<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d3152291\x26blogName\x3dJaks+View+from+Vancouver\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://jaksblog.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://jaksblog.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d2496837045886830777', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Jaks View from Vancouver

Thursday, February 28, 2002

How Deep Are The TV Depths?

New game shows catch the public's imagination for a brief moment, Survivors come and go, and Reality TV is sometimes too damned close to reality for popular entertainment. But still, all those hours of network TV time need to be filled. What can a harried programming executive do?

Reach way down into the bottom of the barrel, fish out some slightly soiled "celebrities", give them each boxing gloves, and tell them to fight for a paycheck. That's what!

Amy "the Long Island Lolita" Fisher and Tonya "Break a Leg" Harding are set to swing punches at each other for -- who else -- Fox TV on March 13th. They'll be joined by those lovable roustabouts from days of yore, Barry "Brady Bunch" Williams and Danny "Partridge Family" Bonaduce, who'll face off for a miserable pittance in a spectacle that will no doubt shame them before their grandchildren (if anyone bothers to tape this fiasco!)

What's hardest to accept is knowing that Fox wouldn't put on this junk if they didn't think they could sell it to some advertizers; and advertizers wouldn't shell out corporate cash unless they thought somebody would be watching. Gods save us all from this modern culture.

Source: CNN

Palestine Daily Log

After a brief pause -- presumably to let the Israeli Army reload -- the killing continues in full force in Palestine. Three Palestinian militants were killed during an attack on a military roadblock into the West Bank, and three other Palestinians were killed at the Egyptian border with Gaza. That was just the beginning. Then, the IDF invaded the refugee camps at Balata and Jenin. Seven Palestinians died at Jenin, while three others and an Israeli soldier died during the Balata invasion. Both invasions are on-going as I write and more deaths are to be expected. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 28th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 328. In the same period, 117 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 103 Palestinians and 45 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Coming Attack on Iraq

Eleven years ago today, George the Father declared victory over Saddam Hussein. As many suspected at the time, and as we now know for sure, this was a premature ejaculation that left the tyrant in power and America confused about winning a war without gaining the peace. The oil companies got back just the status quo in Kuwait -- if that --, Saddam's presence has continued to complicate global diplomacy, and immoral sanctions against innocent civilians have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and blunted the reasonable hopes and dreams of at least two generations of it's people.

George the Son wants to make amends (to the oil companies at least.) And he probably will.

He'll have bi-partisan Congressional support most likely, and the newly evolving techniques of modern warfare using local opposition fighters supported closely by smaller hard-hitting technologically-advanced U.S. units will save him the time and bother of gathering a bloated half million mass of men in Saudi Arabia. The carrier fleets are already well positioned, and the diplomatic/propaganda effort, while faltering overseas, is well underway on the home front. Europe and Russia will huff and puff and stay on the sidelines, but I'd bet your last dollar on Saddam being toast by Christmas.

Several signs point to summer as the time of attack. A few weeks ago, the Arab League was preparing a compromise plan to be delivered at the organization's summit in March. But, just after receiving its latest huge wad of cash from the US treasury, Egypt vetoed the plan. It is reasonable to suppose the Administration didn't want to have the distraction of a serious Arab-supported peace offer queering it's fast track to war over the spring.

Moreover, now that Afghanistan is on maintenance watch, the Defence Department is refilling its arsenals as quickly as Boeing and the others can get paid. Experts suggest six months at most to re-stock. Coincidental to these preparations, Tony Blair -- Bush's only serious international supporter -- has already announced a trip to Washington in April specifically to "finalise phase two of the war against terrorism." His officials have made it known that Iraq is the only item on the agenda.

Finally, the latest review of the UN-managed oil-for-food deal under which Iraq is obliged to operate comes due in May. It doesn't take a PhD in global strategy to figure out a ramp up to hot war. The U.S. and Britain will refuse to extend the deal and will demand that Saddam accept international arms inspectors. The time limit for an answer will be short, the terms of the demand will force a refusal, and the bombs will start to fall. This time there will be no reprieve, no place for Saddam to hide.

The world will scream blue murder, there will be a few riots in a few cities, but the deed will have been done and another franchise in America's Imperium Inc. will have been opened.

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine last night, an Israeli civilian was killed near Ramallah. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 27th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 312. In the same period, 116 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 87 Palestinians and 44 Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Mickey Mouse On Trial, But Where's CNN?

When the Founding Fathers of the U.S. republic established the right of owners to copyright protection, they limited such protection to 14 years (plus a further 14 years if the author was still alive). That's how it stayed for 150 years. Since then, under intense pressure from the corporations, Congress has extended copyright eleven times, until it now can last more than 100 years before the object enters public domain.

In 1998, with the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, the U.S. Congress made a further extension of 20 years, allowing companies like Disney -- who actively excavate public domain material and then jealously and viciously close off its own copyrights -- to protect images such as Mickey Mouse well into the 21st century. That Act is now being challenged, and, against the publicly expressed will of the Bush White House, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case this term.

Experts have said that this is a decision of vital importance to us all. The Supreme Court's decision to accept the case garnered widespread press from newspapers such as the Guardian and the New York Times. Oddly, for such an important case, CNN Online's search function fails to find a single mention of it. Of course, CNN's parent company Time/Warner own a bunch of copyrights of their own that they'd like to protect for as long as possible. Perhaps denial is their best defence.

What's Going On In Georgia?

When the head of the Security Council of a ramshackle dictatorship like Georgia commits suicide, there will always be questions. Not only "why did he do it?", but also "Did he actually do it?"

Nugzar Sadzhaya, a close ally of Georgian President Eduarde Shevardnadze for over 30 years, was apparently alone in his office yesterday afternoon when, perhaps depressed by constant headlines accusing him of the murder of Shevardnadze's predecessor, a single bullet passed into his brain. Sadzhaya was rushed to hospital but died before surgeons could operate.

A week ago, powerful independent parliamentarian Boris Kakubava -- who often represents refugees from Abkhazia -- went on national TV to accuse Sadzhaya and Avtandil Ioseliani, head of Georgian intelligence, of masterminding the killing of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and others. After being overthrown by then Russian-backed Shevardnadze in 1990, Gamsakhurdia travelled to Chechnya, then returned to Georgia to lead an armed struggle against the government. He was killed in 1993 in a murder widely thought to have been organized by Shevardnadze himself.

Sadhzhaya was little known even inside his own country. His nickname of "the gray cardinal" referred to his ability to keep out of the public eye. However, he has played a key role in grooming and bring forward cadres who now control most of the important state security positions. In addition, he was known as a supporter of closer ties with Russia.

This last fact cannot be discounted if, in fact, the suicide story turns out to be false. As recently reported in this space, Shevardnadze has recently and publicy rebuffed Russian assistance to clean out the so-called lawless Pankisi Gorge. Even more, he was reported to have invited in U.S. Special Forces to handle the task. For all his long service to the President, perhaps Sadhzhaya was on the wrong side of this important issue.

Sources: Eurasia Insight; Moscow Times; Pravda

Let's All Pay For Their Ideology

The far-right Republicans who are usually vociferous in their demands that the government get out of people's lives, are actively supporting a plan to spend $100 million of taxpayers money to persuade poor people to get married.

In typical fashion, the money for this ideologically-driven program is being taken from successful anti-poverty programs.

What a bizarre idea!

Sources: Guardian; New York Times

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine yesterday, 2 Israeli civilians were killed in an attack south of herodium on the West Bank. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 26th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 312. In the same period, 115 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 87 Palestinians and 43 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, February 25, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine overnight, trigger-happy Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who was driving his heavily-pregnant and now wounded wife to hospital. This was the second pregnant Palestinian woman shot in the last two days. Later, a female Palestinian militant was killed in action at a roadblock near Tul Karm. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 25th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 312. In the same period, 113 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 87 Palestinians and 41 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

The Polluters and the Rich Don't Pay; That's Just For Poor Folks

In 1980, under the slogan "the polluter pays," Congress passed the Superfund Act which taxed industry to pay for toxic waste cleanup. The program was hailed as a major move forward in the protection of the environment. The theory was, if industry was made to pay for cleanup, they would find less damaging ways to conduct their business.

That was true, so far as it went. Under pressure from the chemical and oil industries, Congress allowed the taxes that pay for the Superfund to lapse in 1995. Clinton tried to have them reinstated but a republican House refused. Now, in another sign that corporations own the Bush Administration, Bush's budget (hidden in an obscure part of the spending bill for Veterans Affairs and HUD) specifically cancels the taxes.

The whole purpose of the Act -- to make the polluter pay -- has been cancelled. By 2004, all toxic cleanup of Superfund sites will be paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. Or, more likely, no more sites will be cleaned up.

Even if the burden does fall on the taxpayer, it is likely that only the poor and midle class will pay. the rich -- both individuals and corporations -- know how to shift their money to avoid taxes. Enron used 900 subsidiaries in tax havens to ensure that a profitable company not only paid no taxes, but accumulated tens of millions of dollars in tax refunds. In England, a rival newspaper found more than 100 subsidiaries of Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp Investments that had reduced the company's taxes by more than $500 million.

Recent estimates quote a figure of $6 trillion -- one third of the world's wealth -- being held in "offshore" accounts, at least a quarter of which is considered to be laundered funds.

Oddly enough, it is not the very rich cheats who worry themselves to sleep at night over a visit from the tax auditors. No, it is you and me who are actually concerned about filing our forms on time and paying our taxes. And it is not the rich chemical and oil corporations who concern themselves about damaging the countryside, because they know it is only you and me who will have to pay for it.

Sources: Superfund; tax shelters

Who's Watching You Now?

Big Brother is about to make a significant leap into the lives of the British. In an astonishing report to be released to the government tomorrow, the Commission for Integrated Transport will recommend using Global Positioning System satellites to track vehicles via 'black boxes' fixed to all vehicles.

The purported purpose of this scheme is to create a user pay road system. In other words, each driver in Britain would be sent a bill on a regular basis, the size of the bill based entirely on that driver's road usage. The Commission will recommend getting rid of annual automobile licensing fees and a reduction in gasoline taxes as an incentive to accept the new system.

While it is true that British roads are the most congested in Europe -- perhaps the world -- and some serious effort needs to go into solving that problem (doubling or tripling gasoline taxes and parking fees is my own suggestion), the tracking of vehicles has other obvious and more dubious uses. If such a system were in place, it seems impossible to imagine the police and security services not using it for surveillance. And sooner rather than later the information would get into the hands of the marketeers and a shopper's every move will be tracked from the moment they leave their driveway.

Given the downstream horrors possible, regular satelite tracking of vehicle movement should not be pursued for any purpose.

Source: Guardian.

Putting Iraq On The Destruction Calendar

The British press is reporting that there will be a retreat in April where President Bush and his lackey Tony Blair of Britain will meet to finalize their planes to attack Iraq. Blair is the only world leader on side with this madness, and even he faces a significant majority in is own party and among the British public that firmly opposes such action.

It seems to me that the April meeting will be more about the propaganda battle ahead rather than a discussion of tactical details. Both the US and Britain have apparently agreed there is no evidence linking Iraq with September 11th. Therefore, their imperialistic plans have to be couched in other terms.

They will say, of course, that Iraq seeks weapons of mass destruction and that that, by itself, is enough to justify an attack. The sheer hypocrisy of this is apparent: both the US and Britain (and their allies, Israel, Pakistan and India) have the self-same weapons of mass destruction and so, simply having them cannot be the problem. The self-serving assumption is that the US and Britain are "good guys" and therefore somehow deserve to have them, but Iraq doesn't.

They will say, of course, that Iraq refuses to allow international inspection of its nuclear-potential factories and labs. The sheer hypocrisy of this is apparent when it is remembered that the US routinely refuses international inspection of its own facilities.

They will say, of course, that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who kills his own people and threatens his neighbours. This is undoubtedly true. But the sheer hypocrisy of it is apparent when we remember that the United States has invaded more countries in the last 50 years than any other, that plenty of the US's allies are equally mean to their own citizens (Uzbekhistan, Guatemala come immediately to mind), and that the US's ally Israel regularly kills its own citizens and also threatens its neighbours with military might donated by the Americans.

Saddam Huseein could turn into God's own little angel tomorow and it wouldn't stop the invasion. America wants control of the oil, and America wants control of the region. And Bush wants it before the end of his first term. Nothing else matters.

Saturday, February 23, 2002

Coming Soon To A Screen Near You

Unilever have just reported on the first ever analysis of an entire advertizing campaign covering all media including the Internet. The study -- a six-week analysis of a campaign for Dove Nutrium soap -- concluded that spending 15% of the campaign's budget on the Web resulted in a 24% increase in "branding impact."

"Basically, the findings show that by increasing the online part of the Unilever campaign to 15%, the marketer was able to burn the brand into consumers' minds much better than if they hadn't used an online component in the same advertising media mix," explained Jim Nail who conducted the study.

Up to now, most marketers have limited their online advertising to about 3% or 4% of total media budgets. MSN and the Interactive Advertizing Bureau, both of who helped sponsor the survey, no doubt hope that the study will persuade agencies to move more of their money online.

This net is a wonderful tool: It allows individual resistance to be known and reflected globally; it encourages the acquisition of information and, hopefully, the formation of knowledge; it enables communication between individuals. Unfortunately, it will soon become a major mall. If you thought spam email and porno pop-ups were bad ....

Source: Ad Age

Full Ahead At Whorf Speed

The previously-derided Whorfian hypothesis -- that differing structures between languages reveal differing hardwiring in the brain -- is making a comeback. The Boston Globe ran this interesting piece on a recent conference held by scientists claiming to have produced signs of Whorfian-like differences experimentally.

The theory suggests that each language group thinks differently -- French people have a particular way of thinking, Mandarin speakers another, !Kung-speaking bushmen in southern Africa have yet a third, and so on. In the strictest sense, then, it is a race-based theory. But even so, I have a great deal of sympathy for it. It would be a very convenient biological backstop for my anarchism if it could be shown that we each one of us is hardwired to be an individual rather than another cookie-cutter human.

The problem for the theory is that scientists and others with agendas seized on it not as a method of comparing languages but rather as a method of ranking languages along a pre-defined and biased primitive-to-advanced continuum, and therefore of ranking races. It was and is used to buttress the worst kind of racism.

But, that is all because the theory was hijacked and distorted by degenerates. Perhaps the latest batch of interested researchers can stick to comparison and leave the "good-better-best" mentality behind.

Miscellaneous Roundup

Half a lifetime ago, when I didn't know any better, I acted as campaign manager for a politician friend of mine. I was appalled at how badly my friend was treated by many people simply because he was a politician. If that can happen to a nice guy like my friend, I just know what it must feel like for Gary Condit who is running for re-election. "Fire The Liar!" and "Gary's Scary" are two of the more pleasant signs he has to put up with every day. I have no idea how he does it. Or why.

Fish have bony structures in their ears that grow on a regular basis and, rather like tree rings, the growth patterns on fossil bones can be used to determine things such as the outside temperature when the growth was laid down. Using this information, researchers in South America have determined that about 5,000 years ago, average sea temperatures suddenly fell by about four degrees, and the cycle of El Nino-type events began. The scientists speculate the change in climate led to changes in fish resources, which, in turn, may have spurred the development of the earliest Meso-American and Middle Eastern civilizations.

Well before that, human beings had traversed the width of Asia and had begun to wander in Australia. Recent work suggests that the earliest people arrived there about 55,000 years ago. It is a pity -- but no surprise -- to report that the evidence comes from the extinction of other species and damage to the environment. We started to mess with stuff pretty early and are still doing it.

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine overnight, an Israeli was shot and killed just north of Jerusalem, and a Palestinian was shot and killed near the occupation settlement of Halhoul on the West Bank. From September 11th until now (6:30am PST February 23rd), the total number of Palestinians killed is 310. In the same period, 113 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 85 Palestinians and 41 Israelis have been killed.

Friday, February 22, 2002

What Do I Really Think?

As I wrote this morning’s piece about the abandonment of FCC regulations governing media ownership in the United States, the ambiguity of my position came home to me clearly: I am firmly opposed to the institution of government, and yet here I was criticizing the very dismantling of government that I claimed to support. What was going on here?

I figured it out in the end, and it turned out to be a useful exercise for me to work through to that resolution by revisiting some basic understandings.

The problem was, I was suckered in by the libertarian line that reducing government regulation is somehow the same thing as reducing government. It is not. Getting rid of some regulations generally does nothing but free up the corporations to widen the scope of their ravishment of the general population. I believe – and it is here that I diverge completely from Libertarian orthodoxy -- I believe that the real danger for individual freedom comes not from government (which is but a creature of capital anyway), but rather from rampant capital, and most especially the form of corporate consumerism that dominates the world today.

Corporate capitalism, state fascism, and the movements of mass leftism all follow the same model toward what they call “freedom.” This model claims that, within an enveloping and over-arching system (whether this be the market, the party, the union), everyone and everything can become essentially equal. However, this model can only lead to slavery, as the system is always more important than the individual, and it is designed that there will always be leaders and led. In fact, each of these systems is designed to push real power upwards, grouping ever greater powers in ever fewer hands as the pyramid rises.

Anarchists need take a very different road. We must take every opportunity to prosper by division, eliminating all institutional ties. And we must do this by working to remove structural levels from the top down, pushing power ever downwards until all levels are eliminated and each individual is entirely free of all masters.

We must never forget that the real enemy is capital. The “democratic” system of “representative” government was erected for and is financed by capital. It acts as a public relations barrier, a part of the marketing apparatus of capitalism. For an anarchist to spend her or his life acting politically would be mere shadow boxing, effort expended without hope of genuine victory. It is better, far better, to attack the beast at its heart.

And it is in this spirit that I will in future deal with issues such as the FCC rules on broadcasting ownership. I will continue to attack and speak out against moves by capital to improve its already domineering position over the individual by rigging the rules under which they choose to operate. Whether the governing system appears to be gaining or losing regulations doesn’t matter; it does not affect the existence or position of either the governing system itself or of capital.

The state’s job in the capitalist system is to protect capitalism not regulate or interfere with it. So, while the fact that a government or a court does this or that thing needs to be noted, we need to recognize it more for what it tells us to expect from capital, rather than something to waste time fighting in and of itself.

Thank God For Weblogs

In a decision that can only reduce diversity and local control, cementing power in the hands of a few billionaire media moguls, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled this week that the Federal Communications Commission's rules limiting media ownership needed to be reconsidered.

The current FCC regulations place sharp limits on the number of stations a network can own and restrict cable operators from owning television stations. They were put in place to protect and encourage local ownership of television stations, and to ensure there would be competition in broadcasting in major markets. The Court has determined that neither of these objectives is important enough to justify stopping the billionaires from making ever more money by controlling ever more of what everyone sees, reads and hears.

The FCC is headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell's son, Michael. Although the FCC was defendant in the case, Mr. Powell has publicly and frequently questioned the need for the regulations, and the judges described the FCC's defense against some of the charges as feeble. Powell is likely pleased with the verdict, and any appeal to the Supreme Court will probably have to come from consumer groups or local stations rather than the regulatory body.

Michael Powell claims the rules are no longer needed because consumers have such a broad array of choices in news and entertainment. TV and media are "more diverse in 2001 than at any time in their history," he says, blithely ignoring the fact that this diverse market was created by the rules and survives only because of the rules.

Our choices are about to be severely limited as the oligarchs -- AOL/Time Warner, Disney, Viacom, News Corp -- close in and shut down the competition.

Palestine Daily Log

The murderous rate of death maintained for the last few days in Palestine has been slowed dramatically. Still, a Palestinian militant was killed this morning during an attack at the occupation settlement of Efrat on the west Bank. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 22nd), the total number of Palestinians killed is 309. In the same period, 112 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 84 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

The Shooting War Widens

When the Wise Men read the tea leaves in the late middle 1940s and invented the policy of containment against Soviet Russia, they could not even dream of having military bases in the very belly of the beast. But, in 2002, the United States finds itself with thousands of well-armed and well-supplied troops positioned in a string of Central Asian republics. Ostensibly there to assist with the "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan, the troops are rightly seen by Russia as a direct strategic threat to itself and to its zone of influence.

Russia's feelings will not be soothed by U.S. plans to attack and destroy a grouping of Islamic militants discovered in northern Georgia, on the very border with Russia itself.

Both Moscow and Washington agree the lawless Pankisi gorge region, by the mountainous border with Chechnya, has been infiltrated by al-Qaida or Taliban fleeing Afghanistan. According to Russia (and most experts), the same region has been a major supply base for Chechen separatists since the first Chechen War, 1994-1996. Moscow has been calling loudly for a military intervention -- its own, of course -- to prevent what Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov described as the development of a "mini-Chechnya" or "mini-Afghanistan."

But Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze doesn't want the Russians invading his country on any pretext, and has turned to the U.S., announcing that he was willing to discuss "future joint action with US special forces in the Pankisi gorge". A small group of American military advisers arrived in Tibilsi on Tuesday. Score one for Ambassador Philip Remler and the American imperial party

Sergei Ivanov stated flated that "we just can't put up with this," and intelligence chief Nikolai Patrushev was despatched to Georgia to discuss the security situation with some "urgency." At a press conference on Thursday, Patrushev sought to downplay al-Qaida presence in the Pankisi gorge, but it was clear he had not persuaded the Georgians to halt their talks with the Americans.

I'm guessing that American bombers and probably some Special Forces will soon be operating in the Pankisi gorge. The Russians will be mad but they'll save some face because the Chechyan rebels will be as disrupted as will be the al-Qaida members with whom they are sharing the valley.

Even if Shevardnadze pulls back from the brink and delays an American attack, the Americans have already gained important ground in Georgia. The empire marches on.

Palestine Daily Log

Sharon's vicious genocide continued last night and this morning. Two Palestinian militants were killed in action yesterday on the border with the northern Gaza Strip. This morning, a Palestinian militant was killed at the village of Baka al-Sharkiya, and another five were killed in an Israeli tank attack on the Brazil refugee camp near Rafah. In action already reported yesterday, an additional Palestinian was killed at Balata refugee camp (3 dead not 2), and another at Nablus (7 dead not 6). From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 21st), the total number of Palestinians killed is 308. In the same period, 112 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 83 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Who Is It We're Bombing Again?

In a move that surely signals an end to the "war against terrorism" in Afghanistan, and the shift to a more open policy of empire building, the Americans have begun to use their military might on Afghanis who are neither Taliban nor al-Qaida but merely political rivals of America's chosen puppet, Hamid Karzai.

Local sources said the clashes involved two tribal militias about 20 miles east of Khost. Details are sparse, but US Central Command has been quoted as saying that "pro-government forces" requested the air raids after "enemy troops" fired on them.

It hardly seems coincidental that the Americans are showing muscle for their man just at a time when Karzai is struggling to herd the wildcats that make up his cabinet. The story surrounding the murder of Minister Abdul Rahman at Kabul airport keeps changing, and as time passes it seems increasingly unlikely that the main villains of the piece will be obliged to face a court of law. Defence Minister Muhammad Fahim holds a veto over extending the role of the multinational "monitoring force," and he is in no hurry to help that happen. Even among the Pashtun, local warlords are more interested in strengthening their own fiefdoms than in nation building behind Karzai.

So he needed a shot in the arm. And if bombing Afghanis is what it takes, that's what the U.S. will do. Estimates of "accidental" civilian deaths already reach 1,300, so what's a few more?

Typical Right Wing Bull

When the so-far-right-they're-crazy regime of Gordon Campbell took power in British Columbia about a year ago, they inherited the first genuine surplus the province has enjoyed after ten years of tough economic times. They squandered that position by immediately giving huge tax breaks to the richest people in the Province. The government then claimed they were broke and have started to lay off employees and dismantle public services -- such as health and education -- to pay for their tax giveaway.

By cutting their vitally needed services, the poor are being made to pay directly for the handouts to the rich. And that trend continued in full force yesterday when the Province's budget for the coming years was announced. Up went the sales tax -- the most regressive of cash grabs that can be imagined -- and monthly premiums for medical services were increased by fifty percent.

In addition, the government has set aside a quarter billion dollars for "restructuring" costs associated with its plans to destroy the public health system. Most of these costs are for huge severance packages to senior civil servants and advisers (one $700,000 payoff has already been discovered) and do nothing to improve patient care or financial accountability.

Meanwhile, small business was given yet another tax break! Hospital beds are literally being shuttered for lack of cash, our children are forced to endure ever larger class sizes, and tens of thousands of workers are being thrown onto the dole, but no doubt British Columbia is a better place today because entrepreneurs can now shelter another $100,000 from business taxes.

Palestine Daily Log

In a paroxysm of violence, Palestine shudders. Since yesterday's report, a Palestinian militant was killed in a bomb attack near Mehola in the Jordan Valley, and 6 Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack on a military checkpoint at the settler village of Ein Ariq on the West Bank. Four more Palestinians were killed in F-16 raids against Arafat's compound in the Gaza, and six others in machine gun and tank firing near Nablus. Two Palestinians were killed at the Balata refusgee camp and, finally, anothor two palestinians were killed in separate incidents near Ramallah. 6 Israelis and 15 Palestinians in one day. From September 11th until now (5:30am PST February 20th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 298. In the same period, 112 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 73 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

Sharon is failing. His policy of military might has led to ever more Israeli deaths. It is a failure even in its own terms, and everyone except Sharon's tiny cadre knows it. Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday, respected commentator Nahum Barnea noted that "Sharon is navigating without a plan. He should not be surprised that the people who followed him with their eyes shut are starting to open their eyes."

The latest group to bring their weight against the madness are more than 1,000 former generals and senior officers in the Council for Peace and Security. The Council has announced its support for the immediate and unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and much of the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, and the declaration of a Palestinian state.

In the meantime, Sharon's killing machine ploughs on. Three Palestinian civilians, including a 14-year-old girl, were killed when Israeli tank shells were fired into the Khan Yunis refugee camp in Gaza. Later, two more Palestinians were killed when Israeli terrorists infiltrated a camp near Nablus, and a helicopter gunship attack on a Hamas office in Gaza killed another two Palestinians. From September 11th until now (6:00am PST February 19th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 283. In the same period, 106 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 58 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, February 18, 2002

Who Needs A United Afghanistan Anyway?

Afghanistan is a land of many clans and deadly rivalries. The tribal armies of Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaris, and well-armed fractions of each, control their own strongholds, skirmishing with the others at the margins. The imposition of a notionally national interim government has done little to change realities on the ground beyond Kabul's city limits.

In eastern Afghanistan, disputes over provincial control have already led to serious fighting and scores, perhaps hundreds, of deaths. Even inside Kabul, the recent murder of Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman by former comrades-in-arms within the Jamiat-e-Islami movement is just the latest indication that senior ministers still believe they can manage national policy through personal vendetta and tribal connection.

This is still the scramble for naked power, with little or no attempt to rebuild the shattered economy. And the economy is almost non-existent. The only significant source of domestic revenue within Afghanistan is the heroin trade. The Northern Alliance army that swept south to take Kabul -- essentially a Tajik force supplied by the Russians -- was financed almost entirely by a drug trade that saw Afghan heroin produced by the Northern Alliance shipped via Tajikistan and Russia to Europe.

Throughout the country, in a move that augers ill for any hope of national unity, warlords of each nationality are strengthening their control of local poppy fields, and seeking foreign patrons for the security of their distribution, the revenues of which go to finance the private armies. With northeast routes in the hands of the Tajik-Russian faction, Pashtun traffickers are building bridges with Iran and Pakistan, while the Uzbeks and Hazaris have their own methods.

One of the question marks must be the stability of the pro-American “interim government” of Hamid Karzai. On a day-to-day basis, the new government is protected by the “international monitoring force” under the command of the U.S. surrogates, Great Britain. But this force cannot yet operate outside Kabul city limits, and Karzai’s bargaining power with the powerful warlords who control the bulk of Afghani territory must rest with the United States’ overwhelming military presence.

Defence Minister General Muhammed Fahim, heir to Ahmad Shah Massood’s northern principality, stood beside Karzai for Rahman’s funeral in a show of unity. But it is Fahim and his powerfully-armed Tajik Northern Alliance that is blocking the expansion of western troops. Fahim, with his logistical and material needs satisfied after a successful visit to Moscow last week, has no reason to see Karzai’s reach enhanced.

No more do any of the other warlords, big or small.

The Russians, arms suppliers to Fahim and his victorious Tajiks, and transporters of his heroin, no longer have any need for a united Afghanistan. They are well aware that many Pashtuns hate the Russians, and a Pashtun-majority Afghan government would not be a friendly neighbour. A friendly and susceptible Tajik-dominated buffer zone would seem to be a better alternative.

In broader terms, the Russians know that a successful U.S.-backed government in Kabul would represent a serious strategic challenge with multiple points of potential dispute.

First, the simple strategic challenge of having massive American forces perched on Russia’s southern borders cannot feel comfortable in Moscow. Putin is pragmatic enough to recognize the military superiority of the United States. He is also well aware that, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, America’s strategic concerns have focused on Beijing rather than Moscow; the deals Rumsfeld is making for bases in the Central Asian republics help to encircle China, rather than threaten Russia. Still in all, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan used to be part of the Russian empire, and pride requires a level of umbrage.

A strong and unified Afghanistan would likely become a major American staging post for this new Central Asia imperium. The balkanization of Afghanistan would hamper this effort.

Second, but perhaps of primary importance to the oligarchs of Russian business – as it is indeed to their Wall Street brethren – is the matter of oil.

Washington has long sought access to Central Asian oil reserves; its preferred method of access being a pipeline through Afghanistan to the sea at Karachi, Pakistan. Decades of chaotic civil war followed by the anti-American Taliban government in Afghanistan stood in the way of those plans. Now, with the prospect of stability in Afghanistan, the economic imperialists are moving into high gear on a project that will rob Russia of its traditional exporter role and revenues.

The longer Afghanistan can be destabilized, the further delayed will be the pipeline.

So, if the majority of Afghanis are already separated into autonomous groupings, and the traditional regional power is opposed to unity, who exactly needs a unified Afghanistan? Hamid Karzai obviously, for without it he has no future. Other than him, just the Pentagon and the global oil companies so far as I can tell.

And here lies the rub. It seems impossible for the interim government in Kabul to gain full control of the country without massive American military assistance, and yet the oil companies need the stability that such control would bring. How many body bags can they persuade the American public to accept as the price for their pipeline?

Those Patriotic American Corporations

The New York Times this morning reports on those patriotic U.S. businesses who are reacting to America's crisis by fleeing to tax havens such as Bermuda. These companies are moving their headoffices -- on paper at least -- to lower their taxes sharply, and to avoid regulatory issues, without having to give up the benefits of doing business in the United States.

Kate Barton, a tax advisor from Ernst & Young, is quoted in the article as having told her clients that "profits trumped patriotism."

The companies moving offshore keep their main offices in the United States so they continue to have all the security provided by the American government, the legal system and the courts. But by moving offshore, their income from outside the United States becomes exempt from American taxes. There are also other intra-company transactions that can be put to the use of reducing taxes yet further.

And how complicated is this move?
"Becoming a Bermuda company is a paper transaction, as easy as securing a mail drop there and paying some fees, while keeping the working headquarters back in the United States. Bermuda is charging Ingersoll- Rand just $27,653 a year for a move that allows the company to avoid at least $40 million annually in American corporate income taxes. The company is not required to conduct any meetings in Bermuda and will not even have an office there, said its chief financial officer, David W. Devonshire. "We just pay a service organization" to accept mail, he said.
Is there concern from the White House that their friends in business are doing everything they can to avoid paying their way? Not so far as anyone can tell. In fact, Mark A. Weinberger, chief of tax policy in the Treasury Department, said the moves to Bermuda and other tax havens showed that further reductions need to be made in the US corporate tax base because the current rules seem to "be impeding the ability of U.S. companies to compete internationally."

If avoiding taxes is a good idea, where can we sign up? Of course, in this as in many other aspects of life, U.S. corporations seeking to pay less than they should have rights that are not available to U.S. citizens. In this case, a U.S. citizen giving up his or her citizenship in order to reduce taxes would find their opportunities back in the U.S. to be severly limited. Is this right? Of course not, but corporations have never believed in equal sacrifice have they?

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine the endless rounds of killing go on. Two Palestinian militants were killed in action near Hadera on Sunday evening. Today, an Israeli police officer and a Palestinian militant were killed at a roadblock near Ma'aleh Adumim on the West Bank. Later, three Israelis and a Palestinian militant were killed in action near Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. From September 11th until now (1:00pm PST February 18th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 276. In the same period, 106 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 51 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have been killed.

There's No Beating About This Bush

Bush is out and about peddling his idea that the world would be a much safer and nicer place to be if only the rest of us would let the U.S. blow up just three countries -- Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Apparently, this simple act would rid the world of terrorism, poverty, hunger, injustice, and probably the common cold, too, for all we know.

Of course, in reality, this is such a bad idea that only America's most odious friends -- Maggie Thatcher and Ariel Sharon -- have leapt on the bandwagon; and even America's toadiest allies -- Britain's Blair, Canada's Chretien, and the U.N.'s Annan -- cannot bring themselves to support it in public.

It is such a bad idea that even in the midst of an agreed-upon anti-terrorism campaign where allied troops are in harm's way, otherwise staunch allies feel obliged to state publicly that the American ideas for dealing with the "axis of evil" are "profoundly misguided" and "simplistic." Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says openly that they will "get us nowhere."

But none of that matters. Bush and his cronies -- for whom war is a major money-making machine -- think this is a great idea and are determined to pursue it against all rational persuasion. Training is already underway in Afghanistan, the jungles of southern Philippines, and in the desert scrub of Somalia. Deals are being finalized for permanent bases in Pakistan and the Yemen. The hawks have silenced their critics in Powell's State Department, they have given the Pentagon all the money it ever wanted, they are steamed up and ready to go.

It won't be long now before baby Bush tries to clean up his daddy's old mess.

Sources: "profoundly misguided". "simplistic", Fischer

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Tuvalu Is Sinking!

Tuvalu, that extraordinary collection of nine inhabited and hundreds of uninhabited desert islands in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, is disappearing beneath the waves, the first nation-sized victim of global warming.

There are only 10 square miles of usable land in the entire country, and no point in Tuvalu is more than 15 feet above sea level. With sea levels expected to rise by almost a meter in the next hundred years, the 10,500 inhabitants will have to move or drown. A deal has been signed that allows 75 islanders a year to settle in New Zealand, and other arrangements will no doubt be made.

In the meantinme, we are watching the evacuation and shutting down of a nation.

Source: Guardian

Palestine Daily Log

Yesterday, two Israeli civilians and a Palestinian militrant were killed in an attack at Karnei Shomron. From September 11th until now (7:00am PST February 17th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 272. In the same period, 102 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 47 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed.

Of more importance, perhaps, last night more than 20,000 Israeli peace activists gathered in Tel Aviv to demand an immediate withdrawl from the occupied territories. It was the largest peace rally since Sharon's election more than a year ago, and it comes on the heels of the rapidly expanding Army reservists' movement to refuse service outside Israel proper. Sharon's consensus of fear is collapsing. As the Guardian puts it:
"It is not difficult to fathom the cause of Sharon's decline in support. 'No Israeli seriously believed by electing Sharon it would bring peace. But they did believe he would deliver security. He hasn't,' said Lily Galili, who covers the Russian community for the liberal Haaretz . Instead, according to Israel's chief of police, Shlomo Aharonishky, he has brought 'a year of violence and terror the likes of which we have not seen in the history of the state'."
However, Sharon has never before allowed public opinion to sway his immoral dealings, and I am certain a lot more blood will flow on both sides before he is removed from office.

Saturday, February 16, 2002

Miscellaneous Roundup

Ronald Schusterman of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his team have spent many years attempting to train sea lions to make the sort of logical leaps that many researchers believe are a pre-requisite for higher cognitive abilities such as language. His sea lions can now, apparently, put individual objects into virtual groups and, using that knowledge, make associations between objects that they hadn’t been directly taught. Fascinating work that poses many questions about the abilities of animals.

The BBC via the Houston Chronicle relates the very sad case of a mentally challenged man who became uncontrollably angry when certain words -- "New Jersey", "Snickers", "Mars" or "Wisconsin" -- were spoken out loud. Unfortunately, he shot his girlfriend because she was about to say “New Jersey.” During his trial witnesses had to use flash cards to avoid speaking certain words aloud. He received a 6 year sentence.

Gosh, I can't imagine: The FTC says Miss Cleo, the pay-by-the-minute TV psychic, has engaged in deceptive practices. Say it ain't so! As the CBC says "Miss Cleo's ads appear on late night television in addition to print, Internet and direct mail advertising. She has millions of fans who call her psychic hotline looking for guidance about their problems." Be that as it may be, it seems the Miss Cleo companies have been bad boys when it comes to telling the truth and the government aims to close them down. Surely she could have seen this coming?

Palestine Daily Log

It has been a bloody 36 hours in Palestine. On Friday, a senior Israeli officer was killed when the home his troops were demolishing fell on him. Later that day another Israeli soldier was killed in action near Ramallah. On Saturday, Israeli planes attacked Jabalya refugee camp killing a Palestinian policeman, while during a firefight at El-Bureij refugee camp three more Palestinians were killed. Also on Saturday, Israeli terrorists assassinated a Palestinian militant in Jenin by blowing up a car in a public market crowded with women and children. From September 11th until now (7:00am PST February 16th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 271. In the same period, 100 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 46 Palestinians and 28 Israelis have been killed.

Friday, February 15, 2002

The Wages of Self Interest

Brian Tobin is a politician well known to Canadians. Some years ago he made a splash in the international press when he declared war on Spanish fishing boats looting Canadian fish. He is now in private business as vice-chair of Kruger Incorporated, a large privately-owned pulp and paper company (Scott paper towels, Purex, etc.). His career is an exquisite example of self interest over public policy.

Many years ago, Mr Tobin was a Federal cabinet minister famous for his loud mouth and ambition. At that time an opportunity arose to become Premier of Newfoundland, Tobin's home province. Tobin jumped at the chance, abandoning his duties in federal politics to become czar of his own territory. Winning an election for five years in power, Tobin announced that whatever happened he would stay in the job and fight for Newfoundland.

Less than two years later, against all his promises to the public, Tobin dumped the job, having been offered a position once again as a Federal cabinet minister. This time, the temptation was to launch a campaign to be Canada's next Prime Minister when Jean Cretien steps down. Now, just a couple of years later, having finally realised he is not going to win the big job, Tobin has quit politics altogether, snagging a cushy corporate position.

Ok, so he's gone and we should perhaps cheer "good riddance!" But he now has that job with Kruger, a company that was regulated by the Federal Ministry of Industry that Tobin so recently headed. A company who's chief lobbyist is Tobin's oldest friend. Everyone is publicly denying it, but can you spell "conflict of interest"?

Source: CBC

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine over the last 24 hours, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian militant near Morag, and three Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack near Netzarim. Finally, yesterday's raids into Gaza Strip killed four Palestinian policemen not three. From September 11th until now (1:00pm PST February 14th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 266. In the same period, 98 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 41 Palestinians and 26 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The Last Dinosaur Speaks....

Capitalism requires huge amounts of public money -- taxpayers' money – simply in order to survive. "Free enterprise" in this connection actually means: “You give me lots of money in subsidies, purchase orders and tax breaks, and I will use my enterprise to spend it freely.” Defense budgets, typically, provide massive amounts of such "free" money for corporations, and thus the corporations' politicians are always keen to maintain “national security” requirements and therefore defense budgets at a high level.

It is no surprise, then, to see such business-backed foreign policy goons as George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et.al, pushing the military option – and highlighting the military threat – on every possible occasion. They can put whatever spin they want on the policies, but the bottom line is huge profits for huge companies.

For three generations, and most particularly since 1945, the rightwing business-government elite (what one of the last honest Republicans, Dwight Eisenhower, called with contempt “the military-industrial complex”) has had the Soviet Union to act as its foil. The menace of Communism, carefully manipulated with Madison Avenue precision, became the excuse to spend trillions of dollars on dangerous toys for the boys. Unfortunately for them, the Soviet Union had the temerity to collapse in a heap – felled by the weight and corruption of its own military-industrial complex – in 1989.

The Gulf War gave them a breathing space into the early 1990s, but by the middle of Clinton’s reign, the excuses for a bloated military and its associated bloated suppliers were wearing thin. The U.S. Armed Forces, taken as a whole, had been built up to the point where they were the match for any three major opponents simultaneously, the public were pressing for the Peace Dividend that had been promised following “victory” in the Cold War, and the route towards new pork barrel expansion seemed closed.

And then came September 11th, 2001.

Osama bin Laden single-handedly gave Bush and his cronies the excuse to get back into the worst excesses of the Reagan days. Worse even, because the newsmongers ratcheted the rhetoric so high so quickly, the Democrats had nowhere to duck and extraordinary increases in spending – tens of billions of extra dollars – were approved without question and without adequate debate.

But the excitement of the “war on terrorism” is quickly fading, and the hands of critics have been steadied. Daschle managed to kill Bush’s immoral “economic stimulus” bill (at the cost of killing as well his own equally immoral set of giveaways), the US Air Force and Special Services have managed to destroy one country (Afghanistan) and browbeat several others (Pakistan, Somali, etc) with the men and equipment they already have, and Bush’s disapproval ratings have begun to move off the floor they reached in the late Fall.

Many people have already come to understand that most of the money spent in tax breaks is going to relatively few absurdly rich individuals and corporations, while the public has to make do with second class services in order to pay for them. Pretty soon they’ll begin to wonder why $400 billion a year – more than $1,400 from every man, woman and child in the USA – is being spent to defend against a motley crew of dirty riflemen currently being chased from cave to cave.

Bush’s State of the Union speech tried to rally the country against an ill-defined “terrorism” that – in the Cole’s Notes version of the mass media – has become Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Now, most third-graders know that, if push comes to shove, the USA could whip the behinds off all three with its current manpower and weaponry, and still not be breathing heavily. This kind of threat doesn’t generate the enthusiasm that the crusade against Communism could inspire, and pretty soon there will be grumbling over the costs. What’s needed for the right wing is a new battle cry.

And that brings us to the last dinosaur.

Margaret Thatcher, the heinous woman who almost destroyed England but who has reached the position of venerable saint for free enterprisers, is long past her “best before date” and is therefore free to speak her mind without worry for political backlash. In this role, she has declared Islamism to be the new Bolshevism.
“Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in the past, is an armed doctrine,” she declares. “It is an aggressive ideology promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it.”

Having destroyed Afghanistan. ”the second phase of the war against terrorism should be to strike at other centres of Islamic terror that have taken root in Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This will require first-rate intelligence, shrewd diplomacy and a continued extensive military commitment. Our enemies have had years to entrench themselves, and they will not be dislodged without fierce and bloody resistance.”
In other words, another hotter Cold War with all that that implies for death and destruction and the pouring of endless treasure into the coffers of Boeing and General Dynamics and the other military giants.

The Cold War kept these companies going for almost half a century. Will the Iron Lady's final war cry Islam is Bolshevism help propel this new War to last as long?

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine yesterday, Israeli invaders killed three Palestinian policemen at Deir al-Balah. From September 11th until now (5:00am PST February 13th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 264. In the same period, 95 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 39 Palestinians and 23 Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Miscellaneous Roundup

A man showing off his ten-foot long 80 pound python snake in Denver, Colorado, last Sunday found himself suddenly wrapped in the coils of his pet. The snake squeezed and squeezed and eventually the man died, asphyxiated, even though six firefighters tried to wrench the snake away from his body. The news report says the firefighters later herded the snake into it's cage. My question: why didn't they kill the snake before it killed the man?

The Croatian secret service apparently had a tap on Slobodan Milosevic's private telephone from 1995 to 1998. They caught some very funny moments, such as Mira Milosevic calling her son "loopy" when he suggested having all his teeth replaced in an image makeover. And we can all say "Amen" when Milosevic tells his daughter, who runs a TV station, that they should stop showing stories about him: "I think both God and the people are bored of me, myself included."

Killing Palestinian Children as State Policy

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz has published an extraordinary article by Gideon Levy highly critical of Israel's "deliberate" policy of killing children. Noting that 80 Palestinian children under the age of 15 have been killed in the last 18 months, it calls these the "atrocities that are being perpetrated" in the occupied territories.

Most importantly, the article points out that when senior officers fail to condemn acts of obvious brutality, a mindset is created that allows for the killing of children, along with other acts of deliberate violence, to become commonplace.

It is because of such acts that the 200 Israeli reserve officers have publicly refused to serve in the occupation. Unfortunately, neither their voices, nor those of Ha'aretz can get through the thick head of Ariel Sharon and his murderous henchmen.

Meanwhile, this morning Israeli terrorists raided the town of Halhoul, killing a Palestinian security guard. From September 11th until now (5:00am PST February 12th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 261. In the same period, 95 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 36 Palestinians and 23 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Creationism By Any Other Name...

Ohio is the scene for the latest battle over the teaching of creationism in the classroom. The State Board of Education has agreed to hear proponents of the "intelligent design" theory of the origins of life explain why their theory should be given equal prominence with that of conventional evolution. The New York Times describes the fundamentals of their beliefs:
"Supporters of this theory acknowledge that the earth is billions of years old, not thousands, as a literal reading of the Bible suggests. They also accept that organisms change over time, according to commonly held principles of evolution. But they dispute the idea that the astounding complexity of the earth's plants and animals could have just happened through natural selection, the force that Darwin suggested drives evolution. An intelligent designer — perhaps the God of Genesis, perhaps someone or something else — had to get the ball rolling, they contend."
While some well-credentialed researchers have attached their names to "intelligent design," most scientists, including the 1,500-member Ohio Academy of Science, disagree with the proposal to bring the idea into schools, some going so far as to predict a major revolt within education should the proposal be implemented.

Martha Wise, a member of the education standards sub-committee, describes herself as a creationist. Nonetheless, she is clear where the proposal leads "It's a shrouded way of bringing religion into the schools," she says. "I think intelligent design is a theology, and it belongs in another curriculum."

We'll be watching this one with interest.

Source: New York Times

Sunday, February 10, 2002

The Decline of Public Education as Capitalist Policy

In California, Governor Gray Davis has cut $840 million from state-wide education budgets, while the New York City Board of Education is facing $600 million in shortfalls this year. Ohio managed to protect kindergarten through twelth-grade, but vocational and secondary education suffered budget rollbacks of six percent. In Idaho they weren't so lucky, with elementary and secondary schools losing two and a half percent for the coming year. In Canada, the capital Ottawa may have to close nine schools across the city to meet financial targets, while in British Columbia the drastic cuts to public education made by the neo-conservative Campbell regime have already led to massive labour disruption and student inconvenience.

What's going on here? Cuts to education don't make any economic sense. Or do they?

From the perspective of the corporations, cuts in public education may not be illogical at all. Most manufacturers and service providers don't need an educated workforce. In fact, it is better for them if the working class can be dumbed down to keep them in their place – replaceable drones, satisfied with little – and cheap.

The fast food industry, to use an important example, employs hundreds of thousands of people in North America; and yet, even with all those employees, food is "assembled" rather than prepared, as Eric Schlosser described in detail in “Fast Food Nation.” Jobs that have been ‘de-skilled’ like this can be filled easily and without great expense, and this business has a personnel turnover so high that one worker in every five has worked in fast food at some time or another.

Schlosser reports on a 1999 conference on foodservice equipment where top American executives from Burger King, MacDonald’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC agreed that "[o]ne of the most important goals they held in common was the redesign of kitchen equipment so that less money needed to be spent training workers.” In fact, the executives agreed, "zero training" was the ideal, with cooking and delivery systems designed to work with less and less human intervention.

A month ago, President Bush visited a Portland, Oregon, job training center, a program that focuses on increasing employment in low-income neighborhoods. He praised the work the center does with 1,400 young people in the State with the highest unemployment rate in the country. But then, just a couple of weeks later, the Bush budget eliminated the Portland center along with all the others funded by a program that a White House spokesman now said was “ineffective” or duplicated other federal programs.

In fact, the Bush budget cuts more than $3 billion from job training and workplace standards compliance programs right across the country.

If the corporations don't want training, why give it? And if the workers don't need to learn anything to do their jobs, what's the point, really, in teaching them any of the higher academic talents? And if that's the case, then the massive cuts to public education make perfect sense.

With vouchers and tax credits, the upper middle class are encouraged to segregate their children -- the future cadre of government, science and the professions -- from the public system, which can then be left to deteriorate without danger. These vouchers and credits are ultimately funded by the savings taken from the crumbling public schools, and so the poor are made to pay twice for their own future oppression. It's the sort of math even the uneducated can understand.

Not Just Us Radicals

The U.S. Administration expects criticism from people like me. It probably expects it from "way out there liberals" like Molly Ivins. But from it's closest allies? Probably not.

This weekend, Christopher Patten, the European Union's Commissioner for International Affairs -- who is known to be close to Britain's Prime Minister Blair -- refered to U.S. foreign policy as "absolutist and simplistic." And senior but unnamed British Government sources are said to be concerned over the Administration's use of "unnecessarily belligerent" language.

More, Peter Hain, the British Minister for Europe, used a speech this weekend to criticise American policy. 'There are still elements in the US who want to act unilaterally rather than multilaterally, in isolation from, rather than in co-operation with, other nations,' Hain said. He suggested that U.S. policy will 'be shaped by a quite different agenda, driven by hawks on Capitol Hill."

The British sources indicate that they would like to be more publicly critical of American policy but feel they can do a better job of steering policy from within the American tent rather than from without. I doubt it. Peter Hain may claim that Britain is not America's "patsy," but Blair keeps making it look like they are. Still, it is good that some of this criticism is becoming public.

Source: Patten and Hain speeches

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine over the last day or so, one Israeli woman civilian was killed near the Tapuah Junction in the occupied territories. In addition, two Israelis and two Palestinians were killed during an attack on the Israeli Southern Command HQ at Beer Sheva. From September 11th until now (7:00am PST February 10th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 260. In the same period, 95 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 35 Palestinians and 23 Israelis have been killed.

Saturday, February 09, 2002

Gray Davis Kills A Poet

Stephen Wayne Anderson is dead. The murderer was executed at San Quentin prison first thing in the morning on January 30th. In 1980, a homeless fugitive, he shot and killed an 81-year old woman. When captured, he confessed to the woman's murder and also to the murder of an inmate during an earlier prison sentence. The sentence was never in doubt.

In the near quarter of a century between those events and his death by lethal injection, Anderson had become a prize-winning poet -- his poetry won two prestigious Pen awards for prison writing, and formed the basis of the off-Broadway play Lament From Death Row -- and by every measure imaginable had become completely rehabilitated. The families of the two victims had said that they did not want or need an execution.

No matter. Governor Gray Davis of California ignored the family's wishes, ignored the international campaign by the writers' group PEN, and ignored the decades of Anderson's good behaviour and had him killed.

Writing in the Moscow Times, Chris Floyd pulls no punches in analyzing Davis's motives:
"Davis is ambitious. He wants to be president. He wants to challenge George W. Bush -- the greatest convict killer in American history. So Davis needs a body count to pluck those "Heartland" strings. No moderate Democrat can afford to look "soft on crime" -- not if he wants to join that world of wealth and privilege sealed with blood. In that realm, mercy has no place.
During his trial in 1980, Stephen Anderson was represented by a racist incompetent, but his chances in 2002 were even slimmer.

Sources: Common Dreams; Guardian; LA Times; Moscow Times

Miscellaneous Roundup

From Moscow comes the terrible story of a man who fell into the back of a high-tech garbage truck. For more than half an hour, as the grinding blades pulled him inexorably closer, he used his cell phone to desperately call for help. The 911 operators didn't believe him, or didn't bother to get him assistance, and eventually his calls stopped as the machinery tore him apart.

In London, it seems that the power of the purse is to prove the undoing of anti-marijuana laws. A test study in one of London's major Boroughs has shown a major decrease in police overtime when cannabis possession is treated as an offence deserving only of a warning rather than an arrest. The police also claim it has led to an increase in their ability to arrest high-lever drug dealers. With the results of the study in hand, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is set to expand the relaxation throughout the city.

For most of us, the El Nino phenomenon is nothing more than an inconvenient weather pattern. But researchers have discovered that, for the peoples in some regions of Peru, it can mean death. It appears that the worst outbreaks of Bartonellosis, an insect-borne disease highly fatal to humans, occur a few months after oceanic temperature changes associated with El Nino. The scientists hope their work can help local authorities plan an advance warning system for the disease.

Last Rites for Krishna in America?

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, or the "Hare Krishnas") may declare bancrupty. The Chapter 11 reorganization would be to protect the temple movement from a $400 million lawsuit launched in Texas on behalf of alleged victims of sexual and physical abuse suffered at the hands of the Movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

Citing the enormous cost of legal fees in the U.S., Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON communications director, said that legal costs for fighting the suit could bankrupt the movement anyway even if it wins the case. Winning may be hard for the group, however, as they have already admitted some cases of abuse.

If this is a way of protecting cash from the lawyers' pockets to use for an eventual settlement, it seems OK. But if Chapter 11 is just a way for the organization to survive, then I think -- like so many other corporate "reorganizations" -- it is an abuse.

Source: BBC

Madagascar Watch ...

The situation in Madagascar is becoming increasingly tense.

The people power movement protesting the results of the December 16th Presidential elections is still pouring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets each day in the capital. And no significant violence has yet been reported. However, there are disturbing signs.

There were reports on Thursday that security forces in the northeastern town of Sambava used tear gas to disperse opposition demonstrators, injuring six. And on Friday a group of armed supporters of incumbent President Ratsiraka apparently blockaded the main highway and gasoline route between the capital, Antananarivo, and the main northern port of Toamasina.

The armed forces have more or less kept out of the political conflict, and some junior members have even joined the demonstrations. However, last Wednesday, the Armed Forces Minister in the present government, Marcel Ranjeva, said that the army was determined to maintain stability in the face of the crippling general strike that for two weeks has supported the opposition protests. “We are sending a warning to the instigators, the executors, the henchmen - whoever they are and whatever their functions - that we will not fail in our duty to prevent the nation falling into ruin," he told local newspapers.

In the latest development, a coalition of election monitors sponsored by the international community has issued a report indicating widespread irregularities in the Presidential poll. This seems to confirm the opposition claims that candidate Marc Ravalomanana was cheated of victory in the election.


Sources: tear gas and blockade; Ranjeva; election monitors.
[see also the earlier piece here on 5th February]

Friday, February 08, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine today, three Palestinian militants and an Israeli civilian woman die in separate incidents near Jerusalem and Bethlehem. From September 11th until now (6:00am PST February 8th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 258. In the same period, 92 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 33 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

In Palestine last night, two Israeli civilians and an army member were killed in an attack on an occupation settlement. The Palestinian militant involved was also killed. From September 11th until now (6:00am PST February 7), the total number of Palestinians killed is 255. In the same period, 91 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 30 Palestinians and 19 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Let's Not Wait This Time (continued...)

On the 23nd January, I wrote a piece here about the U.S. Special Forces raid on the town of Tarin Kowt on 23rd January that resulted in 21 dead and 27 detained Afghanis. Immediately after the raid, questions arose about who the dead and captured were. The Pentagon insisted that its intelligence was certain; these people were Taliban and/or al-Qaida forces. Locals and some of the central government in Kabul denied this, saying the fighters were their people hit in error.

The U.S. will still not admit to a mistake ("That raid is still under investigation to determine what went right or wrong there," says Major Ralph Mills, a spokesman from Central Command.) but they have now released the detainees and local CIA operatives have paid out blood money to the families of those who died

The US-backed interim leader of Afhganistan, Hamid Karzai, has told reporters that U.S. officials "have immediately come to explain, immediately apologized, immediately sent representataives of their people to (offer) apology and explain." Odd that, when just the other day Pentagon spokesmen were still denying to the western press that anything wrong had taken place.

In the same interview, Karzai also said he had concluded that a US bombing attack against a convoy on the day before his inauguration was also a mistake, killing tribal elders on their way to the ceremony in Kabul. More than 65 people were killed in the attack.

The US says it is giving money -- $1,000 per body -- to the families of Tarin Kowt "as part of an effort to maintain friendly relations with the local community." The effort would be a heck of a lot cheaper in both treasure and bodies if the U.S. would just stop the bombing.

Sources: Karzai remarks; US Central Command statements; $1,000

Occupation by Demolition

The terrorist government of Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing within Jerusalem itself. They are demolishing Palestinian homes in areas where Israelis want to build. Since the illegal seizure of East Jerusalem, more than 170,000 Israelis have moved into the occupied land in a deliberate policy to de-Arabize the city.

The Israelis "justify" the demolitions by saying that the homes in question had been built without permits. Just like all the villages and towns built illegally by Israel on the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

Neither the actions nor the double standard should surprise us, I guess. The whole state of Israel was founded on terrorism and ethnic cleansing, and heavy doses of hypocrisy have always been a staple of Israeli policy.

In the meantime, the number of Israeli reserve officers refusing to serve in the illegally occupied territories has more than tripled. This movement may offer us the best hope for the future.

Source: BBC; Ha'aretz.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Happy Birthday, Mr. Potato Head!

Today is Mr Potato Head's 50th birthday!

I had a Mr.Potato Head back in the mid-1950s when it consisted of pieces to stick into real potatoes. I cherished it and kept some of the pieces way beyond their childhood age range. I seem to remember a Mrs.Potato Head as well, so maybe I had both. It's just a great toy; creative and fun! I am happy to salute his entry into later middle age.

Source: CNN

Some Terrorists Can Stay ...

We recall that Bush used up most of his State of the Union speech to make specific threats about dealing with "terrorism", telling countries around the world that they'd better clean up their act or the States will do it for them. We also recall that Bush's new budget adds billions upon billions of dollars onto taxpayers burdens specifically to fight "terrorism". Finally, we also recall Mr Bush, from the earliest days after September 11th, explaining in his best school principal's manner that "terrorism" is "terrorism" is "terrorism" and must be stamped out wherever it is found.

But, of course, in reality "terrorism" is not always "terrorism". In terms of Bush's plans, "terrorism" only means anti-American "terrorism". If you are a "terrorist" opposed to a regime that the US is not keen on, then you are welcome in the States. There are, for example, Cambodian. Cuban and Vietnamese "terrorists" happily living in the USA or protected by the CIA or both.

Orlando Bosch Avila is an anti-Cuban, convicted in the States in 1968 of terrorist activity He is an illegal immigrant and a parole violator, and one of the brains behind the destruction of a Cubana airliner in 1976 causing the death of 73 innocent civilians, including women and children. In June, 1974 Bosch publicly admitted having sent package bombs to Cuban Embassies in Lima, Madrid, Ottawa, and Buenos Aires.

In May 1989, U.S. Associate Attorney General Joe D. Whitley stated that "for 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has threatened and undertaken violent terrorist acts against numerous targets, including nations friendly toward the United States and their highest officials. He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death. His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims," and ordered him deported from the United States.

The CIA and exile groups lobbied hard on Bosch's behalf and less than a year later the author of more than 50 attacks in the United States and abroad, the apologist for terrorism, received a presidential pardon from George Bush on July 20, 1990.

Orlando Bosch, killer and self-declared terrorist, is free and walks the streets of Miami today, still active, still a killer.

Elsewhere, the leaders of both the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) and Government of Free Vietnam (GFV) are based in Long Beach, California.
"Nguyen Huu Chanh is the 51-year-old head of GFV. Chanh immigrated to the U.S. in 1982 and is, according to the November 27 Time Asia, 'Vietnam's most-wanted terrorist, a globe-trotting rabble-rouser sought by police in his homeland and in the Philippines, where three of his associates were recently arrested with bombmaking materials.' Over the past three years the GFV is 'suspected in half a dozen attacks on Vietnamese targets in Europe and Asia'."
The CFF has a similar history
"some 70 rebels armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers -- and wearing matching Cambodian Freedom Fighters T-shirts -- attacked government buildings in downtown Phnom Penh."
I can find no indication that any of these folks will be bombed out of Miami and Long Beach anytime soon. Nor are there any plans to send them to cages in Guantanamo Bay, or home to face justice in their native lands. Seems that Bush and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld are happy to have these "terrorists" enjoying the freedom and hospitality of the United States for the foreseeable future.

Can anyone spell "double standard"?

Sources: Bosch; SE Asian groups

People Power in Madagascar

As reported here a few days ago, the people of Madagascar are slowly making their feelings felt. In an astonishing display of people power, more than 500,000 citizens have gathered each day in the main squares and streets of the capital, Antananarivo, to protest in a peaceful, almost festive atmosphere.

The incumbent Presidnet, Didier Ratsiraka, refuses to accept his loss to the crowd favourite Marc Ravalomanana in Presidential elections fought in December, and is using every tactic possible to stay in power -- as he has, more or less continuously, for 20 years.

Today, in an even more stunning development than the size of the previous crowds, the protesters deliberately stayed away, making the capital -- already under a general strike -- seem like an eerily quiet ghost town. The crowds will be back in the streets again tomorrow, keeping the administration confused about its tactics. This is one to watch.

Sources: peaceful demos; empty streets

The Cost of Militarism and Giveaways To The Rich

Under Bush's latest budget plan, the U.S. military will be given more than one billion dollars each day, and for the very rich and for corporations, there are tax cuts that total $591billion. Both of those figures are "billion" with a B.

How on earth is it possible to pay for such waste and largesse? You can do it, in part, if you...
- cut funding for teaching hospitals by $570 million.

- cut $3 billion from job training and workplace standards

- cut funding to Occupational Safety groups by more than 10%

- cut 30% from childrens' doctor training programs

- cut public housing programs by $800million
The priorities are clear; if you are rich or want to kill someone overseas, the Administration has free money for you. But, if you're poor, or concerned with employee safety or homelessness or caring, pay up, buddy! The government needs your money.

Monday, February 04, 2002

Capitalist Economics

Turkey has managed its affairs so badly that the IMF has now had to lend it $31 billion to make ends meet; Argentina has swallowed up $22 billion so far. Boeing does a $20 billion boondoggle deal with the U.S. government, while the multi-billion dollar Enron corporation manages to pay no taxes for ever and claims hundreds of millions in tax rebates.

Thomas Usher of U.S. Steel epitomises the business attitude to receiving welfare from the taxpayers:
"He wants $12 billion in government aid to pay for employee retirement benefits that are now the obligation of the steel industry. After that, he wants antitrust clearance to allow U.S. Steel to acquire a raft of steel makers, for practically no cash, giving his company a near monopoly among old-line steel makers.

There's more. He wants the government to impose tariffs on imported steel of up to 40 percent, to protect U.S. Steel and others — tariffs that could raise the price of every refrigerator and automobile sold in America and that could threaten thousands of jobs in steel-using companies.

Finally, he wants it done soon — in the next few months, he says — to prevent the domestic steel industry from collapsing."
This is big business going cap in hand telling the tale of how stupid they have been to run their businesses into the gound and, oh yes, you'd better pay me off or I'll get mad.

These countries and corporations are the biggest bums around, stealing our money to line the pockets of absurdly rich people. All the poverty programs in North America could be funded by a tenth of the benefits corporations demand from the taxpayer. One fifth of all U.S. children live in poverty, while Kenneth Lay and his cronies stash a hundred million or more of "profits" based on off-shore tax shelters.

None of these executives and politicians could last a day in the real world trying to make an honest living. And they say it is the poor folks who should pull up their socks and improve themselves! Thieving hypocrites!

Sources: Boeing; children's poverty; Enron; Lay; U.S.Steel ; Turkey

Palestine Daily Log

Four Palestinian militants and a civilian were assassinated by Israeli terrorists today in the Gaza Strip. Note that, at this moment, those reading the CNN or NYT websites would not know these people died. I am certain there would have been banner headlines had these been Israelis killed. From September 11th until now (5:45am PST February 4), the total number of Palestinians killed is 254. In the same period, 88 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 29 Palestinians and 16 Israelis have been killed.

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Enjoy The Olympics, You're Paying For It

This coming week sees the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The contests will be hailed as the pinnacle of amateur sport, and the two-week event itself as a shining example of free enterprise success. It will be neither.

The majority of medal winners at Salt Lake will be athletes who make their living at these sports. They are professionals through and through, and Olympians of past generations must shake their heads in dismay when they see what today passes for amateurism and good sportsmanship.

As for free enterprise success?
[A]n estimated $1.5bn in federal money has been spent on the Games. According to Sports Illustrated magazine, this is a 996 per cent increase on what the US government spent on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. By the end of the two-week festival US taxpayers will have spent $625,000 for each of the 2,400 athletes in attendance.
Free enterprise success is yet again built on the back of tax-payer subsidies, and naked capitalism reigns supreme throughout. As a local sleaze hotel operator said, having evicted his tenants and tripled the room rates for the duration of the Games:
"I don't feel guilty about taking advantage. That is what capitalism in America is all about."
Source: Guardian

Saturday, February 02, 2002

No, It Isn't OK!

The Governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, has long been the poster boy for the sort of throwback Neanderthalism rampant in large parts of the Republican Party. It was under Keating's inspirational leadership that Oklahoma spectacularly beat out Texas as champions of the dealth penalty execution league for 2001. Now, he is calling for racial profiling to be used to protect America's borders.

Arabic speakers and those reading the Koran should be treated with suspicion, he says, regardless of any other factor. Noting that most of the 9/11 suspects were in the United States legally, Keating said their very Arabness "should have been an amber light if not a red light for Immigration to keep people out."

Keating's remarks were in response to those of Michael Chertoff, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the Department of Justice, who said that racial profiling "turns out not to be very effective." Rather, travel patterns are more important. "People who have been in Afghanistan should be looked at more closely," he said.

Regardless of the evidence, I bet we see racial profiling in practice almost immediately.

Source: CNN

Aboriginal Rights and British Columbia

Since first contact, non-natives have stolen the land from the aboriginal peoples who dwelt here since even before Europe had consciousness of itself. The aboriginal peoples were herded into reserves or scattered into the urban wildness, their culture stressed to near breaking, their languages ignored and lost, their children marginalised and abused.

A generation or more of dogged identity politics, fueled by recent tide-turning decisions in the Supreme Court of Canada, has led us in British Columbia to a point where the three levels of government -- Federal, Provincial, and tribal -- are sitting at the treaty table as equal partners. The fact that the treaty route has been chosen by most B.C. bands over the alternatives of confrontation or litigation is itself a crucial and central fact of life in British Columbia; but the treaty process is at an impasse and political decisions taken in 2002 are likely to determine the shape of aboriginal-Provincial relations for the next generation.

The aboriginals are dissatisfied with the style of negotiation wherein all progress on the ground is halted until the final settlement of a treaty which, as we know, can take decades. They want to see some immediate improvements in the daily lives of their people.

On the other side, the Province is alarmed that it has spent $500 million on the treaty process to date -- mostly in loans to first nations -- and, after eight years, it has not a single treaty to show for its efforts. The Province finds itself in separate treaty negotiations with 43 different bands -- some with as small as 200 members -- and it sees no end in sight. Alarmingly, the Provincial government is now controlled by an ideologically-driven right-wing group determined to protect entrenched -- white and corporate -- property rights. Seeking to abandon the long-established principles of treaty negotiations, the government is to call a Provincial Referendum this summer to gain approval for significant changes to the process.

The Referendum is boycotted both by the Federal negotiators and all the British Columbia treaty bands. No matter, the government will ensure that it takes place, and they will bend every weapon in their arsenal to the task of passing whatever language they choose. They will certainly try to enshrine current land ownership "rights" into all treaties, and they will insist on full corporate participation in or heavy compensation for corporate "rights" in resources such as timber, minerals and fisheries. They will try to extinguish all aboriginal rights as part of the treaty agreements. It will be a disaster and will lead to confrontation, possibly violent, throughout the Province.

Simon Fraser University in Vancouver is hosting a series of Friday night lectures and debates about aboriginal rights, the treaty process and the Referendum. I went to the second last night, listening to presentations from Miles Richardson, the Treaty Commissioner, Philip Steenkamp, the Deputy Minister in charge of Treaty Negotiations for the BC Government, and Chief Kim Baird of the Tsawaassen First Nation. The hall and an overflow area were packed, and I was impressed with the interest shown in everything said.

Richardson spoke very well, especially when he forgot his notes and spoke extemporaneously. Steenkamp was tedious to the point of numbness, making me realise why this process takes so long. Chief Baird spoke directly about her people, but came across to me as a professional negotiator.

I am attending these lectures with a friend from the opposite end of the political spectrum. He feels personally threatened as his house lies on Tsawaassen-claimed lands. I look forward in anticipation to the rest of the series and the debates that will ensue.

Let's Not Wait This Time

The Korean War ended about fifty years ago, and yet it is only in the last year or two that we are learning about atrocities committed on both sides. Most particularly, we have learned about the massacre of hundreds of Korean civilians by American troops at the No Gun Ri bridge in July, 1950. This week, information surfaced about the killing of hundreds more refugees by naval gunfire on a beach the following September.

These were terrible events, made even more terrible if we fail to learn the lessons. Which is why it is so important to keep hammering away at finding the truth behind military actions in Afghanistan. On the 29th January, in a piece entitled "Bodies With Bound Hands...," we reported here on questions that were swirling about a U.S. Special Forces raid on a town called Oruzgan in which 21 Afghanis were killed (some in mysterious circumstances, with bound hands), with another 27 seized and taken away. Stories quickly emerged that the dead and arrested were not Taliban or al-Qaueda as stated by the U.S., but rather supporters of the U.S.-backed Interim Government in Kabul.

At the time, the Pentagon dismissed the stories, announcing they knew exactly whom they had hit, that their intelligence was sound. Now, however, under the pressure of investigation, military chiefs admit that innocent people were killed in the raid. Even so, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, continues to insist that "I don't think it was any sense on our part that we've done something wrong."

Apparently, the U.S. armed forces killing innocent civilians still does not count as doing "something wrong."

Moreover, as happens in all cover ups, the description of the raid first given by the Pentagon has been contradicted, clarified or "restated" several times in the last few days. No doubt this shifting of the "facts" will continue as more questions are raised. Unfortunately, for the villagers of Oruzgan, just like the Korean refugees on that beach 50 years ago, it is all too late.

Sources: AP; AsiaDaily; New York Times