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Saturday, April 30, 2005


 

The "family values" of the U.S. government


Here's a story I guarantee you missed in the U.S. press:
"Cuban-US Sergeant Carlos Lazo, who fought for the United States in Iraq all last year and is now separated from his children in Cuba, attended the conference [Cuba Action Day, in which thousands of Americans travelled to Washington to call for an end to restrictions on travel to Cuba].

"When he tried to use his two-week military vacation to visit his two children in Cuba, the government refused it."


Friday, April 29, 2005


 

Birds and politics - the Tale of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker


When I started posting pictures of birds a few days ago, I had no idea that there would be any kind of political connection; I was just taking a break from posting about politics while I'm on vacation (and taking pictures of birds that I was so proud of I had to share). But, lo and behold, out pops a story with not one but two political angles to it - the confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, last seen in the United States in 1944. This is, indeed, huge news in the scientific (and birdwatching) community.

The first angle is the American chauvinist angle. If you read the New York Times coverage of the story (or any other coverage, for that matter), you will read that this bird has been "long given up for extinct" and that "the last documented sighting was in Louisiana in 1944." But this isn't true - a pair of Ivory-billeds was seen in Cuba as recently as 1987, as noted in Birds of Cuba. Of course that has no relevance if you think the world ends at the borders of the United States, as so many Americans do.

The second political angle to this story is to understand why the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been so decimated, and why it had been thought to be extirpated (extinct within a given range) in North America. As is almost always the case, the immediate cause is loss of habitat. But what caused the loss of habitat? Was it just development, as is sometimes the case? No, the cause can be summed up with an old saying: War is not healthy for human beings and other living things. More specifically, according to the Birds of North America:

"The first great wave of habitat loss occurred during 1880–1910. During World War I, Northern industries were getting the bulk of money spent for the war effort, and Southern politicians demanded their share. A bill was passed to build 1,000 ships of southern pine, sounding the death knell for remaining virgin pine forests. It was considered patriotic to cut the forests, although only 320 ships were ever built and none saw war action

"World War II was the final blow. Again in response to war 'needs' and under the banner of patriotism, many remaining old-growth southern forests were cut. Some of the wood was used for the decks of PT boats, other for pallets for shipping ammunition; much of it fueled the demands of industry."
The bottom line? Whether it's deformed babies being born in Iraq as a result of the use of depleted uranium, the pollution of the Danube resulting from the deliberate NATO bombing of chemical plants in Yugoslavia, the destruction of the southern U.S. forests described above, or simply the incredible amounts of gasoline used during wartime by mileage-inefficient and pollution-releasing planes, tanks, and humvees, war is an environmental disaster.


 

Straw arguments on Iraq


The big story in England is that Tony Blair has been forced to release the legal advice he received before the invasion of Iraq which was most definitely not "unequivocal" advice that the invasion was legal, as Blair characterized it then. This, from Jack Straw today, makes further mincemeat of the truth:
"The advice which the Attorney General set out to the House of Lords on 17 March, the day before the debate in the Commons, was unequivocal and it set out that resolution 1441 had effectively revived the authority for use of force under Security Council resolution 687 because of Iraq's clear further material breach in its refusal to comply with its disarmament obligations."
Really? And just what "clear further material breach" would that be, Jack? [A question the interviewer unfortunately failed to ask] We now know that Iraq hadn't had any WMD since 1992, they were allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to search under Saddam Hussein's bed looking for them, they were even in the process of destroying some long-range missiles which may or may not have exceeded the "allowed" range by a few kilometers, and Straw tells us that Iraq was in "clear further material breach"? Please.


 

Left I on the News is for the birds


This week, anyway. Enjoy! Once again, identifications to follow tomorrow for those who are playing along at home.


Update: Clockwise from upper-left: Elegant Trogon, Curve-billed Thrasher, Female Broad-billed Hummingbird (sitting on a nest hanging from a string of Christmas tree lights in the outdoor part of a shop!), White-faced Ibis. For the camera buffs out there (of which I am definitely not one), these and all previous pictures were taken with a hand-held (i.e., no tripod) Canon PowerShot S1 IS camera with 10x optical zoom and 32x digital zoom; almost all, or perhaps all, of the posted pictures were shot at 10x. The take-home lesson is that it doesn't take particularly fancy equipment to get some pretty decent nature shots (if I do say so myself), but the "standard" digital camera which has 3x optical zoom definitely is not sufficient in my experience.

Further update: Apologies if you are getting "traffic exceeded" images and can't see the pictures; come back tomorrow, earlier in the day. I paid for an upgrade in bandwidth from imagehosting.us but they have yet to acknowledge that and do anything about it.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005


 

Depleted uranium, deformed lives


Since I began this blog I've been periodically covering the story of the use of depleted uranium in Iraq by U.S. forces and the terrible consequences thereof. Today Reuters (and most likely precious few others, in the American media, anyway) informs us:
"Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies. 'There have been 650 cases in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals - that is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher,' [Dr.] Ali warned.

"The health expert said polluted water, which could contain radiation from weapons used in previous conflicts, was the main factor behind the increase.

"The type of deformities found in newborn babies are characterised by multiple fingers, unusually large heads, unilateral lips or no arms or legs."
Just like the tobacco companies, the U.S. government and military will stonewall for years, claiming with a certain scientific validity that there is no proven causal relationship between the use of DU weapons in Iraq and effects like these (which have, by the way, been reported long before this). Perhaps not, but there's one hell of a lot of circumstantial evidence.


 

The adventure continues


Pictures from Monday:


Update: Clockwise from upper-left: Vermilion Flycatcher, Gray Hawk, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Common Yellowthroat.


 

What I did on my summer spring vacation


Or, all work (or all politics) and no play makes Eli a dull boy. All these pictures were taken by me Sunday (I've been trying to upload them since then, but the image hosting service I use has been "bloggered" until now). Tomorrow I'll identify them in an update; in the meantime we'll find out how clever my readers are.


Update: Clockwise from upper left: White-breasted Nuthatch, Hepatic Tanager, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Acorn Woodpecker.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005


 

The power of the state


Today the final report on the state of WMD in Iraq was released. There were none. Since 1992. We've all known that for quite some time, of course. But the release of the final report is an occasion to reflect on the meaning of all this. Iraq had not had any weapons of mass destruction since 1992. Yet in 2003, eleven years later, the power of the U.S. government, combined with (or perhaps using is a better word) the power of the media, in the complete absence of anything remotely resembling proof (which would have been impossible, since what they were trying to "prove" wasn't actually true), was enough to convince a substantial portion of the American public, not to mention many (though certainly not a majority) of the world's governments, that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but that they had them in such quantities and were such an imminent danger that, even though U.N. inspectors were still busy verifying what this report confirms two years later, it was necessary to immediately invade and overthrow the government of that country.

And if the government and media can do that, they can pretty much do anything they want. When and if the U.S. government decides they need to bomb Iran, or invade Syria, or blockade North Korea, or sponsor a coup in Venezuela, they'll turn up the verbal heat and in no time the bogeyman-du-jour will be established. And that's why independent media is so important. Because it's one of the necessary links in the only chain that can put a stop to this madness. Of course people who listen to, and learn from, independent media, and act on what they know, is another necessary link.


Monday, April 25, 2005


 

Venezuela through the looking glass


Only in the upside-down world of the U.S. government and the American corporate media could we read this:
"As President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela veers toward greater confrontation with Washington, the Bush administration is weighing a tougher approach, including funneling more money to foundations and business and political groups opposed to his leftist government, American officials say."
Yes, it's not Washington which is veering toward greater confrontation with Venezuela, but the opposite, and the "tougher approach" is something they've been doing since the day Chavez came to power, through multiple elections and referenda, and needless to say they've already been doing something much "tougher" than just funneling money, like supporting and recognizing a coup.

Fortunately, even the New York Times is forced to acknowledge a delightful bit of reality:

"But it [the U.S. government] has found no allies so far in its attempts to isolate the Venezuelan leader."
No one should underestimate the significance of what is taking place in Venezuela right now. The U.S. government certainly doesn't.

Note: Because I'm on the road with only a dialup connection, this post isn't as "rich" with references as it should be. If you're new to this blog, use the Google search above or at the right to search for many previous posts on Venezuela.


Sunday, April 24, 2005


 

Open Thread


I'm off for a week, probably with Internet access but an unknown amount of free time, so it will certainly be a light posting week. I'm going to try dating this post a week into the future, which I think will ensure it will stay on top, although that may screw up RSS feeds; if anyone notices a problem along those lines, please email me and let me know. Otherwise, once again I encourage you to check out the other fine blogs and websites in the right-hand column. Or, get outside and smell the roses! That's my plan, figuratively speaking, anyway.


Friday, April 22, 2005


 

Support Lynne Stewart


I won't rehash the Lynne Stewart travesty here; if you're unfamiliar with her case, all the information is here. Stewart is now asking for supporters to send physical letters to the judge (via Stewart's lawyer) not to protest the verdict itself, which is being appealed, but simply to plead for a light or suspended sentence in light of the outrageous nature of both the charges and the way the whole thing went down (government snooping on supposedly privileged lawyer-client conversations, etc.). Information of what to do is here (PDF file).


 

Blitzer minimizes Bolton's slanders on Cuba


John Bolton, along with Roger Noriega, tried to smear Cuba with the charge that they were developing (and sharing) biological weapons. In Congress, the "opposition" Democrats have had nothing to say about that charge whatsoever; their only concern is that Bolton mistreated his subordinates in the course of that slander. Watching CNN just now, I heard Wolf Blitzer say this:
"His subordinates were concerned that that charge might not be such a slam dunk."
Might not be a "slam dunk"? The charge was total bullshit, backed up by no evidence whatsoever (see here for starters). Even Jimmy Carter says so; here's a reminder:
"Carter revealed that during extensive briefings prior to his departure, U.S. intelligence officials told him they had no evidence Cuba was producing biological weapons or aiding other countries to do so. 'I asked them specifically, on more than one occasion: 'Is there any evidence that Cuba has been involved in sharing any information to any other country on Earth that could be used for terrorist purposes?’ And the answer from our experts on intelligence was ‘no,’ ' Carter said."
And, as a bonus, a reminder of the recent origin of the use of that term "slam dunk", and why it may not be what most people think.

You can send feedback to CNN about Blitzer's implicit slander here.


 

Posada Carriles - Just say No!


A little over a week ago I wrote about the case of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who managed to sneak (or was helped by U.S. authorities?) across the border into the U.S. and is now applying for asylum. ANSWER, who was part of a press conference in Miami yesterday, has more about the case here, and is urging people to write or send emails demanding that Posada Carriles be denied asylum in the U.S.; you can do so with a click of the mouse here.


 

Can't see the forest...because the trees have been cut down


Today is Earth Day, but it seems that some self-described environmentalists have forgotten the word "Earth" in that title. The San Jose Mercury News informs us:
"Some say the movement is in need of a major overhaul: Environmentalists should become part of a larger left-leaning coalition of labor, civil rights, anti-war activists and others -- while talking more about mainstream American values and less about lawsuits and lobbying. But many leaders of America's largest green groups say what they need instead is to find more common goals with business owners, farmers, ranchers and religious conservatives."
Yes, because that latter approach has worked so well for Democrats and liberals on other issues.
"[Michael Schellenberger, executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, an El Cerrito environmental think tank] and Ted Nordhaus, vice president of Evans/McDonough, an Oakland polling firm, set off shock waves in the conservation world when they released a 12,000-word essay, 'The Death of Environmentalism,' in October. It contends environmentalists are seen as just another special interest because they narrowly define their issues."
Because, after all, how much narrower can you get than "the earth"? And how much more of a "special interest" can you be when your cause hasn't anything whatsoever to do with your own financial or other type of personal gain?
"'The National Rifle Association is more powerful than the Sierra Club,' said Schellenberger. 'What animates so much of the NRA's activism is core American values of freedom, individualism and populism. Environmentalists need to be animated by those core values too.'"
Yes, and who could accuse the NRA of being any kind of "special interest"?

Schellenberger and Nordhaus seem to completely miss the entire point of environmentalism. "Freedom" and "individualism" are completely inimical to the health of the environment, because they mean precisely that people are free to do what they want and ignore the consequences for society as a whole or for the planet. This is known as the "Tragedy of the Commons". One person throwing non-biodegradable trash in the wilderness is an annoyance; thousands doing so is a tragedy. One person fishing to their heart's content is joy; thousands of fisherman doing so can mean the permanent depletion of fishing stocks. One person building a cabin in a pristeen wilderness with a road leading to it is their personal delight; a thousand people do so and there's no more wilderness to be enjoyed by any of them. Fill in your own examples; there's an unending list.

No, the environmental movement does not need to embrace "core American values of freedom and individualism", it needs to better explain the incompatibility between those values and the future existence of the planet.

Update: In a related story, George Bush was all set to "celebrate" Earth Day by visiting the nation's most polluted national park (Great Smoky Mountains National Park), but had to cancel due to bad weather. It's not that he couldn't get there, of course, just that it wouldn't have made for an optimal "video bite" for TV, which is the only reason he was going there (according to my cynical interpretation; no, that wasn't in the news story).


 

Bloggers!


PC and Pixel:


Nick Anderson:


Thursday, April 21, 2005


 

Terrorism...and other problems


Going back as far as September, 2003, I've been writing about the relative weight of terrorism as a global problem, pointing out statistics like this:A few days ago, this year's "terrorism report" was squelched, so we aren't going to get to know this year's statistics, but for sure, even including deaths in Iraq (which for the most part I wouldn't call terrorism, but the U.S. government does, but they still don't include those deaths in their summaries), this year's number is once again just a few thousand at most (excluding Iraq, as the U.S. was going to do, I believe it's just a few hundred).

By contrast, and adding to the list above, is another number that's just made the news - the 68,000 women worldwide who die as a result of unsafe abortions. The Guardian says that the WHO has been trying to put two abortion pills on its list of "essential mediciines", and that the U.S. has been blocking that from happening, thus contributing to the continuation of those deaths. No doubt that accusation is one of those things which will never be "conclusively proved", but whether its true or not, the essential point remains the same. The U.S. is spending $200 million a day on just the war in Iraq, and a lot more in its "war on terror" - let's call it $75 billion a year. If those abortion pills cost as much as $100 a dose, 68,000 of them would cost $7 million - less than the amount being spent in the "war on terror" in one hour. And with that money, some fraction of those 68,000 women, almost certainly larger, if not much larger, than the number of people killed each year by terrorism, would be saved.

And, needless to say, those 68,000 women are just a tiny fraction of the people dying each year from hunger, poor hygiene and other public health problems, inadequate health care, and a variety of other preventable problems, all of which could be dealt with with the money being spent on the "war on terror".


 

Haloscan comment limit increased


I just learned that Haloscan's limit for comments for "basic users" (like me) has recently been increased from 1000 to 3000 characters. Brevity remains the soul of wit, and the longer your comments, the less likely they are to be read, but nonetheless, if you have something to say that requires it, be aware that there's now no need to enter your comment over multiple comments as there used to be.


 

CINOs back in the news


The press is currently filled with accounts of how a "commercial" helicopter has been shot down in Iraq, killing nine people. As usual, this is complete nonsense. This helicopter was under contract to the U.S. Defense Department; who holds the "pink slip" is completely irrelevant. The media's use of the word "commercial" suggests to the reader or viewer that this helicopter was perhaps ferrying refrigerators or cell phones around the country; nothing could be further from the truth. It's actual "bill of lading" was six employees of the notorious Blackwater Security - Civilians in Name Only, a.k.a. CINOs. The fact that the U.S. military chooses to contract out its work, both to increase the profits available to private enterprise as well as to minimize the apparent number of American forces engaged in occupying Iraq, doesn't make those people, or that helicopter, any less legitimate a target than American soldiers riding around in Humvees.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005


 

Iraq - reading between the lines - again


The murder of large numbers of Iraqi National Guards/soldiers by insurgents is a regular occurance. Today's murder of 19 in a soccer stadium is just the latest occurance. The reports don't say so, but we can assume these were 19 unarmed Iraqi soldiers or National Guards (reports differ as to their description), because, unless you have a much larger force (which seems out of the question), it's hard to capture 19 armed soldiers, and, given what the Iraqi insurgents have been doing to Iraqi soldiers (killing them), it seems hard to believe that any armed Iraqi soldier wouldn't fight to the death when faced with capture. So we can conclude with a fair degree of certainty that these men were unarmed.

And why is that? As I've written before about a previous occurence:

"The reason these Iraqis weren't armed is, more than likely, that the U.S. doesn't really trust them to be armed, lest they turn over the arms to insurgents, or turn out to be insurgents themselves. And so they send them off to the slaughter."
And when you can't trust your "friends", or, for that matter, pretty much anyone in Iraq other than the stooges you've installed in high offices, it's a pretty clear sign you're somewhere you don't belong.


 

Free and fair elections


Some are taking place right now...in Cuba. What, you say? Doesn't the Communist Party run everything? How little you know. In Cuba, candidates for office are nominated by neighborhood conventions, not by the Communist Party, are on the ballot without any party affiliation, and, in a rule that makes for quite a contrast with the United States, every office must have two or more candidates vying for it (i.e., no unopposed candidates). And how does that work out, you ask?
"During this first round of voting, 13,949 municipal delegates were elected, of which 26% are women and 19% are young, results that show a greater female and youthful presence in local government structures.

"Next Sunday (April 24), a second round of voting will take place in 1,163 voting districts (7.7% of the total), where there was a tie or where no candidate attained more than 50% of votes cast. [Ed. note - Instant Runoff Voting evidently hasn't made its way to Cuba]

"Of those delegates elected during the first round, 52.48% of them are currently serving in that office, which indicates the people's support for a large number of companeros who are carrying out that commendable work."
Notice that last figure, which indicates a healthy turnover in political positions, something that was only accomplished in the United States through the use of term limits (which I oppose, by the way, as a completely undemocratic restriction on voters' rights).

In a nice touch, ballot boxes in Cuba are guarded by schoolchildren.

And, need I add, money played no role in these elections, making them truly free and fair. Every candidate was given exactly the same opportunity to "make their case".


Tuesday, April 19, 2005


 

Terrorism: theirs and


Hmmm. Something seems to be missing from the title of this post. Oh yes, "ours". Apparently there is no such thing. Not according to George Bush, and not according to Dick Cheney, both of whom spoke (or issued statements) today on the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and neither of whom chose to use the word "terrorism" to apply to that event. ABC News which I watched tonight was happy to follow their lead -- anchor Charles Gibson didn't mention the word either (although their field reporter did, once, refer to the "legacy of terrorism").


 

On civility


Although I believe in rational debate, I'm not overly concerned with "civility". If I think "imperialist warmonger" is an accurate and descriptive phrase, I'm perfectly happy to use it, although I try not to do so to excess. But this is an entirely different thing than what I see going on in countless blogs (and elsewhere, of course). Prompted by the Time magazine cover article on Ann Coulter, I see blog after blog (no links provided, I don't care to promote such nonsense in any way) talking about her alleged "mannish" characteristics, or other aspects of her appearance, or referring to her with words which characterize not her right-wing (and juvenile) politics but her anatomy. More than one blog has ridiculed John Bolton by singling out his curious moustache. Don't these people see that this kind of juvenile attack not only doesn't help their position, it hurts it, by trivializing any real criticisms they have of these targets?

Condoliezza Rice has been frequently singled out for her scowling appearance, but that's not really about how she looks, but how she looks, if you know what I mean, so it's not really out of place, though still not nearly as important as discussing what she does and says. But, back to the cases where people are being attacked for their appearance rather than their politics, all I can say is, if you're guilty, what are you thinking? Grow up.


 

The meme is spreading: Support the troops - bring them home!


For a long time, Left I on the News has been a lone voice in the wilderness blogtopia:

November, 2003: "Support the troops - Bring them home now!"

January, 2005: "Support the troops - bring them home!"

Those were just the posts I could find with that meme in the title; of course the theme has been a constant one here. But today, in one day, we find these posts, seemingly out of the blue (by which I mean it's not like there was a major "Lebanon-barracks" incident yesterday):

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: "support the troops-bring them home" [all lower-case, of course, befitting the Skippy stylebook]

Semidi: "Support the Troops: Pull Them Out" [I'm not actually familiar with Semidi; I found the post through the increasingly useful WebNymph, and, incidentally, I'm not really fond of the "pull them out" phrase - a little too suggestive for my taste. "Bring them home" will do fine, thanks.]

Spread the meme! "Support the troops - bring them home!"


 

The natives are revolting


U.S. soldiers manhandled a member of the Iraqi Assembly as he was trying to enter the Green Zone, and when he objected, yelled "to hell with you and the National Assembly." The complete story is over at First Draft, but here's the interesting part:
"Deputies suspended their session for an hour in protest at the incident involving Fatah al-Sheikh, a partisan of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and member of the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc.

"They then voted unanimously on a motion demanding an official apology from the US embassy and Washington, and the punishment of the US soldier involved.

"Deputies took turns to speak for almost two hours about the many indignities that they and the Iraqi population suffer when coming in contact with US troops.

"'According to the Geneva conventions, an occupying force must respect the occupied nation,' said Abdul Khaliq Zanganah, a Kurdish MP. 'This offending soldier must be thrown out of our country.'

"A Sunni MP, Mudhar Shawkat, handed in the green VIP badge issued by the US military authorising him and other deputies to enter the Green Zone and said he would only attend parliament if sessions were moved to another location.

"'They should be put on notice and given two months -- no more -- to leave the Green Zone,' he said before walking out.

"Another unidentified MP shouted: 'Yes, the end of occupation begins here. The Green Zone must be liberated from occupation!'

"Speaker Hajem al-Hassani said he would suspend sessions altogether unless they move within a week to a building on the fringes of the Green Zone that has its own entrance and would be guarded by Iraqi soldiers.

"'Enough is enough!' he said before adjourning parliament until Sunday."
Something about the law of unintended consequences seems to apply here. It's true that elections under occupation can hardly be free and fair. But they doesn't mean they won't unleash forces that can't be put back in a bottle, regardless of the intentions of the occupiers. Giving people the illusion they're in control tends to make them all the more upset when they are confronted with the fact that they're not.

(With more than just a hat tip to Holden at First Draft)


 

Eats, Shoot's, and "Leaves"?


With apologies to Lynne Truss. With further apologies to Professor Henry Higgins, it's another case of the "cold-blooded murder of the English tongue" written word. OK, I admit to being a bit of a stickler for proper language and punctuation -- language matters, as I write so often here at Left I on the News. This post, however, unlike those, has nothing whatsoever to do with politics, just with the hair of mine that's missing because I keep tearing it out!

Yesterday at lunchtime I was out and decided to drive through at McDonalds (yes, guilty as charged). There on the cashier's window was this sign:

We now have "oatmeal cookies"
Of course I assume this means that they aren't really oatmeal cookies, just something vaguely similar that McDonalds likes to call "oatmeal cookies".

Then last night, during Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment, he showed this ad from a restaurant:

Wed. Kids Night
$2.00 Margarita's
And of course I was left wondering, "Margarita's what?" Her kids? That poor apostrophe. I guess it wandered over from the end of "Kids" where it belonged.

Argggh!


Monday, April 18, 2005


 

Headline of the Day


EU not condemning states that torture but those providing medical and literacy services to other countries
Hopefully you can guess "who's who" in this headline from Granma, which refers to the resolution Cuba has submitted to the Human Rights Commission regarding the torture and indefinite imprisonment without charges of hundreds of people at the Guantanamo concentration camp prison, along with a resolution submitted by the U.S. regarding the imprisonment of dozens of people in Cuba, convicted in a regular trial of violating existing laws of their country.


 

Where are the people of Fallujah?


In an article today on Fallujah, the Washington Post writes: "Nearly all of the city's estimated 250,000 residents fled before the fighting started, and about 90,000 have returned to find wide swaths of the town in ruin." Now even accepting that 90,000 figure (assuming that what is meant is that there are 90,000 people who have returned and remained in Fallujah), that still leaves 160,000 missing Fallujans. Where are they? And why doesn't the Washington Post, or anyone else, ever ask the question? We know that there were large refugee camps set up for Fallujans, because Dahr Jamail visited them and wrote about them. But in the corporate media, any reference to those Fallujans is strictly MIA - missing in action.


 

Idiotic Quotes of the Day


I'm watching the Boston Marathon (broadcast on OLN); simultaneous with that, some soldiers in Iraq are running their own marathon (on a course lined with barbed wire where it ventures outside of a U.S. military base). John Kerry just came on the broadcast, saying:
"We're so proud of what all of you are doing over there. Congratulations on running your own marathon, and thank you, all of you, for serving our country and making it possible for everybody here to enjoy a Patriot's Day in the freedom and the splendor that we're all experiencing."
OK, please, let's all say it in unison, shall we? Bullshit. American soldiers in Iraq are not only not "protecting our freedom" here in America, the policies of the administration that sent them there have quite clearly diminished our freedom. And I'm pretty sure they weren't responsible for the glorious Boston weather either. They were responsible for the murder of Nicola Calipari; I assume that's one of the things that Kerry is so "proud" of.

Some other clown named Tred Barta (the host of a show on OLN) dressed in camouflage with his face blackened and shooting a bow and arrow in the woods just came on and echoed the same nonsense:

"I'm preparing for a grizzly bear and black bear hunt with a longbow and homemade wooden arrows. If it wasn't for the men and women of our armed forces, I wouldn't have the opportunity. [Then, addressing the soldiers running the marathon] Without your sacrifice, the athletes [in Boston] don't run, period."
Yes, putting an end to the Boston Marathon, not to mention longbow hunting of bears in North America, was, no doubt, one of Saddam Hussein's prime goals, so it's sure lucky the U.S. invaded and got rid of him.

I have a feeling this telecast is going to be a lot longer than two and a half hours, figuratively speaking.


 

Marla Ruzicka & Rachel Corrie


Two young, blond, American peace/human rights activists. One killed in Iraq yesterday, one killed two years ago in Palestine. The media are covering the death of Marla Ruzicka quite intensively; you can find a major appreciation for her life and work at Time Magazine online, for example. Rachel Corrie? As far as I can tell, both from memory and from trying to research the past on the web, she received a tiny fraction of the (certainly well-deserved) coverage that Ruzicka is getting.

Why? Despite their similarities, there are two huge differences between Ruzicka and Corrie. First, Corrie was working and was killed in Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. The number of American reporters based in, or even visiting Gaza regularly? Zero. Ruzicka was working and killed in Baghdad (and, before that, Kabul), where she was well known to American reporters. And second, Ruzicka was killed by "our" enemies, the "bad guys", and the American government and its handmaiden media would love to make sure that point gets emphasized, even while deemphasizing or failing to mention that she was killed in an attack on an American military convoy. Corrie, by contrast, was killed by our "friends", the "good guys" in the Israeli government, a fact neither the U.S. government or media would like to dwell on.

Incidentally, researching this post, I learned that, shades of Baghdad Burning, the Play, a new play has just opened up London called "My Name is Rachel Corrie", based on Corrie's writings from her childhood to her death in Rafah.

Update: Promoted from the comments, a long article on this subject from Richard Estes at American Leftist.


 

Fallujah followup


Mike Whitney has an excellent article on Fallujah on CounterPunch today, covering much of the same ground I've covered in numerous posts (the most recent being this one), but well worth reading. One claim he makes he doesn't source, but one can infer its truth from its consequences, is this:
"The fact that even now, a full 6 months after the siege, camera crews and journalists are banned from the city, tells us a great deal about the extent of America's war crimes. Just two weeks ago, a photographer from Al Aribiyya news was arrested while leaving Falluja and his equipment and film were confiscated. To date, he is still being held without explanation and there is no indication when he will be released. This illustrates the fear among the military brass that the truth about Falluja will leech out and destroy whatever modest support still exists for the occupation."
The statement that "journalists" are banned from Fallujah is clearly untrue; I assume he meant to write "independent journalists", since his article itself talks about AP and New York Times journalists in Fallujah. The claim that camera crews are banned I infer is true from the fact that no such footage has been shown, at least on American television, to my knowledge (and the statement about Al Aribiyya is detailed enough that I presume that's true as well, although I hadn't seen that myself anywhere).

And, as I have written before, one thing that is definitely true - not a single aerial (satellite) view of post-Apocalypse Fallujah has been published (as usual, to my knowledge), although it is virtually certain that such a thing must exist.


 

Metablogging


An op-ed in today's San Jose Mercury News asks: "Blogs as news? Let readers decide." Author Richard Craig, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications at San Jose State University, has a few cogent observations, including:
"Declaring that blogs equal journalism is like saying that television equals journalism -- people mistake the medium for the message.

"Blogs ...could easily supplement traditional media outlets, giving voice to less-publicized people, causes and points of view. They also could force mainstream media outlets to maintain high standards and take a fresh look at the subjects they cover.

"Not every blog is a news outlet. But shouldn't it be up to readers to decide what's news and what isn't?"
We're told that Craig will be appearing at a public forum entitled "Joining the Blogosphere" Tuesday night (April 19) at the Martin Luther King Library in San Jose, an event also featuring Dan Gillmor (Grassroots Media), David Pescovitz (Boingboing.net), Jude Barry (Catapult Strategies, www.sanjoseinside.com), Chuck Olsen, (Producer, Blogumentary), and moderated by David Satterfield (Managing Editor, San Jose Mercury News). Could be amusing if you're in the area.


 

The death of Marla Ruzicka and the unattributed quote


[Updated; first posted 4/17, 5:40 p.m.]

Marla Ruzicka died today in a car bombing in Iraq, a truly tragic death of a women whose mission was attempting to do the job the United States wasn't doing, attempting to count the civilian dead in Iraq, as well as bringing aid and comfort to them.

ABC Nightly News tonight informed its viewers that Ruzicka's favorite quote was, "The true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love." They "forgot" to mention the origin of that quote, however. It was, of course, Che Guevara, as many readers probably know.

And a quote from Ruzicka herself, taken from the ABC broadcast:

"The numbers are important, but not as important as recognizing that each number represents a human life."
Update: Baghdad Burning has some links about Marla worth following.

Further update: TV coverage, on which I based the post above, completely ignored the fact which has now come out in the print coverage, that Ruzicka's longtime Iraqi aide and driver, Faiz Ali Salim, was also killed. It was reported on TV that she was killed on the notorious "airport road" (still unsecured two years after the fall of Baghdad), but what wasn't reported was that Marla and Faiz were on that road because that's where Iraqis have to go to seek compensation or help from the American forces. Ruzicka herself wrote in her journal almost a year ago: "[Military] convoys in that area are the target of rockets and fire from the resistance. It would be nice if there was a more secure location for Iraqis to seek compensation." This information and a lot more worth reading on the subject from Zeynep at Under the Same Sun.


 

"Carnival of the Un-Capitalists": Health Care


Health care under capitalism is a frequent topic of discussion here at Left I on the News; today, at a new group effort called "Carnival of the Un-Capitalists", Majikthise offers a roundup of posts from a dozen bloggers on the subject.


Sunday, April 17, 2005


 

Jimmy Carter and the Olympic boycott


Just a few days ago I wrote about Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the "Afghan trap" - the funding of the mujahedin in Afghanistan with the deliberate goal of luring the Soviet Union into sending troops into Afghanistan (known in the Western media as "invading" Afghanistan, although their purpose was not to overthrow a government but to support it). Coincidentally (and really, it was a total coincidence), the very next day USA Today ran a column by Christine Brennan, in which she notes:
"Twenty-five years ago this week, the U.S. Olympic Committee's House of Delegates, facing withering pressure from the Carter White House, voted by more than 2 to 1 not to participate in the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. President Jimmy Carter ordered the boycott after Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan. [Ed. note - again, note the use of the word "invasion"]

"The Games went on without the Americans and athletes from 64 other countries that joined the U.S.-led boycott...The Soviets and East Germans returned the favor in 1984, boycotting L.A. and lessening the competition at the 1984 Games...The matching boycotts robbed an entire generation of athletes on both sides of the Iron Curtain of their greatest competition on the world's grandest stage."
The fact that athletes all over the world were deprived of their chance in a lifetime to reach the pinnacle of achievement in their sport takes on a whole new light when you realize that Carter not only expected Soviet troops to enter Afghanistan, he deliberately lured them there. Viewed from that perspective, his politicization of the Olympics becomes all the more cynical. And despicable.


 

Helen Thomas misses the boat: Blogging and journalism


Helen Thomas, in her latest column, tells bloggers they aren't journalists. I've had my say on that subject recently, and I won't repeat myself. What I will take on is Thomas' misconceptions about what journalism itself is. Here are some excerpts from her column:
"'A journalist tries to get the facts right' and tries to get close to a 'verifiable truth,' not to take sides but 'to inspire public discussion,' [Tom Rosenstiel, head of the Project for Excellence in Journalism] said.

"This isn't a requirement for bloggers with axes to grind.

"Professional reporters and editors are trained to understand the need for neutrality in straight news stories. They also have been trained in the ethics that distinguish their profession.

"It's in the nature of our work that the public has every opportunity to scrutinize what we do. No one lasts long in the news business if there are deliberate distortions of the news.

"Fortunately, most newspapers in this country are still devoted to delivering impartial news stories. The editors and publishers see it as an indispensable public service."
Without disagreeing with the first paragraph (getting the facts right and getting close to a verifiable truth), the rest of this is just rank illusion in the press. No journalist, and certainly no newspaper as a whole, is "neutral" or "impartial". Want an example? Wait until there's a threatened transit strike in the nearest big city, and watch how all the TV channels and papers give people advice on how best to get to work (i.e., how best to help break the strike). On a larger scale, go through every paper in America, and monitor its coverage on every labor dispute in history, and see in what percentage of cases the paper has reported management's side of the story more favorably than labor's.

Perhaps that was a bit abstract, and unquantifiable. Let's look at a completely different story, a trivial one from today's news - the story of George Bush and Dick Cheney paying taxes. Here's Knight-Ridder's story - it dutifully reports how much Bush and Cheney paid in taxes, and how many charitable contributions each made. Now here's the story from the New York Times. Same story, same facts. Except that in the Times story, we also learn that Bush saved $28,846 and Cheney $81,336 from the tax cuts that were enacted by their administration. Now was the Knight-Ridder story untrue? Not at all. Was the Times story somehow not "impartial" because it reported the additional fact of how much each man saved because of their own tax cuts? Some might say so. The Times reporter considered those facts (and they are facts) essential to tell the full story; the Knight-Ridder reporter did not (or perhaps didn't even consider the subject).

Or take the story of the 20 Iraqis killed by American airstrikes the other day in al-Rummana, to this day still not reported by any corporate American media. Why not? Was this story somehow less newsworthy than others which have run? Clearly it was, in the judgment of the journalists who run those media outlets. But not in the opinion of the journalists at al Jazeerah, who did run it, nor in my opinion either (who also ran it).

The press is "neutral" and that's the defining characteristic of journalism? Don't believe it for a minute, even from the mouth of Helen Thomas.


 

Dishonor among thieves, Korean peninsula edition


They're fighting over the spoils, and not only isn't the corpse cold, it isn't even dead:
"U.S. troops stationed in South Korea were forced this year to scrap a contingency plan for the collapse of Kim Jong Il's regime in North Korea because of objections by Seoul, the South Korean government said Friday.

"The strategy, code-named Op-Plan 5029, mapped out military responses in the event that Kim suddenly lost power and the communist country started to come apart.

"South Korean officials apparently feared that the United States would take command in case of a power vacuum and that it would hastily send its troops toward Pyongyang, perhaps under the flag of the same U.N. command that waged the 1950-1953 Korean War.

"South Korea, which considers the entire Korean peninsula its rightful territory, wants to take the lead if the North Korean system collapses."
"We get to invade." "No, we get to invade."

Imperialist greed, and its desire/need to control the world, knows no bounds.


 

More economic flim-flam


Friday it was USA Today, today it's the San Jose Mercury News caught trying to have it both ways. One article, under a headline "Census Shows Hopeful Sign - Santa Clara County Gain May Signal More Jobs" reports:
"Santa Clara County's growth helped boost the total number of Bay Area residents for the first time in three years, according to a census report released this week.

"The census numbers show Santa Clara County grew in part because of migration and in part because of natural growth, with births exceeding deaths. Local experts said that out-migration, which has been slowing, may also signal improving job opportunities.

"'It is a measure of some economic turnaround,' said Hans Johnson, a demographer and research fellow at Public Policy Institute in San Francisco."
So things "may" be improving on the jobs front, right? Well, not back in the real world:
"Santa Clara and San Benito counties added 5,200 jobs from February to March, for a total of 857,300 jobs, according to a state report released Friday. But that number is down by 6,000 from a year ago. The unemployment rate for the two counties fell to 5.8 percent in March, down from a revised 6.3 percent in February, but that is partly due to people leaving the workforce."


 

Inanity in America


I was driving behind a police car yesterday, bearing a bumper sticker with the slogan: "Stop child abuse. Wear a blue ribbon." Yeah, that'll do it. Those child abusers are bound to come to their senses when they see someone wearing a blue ribbon.

What are the causes of child abuse?

More than half of these causes are directly related to capitalism, a society where not only is unemployment prevalent, not to mention stress over possibly losing your job, not having health care, and a hundred other things, but also a society in which the prevailing ethic is that raising and caring for children is an individual, not a societal, function, and that if you have problems, you should deal with them yourself.


 

The murder of Nicola Calipari: a math lesson


It was reported a few days ago:
"U.S. soldiers reportedly have been cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting of an Italian journalist and an intelligence agent last month in Baghdad.

"The car was about 130 yards from a checkpoint when the soldiers flashed their lights to get it to stop. They fired warning shots when the car was within 90 yards of the checkpoint, but at 65 yards, they used deadly force. Calipari was killed and Sgrena wounded."
Sgrena has told CBS that the car she was in was going 30 mph. At 30 mph, a car is going 15 yards per second. So, according to the U.S. military, they fired warning shots within 2.7 seconds of flashing a warning light, and used "deadly force" 2.3 1.7 seconds after that. And actually, if the U.S. military story were true and the car were really travelling at "high speed", let's be generous and call that only 45 mph, that's 22 yards per second, meaning 1.8 seconds between warning lights and warning shots, and 1.6 1.1 seconds between warning shots and deadly shots.

Now, there are variables, but typical perception plus reaction times are of the order of 1.5 seconds, that is, the time it takes to perceive a problem (such as a warning signal) and move your foot to the brake. That means that, according to the military's story, shots were fired at the vehicle less than 0.3 seconds after the vehicle could possibly have begun to slow down, even if they were paying close attention and they had immediately perceived that the alleged flashing light was meant as a signal to stop. However that 0.3 second is actually overstated, because the gunman (or gunmen), attempting to perceive if the car was responding to their warning signal to slow down, have perception and reaction times of their own, so in fact, they were pulling the trigger before they could possibly have perceived if the car were slowing down. And likewise, if the so-called warning shots were supposed to have served any purpose whatsoever, once again the "deadly force" shots were being squeezed off well before the warning shots could possibly have had any effect.

And on that basis, the military has "exonerated itself" from any wrongdoing.

Update: I mentioned above the time required for the gunman to perceive that the car was slowing down; I don't think I realized how long that would be. I was just out driving and did a little experiment. Applying the brake in "normal" fashion (i.e., not jamming on the brakes which isn't advisable on a wet road such as was the case in Baghdad that night), it seemed to take the better part of 2 full seconds to slow down from 45 to 35 (an amount I guesstimate as being enough for a forward observer to perceive the change in speed), making the whole claim of "warning lights" and "warning shots" even more ridiculous. And, if the car in question were a standard transmission rather than an automatic (I have no idea if that's the case), that adds still more time (to the driver's response time) in order to push in the clutch before braking.

Finally, just elevating some comments from the Comments section, I recognize that the entire U.S. military story is quite likely false, as I have discussed here and here (among other places). The purpose of this post is simply to show that, even if the military claims about the flashing lights and the warning shots (and Sgrena being shot from the front, not from the back) are true, they still don't amount to anything except the callous (and possibly deliberate) murder of Nicola Calipari and the possible attempted murder of Giuliana Sgrena.


 

Iraq - things are worse than they seem


One of the few independent journalists (independent as in independent of U.S. control, not independent as in free-lance) reporting in Iraq is Patrick Cockburn, and his article today in the Independent, while ostensibly about the seizure of 150 hostages yesterday and the death of 17 Iraqis and 2 Americans, is actually about much more. Here's one thing that has been reported before, but is still worth remembering:
"One reason why Washington can persuade the outside world that its venture in Iraq is finally coming right is that it is too dangerous for reporters to travel outside Baghdad or stray far from their hotels in the capital."
By way of illustration, Cockburn talks about his own experience travelling to Mosul:
"When I was travelling in the northern city of Mosul this week, my guards ­ Kurdish members of the Iraqi National Guard ­ said it was too dangerous for them to travel with me in uniform in official vehicles. They donned Arab gowns, hid their weapons and drove through the city in a civilian car."
And as far as the supposed diminishing level of resistance attacks in Iraq, Cockburn reports:
"Most violent incidents in Iraq go unreported. We saw one suicide bomb explosion, clouds of smoke and dust erupting into the air, and heard another in the space of an hour. Neither was mentioned in official reports. Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and 'our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up'."
The recent decrease in the rate of fatalities of U.S. soldiers is true, but misleading:
"US casualties have fallen to about one dead a day in March compared with four a day in January and five a day in November. But this is the result of a switch in American strategy rather than a sign of a collapse in the insurgency. US military spokesmen make plain that America's military priority has changed from offensive operations to training Iraqi troops and police."


Saturday, April 16, 2005


 

Jon Stewart exposes himself on national TV


I've written before that, although Jon Stewart and his writers do a masterful job of exposing the lying, hypocrisy, and other foibles of the Bush administration, no one should mistake him for a progressive - he's no such thing, as his near obsequious interviews with war criminals like Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright make abundantly clear. Wedneday night Stewart interviewed New York Sun columnist John Avlon (viewable here), author of a new book entitled Independent Nation - How Centrists Can Change American Politics, and during the course of the interview, Stewart comes completely out of the closet as a militant "centrist", which is how I've characterized him in the past.

During the interview, Avlon claims (and Stewart agrees) that "the parties are being controlled by the extremes." The Republicans, yes. But the Democrats? I wasn't aware that Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney were in "control" of the Democratic Party. In fact, of course, the Democrats are firmly in the control of precisely the "centrists" that Avlon and Stewart claim to be - Kerry, Clinton, etc.

Avlon's example of the "outer reaches of politics" includes "Al Sharpton on the left." Al Sharpton? First of all, Rev. Al isn't even an elected politician. Second, "outer reaches"? To be honest I don't remember Sharpton's exact positions in the last campaign, but I know he wasn't to the left of Kucinich, and what were Kucinich's two big issues? Single-payer health care (wow! how radical can you get?), and withdrawing American troops from Iraq (but only after, and if - a big if - they were replaced by U.N. troops), a position supported by the majority of Americans (depending on which poll you believe and how the question is asked).

What complete and utter rubbish is the stance put forth by Avlon and Stewart. What are the big issues of the day that exhibit this alleged "polarization" between two extremes? Terry Schiavo - right-wing politicians drove the government to intervene in a single, private family matter, while other people...didn't want them to intervene. Social Security - one group wants to radically change (destroy) Social Security, and another group wants to...leave it alone. The filibuster - one group wants to change rules that have governed the Senate for years so they can pack the judiciary with right-wing appointees and the other group wants to...leave things as they are. Iraq - the "opposition" isn't calling for withdrawal of troops, and although they criticize Bush for having gone to war with phony justification, they don't question the essence of the justification at all - the "doctrine" that America has a "right" to invade any country which might, someday pose a threat to us.

The fact is, national politics are about as "polarized" as the Hannity and Colmes show - a radical right-wing on one side, and a milquetoast on the other. Not what I'd call "polarization". But phony "centrists" like John Avlon and Jon Stewart want you to think that's the essence of politics today. Feh.


 

Terrorism: now you see it, now you don't


The scandal this morning, a good old-fashioned scoop apparently reported only by Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay, is that the State Department has decided not to publish its Patterns of Global Terrorism report this year, after the report showed an increase in terrorist incidents from 175 in 2003, which was already the highest in two decades, to 625. But the real scandal, which Landay mentions but doesn't dwell on, is this: "The statistics did not include attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which President Bush as recently as Tuesday called 'a central front in the war on terror.'" The same was true in last year's report, of course, which, as you may remember, had to be revised because of "math errors", causing poor Colin Powell to be "disturbed". Poor man.

And in a strong candidate for the political humor of the day post, "A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed that the publication was being eliminated, but said the allegation that it was being done for political reasons was 'categorically untrue.'" And who would doubt that? Interestingly, although I can't imagine that Landay didn't ask the question, the anonymous State Department official evidently didn't say that the reason was exactly. Saving paper? Couldn't squeeze the printing costs into that $100 billion "war on terror" budget?


Friday, April 15, 2005


 

You've gotta' love the financial pages


Staying in a hotel last night, I picked up the copy of USA Today that was outside my door this morning. There, in the first column, was this story:
Fed governor: U.S. economic growth 'solid'

"The U.S. economy is on a 'path of solid growth' that will continue to boost job growth, Federal Reserve Governor Donald Kohn told directors of the San Francisco Fed on Thursday."
On the same page, the main headline read: "Stock indexes close at 2005 lows" (they dropped another 200 points today). Right below that, a headline about "crumbling cookie sales", and further below, "IBM's quarterly earnings lower than expected." And in the fine print in the "Moneyline" section, still on the front page, the news that the four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment rose to 338,000, the highest in four months.

Don't worry, though. Economic growth is "on a path of solid growth that will continue to boost job growth." Right.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, things aren't looking too good either: 5,000 MG Rover workers are being made "redundant" (Redundant with what? There's no one else doing their jobs; their plant has been closed.), and an estimated 15,000 jobs among suppliers are forecast to be lost. Revisiting one of my favorite themes, Tony Blair says "What people expect now...is that we do all that we can to find people jobs, to train them properly, to give them as much financial security as we can in the short term." Train them for what? What business is it exactly in Britain that will be looking for 20,000 ex-autoworkers, tire workers, etc.? What businesses in Britain that require "training" will be hiring 20,000 workers of any kind? This business with "training" is just a complete crock. There is only one long term solution to the economic situation of workers in Britain, America, and everywhere else, and it starts with the word "social" and ends in "ism". A system where the government worries about the financial security of everyone for the long term, and not just for the "short term" as Blair claims he's prepared to do. A system in which, if productivity allows enough cars (or other goods) to be produced with 3/4 the effort, then the work week will be shortened to 30 hours, with everyone still receiving the same pay. Under capitalism, the trend is distinctly in the opposite direction - more hours for less pay, rather than fewer hours for more pay.


 

The "safest city in Iraq"


Remember when...Fallujah was the "safest city in Iraq"? Why, it was just three weeks ago! What a difference three weeks makes:
"Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick paid a surprise visit Wednesday to this former insurgent stronghold.

"Zoellick, who wore body armor under his suit jacket, was told by military commanders that he could not leave his armored Humvee because of security concerns during the lightning tour of the shattered downtown.

"A one-hour session with the city's recently elected leaders was held downtown in a heavily guarded Marine enclave, in a sweltering room with windows covered with sandbags."
Could it get any safer?


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


 

Open Thread


I'm about to be mostly out of touch for two days, expecting light-to-non-existent posting, so here's an open thread to let everyone else have their say. And, as I always say in cases like this, don't forget to check out the excellent blogs and other news sources listed in the right-hand column. I keep my list of links short quite deliberately, because I try to keep it to sites which are truly worth your time (but if your favorite site or your own site isn't there, believe me, I don't mean to suggest this is an exhaustive list of sites that are worth visiting - I'm sure there are many, many, more; these are just the ones that have particularly caught my eye). Or, if you're new to this blog, spend some time reading the archives. You've missed a lot of good stuff, if I do say so myself! :-)


 

Terrorists in the U.S., Part II


Following up on the story just below, we note that Congressman William Delahunt has now said: "If...Posada is allowed to remain here...it would obliterate America's credibility in the war on terrorism, because it would suggest that we share the views of those who support al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.'" On Democracy Now! this morning, Cuba expert Peter Kornbluh made a similar statement, talking about how this would "set a precedent." Nonsense. Both of these men seem to have forgotten that three of the terrorists convicted with Posada Carriles in the Panama plot to kill Fidel Castro have already been given a heroes' welcome to the United States. Aside from the plot in Panama, here's a repeat of that earlier post describing the background of those three:
U.S. law enforcement records say that Jimenez, 69, helped kidnap Cuba's consul to Mexico in 1977 and killed a consular official, and that Remon, 60, was identified as the triggerman in the slaying of a pro-Castro activist and a Cuban diplomat. Novo, 65, was convicted in the United States in the late 1970s of taking part in the 1976 assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier. He was acquitted on appeal but served four years in prison for lying to a grand jury.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


 

Terrorist sneaks across U.S. border


[Updated]

Despite the presence of vigilantes on the Arizona border, a major international terrorist has apparently recently snuck across the border and entered the U.S. Yet astonishingly, only a single American newspaper, the Miami Herald, has even covered the story. Why? Because, of course, it's the notorious anti-Cuban terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, and he's busy negotiating for asylum with the "implacably anti-terrorist" American government.

Luis Posada Carriles is personally responsible for the death of 74 people. He was convicted of masterminding the bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane in 1976, which killed 73 people, and he has publicly admitted to organizing bombings of Cuban hotels in 1997 which killed one and injured another 11. In 2000, he and three others were convicted in Panama of a plot to kill Fidel Castro (although absurdly, and no doubt as a result of pressure from the U.S., they were charged with lesser crimes and not attempted murder). A few months later the four were pardoned by the Panamanian President, and three of them immediately flew to the U.S. to a heroes' welcome (all three, by the way, had earlier been convicted in connection with other murders). Posada Carriles laid low, however, until now when he has apparently surfaced in Miami, at least through his lawyer (he himself is in hiding).

It's instructive to see how the Miami Herald describes Posada Carriles:

"Posada has been accused of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976 and trying to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2000. He also has been linked to a string of bombings against several Havana hotels and restaurants in 1997."
Not quite. To repeat what has already been mentioned, Posada was convicted of blowing up the airliner, he was convicted of trying to kill Castro (although the charge was not attempted murder), and he has confessed to the hotel bombings (and only not been tried for them because the U.S. and its lackeys like the Panamanian government would never agree to extradite him to Cuba). Aside from the half-truths, notice anything missing? Like the 74 people who died as a result of these crimes?

The final paragraphs of the article are replete with irony:

"Venezuela has indicated an interest in seeking Posada's extradition. Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan, escaped from prison there in 1985 pending final resolution of the Cuban airliner case.

"But in a recent case, an immigration judge prohibited the U.S. government from deporting two former Venezuelan military officers accused of bombings in their home country because 'more likely than not' they would be tortured there."
Because, as we know so well, the U.S. would never deport someone to a country where they were likely to be tortured.

Cuba is naturally demanding an explanation from the U.S. as to why they are negotiating with such a well-known terrorist for asylum; none is likely to be forthcoming, given that, with the exception of the Miami Herald, the rest of the press are keeping mum. Wouldn't want to let the furor over alleged al Qaeda terrorists sneaking across the border be overshadowed by the facts of this very real terrorist doing the same.

Update: I'd been sitting on this story, which has been running in Granma and the Miami Herald for several days, waiting for clarifying details (i.e., was Posada really in the U.S. or was this just a rumor?), and finally decided to run it last night. This morning, the Washington Post (and probably others) break the story, on the news that Posada Carriles has now made an official application for asylum. Like the Miami Herald, the Post does its best to cover up Posada's background (although, unlike the Herald, they do mention the deaths of 74 people and the fact that Posada was trained by the CIA). Here's one paragraph:

"Posada's defenders deny that he is a terrorist. They point out that Venezuelan courts twice acquitted Posada before he escaped from prison while awaiting a third trial there in the bombing of the Cuban airliner."
It's true that Posada was first acquitted, but, after his escape, the third trial resulted in conviction and a 30-year sentence (see links in the main post above), a fact the Post conveniently omits. Then later they write:
"He was implicated in the Cuban hotel bombings and the plot to kill Castro in Panama."
"Implicated"? He has publicly acknowledged ("bragged" would be another word) about his role in the hotel bombings, and he wasn't "implicated" in the plot to kill Castro, he was "convicted" in that plot. As noted in one of the links above, the only reason he wasn't convicted of murder is that the Panamanian prosecuter, no doubt under pressure from the U.S., refused to press that charge because, although the men were found with 20 pounds of C-4 (!), no detonators were found (!!). Just a reminder - Jose Padilla has been sitting in a jail cell for several years now for allegedly (and I emphasize that word) talking about setting off a "dirty bomb", having done, as far as we know, precisely nothing to advance that goal. And now it appears from the Post article that serious consideration is being given to giving asylum to a man who was caught with 20 pounds of C-4 on his way to kill Fidel Castro (not to mention having been convicted and/or confessed to the murders of 74 other people).


 

Remembrance of things past - Jimmy Carter threatens war for oil


For those who think that the confluence of Afghanistan, the Middle East in general, America's insatiable need for oil, and its desire to employ war to achieve that goal is a recent development, this "blast from the past" from Jimmy Carter's 1980 State of the Union address:
"The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

"Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
And, lest we not forget, the Soviet "invasion" of Afghanistan was in response to the U.S. arming of the mujahedin, which has been described by its author, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as the "Afghan trap", a very deliberate attempt to provoke the Soviet Union into intervening in Afghanistan. It had nothing to do with the "Soviet Union threatening the region," and Jimmy Carter knew that very well since it was he who, on July 3, 1979, had signed the secret order putting this "trap" into motion.


 

WMD in Venezuela!! Oops, nevermind.


Some right-wing blogs have been agog (there I go again) in the last few days over the assertion that Spain sold "chemical weapons" to Venezuela. Although this "scandal" never reached a single actual newspaper or even Fox News, that lack of mainstream credibility wasn't enough to keep it off MSNBC's "Connected" blog segment today, hosted by right-wing blogger Robin Burk of Random Probabilities (She's been blogging for two weeks! How the heck did she get this gig?). Throwing out one innuendo after another (Venezuela admits it can't track every passport it has ever issued! Terrorists might have them!), Burk proceeded to do her best to spread the smear.

Only one small problem for her. The main website spreading this nonsense, the anti-Chavez Vcrisis.com, today carries this followup story, the response from the Spanish Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism when asked about the "incident":

"The 30,374 Euros worth of exports to Venezuela in the first semester of 2004 consisted of CS (chlorobenzylidene malonitrile) gas used to produce tear devices (the gas gets compressed into containers in a facility in Venezuela). It is used to control riots."
I'll be looking for a "nevermind" from the right-wing.


 

The rich live longer. Forbes credits "intellectual Darwinism"


Yes, according to Forbes magazine, billionaires live an average of 3.5 years longer (although apparently no one has told Forbes that a group of 20 people does not exactly amount to a statistically signficant group). Why? They discount access to health care, because "if access was the key, the health gap between the upper and lower classes should have shrunk with the advent of America's Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention employer-sponsored health insurance." Right. Apparently they haven't heard that employer-sponsored health insurance has become a distant memory for millions of Americans (not to mention employment itself), and that Medicare and Medicaid don't exactly provide the same kind of coverage that comes with unlimited money (just ask Sun Hudson, the 5-year-old Texas boy removed from life support - and subsequently deceased - because his parents couldn't afford to continue to pay for care).

No, Forbes' pet theory is this: "Social status correlates strongly and positively with IQ and other measures of intelligence, and intelligence correlates strongly with health literacy -- the ability to understand and follow a prescription for disease prevention and treatment." You poor people just aren't smart enough to take your medicine, according to Forbes. Well, perhaps Forbes ought to familiarize themselves with this post that ran here at Left I on the News last September, which discusses how patients are cutting back on their medicines because they simply can't afford them. The bottom line?

"When the co-pay shouldered by younger patients with chronic illnesses doubled, those patients cut back on their medications by as much as 23%. And the health results were striking: As these patients scaled back their medications, their visits to emergency rooms rose 17% and hospital stays went up 10%."
The study didn't quote the change in mortality rate that results from these facts, but the correlation pretty much goes without saying.

By the way, the recommendations of that study were that doctors should start prescribing less effective drugs to poor patients, on the grounds that less effective drugs, if also less expensive, would be more likely to be taken. I think we can safely say that no doctor has ever prescribed a less expensive but less effective drug to a billionaire.


 

Inside Politics...but not too far inside


CNN's Inside Politics demonstrates once again today the shoddy state of American "journalism". They did a segment on an upcoming (tonight) Frontline show about Karl Rove entitled "The Architect". No problem there. But how could you do an entire segment on that subject and not mention that there is another recent movie on precisely the same subject (entitled "Bush's Brain")? Isn't that just elementary journalism, to do a little research on the subject and provide your readers/viewers with relevant information?


 

Lying? Tampering with evidence? Business as usual for the police.


Dennis Kyne is a antiwar veteran, a West Coast activist who went all the way to New York to protest at the Republican National Convention last summer, where he was arrested. Falsely, like nearly 2000 others:
"Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"'We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed,' the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. 'I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own.'"
Really, Officer Wohl? Are you sure of that?
"A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints."
Oops! Will Officer Wohl be prosecuted for perjury? It would certainly be warranted.

Of course, perjury isn't the only crime police are guilty of:

"Alexander Dunlop...said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi. Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake."
Yeah, just like Rosemary Woods. Prosecution for evidence tampering? Again, I won't be holding my breath.


 

X+20=X


The number of Iraqis dead at the hands of American forces just increased by 20, bringing the total to...X. Which, whether X is 17,355 or 100,000+, is precisely X too many (and precisely X more than are being counted by either the Iraqi government or the Western governments or media):
"Twenty Iraqis have been killed and 22 injured after US helicopters and heavy artillery bombed houses in al-Rummana village north of al-Qaim city. Seven children, six women and three old men were among the dead, witnesses said, while the injured included 13 children, seven women and two old men."
At the moment, only Arabic media like Al Jazeera are reporting the story (Hat tip to First Draft).


 

Language matters


[Update; first posted 4/11, 7:09 p.m.]

The New York Times offers this headline:

In Talks With Bush, Sharon Vows to Remove Illegal Settlements
But this is completely wrong. Neither the word "illegal" nor the word "settlement" ever left Sharon's lips. All the settlements are illegal under the Geneva Convention, and Sharon knows that, and furthermore he has no intention whatsoever of removing anything remotely resembling a "settlement", at least in the West Bank. Every single reference by Sharon was to "unauthorized outposts". Of course the "authorization" comes from the state of Israel, and Sharon is clearly indicating with this language this he considers this a completely internal problem, with no relation to international law whatsoever. And, of course, "outposts" in the Israeli political lexicon are very different from "settlements"; "outposts" consist of a few trailers thrown up illegally, almost exclusively (if not exclusively) by right-wing extremists, the racists who shout (as I heard them in a recent TV show) "Arabs out" and "Israel for the Jews".

"Sharon vows to remove unauthorized outposts". Yes, he'll at least give lip service to that goal. "Sharon vows to remove illegal settlements"? Not a chance.

Update 1: And here's the progressive Guardian:

Bush insists he will not permit settlement blocking off a Palestinian East Jerusalem
More nonsense. Here's what Bush said:
"I told the prime minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations. Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorised outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank."
Sure sounds like a mild suggestion to me. Bush is "concerned". Israel "should" do something. "Insists"? I don't think so. Not unless there's some kind of "or else" in the sentence. Without that, it was just more of the same nonsense, designed to provide cover for the real U.S./Israeli policy of continued oppression of the Palestinians.

Update 2: Sure enough, after the sound bites were dutifully recorded for the evening news and the cameras were turned off, Sharon was a little more specific:

"Speaking to reporters before flying to Washington, Mr Sharon...indicated that a controversial plan to build thousands of homes linking the biggest settlement of Maale Adumim and Jerusalem will go ahead, despite international opposition."


Monday, April 11, 2005


 

Another day, another story of U.S. "justice"


The Los Angeles Times reveals this one:
"Khaled el-Masri says his strange and violent trip into the void began with a bus ride on New Year's Eve 2003.

"When he returned to this city five months later, his friends didn't believe the odyssey he recounted. Masri said he was kidnapped in Macedonia, beaten by masked men, blindfolded, injected with drugs and flown to Afghanistan, where he was imprisoned and interrogated by U.S. intelligence agents. He said he was finally dumped in the mountains of Albania.

"[When he finally arrived home] his apartment was empty except for unpaid bills. His wife and four children were gone; they had moved to Lebanon when he failed to return months earlier."
And the LA Times even goes so far as to check for confirmation:
"Aviation documents viewed by the Los Angeles Times show that a jet registered to a U.S. company landed at the Skopje airport at 8:51 p.m., Jan. 23, 2004. The plane's tail number was N313P and was registered to Premier Executive Transport Services Inc., a Massachusetts firm with reported connections to the CIA. No phone numbers are listed for the company or its directors.

The jet left Skopje more than three hours later, and its destination -- first disclosed by the German television program "Frontal 21" -- was Kabul, the Afghan capital, with a stopover in Baghdad."
Isn't it time to retire the word "Kafkaesque" and replace it with something more modern? Like "business as usual"?


 

Political humor of the day


[U.N. Ambassador-nominee John] Bolton pledged "to fulfill the president's vision of working in close partnership with the United Nations." (Source)
Presumably that would be the same "close partnership" that led to the vote in the U.N. to endorse the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Oh wait...


 

Eason Jordan and the deliberate U.S. targeting of journalists


The Nation magazine this week carries a letter by yours truly, basically echoing the contents of this post:
Jeremy Scahill's article [Shooting the Messenger, March 7, 2005] was an excellent overview of the fate that journalists have suffered in Iraq at the hands of the U.S. military, but it didn't answer one question - does the U.S. deliberately target journalists? The answer is clearly "yes", and I'm surprised Scahill didn't mention it, since he was instrumental in exposing that fact. On Jan. 26, 2004, Democracy Now! featured aninterview Scahill conducted with Gen. Wesley Clark, who was in charge of NATO forces who bombed Radio Television Serbia, killing 16 journalists. Clark vigorously defends that bombing in the interview, although he tries to escape responsibility for the deaths by asserting that "Milosevic was warned." The deliberate targeting of Radio Television Serbia remains an undisputed fact. Although Clark talks about how it was a "command and control" center, at the time, various pronouncements by the U.S. government made it quite clear that it was the alleged "propaganda" being dispensed, that is, its journalistic output, that qualified RTS as a "command and control" center, and nothing else.

It's also worth remembering that, although no one was killed in the attack, the U.S. quite deliberately bombed and destroyed the Al Jazeera offices in Kabul during the assault on Afghanistan. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said the bombing was based on "compelling" evidence that the facility was being used by al Qaeda, but, needless to say, no compelling evidence, or any evidence at all, was ever released to back up his claim.

Does the U.S. military deliberately target journalists? Unquestionably yes.
What was news to me was the letter which followed mine, from Jay Lyon, which provides an interesting and important bit of additional information about the same history:
There's an interesting backstory to the news that former CNN executive Eason Jordan, chased from his job by right-wing bloggers for saying he believed journalists killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted. During its 1999 war in Yugoslavia, NATO disliked the way the central Serb TV station in Belgrade was covering the fighting. Jordan, then head of CNN International, was informed that NATO planned to attack the station. He protested and the jets veered away during their first sortie. Jordan had time to clear out CNN's crew and equipment from the building. Two days later, on April 23, NATO struck, killing sixteen journalists and technicians. After the war ended, in October 1999, Jordan revealed the story of the premeditated attack at the "News World" media conference in Barcelona.

 

The Israeli "justice" system


What does it take for an Israeli soldier to get ten months in jail? This:
"The incident took place last April while the three Border Policemen patrolled the area of the village of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem. When they noticed the two 17-year-old Palestinians from a nearby Palestinian village, they arrested them on the grounds of not possessing permits to enter Israel. They instructed them to get into the police vehicle and started toward the community of Nataf. They then ordered the minors to get off the jeep and for about 30 minutes they beat them using batons. They forced gravel down their throats, poured dairy products and food leftovers on them and eventually released them.

"The three policemen admitted to beating the Palestinians with their fists and batons, to pouring dairy products and food leftovers on them and forcing the youths to kiss their boots.

"The investigation of the incident revealed that the policemen didn't actually check whether the Palestinians had entry permits to Israel."
And making this oh-so-reminiscent of the excuses offered by American soldiers in Iraq was this:
"[Judge] Segal said that the accused were partly right when saying that the state wasn't doing enough to train Border Police to face the day-to-day pressure their task involves."
Yes, because "training" is absolutely essential for someone to know they shouldn't beat unarmed people with batons and force gravel down their throats and force them to kiss your boots."

Meanwhile, in a followup to the recent murders in Rafah, the New York Times, alone among all the news sources I consulted including several Israeli newspapers, claims that "An Israeli Army spokesman said the army had an hour of video of the young men and that they were nowhere near any residential area, were monitoring Israeli patrols and were not playing soccer." We shall see if that claim proves to be true, or if it proves just as false as the claim that the soldiers were aiming for the "lower part" of the boys' bodies. Note that even this denial, however, does not in any way claim that the soldiers thought the boys were armed, or that they were a threat in any way warranting the application of deadly force. Although again, it must be repeated - whatever the details of the event prove to be, it is the occupation, and the occupiers, which is (and who are) to blame, nothing else.


Why stop here? There's more...

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