black president to - to make a change like that. It's going to take a black president to stand up, that has gone through all of that pain and - and - and heartache and - and - and turmoil in their lives and struggled to be able to - to set things right and balance the world out. Or - I mean, that - or, you know - or a woman president.

We - we - we need a change in America."

- Sean Combs, a.k.a. Puffy, a.k.a. P. Diddy, in an interview on CNN's Showbiz Tonight
It's going to take a lot more than a Black President (Colin Powell?) or a woman President (Hillary Clinton?) to change things in this country. But the fact is that Diddy is many orders of magnitude more influential than I, so when someone like him starts speaking out about the need for change, and not just by taking easy and obvious shots against the incumbent Present, it's worth taking note of.


The Johns Hopkins study and the confusion surrounding it

I've been making the point below, and in comments in posts here and on Lenin's Tomb, that one of the reasons the Johns Hopkins study has run into "trouble" in the media is because the authors have not sufficiently (or not at all in some cases) emphasized that their study includes all Iraqis, rather than other studies which count only "civilians" and hence are guaranteed to be significantly lower. The result of this is that the public is suddenly confronted with a number which is much higher than those previously discussed, and, quite naturally, rebels at believing the result, whatever the scientific credibility of the methodology employed (which, also quite naturally, few people really understand).

Just to document the confusion on this point, I've been having a look at various media treatments of the study. First we have a Democracy Now! interview with one of the study's authors, Les Roberts. Amy Goodman concluded the interview with this: "Les Roberts, thanks very much for joining us, co-author of the study on civilian mortality in Iraq since the invasion." Her error was not corrected by Roberts. Indeed, Roberts had actually committed a similar error himself just moments before, when he said, "No one asked George Bush about how many civilians had died or about our study for 14 months after the study came out. And then, when he was asked, it was just by a member of the public in a forum in Philadelphia." But that is not what George Bush was asked! As I noted at the time, the question was this: "Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I'd like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators." To which Bush responded with the number of civilians killed taken (unattributed) from the IBC figures. Nowhere in the Democracy Now! interview does Roberts attempt to make his audience understand that his study includes entire classes of people not included in such studies as IBC.

Here's today's Granma: "The civilian death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the March 2003 US-led invasion could reach close 800,000." Wrong.

Is it just the Cubans who got it wrong? Here's an article from the Washington Post: "Even if you assume that the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the war began is at the very low end of the study's range, that's still a quantum leap from earlier estimates." Again, wrong.

The left press is better, right? Wrong. Here's something from the Socialist Worker: "Other organisations put the number of dead much lower. The Iraq Body Count and the US department of defence only note a death if it has been reported by the media. They put the number of civilians killed at 48,783." The second sentence is false. IBC only notes a death if it has been reported by the (English-language) media, and if the person is a "civilian." And the wording of the last sentence carries the clear implication (even if it is refuted by a careful reading of the rest of the article which refers to "excess deaths") that the Johns Hopkins study is also measuring civilians only; otherwise the comparison is meaningless.

And what of the authors of the study themselves? Here, in an article from the Johns Hopkins Gazette, is how Gilbert Burnham, one of the authors, explains their high result: "Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates because we used a population-based, active method for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that depend on counting bodies or tabulated media reports of violent deaths." Not a word about the fact that other studies are counting apples, and that their study is counting apples and oranges (and pears).

I have speculated (in comment's on Lenin's Tomb) that the authors are deliberately obscuring this point because it is politically unpalatable to admit that one cares about or measures the deaths of members of Saddam's army, or members of the resistance forces, and not just civilians. That is, I emphasize, pure speculation on my part. But I have no other explanation as to why the authors would not attempt to achieve greater credibility for their study by helping the public to understand why their result could have such a larger number than others that the public has been accustomed (such as it is) to seeing. I welcome alternative explanations, since I have nothing but admiration for those who are willing and able to carry out such a study, given not just the paltry rewards but as well the widespread criticism and even condemnation which accompanied its publication.

Update: The second line of the lead story on CounterPunch today: "Despite the fact that over 2770 US soldiers and 600,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq..." Wrong. And still one more indication of the widespread confusion caused by the Johns Hopkins study and the failure of its authors to properly emphasize what it was measuring.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Artwork of the Day

There are some who say George Bush isn't really stupid. I'm not one of them. :-)

(And no, I don't really think his stupidity and/or incompetence has any significant bearing on what is going on in this country, or the world. That doesn't mean that he isn't stupid and incompetent. In some ways, I'm glad that he isn't smarter or competent, because I think he could be doing much more damage if he were.).


Dept. of unlikely news

In the category of "we'll believe it when we see it," this story:
Commanders of the French contingent of the United Nations force in Lebanon have warned that they might have to open fire if Israel Air Force warplanes continue their overflights in Lebanon.
And no, do not file this under the "French are cowards" column; my claim of disbelief has nothing to do with my opinion of the French, and everything to do with my opinion of the U.N.

The real story here, completely unreported in the Western press, as it was before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, is the continuing (continuous? continual?) violations of Lebanese sovereignty by the Israelis.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Johns Hopkins vs. Iraq Body Count

Lenin has a long post up about Iraq Body Count and its criticisms of the latest Johns Hopkins report (mislabelled, and not just by Lenin, as the "Lancet report," as if Lancet were the authors rather than simply the publishers) of excess deaths in Iraq. American Leftist also explores the issues in depth, as have many others.

I'd like to add one small contribution to the discussion which I haven't seen mentioned before (although, with the quantity of words being published in the world vs. the amount I read, that may not amount to much). And that is this: Iraq Body Count reports on reported deaths - 50 killed in a car bombing here, 25 beheaded there, etc. The criticism of that, from various sources, has been that Iraq is a big place, reporters are very restricted, and not all such deaths go reported. Certainly true. But there's another factor. When 20 people are killed in a car bombing, 40 more are injured. That much is often reported. But when those 40 people head off to hospital (or to their homes), it may well be that 5 die the next day, and 5 more the next week from their injuries. Are those ever reported? Never as far as I can tell. Not once have I seen a report that "5 people died in a Baghdad hospital today from injuries received in a car bombing (or an American aerial bombing) yesterday."

And while we read frequently that American fatality rates are much lower than in previous wars, as injured soldiers can much more often be prevented from dying of their wounds, I think it's safe to say the same does not apply to wounded Iraqis. So, unless I'm missing something, this is one potentially huge death count that is totally missed in the IBC numbers, but included in the Johns Hopkins study.


Shooting ourselves in the foot

The United States has been engaged in active economic warfare against Cuba for more than 45 years, warfare which costs Cuba an estimated $4 billion a year.

But what of the effects on Americans? Aside from preventing Americans from visiting Cuba and seeing for ourselves the reality of life in Cuba, there are other, very real, very concrete effects. The Cuban drug Citroprot-P is one example. Citroprot-P is a drug which is used in the treatment and prevention of diabetic foot ulcers. Now this may come as a surprise to you as it did to me, but in a recent year 82,000 people had their feet or legs amputated due to diabetic foot ulcers. Citroprot-P is a newly-developed Cuban drug which has an 85% success rate is treating such ulcers and preventing amputation. Amputation also decreases life expectancy, so it can be expected that Citroprot-P will also increase the life expectancy of its recipients.

Americans, however, won't be sharing in that success, thanks to the U.S. blockade of Cuba. If you or a friend or relative loses a foot to a diabetic ulcer, you'll know who to blame. And it won't just be George Bush.

Incidentally, "Mexican Americans are 1.8 times as likely, non-Hispanic Blacks are 2.7 times as likely, and American Indians are 3 to 4 times as likely to suffer from lower-limb amputations." It's fairly obvious these statistics have nothing to do with genetics, but instead reflect rather strikingly the class-based nature of the U.S. health care system.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Column of the week

Just stumbled on this column by NBC reporter Jane Arraf written a few days ago:
Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

I'm more puzzled by comments that the violence isn't any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?

Day-to-day life here for Iraqis is so far removed from the comfortable existence we live in the United States that it is almost literally unimaginable.

It's almost impossible to describe what it feels like being stalled in traffic, your heart pounding, wondering if the vehicle in front of you is one of the three or four car bombs that will go off that day. Or seeing your husband show up at the door covered in blood after he was kidnapped and beaten.

I don't know a single family here that hasn't had a relative, neighbor or friend die violently. In places where there's been all-out fighting going on, I've interviewed parents who buried their dead child in the yard because it was too dangerous to go to the morgue.

Imagine the worst day you've ever had in your life, add a regular dose of terror and you'll begin to get an idea of what it's like every day for a lot of people here.
This conveys, far more than any numbers can, the horror that the United States has visited on Iraq in the name of "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." The price the Iraqi people are paying, without having been asked, for the alleged "national security" of the United States.


Class justice

With the death of Freddy Fender, I decided to look up his entry in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, which I just purchased from the remainder table at Border's yesterday for $7.50; not bad for an 1112-page book! Here's an interesting note from the entry:
Fender was arrested for the possession of two marijuana cigarettes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sentenced to five years in prison, he subsequently served 30 months in the Angola State Prison.
Here's a bit of information about Angola State Prison:
Known as "The Farm," the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is the largest prison in the United States. Around three-quarters of its inmates are African-American. According to the Academy-Award-nominated documentary The Farm, 85 percent of the inmates who are sent to Angola will die there.
A decade after Fender was doing hard time at Angola for possessing two marijuana cigarettes, rich boy George Bush was reportedly involved with much more serious drugs. Needless to say he didn't see the inside of even the town jail, much less a place like Angola.

I had the happy experience of seeing Freddy Fender perform with the Texas Tornados (Fender, Flaco Jimenez, Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers) at a small venue in Santa Cruz in the early 90's.


Today's nature moment

Clapper Rails (and all Rails) are normally secretive marsh birds, hiding in the marsh and rarely seen. This one, which I photographed a couple days ago, was an exception, casually going about his (or her) business in full view at the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont, CA. Not only did I have time to take the pictures (and a dozen more) below, but I even shot a short movie. Click on the pictures for a larger view.

California Clapper Rail


"Forced" to kill civilians

From Gaza to Afghanistan, it's the same story. The occupiers are "forced" to kill civilians through aerial bombing.

In Afghanistan:

The general’s [Lt. Gen. David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan] forces came under repeated attacks, both on patrol and at their bases, forcing NATO to call in air and artillery strikes that inevitably killed scores of the very civilians he was trying to win over.
And in Gaza:
Backed by helicopters and pilotless planes, Israeli troops have staged ground operations in eastern Gaza in the last three days, killing 20 Palestinians and wounding about 30. Most of the dead were Hamas militants who were targets of airstrikes, but several civilians also died.
Yes, those poor British and Israelis, "forced" to kill civilians through aerial bombing. "Forced" by the equation which says that even risking the life of one of their own soldiers is worth the lives of any number of innocent civilians, who count for nothing.

In that regard, consider the caption to this picture from the New York Times:

Israel bombed this house in Rafah Saturday, saying it hid a smuggling tunnel. No injuries were reported.

"No injuries were reported." Even if this "reporting" were accurate, which is dubious, look closely at the picture, showing near total destruction of this house. Can we not imagine that the psychic injuries to the inhabitants of this house, the children above all, will last a lot longer than a lot of physical injuries? Don't worry though. "No injuries were reported." That's ok, then.

The dead Palestinians, when they are not the afterthought civilians ("several civilians also died"), are invariably either "militants" or "gunmen." Some are described, perhaps accurately or perhaps not, as being on their way to or from launching largely symbolic rockets against Israel. But the rest? What is a "militant" or a "gunman" in this context? Someone who is willing to defend his homeland against attack from foreign invaders. Since when is that something that is punishable by death, and able to be passed off as acceptable?

Friday, October 13, 2006


Imperialism then and now

Threats against North Korea, including implied threats of nuclear attack by the government ("nothing is off the table"), and open calls for attack, nuclear and otherwise, by various pundits. Something new under George Bush? Hardly. Sarah Sloan on pslweb.org reminds us of a little history:
On May 19, 1953, general Omar Bradley wrote to Eisenhower: "It is the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the necessary air, naval, and ground operations, including the extensive strategic and tactical use of atomic bombs, be undertaken, so as to obtain maximum surprise and maximum impact on the enemy, both militarily and psychologically."

At a meeting of the National Security Council on May 20, Eisenhower approved the plan and personally participated in the selection of targets. But the nuclear weapons were never dropped because of the cease-fire agreement established two months later on July 27, 1953.
And make no mistake. Although I have no special knowledge, I would say it is a virtual certainty that such memos have also been written to George Bush, and that detailed plans for the implementation of such aggressive and repugnant actions are prepared and ready to be executed on a moment's notice. The right of North Korea, or any nation, to prepare a defense against such actions shouldn't even be open to question.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Wow! Quote of the Day

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them. We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited ... by those in Iraq at the time. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. [We should] get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

- General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army (!)
You've heard of a "shot across the bow"? I believe this qualifies as a shot directly to the midship.


The Johns Hopkins report

Today's Democracy Now! featured an interview with Les Roberts, one of the authors of the latest Johns Hopkins study on excess deaths in Iraq (the one George Bush thinks -- and I use that word loosely -- that the researchers "guessed" at). Worth reading or (or listening to).

One interesting note on a point I made below -- Roberts himself says "We didn’t say it was 655,000 deaths. We said it was 655,000 deaths, and we’re 95% sure it’s between about 400,000 and 950,000." I wish that's what he said. Actually, what they wrote was that it was "the confidence interval ranges from 426,369 to 793,663. That means that we are 95% certain that the correct number is between those two, and 601,027, is the statistically most probable number." Which, as I wrote below, may (or may not) be the norm among biostatisticians, but among normal people, that level of precision in admittedly imprecise data can only serve to discredit the report, even among those who understand the difference between accuracy and precision, and probably especially among those who don't.


Today's Nature Moment

Acorn Woodpecker stashing acorns

This isn't the best picture I've ever taken of an Acorn Woodpecker. And I've seen (though probably never bothered to take a picture of) lots of trees filled with holes, made by Sapsuckers and other Woodpeckers. But this is the first time I've ever seen, as well as taken a picture of, an Acorn Woodpecker actively embedding acorns in a tree. Look closely (click on the picture for a larger copy) and you'll see dozens of holes, about half of them empty and the other half filled with little yellowish dots which are the embedded acorns.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Out Now!

If you aren't part of the antiwar movement yet, maybe now would be a good time to get involved:
The U.S. Army is planning on the basis that it may have to maintain current troop levels in Iraq until at least 2010.
As I have written many times before in conjunction with Korea (I'll skip the links), history suggests rather conclusively that the U.S. will leave troops in Iraq forever until and unless the U.S. people and the indigenous resistance forces force them out, as happened in Vietnam. Electing an "antiwar" Democrat will definitely not do it. You haven't noticed any Democrat in the last 50 years campaigning on a platform of withdrawing troops from South Korea, have you?


Today's shocker(s) from Iraq

[First posted 10/10, 10:30 p.m.; updated and bumped]

One story, three shockers.

Shock one--the basic story: "Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000"

Shock two--the details: "Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study." I have to say that, scientific method or no scientific method, I find this very hard to believe, given the state of public health (water, etc.) and actual health care (hospitals, etc.) in Iraq. Perhaps the only thing that explains it is that, after a decade of sanctions, things were already so much worse than "normal." Imagine if their baseline had been the 1980's.

Shock three--the story was actually published in the Washington Post. Considering the treatment of the initial Johns Hopkins/Lancet study by the corporate media, this in itself just might be the biggest shock of all.

Update: Comparing the Washington Post story to the New York Times story provides some interesting contrasts. First of all, the Times totally ignores the "excess deaths" formulation, and refers only to the 600,000 killed by violence, even though they're happy to talk about excess deaths when it comes to other places, like Darfur. As if those people who died from non-violent causes are any less dead, or their families any less grieving. Second, they quite legitimately note the "error bars" on the data - the range of the estimate from 426,369 to 793,663. Third, trying to make the claim that the increase isn't really as much as you might think by asserting that the "baseline" should have been higher, they make this interesting statement: "Under Saddam Hussein, the state had a monopoly on killing." Really? There were no murders in Iraq prior to the American invasion? Quite a record!

The Times does quote various skeptics, which is legitimate. I'll particularly lend my agreement to this:

Donald Berry, chairman of biostatistics at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was even more troubled by the study, which he said had “a tone of accuracy that’s just inappropriate.”
I haven't read the report. But if it really quotes a number of "601,027 Iraqis dead from violence" based on a statistical sampling whose error bars are 30% or so, I can only laugh, or perhaps shake my head. This is kind of like measuring your height with a yardstick, and then quoting the answer to the nearest nanometer. Completely inappropriate.

None of that changes the underlying truth - there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqs whose blood is on the hands of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and their Republican and Democratic enablers in Congress and their supposedly non-partisan enablers in the media, very much including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Update 2: The actual study is here (pdf file).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The North Korean "threat"

Widely reported on TV news and in some print media is the claim that North Korea has "threatened a nuclear missile attack if trade and financial sanctions are not dropped." Read the fine print:
"We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes," an unnamed North Korean official told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
An "unnamed" official, eh? Seems like a funny way to deliver a "threat." That is, if you even consider the formulation of that alleged conversation a "threat," which is questionable, and if it is a threat, there doesn't appear to be any linkage to the dropping of trade and financial sanctions; the unnamed official could well have meant that that missile might be a response to an American bombing or attempted bombing of weapons sites within North Korea.

None of this, naturally, will prevent the American people from hearing repeatedly about this "threat" we need to respond to.


The difference between Republicans and Democrats

North Korea conducts a nuclear test. Republicans condemn it as a "threat" to the United States and demand sanctions. Democrats condemn it as a "threat" to the United States and demand sanctions...and blame George Bush.


Venezuela fair and balanced

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Caracas in support of Manuel Rosales, the opposition candidate to Hugo Chavez. That march was covered in numerous papers (and, presumably, broadcast media). The BBC's idea of "fair and balanced" was presumably to mention in the very last sentence of the article that "Mr Chavez still enjoys a clear lead in opinion polls."

The very next day, a pro-Chavez march was held. It lasted for seven hours and was described by Granma as having "dwarfed" the Saturday march. Perhaps it did, perhaps you'll think Granma is exaggerating. But one thing is for sure. The coverage of the Rosales march dwarfed that of the pro-Chavez march. Because there wasn't any of the latter. None. As far as the American (and British and Canadian and other Western) public is concerned, it didn't happen. Though I'm guessing that it made a hell of a sound for something that didn't happen. Like the tree that fell in the forest, though, it's effects will be evident long after the event -- on election day and beyond.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


"The most prolonged act of genocide in history"

In an article on CounterPunch, Ricardo Alarcon, the President of the National Assembly of Cuba, describes the origins of the nearly 50-year-old U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. In the spirit of "you can always learn something new," I learned that U.S. plans to cause unemployment, hunger, and "desperation" among the Cuban people began long before Cuba had re-established relationships with the Soviet Union and proclaimed the socialist character of the revolution. Indeed, they started talking about cutting the Cuban sugar quota at a time when many of the estates where sugar was grown and the factories in which it was processed were still U.S.-owned!

Alarcon notes that the attempt to "bring about hunger and desperation" among the Cuban people fits the definition of genocide under the Geneva Convention; the definition is not limited, as you might have thought, to only the widespread murder of a population. He also notes that the majority of Cubans alive today have spent their entire lives under the blockade. In a typical year, that blockade is estimated to deprive the Cuban people of $4 billion of income. Imagine what good could be accomplished with that money, both in Cuba and in other countries where Cuban doctors bring health care to those who might never before have seen a doctor. One thing for sure -- it wouldn't be to fill the pockets of Halliburton shareholders or American politicians and billionaires, nor to purchase more weapons with which to kill more people in countries like Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.


Photo of the Week

Jellyfish on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

More brains than George Bush and the Republicans, more spine than the Democrats. :-)


Pressure succeeds; Posada Carriles to remain in jail

Two weeks ago, I was heavily involved as part of a team from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five which travelled to Washington, D.C. to organize and pull off a demonstration which had two demands: Free the Cuban Five, and Extradite Luis Posada Carriles. There were only 600 people at that demonstration, tiny by the standards of national demonstrations. Shortly before that, tens of thousands of people (a big success, but still hardly enormous numbers) sent automated emails to the Bush Administration and Congress in a campaign organized by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition demanding that the U.S. extradite Posada and not release him, as all signs indicated they were preparing to do. Before that, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five organized some demonstrations of several dozen people outside the El Paso hearings where the release of Posada was being considered. Once again, successes from our point of view, but most people would have considered them minuscule and insignificant, had they even known about them. Of course there have been other activities as well, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.

But lo and behold, guess what? Those demonstrations succeeded, at least in part, and the U.S. government has been forced to declare that they will not release Posada as they were planning to do. Is it because they were worried about losing the votes of the 0.01% of the U.S. population who even knows who Luis Posada Carriles is? Of course not; there probably aren't any of those people who vote for Republicans, and precious few who even vote for Democrats (not that the Democrats have been on the right side of this issue; only the tiniest handful of Democrats, and certainly none of the leadership, has even voiced an opinion on the situation). Was it because, as the U.S. government claims in explaining this decision, that "his release may have serious adverse foreign policy consequences in the United States"? I seriously doubt it. As far as I know, the only countries to object to the release of Posada have been Cuba and Venezuela, and I doubt the U.S. cares a fig about what they think. It suffices to note that for years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the U.S. government has been ignoring not just Cuba's opinion, but that of virtually the entire world, as the U.N. votes year after year in lopsided votes like 182-4 to demand the end to the U.S. blockade of Cuba.

No, in my opinion, the only explanation for this sudden shift is that they realized that some Americans, even if only a few, were watching what they were doing and were screaming bloody hell about it, and that even they couldn't pull off such an outrageous act as releasing the most notorious terrorist in the Western Hemisphere. Do you really think that if no one were objecting, that they would have hesitated for a second to release him (not to mention even arresting him in the first place)? I don't. But when we (those who were paying attention and screaming) entered the kitchen and turned the light on the situation, the cockroaches had to scurry for safety, no longer free to carry on what they would have gladly continued to do if left in the dark.

Is this now the "right" decision? Certainly not. The U.S. government must extradite Posada to stand trial for his heinous crimes. I strongly recommend to readers the speech given by Jose Pertierra, the lawyer for the Venezuelan government in this case, to the forum we organized after the Sept. 23 demonstration at the White House. Among other things, he explains that, under international law, the U.S. actually can refuse to extradite Posada, but only if they try him themselves for his crimes. They have done neither, placing them (for the umpteenth time) in clear violation of international law. Not that we want them to try Posada. Their performance at the immigration hearings is indicative of what such a trial might consist of; the U.S. didn't present a single witness on their "own" behalf, and allowed Posada's former partner (!) to offer unrebutted testimony about how he would be tortured if sent to Venezuela. So the demand will continue - Extradite Posada to Venezuela! But for now, a small success in the effort.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Quote of the Day

"Once we start to see life as giving to others, being at the service of something or someone, a worthy cause, then suddenly we realize that we barely have time enough to do everything we want, that we think is worthwhile and that makes us happy. Take care of everything around us: a flower that might be insignficant to others, putting a smile on somebody's face, offering a hand to a friend in need, reading a book that teaches us something, helping our loved ones with the housework. These are little things that can make you glad at heart, and also, as I've said before, keep us busy and useful. Remember that material things are not the fundamental things."

- Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five, from a letter to his son Tony from U.S. prison, from the moving and highly-recommended book Letters of Love and Hope
A man who has now had eight years of his life stolen from him by the vindicative, spiteful United States Government, and who has, along with the other four men, now begun his ninth year of unjust imprisonment.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


North Korea's right of self-defense

The U.S. government says North Korean plans to conduct a nuclear weapons test are a "provocative action" and an "unacceptable threat to peace and stability." As opposed to the U.S. threats to conduct nuclear weapons tests by dropping them on the heads of Iranians and others, which no doubt are a contributor to peace and stability and completely unprovoctive. Or as opposed to the new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who recently suggested that "Tokyo should study whether its constitution would allow a pre-emptive strike on North Korean missile bases." Another unprovoctive action designed to promote peace and stability, no doubt.

We're told by the Washington Post reporters that Japan "sees itself as a primary target of North Korean aggression." The Post seems to have left out the word "hypothetical," since there hasn't been any such thing as "North Korean aggression" for more than 50 years (and even that was quite arguably a response to an imminent invasion of its territory, an invasion certainly a lot more imminent and a lot more likely than the "imminent" threat to the U.S. from non-existent Iraqi WMD which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people). If the Japanese are worried about aggression threatening their lives, I'd suggest they'd do better to worry about the aggression being committed around the world by their number one ally.

As for North Korea, the fact that their development of nuclear weapons is for defensive purposes against a very real threat to their nation is so obvious as to be almost not worth noting, except in the face of the topsy-turvy world of Western corporate media.


Child abuse

George Bush says about Rep. Mark Foley, "I was dismayed and shocked to learn about Congressman Foley's unacceptable behavior. I was disgusted by the revelations." In Iraq and Afghanistan, George Bush & Co. have committed the ultimate in child abuse, committing the outright murder of thousands of them and being directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands more. Is George Bush "dismayed, shocked, and digusted" by that behavior? No, he's proud of it.

Has he ever even mentioned the brutal, shocking (if one can be shocked by anything U.S. troops do in Iraq) rape and murder of 14-year-old Abir al-Janabi and the simultanous murder of several of her family members? A search of the White House website says the answer is no. I guess that event wasn't "dismaying, shocking, or disgusting" enough by George Bush's standards.

Phone sex with a 16-year-old minor, though, that's what gets George hot and bothered.


Political humor of the day

Tucked away in the military spending bill for this past year was $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation's capital "for commemoration of success" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprising, the money was not spent.

Now, congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate "a day of celebration" to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to "issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." (Source)
I wonder if the $20 million will cover another "Mission Accomplished" sign?

I ran this item under the "political humor of the day" title. Alas, the tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who have died during the past year, and the hundreds of Americans who have also died in the same wars, aren't laughing, nor are their families.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Checking in, checking out

I'm still here, but just barely. After an exhausting but exhilirating trip to Washington, D.C. to be part of the team that pulled off a very successful march on the White House on behalf of the Cuban Five, I returned, only to find myself A) still filled with tasks from that event, including getting pictures and video (both my own and that of others) up on the website and making DVDs of the same material for showing at reportback meetings all over the country; B) trying to catch up with normal tasks at work; C) consumed nearly full-time by a project at work which has me working more intensely than in quite a while (yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I do work for a living); and D) catching up with things at home as well. Just as I'm nearing normalcy after a week, now some old friends are about to arrive from out of town for a week, ready to be shown the entire Bay Area from Monterey to Yosemite.

So, much as I miss writing this blog, it looks like my period of "downtime" is going to continue for another week or two. I hope readers will check in periodically to see what I'm up to, but don't be surprised when there's little new. I will return to the fray, have no fear. There are windmills to be tilted at and I'm just the guy to do the tilting. Just not with the usual intensity quite yet.


Quote of the Day (/Week/Month/Year)

"I know that while we've sacrificed ourselves all this time, there are a lot of people who have made good use of their time, who have been 'living the life' these years because that's 'the only thing they can take with them,' as they say. However, I am not so interested in what I can take with me, but rather in what I'm going to leave behind."

- Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, one of the Cuban Five, from a letter to his wife Adriana from the moving and highly-recommended book Letters of Love and Hope, letters exchanged between the Five and their families from U.S. prison

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