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Jaks View from Vancouver

Sunday, March 31, 2002

The Masters of Propaganda

Do you know who John D. Wren is? Or John J. Donner, jr? Maurice Levy? Or Sir Martin Sorrell? Probably not, but these four people (all white middle-aged males) control the vast majority of what you see on TV, on billboards, on radio, and in magazines.

The global advertising industry is now down to four giant agency companies — the Omnicom Group and the Interpublic Group of Companies of New York, the WPP Group of London, and Publicis Groupe of Paris — that together will soak up more than half of the industry's revenue this year. Besides dominating commercial speech, a $500-billion-a-year industry, these four agency companies and the men who run them — Wren at Omnicom, Dooner at Interpublic, Sorrell at WPP and Lévy at Publicis — also hold incredible sway over the media. By deciding when and where to spend their clients' ad budgets, they can indirectly set network television schedules and starve magazines to death or help them to flourish.

If you are not worried about how this will stifle competion, you should be. The major brands represented by each of these agencies is unlikely to allow their agency to help push a new and serious competitor. They will bring enormous pressure to bear to force out the smaller companies. And with so much concentration, where else can the competitors go?

Once again, the capitalist-consumerist "free market" has led to what is essentially a monopoly, effectively reducing competition. Bravo!

Palestine Daily Log

Since the last report, an additional 5 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli assault on Ramallah. On Sunday, 15 Israeli civilians and a Palestinian militant were killed in a bomb attack in Haifa. A little later, another Palestinian militant was killed in a bomb attack against the occupation settlement of Efrat on the West Bank.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:30am PST March 31st), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,188. In the same period, 410 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 287 Palestinians and 161 Israelis have been killed.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

Building An Enemy

The corporations which are America require huge amounts of public money -- taxpayers' money in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and purchase orders – simply in order to survive. Defense budgets, typically, provide massive amounts of such "free" money for corporations, expending trillions of public dollars on research and development to the ultimate benefit of private corporations. But a military funded in this way is hard to sustain in the face of the inevitable resistance to the constant drain on taxpayers’ resources in the absence of a clear and present danger. Therefore an enemy is always required.

For over half a century, from the 1940s on, Soviet Communism was the perfect adversary; strong, vigorous, heavily armed, with an intellectually sustainable version of capitalism based on State enterprise rather than private enterprise. Both versions of capitalism needed the other to feed the military tax drain. Finally, the State enterprise model collapsed, throwing the now-former Soviet Empire into a phase of primitive capitalism that has taken them out of the game.

For a moment there was a kind of peace.

Then the Kuwaitis acted the fool, Saddam Hussein took the bait, and the good old days of million-man armies was back again. But for only a season; Saddam was simply not strong enough to engage the superpower for long. Through most of the 1990s, the US military-industrial complex found itself missionless, the victim of falling budgets and insistent demands for the fabled peace dividend, with a civilian leadership focused on a domestic agenda.

Today, that vital need for the military-industrial complex to maintain taxpayer’s agreement to their depredations, meets the energy sector’s problem of trying to keep up with America’s insatiable demand for ever more of the earth’s limited resources. The resources they need are in the Middle East and Central Asia, and a ready-made Enemy in the form of so-called Muslim extremists stands in the way of their seizure and control. As occasional American facilities and interests began to be attacked by “terrorists” around the world, as Palestinian resistance to the occupying American client state expressed itself in direct action “terrorism,” and as “terrorist” links could be found or manufactured to older foes such as Saddam and Qaddafi, the think tanks in and out of the bureaucracy began to weave the threads of the next myth of Enemy out of both truth and fantasy. Osama Bin Laden’s mad attacks solidified the myth into reality.

But the marketing of the myth needs more work. 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. Many Americans 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.

What’s needed for the right wing is a new battle cry, carefully manipulated with Madison Avenue precision, to become the excuse to spend trillions of dollars on dangerous toys for the boys. The next stage, the demonization of Islam itself, is already well under way. Maggie Thatcher, the old girl of the old conservatism has been dragged out on to the stage for the last time to state the case directly, declaring Islam 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 “
Rudely reminiscent of previous campaigns launched in America to create the Enemy -- against Italian “anarchists” in the 20s, the “inhuman” Japanese of World War Two, the Red Menace and Yellow Peril from the 40s through the 1980s – the anti-Islamic “crusade” builds on the deep historical strains of anti-Other in American society. The Know-Nothings, the KKK, the America Firsters, McCarthyism, Organization Man, the homogeniety of American culture, moves to seal the borders, and growing protectionist sentiment all feed from a basic intolerance of difference in America. The fabled Melting Pot enforces an agreement to sameness that contrasts strongly with the multiculturalism that flourishes elsewhere.

By all the means at Madison Avenue’s disposal, intolerance is ratched up at certain periods in order to drive the public mind toward an acceptance that trillions of dollars that could otherwise be used by the people for health and education and good things should be diverted to feed the corporate giants who manufacture death. It helps that the current Enemy speak English (if at all) with heavy accents, that their costumes differ from ours, that their religious practices and system of ethics are essentially antithetical to much of the established American religion of capitalism-consumerism. Driving home the message that different is dangerous, the crowds, like those at the Colosseum in ancient Rome, are whipped into a frenzy of race hate until they are screaming “Kill! Kill! Kill!

And, of course, the Arabs don’t even have real countries. In the words of one fanatic, Arab states are merely “the fictions of cartographers, resulting in the current mess of patron states, oil colonies, phantom states.” It shouldn’t be an ethical problem therefore to wipe them off the map. Maggie Thatcher agrees. “[Having defeated 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.”

The first of these non-countries to go seems likely to be Iraq. Of course Saddam Hussein is a horrific tyrant, a butcher of his own people. But why does this make him a target? The horror of his rule was fully matched by Pinochet in Chile, Sukarno and Suharto in Indonesia, the series of military dictators – Carlos Arana, Romeo Lucas Garcia, Rios Montt – who raped Guatemala for decades. And each of these and many others of similar histories was an ally of the United States. Why then Iraq?

It is pointed out as an excuse for an attack that Saddam Hussein has used poison gas on local populations. Ignored is the fact that the US used more chemical weapons in Vietnam than Saddam Hussein could ever dream of acquiring, and that the world is without an anti-biological warfare treaty because the U.S. refuses to go along with the rules the rest of world agreed to. Why then Iraq?

It is claimed that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction and that this, in and off itself, is enough to justify invasion. And yet the Americans are perfectly comfortable with Israel secretly stockpiling nuclear bombs. Why then Iraq?

Finally, it is claimed that Iraq is a danger to its neighbours. And yet these same neighbours say that isn't so, with it's old foe Saudi Arabia going so far as to embrace Iraq in a public arena. Why then Iraq?

Iraq is Muslim. Iraq is the Other. Iraq has a leader -- evil as hell though he may be -- who is willing to face down the American imperialists. He is willing to openly support anti-American causes. He has oil and he has regional clout, both things the American corporations consider to be their own monopolies. For all these reasons. But most of all, the Pentagon needs an enemy to fight, and Saddam Hussein fits the bill perfectly.

The Corporatization of Open Space

Dawn's Sparklin Weblog helps keep me up-to-date on rural issues here in British Columbia. Today, she has a very useful piece analyzing the forestry policies of the Campbell regime, highlighting the corporate agendas that are clearly driving events.

I cannot profess to know too much about these issues directly, but this is clearly another case where the commons are being distributed to the elite. As the Forest Plan itself puts it in regard to one area of concern: "The Forest Service will no longer be responsible for funding the maintenance of Forest Service recreation sites and trails. All current Forest Service recreations sites and trails will be transferred to other agencies and organizations or closed by March 31, 2004." To which Dawn responds: "Ahh, the luxuries of a corporatist government, who can do such things as: "...divest [themselves] of the responsibilities for recreations sites and trails over [a] three year period" and get away with it. Who else can just decide to divest responsibilities?"

My wife and I spent a great time last summer driving around on Forest Service roads in the backcountry of the Kootenays. It would be a terrible shame if opportunities like that to share the country were further restricted by the imposition of private enclaves. And yet, of the 650 forest trails currently maintained by the Service, the Plan calls for them all to be dropped within two years. Private industry will now get to choose which of these trails they will maintain, and by that choice they will decide for the rest of us which areas are available for private recreation and which are reserved for commercial exploitation.

This may sound all too parochial for non-BCers, but what is happening here is symptomatic of the general takeover of space by the corporations all over the globe. Ever more areas of every country are being taken out of the common space and fenced off from general use. We ignore this at extreme peril.

Update: Dylan Schwilk's page [see Comments] is an excellent entree to the same issue in California. Thanks, Dylan.

The Pentagon's Rules

It is reported that the Pentagon -- apparently already exempt from provisions regarding telling the truth to taxpayers -- wants sweeping exemptions from environmental laws because they are interfering with the military's ability to train soldiers and develop weapons.

If the suggested exemptions pass, the Pentagon will be free to contaminate public drinking water with munitions, discharge air pollutants in bombings, and exceed noise limits as well as test weapons that could harm ocean species. And you won't ever be able to do anything about it.

When the health of the planet comes a bad second to weapons' development, you know we have reached desperate times.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

Sharon is calling up 20,000 reservists to prosecute the war for, he says, months to come. So, the policy of deliberate failure continues to dominate Israeli thinking. It is demanded of Arafat that he use his security aparatus to stop the bombing of Israelis by Palestinians. As a reminder, I guess, his security aparatus is continually attacked and disrupted by the IDF. In other words, the publicly stated aims of the Israelis are routinely frustrated by Israel's own actions.

This weekend's full-scale invasion of the West Bank continues the complementary policy of collective responsibility -- the punishment of an entire people for the actions of individuals -- so beloved of hall monitor bullies and Soviet commissars, and so opposed to the alleged 'western' precept of individual accountability.

But this is just intellectualizing. The simple and inescapable fact is that the Palestinians are an occupied people, suffering daily from a brutal oppression, "an immoral and unjust rule of another people" in the words of IDF Major Ofer Beit Halachmi. Their civil rights have been stripped from them as a fact of their birth and they have every right to resist and fight back with whatever weapons are available to them.

As the deadly oppression is made even more stringent, more and more desperate acts of extraordinary violence are squeezed from the people. Sharon's promise of security has already proved hollow and increasing Israeli violence will inevitably draw increasing Israeli blood. The Palestinian people are slowly being exterminated, they have nothing to lose. The apologists for Israeli brutality need to remember that.

A further 2 Israeli civilians have died as a result of Wednesday's bombing in Netanya. On Thursday night, 4 Israelis and a Palestinian militants were killed in an attack on the occupation settlement of Elon Moreh in the West Bank. On Friday morning, the occupation settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip was attacked, resulting in the deaths of 2 Israelis and a Palestinian militant. Later on Friday, a young Palestinian militant blew up a bomb in Jerusalem killing herself and 2 Israeli civilians. Today's IDF assault on Ramallah has so far caused the deaths of 2 IDF soldiers, 5 members of the Palestinian security services and 2 Palestinian civilians.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:30pm PST March 29th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,181. In the same period, 395 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 280 Palestinians and 146 Israelis have been killed.

Here Goes Nothing

My computer is extremely sick, infected from all angles by a virus that I simply cannot clean. Damn! So, it's going into the shop today to be scraped down to the iron and rebuilt again. I think I've saved everything I need to recover afterwards.

I have a long essay brewing that will be interesting to write longhand for a change. Fingers crossed and hopefully I'll be back soon.

Update: Twelve hours, a few bucks, and a few more grey hairs and we have both machines back up to speed!

Thursday, March 28, 2002

The Business Administration

Now that the media outlets with large staffs have had a chance to pore over the 5,000 pages of energy policy material reluctantly handed over by the Bush White House, it is becoming plainer than ever who is actually running this government -- big oil and energy corporations.

Even though most of the documents are heavily edited -- many of the internal documents were completely blanked out apart from the names of the senders and recipients, and subject headings -- it is clear that advice was sought almost exclusively from energy companies and their lobbyists. The White House may claim they consulted with a wide range of interests ...
"As we have said before, we received input and ideas from a variety of sources, whether it be an industry group or an environmental group, an individual citizen or a member of Congress," said Anne Womack, a White House spokeswoman"
... but evidence of serious involvement outside the energy sector is completely lacking. It is reasonable to assume the White House would have released documents showing such contacts if they did indeed happen; they didn't and they didn't.

Many of us believe that all governments are essentially run by the corporations. We see this in the despoilation of workplace and environmental protections and standards, we see it in the oil-and-gas-based imperialist foreign policy, we see it the corporate-subsidy-driven Federal budget. Rarely however do we get such clear and precise evidence.

Finally: As mentioned above, the first 5,000 pages have been heavily edited. That takes a lot of manpower. Three times as much manpower is presumably needed to edit the remaining 15,000 plus pages that they still haven't released. All of this manpower is paid for by the taxpayer. So, the taxpayer is paying for hundreds, probably thousands, of man-days work to keep information from the taxpayer. That's modern government for you!

Update: Given the reference forwarded from a correspondent (see Comments), I withdraw my suggestion that no advice was sought from environmental groups. However, no advice seems to have been taken from anyone other than the industry groups, so my main point stands.

Palestine Daily Log

In Israel yesterday, 18 Israeli civilians, 2 Swedish civilians, and the Palestinian bomber were killed in Netanya. I can only join the New York Times in hoping that "Wednesday's suicide bombing might just provide the jolt needed finally to call a halt to the bloodshed."

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PST March 28th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,171. In the same period, 383 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 270 Palestinians and 134 Israelis have been killed.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Another Attack On The Poor

The U.S. Supreme Court has launched another salvo against poor people in America and against personal liberty in general. In a case that pitted a public housing authority against people who have -- all agree -- committed no crimes, the Court has allowed the housing authority to evict the tenants because of what other poeple have done without their knowledge.

Under something called a "zero tolerance" provision, the Oakland Housing Authority attempted to evict a number of elderly tenants because relatives of theirs had, without their knowledge, connivance or consent, used or associated with drugs. "Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the court, found that federal law is unambiguous in giving housing agencies the discretion to evict tenants for the drug activities of relatives and guests 'whether or not the tenant knew, or should have known, about the activity'."

This Orwellian, or better, Soviet-style decision means that collective responsibility has now replaced individual accountability. So much for the land of the rugged individual.

Now, ask yourself about the Bush Family. In defending, and indeed applauding, the zero tolerance provisions enacted by Congress for tenants of public housing, Justice Rehnquist declared: "Regardless of knowledge, a tenant who `cannot control drug crime, or other criminal activities by a household member which threaten health or safety of residents, is a threat to other residents and the project.' Both the George W. Bushes and the Jeb Bushes live high on the hog in public housing. Both of them have family members who have broken the law, with Noelle Bush involved specifically in illegal drug activities. Both of them fit the Justice's description, therefore, of being "a threat to other residents."

If the Bush Family really believe in this zero tolerance business, shouldn't they both agree to be evicted?

Words From An IDF Veteran #2

"I cannot even begin to describe the detentions, the torturing, and the physical and psychological suffering that we had caused to human beings who are just like us, and which we are still causing. Nor am I speaking of my close friends, who were injured physically or mentally as a result of the deeds that they participated in and because of the things that they witnessed. Nor about others who have left Israel or have in a variety of ways stopped doing their military service/reserve duty.

For many years, I have carried with me the feeling that I was mistaken in my decision to fulfill my duty as a soldier and as an officer. The idea that the army commanders, the government ministers we acting reasonably, and that it was my responsibility to defend my country until the Arabs understand that they must turn toward the way of peace, blurred my sensibilities. The idea of acting in any way different from the public consensus frightened me. However the conflict between human morality and the obligation to fulfill commands and to show solidarity never ceased for even a moment.

The deterioration of the current situation is not a new development but rather it is the logical continuation of a long process. It is a process, the beginning of which is an immoral and unjust rule of another people. A military rule that we established yet under which we ourselves would never ever be willing to live."

-- Major Ofer Beit Halachmi, Medicine Corps, Israeli Defence Forces

Palestine Daily Log

During the past twentyfour hours, a Palestinian militant was killed in action near Kibutz Kissufim, and 2 others were killed in an explosion south of Jerusalem. Two international observers were killed west of Hebron.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PST March 27th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,170. In the same period, 365 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 269 Palestinians and 116 Israelis have been killed.

And The Winner Is ...

Following the wins by Denzel Washington and Halle Berry at the Oscars earlier this week, the always vibrant Interesting Monstah has a series of fascinating resource-filled posts concerning Hollywood and race. Definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Words From An IDF Veteran

"Two groups came to be in the areas under military rule—Jews, who enjoyed full civil rights, and in contrast, Palestinian Arabs (upon whose confiscated land the new residents settled), who were denied all civil rights, including the right to immigrate to the civil part of the state. At the schools of those with rights they continued to teach that discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, national or religious background is a horrible thing against which human beings must struggle. In that context many hours were devoted to studying the racism that was aimed at the Jews in Europe, yet no classes were devoted to discuss the condition of the non-citizens of the state, residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ...

"The obvious facts that [the Palestinian] uprising includes hideous assaults against innocent privileged people do not subtract from the legitimacy of their claim for freedom from non-elected rule.

"The people upon whom the responsibility for suppressing the uprising has been inflicted are the students of the confusing educational system of 'the Greater State of Israel.' That system on the one hand preached democracy and condemned discrimination based on racial origin, yet on the other hand drew maps that gave legitimacy to a non-democratic racist regime. Today, hundreds of diligent students who learned the essence of democracy in civics classes are demanding to implement its principles in reality, or at least not to demand that they defend in practice the existence of a non-democratic regime."

-- Tamir Sorek, Sergeant First Class, Intelligence, Israeli Defense Forces

An Enlightened Attitude

The always interesting Journal of Doubt has a long piece today on the disintegration of real freedom in modern capitalist-consumerist-democratic society.

Riffing off Votaire and Jefferson, and their probable reactions to modern society, he skewers "modern academic obscurism" and journalists "who are no longer independent voices," notes in passing that "corporations pollute with impunity; exploit workers in terms of compensation and safety; slash jobs in high wage areas to move them to low wage areas in order to increase profits; collude to fix the prices of commodities, finished goods and services; [and] pervert political systems through gratuitous corruption," and castigates the churches of today who "control language through ... selective interpretation ." Against all these we must rage and fight. He concludes:
"No longer should we sit in obedient silence or sell our souls to the highest bidder. No longer should we go along with the system if the system is corrupt and decadent. No longer should we mire ourselves in vacuous self-absorption and the unbridled, amoral pursuit of self-interest and ego. We must define ourselves by how we can best serve the people and not the power elites. No longer should we accept the present system as inevitable or unchangeable. Jefferson and Voltaire didn’t, and look how much they accomplished."
A very worthwhile read.

Small Annoyances

With all the death and destruction and starvation and exploitation in the world, it sometimes seems mean spirited and narrow to complain about one's own small problems. But I am royally pissed about my computer and connections, etc right now.

First there was the lost weekend when my ISP didn't manage to maintain service -- this was finally resolved sometime over night, four days after the outage began. When my wife phoned the support desk early yesterday, the folks there thought they were doing a fine job. They must be on a different planet!

I am used to posting a certain amount here each morning and evening and now, with a regular coterie of readers, I feel bad about having little or nothing for you folks to think about, hate, love, dismiss etc. I am also used to having my news sources fed to me down the pipe in the wall, fed to me in the order and quantity that I have spent a long time arranging. For four days, I have wandered around the TV and radio dials looking for depth that isn't there. Odd how quickly we fall into routines that are missed.

Then, last night, much of my computer was eaten up by a virus that got around what I thought was good protection. It'll take a few days to sort that out. So, I will try to post here as much as I can until normal service can be resumed with its usual vigor!

Palestine Daily Log

Ha'aretz has this fascinating report about conversations with Israeli Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer. The article reveals a number of nuances within Israeli politics that are not visible in daily news coverage. Given the vituperation and utter condemnation with which the right wing bloggers in the U.S. have greeted the Saudi peace initiative, I wonder how they will react to the Israeli Defense Minister stating that if it were up to him, he would accept the proposal and start negotiations.

Overnight, two Palestinian militants were killed near Jerusalem.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PST March 26th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,167. In the same period, 355 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 266 Palestinians and 116 Israelis have been killed

Monday, March 25, 2002

Lies, Damed Lies and Statistics

Senior warmonger Donald Rumsfeld is known to be keen on that old Churchillian axiom: "The truth is so precious it requires a bogyguard of lies." The battles between Taliban/al-Qaida forces and those led by the U.S. in eastern Afghanistan may well be proving that right. Via Magnus at The Stationmaster, comes this interesting analysis of news reports about the battle and its aftermath by Brendan O'Neill.

O'Neill looks at the press coverage of the battle as it progressed, at Pentagon news briefings, and interviews with Afghan fighters. From it, he pieces together a picture of confusion and propaganda. He is particularly sharp when it comes to the disparities over enemy casulaties. He concludes that
"[w]e may never know the whole truth about the battle of Shah-i-Kot - but there are enough contradictory claims and clashing reports to suggest that it wasn't the 'unqualified and absolute success' claimed by General Tommy Franks. Did the Americans plan the attack badly, leading to US casualties? Did they drop thousands of bombs on largely vacated enemy territory? Did they or didn't they kill hundreds of enemy forces? And have the al-Qaeda and Taliban members now escaped from Shah-i-Kot - as leading Afghan and US commanders claim - ready to fight again in another part of eastern or southern Afghanistan?
These questions tie in well with comments freely available in Europe, but sadly missing in the North American coverage: that there is no exit strategy for western forces (other than simple abandonment); that there is no realistic political strategy to keep Afghanistan united and secure (the U.S. backed the wrong side by assisting the Tajik Northern Alliance, many of whom hate the Pashtuns of the interim government); that this really will be Vietnam redux as the Taliban/al-Qaida regroup into a "conventional" guerilla opponent.

I am not so sure. Or, rather, I believe the European analysis is correct, but ... The Americans are in Afghanistan primarily as part of their oil security strategy, to control the pipelines that will be built for the transfer of Central Asian and Caspian Sea natural resources. An important subsidiary benefit is positioning for the containment of China (although the Central Asian Republics are the keys to that particular game plan.) Given this background and the importance U.S. oil companies attach now to this region, and given that the U.S. is unlikely to attack Iraq (a favourite Bush project) if bogged down in Kabul, I suspect the Americans will be willing, at least in the short-term, to lavish enough pain and destruction on Afghanistan until it falls into proper place.

But there will be body bags and bad politics all around, and part of the key for Bush will be how much of this political and human damage he can transfer to Blair's Marines.

Palestine Daily Log

Sunday was another bloody in Palestine with the death of 11 Palestinians and an Israeli. Six Palestinian militants were killed (2 by Jordanian troops and 4 by the IDF) in an action near the Jordanian border at Mashev Hamura. An Israeli woman civilian was killed in a shooting south of Hebron. One Palestinian militant was shot by the IDF near Ramallah, and another near the Karni crossing in Gaza. Three more Palestinians were killed in action agaiunst the IDF in the Katif bloc.

This morning, a Palestinian was killed in an explosion at the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (10:00am PST March 25th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,165. In the same period, 355 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 264 Palestinians and 116 Israelis have been killed. [As my service was down, I was unable to view my normal sources for Saturday. If I find there were more casulaties I will update this total.]

Bad Bad Service

Up until a couple of months ago, we had a very good Internet connection through the local cable company. It was a bit sluggish during peak periods, but nothing too bad. But then I was persuaded to give that all up and throw in our lot with a DSL connection from the phone company. Bad mistake.

This is the second weekend this month that we have had complete service shutdowns for more than 24 hours; this one has gone on since Friday night and is still not resolved. I have come into work early this morning just to be able to post this.

What made it worse this weekend was the dumbass message on Telus' technical support line. It gave no information other than to tell one that service wasn't working (now that was news!) and that more information would be available in two hours. But then, two hours later, there was the same message with just the time of the "next message" moved forward two hours. This went on all weekend. Just crap!

We'll be back on cable just as soon as it can be arranged!

Friday, March 22, 2002

Stroke For Stroke

Margaret Thatcher's latest outbursts show her to be at best a bigot and most likely a full-blown racist. Her extremism is nothing new. Embarrassed by her own lower-middle class petty bourgoise background, she worked hard over eleven excrutiating years to make the lives of ordinary working people as depressing and exploited as possible.



Before moving to Canada, I lived through some of her depredations, and my kids who still live in England suffer the consequences of her vicious actions (which Blair and New Labour gleefully adopted) to this day.

The media is reporting that the old gal has suffered a series of small strokes. I can dredge up little sympathy, for they will be as nothing to the strokes of the lash she curled around the peoples' backs.

Free Enterprise -- On The Taxpayer's Tab

Boeing continues to lay off tens of thousands of workers in their commercial airplane division. And each and every one of those workers moves directly onto the taxpayer's payroll, some for more than two years guaranteed.

The U.S. Trade Act of 1974 apparently gives workers losing their jobs because of trade competition the right to the taxpayer's tit.
"The "trade-adjustment assistance" includes weekly cash payments of up to $480 and up to $9,000 in tuition at state-funded learning institutions. Roughly 28,000 Boeing workers qualify for the program, including 18,000 in Washington. Those benefits are above what workers are already eligible for from Washington state, as well as up to 35 weeks of emergency benefits authorized by federal stimulus packages passed by Congress. The Machinists Union noted that laid-off workers involved in retraining programs are now eligible for up to 113 weeks of benefits.
It sure makes those union lackeys' jobs a whole lot easier when they don't have to go head to head with the company for severance pay.

So, next time you feel a tinge of sympathy for laid-off workers in an inefficient industry, look first at your paycheck and all its deductions that are going to pay them for the next year or so, and then at the company's dividends and executive compensation. Then get mad!

Economic Terrorism

The U.S. lumber industry, especially that in the Pacific Northwest, has sucked up State and Federal subsidies for decades and is still so inefficient that it cannot compete in the world market. Under the theories that dominate the WTO, NAFTA, and U.S. rhetoric abroad, the U.S. industry is obliged under these conditions to reform itself or go out of business. But, as proof that a powerful enough business lobby can always trump any free market theory, the American companies have persuaded the U.S. Government to impose huge and illegal duties and taxes on softwood imported from B.C.

This is a decades' long dispute that has been arbitrated and legislated innumerable times. On each and every occasion -- including in decisions by the heavily U.S.-weighted NAFTA trade panels -- the U.S. industry side has lost. On each and every occasion the U.S. Government has ignored the rulings. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Canadian industry -- via the Canadian taxpayer -- bribed the U.S. industry with multiple millions of dollars just to buy some peace. Still that wasn't enough. Even during this last set of negotiations, the wimpy Canadian negotiators offered yet more millions of dollars to buy off the legal hassles. But yet again, the U.S. lumber giants were insatiable in their unreasonable demands.

This is not small potatoes: There are 30,000 jobs at stake in B.C. alone! Thirty thousand families' livelihoods about to be destroyed to pay for the failures of American industry. The failure to abide by independent rulings over and over again amounts to nothing less than economic terrorism.

Once again, "free trade" is "free" in only one direction.

Palestine Daily Log

Overnight, a Palestinian militant was killed in an attack on a military checkpoint near Jenin.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:00am PST March 22nd), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,153. In the same period, 354 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 252 Palestinians and 115 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Who Needs Privacy?

The Bush Administration has decided to end the privacy of your medical records in order not to inconvenience the health care industry and its hangers on.

In 2000, Clinton issued strict rules that required the written consent of the patient before medical records could be used for any purpose. Bush and Tommy Gun Thompson, under strong pressure from the health industry's lobbyists, have decided to repeal the core of those rules, the requirement that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers obtain written consent from patients before using or disclosing medical information for treatment, the payment of claims, setting insurance premiums, measuring competence or any of a long list of other undefined "health care operations."

In place of the consent protections, Bush and the business lobby say they'll give you a copy of their disclosure policies. JanLori Goldman, director of the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University and coordinator of the Consumer Coalition for Health Privacy, an alliance of more than 100 groups favoring patients' rights, said: "It's absurd to suggest that a notice serves the same purpose as consent. Signing the consent makes it more likely that people will understand their rights."

The industry, of course, is ecstatic. "[T]his is great for the health care industry," said Elisabeth Belmont, corporate counsel for Maine Health, which operates seven hospitals, a nursing home and a home health agency in Maine.

Bush scores another home run for his home team. First came huge tax breaks and designed loopholes for the rich and for corporations, a major defence buildup, and compromised rules for arsenic levels in drinking water, environmental protection, work safety standards, and the contamination of school lunch meat with salmonella. Now, he is going to make your medical records become just another marketing and management tool for the corporations.

You are a number, an object, a consumer.

The Propaganda Model #2

Jim over at Objectionable Content has uncovered an interesting example of the results of the Propaganda Model.

Jim recalled hearing that Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez had written a piece extremely critical of Ariel Sharon and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Extensive web searching uncovered just a single copy of the essay, in Spanish, on an obscure Spanish website. He is rightly suspicious that an article by a Nobel Prize winner about an internationally relavent news story can simply disappear in this news-glutted and heavily archived age.

To paraphrase Chomsky, Marquez was granted the devil's gift: freedom to write the piece, but opportunity to publish denied.

Another victim of the Model is "The Panama Deception," an Academy-award winning documentary about the U.S. invasion of Panama. The film looks behind the motives for the invasion, and focuses on the deaths of, perhaps, thousands of Panamanians; deaths which were covered up by U.S. and Panamanian authorities. "Panama Deception" was refused broadcast by the PBS network and continues to languish in obscurity.

The internet and weblogs can go some way to reducing the effects of conglomerate control of media distribution. But in the big picture, ever fewer hands are controlling ever larger slices of the media pie. Only a thorough-going dismantling of these monstrous media leviathans can free up the news.

Oh, Canada!

Canada has a new leader of the Official Opposition. It is Stephen Harper who replaces the hapless Stockwell Day after 18 months of political chaos and a bitter leadership contest within the Alliance Party.

Day was a joke, but at least he was harmless. Now, they have replaced a right-wing religious incompetent with a rigidly ideological right-wing intellectual. It won't help them win any elections, but Canadian politics will probably take a whole turn towards the serious.

Spy vs. Spy (Part 2)

A couple of days ago I wrote about the problems the security forces are having in Northern Ireland keeping their secret documents safe -- from each other. The plot thickens.

The police ombudsman has booked out of the affair because everyone is pretty sure the robbery from the top-security Castlereagh Police Station in Belfast was carried out by a non-police British security agency.

Speculation is that the "shadowy" Force Research Unit (FRU) of the British Army doesn't want Sir John Stevens to complete his report on complicity between British security forces and murderous Loyalist militias during the Troubles. The FRU have previously been accused of burning down a police station being used by Stevens in an earlier inquiry, and the papers of the present Stevens inquiry are kept at Castlereagh.

Looks like the publicity this little scam is raising might blow the whole sorry history open. As Etta James sings: "What's done in the dark/ will come to the light."

Competition Is Good, Yes?

The growing strategic competition between Europe and the United States for global economic influence may have the unexpected side effect of increasing aid donations from the North to the South.

The Europeans recently agreed to increase their foreign aid budget to $7 billion a year after 2006 (after spending $20 billion between now and then.) In response, the US has been obliged to up its own ante to $5 billion a year after 2004 in an effort to keep up.

I was led to the Financial Times report by the always elegant and concise Insiders Guide to Davos.

Palestine Daily Log

In a suicide bombing in Jerusalem this morning, 3 Israeli civilians and a Palestinian militant were killed.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:00am PST March 21st), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,152. In the same period, 354 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 251 Palestinians and 115 Israelis have been killed.

In an important ruling, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled yesterday that innumerable actions by Israeli security forces in the occupied territories exceeded those required to deal with "war." This opens the way for hundreds of Palestinian families to sue the Israeli government for wrongful deaths, injuries and damage.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Onward Christian Soldiers!

There have been righteous and just complaints about Arabs cheering the death and destruction of September 11th. I wonder if you knew that there were Christian Americans who did the same thing.

"Vengeance is mine!" sayeth the lord to the wicked of Babylon. Don't watch this if you are easily sickened.

What Price Intelligence?

I have been wondering lately about the cost of Intelligence.

For example, the Americans claim to have destroyed the "infrastructure" of al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they are unable to show us anything other than a few scribbled notebooks from Kabul to indicate that an infrastructure requiring B52 bombers, thousands of casulaties and untold treasure was necessary.

More bizarrely, given the billions of dollars expended in this business, and with the overwhelmingly anti-Taliban atmosphere the U.S. says exists in Afghanistan, the best equipped and financed intelligence services in the world have not been able to locate Mullah Omar. He is a well-known Afghani, portly, with one eye, who rides a motorcycle. He has proven himself a complete dolt at politics, but he can apparently hide better than the CIA and NSA. In this, he shares a trait with Radovan Karadic, another fugitive who seems to have more intelligence than the pursuers. I hope they feel suitably embarrased.

On the domestic front, with every available FBI agent and all the other spooks looking, with civil liberties suspended for the duration, with more than a thousand people locked up without charges or lawyers, and with money no object, not a single al-Qaida cell has been located in the United States. I don't doubt they are there; the lookers just don't seem to be good enough to find them.

And still they want more and more of your money. They are the Enron of government services.

Intelligence did come up with one discovery, though. They found Mohammed Atta's passport which, apparently, was the only object, animate or inanimate, to escape vaporization in the gasoline fireball that was the plane's point of impact. Odd that.

A Comment on Comments

In case there is some confusion, comments are for readers, not for me. I read them all and appreciate most of them. However, they are not for extended dialog and I will not use them that way. If there are matters I want to discuss I will put them in a proper post.

Any comments that include lies or slander or racism will be deleted.

A Good Fellow Dies

Some people get famous for business or science or sports or rock music. Joseph Charles was famous for waving to people.

For thirty years, every morning between 7:45 and 9, Joe Charles, dressed in his trademark yellow gloves, stood on the corner of Grove and Oregon Streets in Berkeley and waved to every one who passed by. "Keep smiling!" Mr. Charles shouted endlessly. "Have a good day!"

Now, at the age of 91 he is dead. I am glad there was the New York Times to record his living and passing.

The Future of Palestine

I am sick and tired of racists telling me what it is and what it is not that I support. This is my position and I'll not bother to discuss it with racists any more.

1) There should be a State of Israel based on pre-1967 borders.

2) There should be an economically and politically viable and independent State of Palestine based on lands in the West Bank and Gaza.

3) There should be an international agreement backed up with monitors and nukes if necessary to guarantee the territorial and political independence of BOTH States.

Frankly I don't give a good goddam if either my Palestinian or Israeli friends like my position, but there it is.

Palestine Daily Log

Thanks to brave cameramen, and an even braver decision by Israeli Channel Two to breach the censorship of news in Israel, the public can now see what happens when the IDF invades civilian homes. On March 8th, in Bethlehem, an Israeli shell blew in the door of the Hawarjeh house, severely injuring Huda Hawarjeh, a mother of five young children. As the children watch, and as the cameras record, the Israeli soldiers allow the woman to bleed to death over the next hour.

One of the soldiers says into the camera: "I don't know what we're doing here ... It's dirty here."

The Army did not deny trying to censor the story. But, once it was broadcast, all they could say was that what happened was a "mistake."

Of course, it is not in US interests to have the public develop any sympathy for the Palestinians at this time and so, perhaps just as important as the story itself is the fact of its suppression in the United States. I have spent some time this morning looking for this story anywhere on the CNN site, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Time, Newsweek and a dozen more. Nothing. Not a single mention. A DayPop search of weblogs produces zero results.

Once again, the motto of America's "free" press seems to be: All The News That Fits The Model!

Overnight, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself, four Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians on a bus near Afula. Yasser Arafat condemned the attack in the strongest terms.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PST March 20th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,151. In the same period, 351 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 250 Palestinians and 112 Israelis have been killed

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Corporations Rule -- Again!

Just a few days ago, I noted that corporations have more rights than do people. Since then I have discovered that in some countries corporations have a very special privilege denied to you and me: if they are fined for an illegal practice connected to their usual business, that fine is tax-deductible!

This is certainly true in Canada and New Zealand. In the United States, fines are not deductible, but compensatory damages are.

Who says crime doesn't pay!

It's An Empire Either Way

Strategic Forecasting has issued a summary analysis of the events surrounding Cheney's current world tour. It is well balanced and draws conclusions with which I can agree. The report notes, for example that
The fear that is stalking the Middle East -- and Europe as well -- is that the American war against al Qaeda will institutionalize the American empire ... The threat from al Qaeda has generated an American appetite and interest in imperial control. The internal workings of Pakistani or Saudi or Indonesian ministries and intelligence services is now a matter of extreme national interest to the United States, and it is prepared to exert its power in order to get those entities to operate in a manner that coheres with American interests. Even more important, the United States is now deeply interested in what takes place within these societies and intends to intervene as necessary. More than during the Cold War, and now extending globally, the United States expects sovereign countries to allow it access and control over their internal affairs.
In other words, the world has to operate the way the Americans want it to operate, or else.

I disagree with Strategic Forecasting's reading of motive (they do not believe there is an inherent desire for empire in the American leadership, and that the new imperialism is merely a response to 9/11; I see 9/11 as a further excuse for a desired American expansionism) but this is an article well worth reading.

[Thanks to Faisal.Com for the lead]
UPDATE: Strategic link updated.

When Secret Police Go Postal!

In a move reminiscent of the worst Spy Vs Spy cartoons, and J.Edgar Hoover in a dress, it seems that one of Britain's internal security agencies (known as the Special Branch) is beating up its own people and stealing its own documents. The Belfast Telegraph asks some very pointed questions about the theft of informer files from one of the city's most secure locations.

I love it when the secret police go postal!

Bridging The Gap To Slavery

The Retail Worker reminds us that today should be a day of protest against The Gap clothing stores for its use of indentured slaves in the American Marianas Islands.

Global Exchange and Sweatshop Watch have a lot more detail on the campaign.

Palestine Daily Log

Dick Cheney struck his "honest broker" pose by meeting, hugging, kissing Ariel Sharon without pre-conditions, but refusing to meet with Yasser Arafat until there is a change in the situation. (Of course, any mediator role for the U.S. -- if anyone had ever thought such a thing could be fair -- went out the window with the publication of the Pentagon's nuclear hit list. That document stated clearly that the use of U.S. nukes was contemplated in the event of an Israeli-Arab war. Hands up anyone who thinks they would be used on the Arab side.)

One negative and provocative "change of situation" that has accelerated under Sharon's regime is the alienation of Palestinian land by the illegal occupation settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. Similarly, the IDF has told the Israel Supreme Court that they will now give Arab home-owners 48 hours' notice before their homes are demolished. The important point of this story is that the notice period does not apply to demolitions for "operational" reasons. Why are houses being demolished for non-operational reasons? Just for the terrorism value of it?

Overnight, an Israeli soldier and two Palestinian militants were killed in action near the occupation settlement of Mehula.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:00am PST March 19th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,150. In the same period, 344 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 249 Palestinians and 105 Israelis have been killed.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Slavery Is Still Big Business

The Kolkata Libertarian has an excellent extended piece on modern slavery.

It is complemented by this article from the Guardian which describes the human face of the tragedy.

Publicity!

I have received some unexpected publicity. What fun!

Mr Farber, who runs that particular site, makes note that I have apparently "just heard" about Barbara Rosenberg's anthrax theory. That's true, as my article stated quite clearly (and my ignorance was widely shared according to email and other comments I have received). Mr Farber, however, wants you to believe that he was way ahead of the pack on this. Unfortunately, a search of his archives shows that this theory has NEVER been mentioned on his site. Perhaps he was just kidding when he pretended to know about it.

More importantly, Mr Farber tries to diss me by noting that my "counter" shows less than 4,000 hits. Hmmmm, I would gather from this that he is a guy who rates women by the size of their breasts and men by the size of their wallets. I'll take that into account if I accidentally find myself at his site again.

Time For Honesty

With Dick Cheney on his way home from what can only be described as an unpleasant world tour (this is what a really good VP does, takes it on the chin for his boss), it is time to review who sits where on the question of an attack on Iraq this summer.

Canada, a supplier of ground troops active in other "anti-terror" fronts, has been careful to avoid commitment to the U.S. position in Iraq, while Europe is staunchly opposed to unilateral action by the United States. Germany, France and Belgium have all said that attacks would only be justified with United Nations approval. Germany's Schroeder went so far as to call it "a matter of principle."

Russia has been willing to go along with the Americans to such an extent that U.S. special forces sit today on Russia's southern borders without active complaint. However, Russia's position on Iraq has been to firmly oppose any further U.S. action. The same can be said for King Abdullah of Jordan, "a top ally in the terror war" (there are Jordanian troops in Afghanistan right now), who has warned Cheney that unilateral US action on Iraq will destabilise the region.

The government of Turkey has stated publicly that it does not consider Iraq to be a danger to its neighbours, and that attacks using its bases would therefore be unjustified. Saudia Arabia and the generally pro-American Gulf States made sure Cheney was aware of their equally negative positions. Emirati President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, for example, "made it known to the American vice president that the Emirates are opposed to any military strike against Iraq," the official WAM news agency said. Even the "ungrateful" Kuwait has refused to lend itself as a launching pad for this invasion.

Defence sources said that, without Turkish, Saudi or Kuwaiti cooperation, it would be difficult to launch a sustained attack by American and British forces.

On the ground, both sets of armed anti-Saddam opposition groups, Shi'ites and Kurds, have also come out against unilateral American action.

Tony Blair, lapdog extraordinaire, is noteworthy for his continued support for the U.S. Unfortunately for the stability of even that tiny coalition, more than 100 Government Members of Parliament have already signed a motion opposing non-U.N. authorized action in Iraq, and the Home Secretary has warned the Cabinet that serious racial tensions would be caused in Britain. The split in Britain went so far this weekend that a Cabinet Minister, Clare Short, declared herself unalterably opposed to "a blind military attack on Iraq." Perhaps of more practical import, the British Army -- dogged veterans of the first Gulf War - also has serious reservations this time.

Even Robert Baer who led the CIA's efforts on the ground during the abortive uprising in Iraq in 1995, says that Bush should stop and think. "If the US is to bomb Saddam and his army until there is no army, what comes after that?"

I mention all these opposing groups for form's sake alone. There is no doubt in my mind that the United States will go ahead regardless. A decision has been taken at the highest levels that control of Iraqi oil and -- probably more importantly -- a need to demonstrate regional hegemony in the lands of the Carter Doctrine is worth all the opprobium of the rest of the world.

With the vast majority of countries declaring against the operation, any real solidarity behind Dubya's strident claim that "If you are not with us, you are against us" has to be seriously challenged. However, I have no doubts that Wolfowitz, Cheney, Runsfeld and the others will try to equate opposition to US plans with support for Saddam Hussein. Nonsense, of course, but clearly to be expected. I understand all that and, in the world of the singular super-bully, it makes perfect sense.

All I want is for the U.S. to stop telling us that it is acting on our behalf (regardless of how loudly we shout the opposite) and to be honest about what it is doing.


Sources (et.al): American Prospect; ArabicNews.com; BBC; CNN; Dawn; Globe & Mail; Guardian 3/3; Guardian 3/16; Guardian 3/17; Guardian 3/18 (1); Guardian 3/18 (2); New York Times

Time Out

My wife and I shook off the winter cobwebs yesterday and, on the most gloriously crisp day, went out to Horseshoe Bay to smell the sea and eat fish and chips.



It was a great idea!

Sunday, March 17, 2002

Palestine Daily Log

Why won't the Israeli government accept the idea of international monitors to watch both sides?

While Zinni's pointless exercise in U.S. public relations continues, both Israelis and Palestinians continue to kill and injure one another. Overnight, 1 Israeli girl was killed in an attack on Kfar Sava in which the Palestinian militant was also killed. A Palestinian bomber was killed in action in the French hill district of Jerusalem.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (8:00am PST March 17th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,148. In the same period, 343 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 247 Palestinians and 104 Israelis have been killed.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

Corporations Rule!

The world with which we have to deal on a day to day basis is made up of people, corporations and things. Within the hegemony of capitalist-consumerist-democracy, rights are apportioned in the opposite order. Rights are given first to things, second to corporations and only finally -- and often with reluctance -- to people. A recent example shows how corporations trump people.

WalMart, the dominant retailer in North America, wants to open a huge store in south Vancouver, its first here. Local retailers have organised a lobby to fight the re-zoning application. In response, WalMart is pushing both NAFTA and WTO to establish rules that will prohibit local preference regulations. WalMart and similar U.S. companies enjoy the full support of the U.S. government and pro-business Congressional leaders in their calls for open-border trading.

Now, let's put a person in place of the corporation in the same scenario. Let us say that a Norwegian or Nigerian or Canadian person finds themselves in, say, Houston, Texas. That person then demands the exact same rights and privileges in all respects as a native-born Texan, calling on the United Nations or the Organization of African Unity to back them up. Do you think that George Bush or Strom Thurmond or any other U.S. politician would be applauding then? Of course not.

But corporations can and do demand that right. Clearly, then, they have more rights than than people. In this case, national borders -- and the restrictions they impose -- operate only for human beings, while for corporations they effectively disappear.

If we have to have rules and regulations, let us for pity's sake at least ensure that they are written in such a way as to ensure that people are granted more rights -- always -- than inanimate agencies and objects The guiding rule should always be: if a person can't do it, neither can a company.

Let's Make Personal Wealth Mean Something

Under the western capitalist-consumerist-democratic judicial system -- where a hundred thousand laws are needed to tell us what not to do -- a large number of offenders are subject to fines and similar financial penalties. The fines tend to be fixed amounts -- $50 for jaywalking, $50,000 for a toxic spill, for example.

I suggest that all fines and financial penalties be assessed as a percentage of net worth.

This would bring a number of advantages. First, fines would actually mean something and not just be a cost of doing business. If a speeding ticket cost you 1% of your net worth, you'd slow down. If an act of environmental damage were to cost you, say, 45% of everything you had, you'd probably think twice about it.

Second, I am sure that enough money could be raised by this scheme to reduce general taxation for the rest of us. Imagine a 0.1% fine for jaywalking. That would mean it could cost Bill Gates $50 million to cross the road! Multiply a more average example by the number of laws broken each year and you have a pretty good revenue stream.

Finally, as the rich are certainly no more virtuous than the poor, this scheme would act as a distributor of wealth.

Obviously, there will have to be minimums set so that the poorest were not enabled to offend with impunity (and this will continue therefore to entomb more poor than rich), but I think it a plan worth considering.

Palestine Daily Log

To the consternation of those who would like to support her, Israel's armed forces continued to kill women and children yesterday. In the Gaza Strip, a woman and four young children were killed by an Israeli land mine placed in a populated area near al-Bureij refugee camp. In addition, an Israeli militant was killed in Hebron.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (7:00am PST March 16th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,146. In the same period, 342 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 245 Palestinians and 103 Israelis have been killed.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Thanks!

Having recently been called an asshole and an anti-Semite, it is nice to look on the brighter side of things.

I am grateful, therefore, to Interesting Monstah, which described this site along with a few others as "outspoken and unabashed centrists/leftists/social libertarians/political Libertines." I appreciate that.

I also appreciate the kind words of Jim at Objectionable Content who recently wrote that "while we differ in our politics, [Jak's] writing reveals him to be an honest, critical, and concerned observer of the human condition."

Thanks!

Lessons In Capitalism, #1067

On Friday, Chuck Conaway announced the firing of 22,000 loyal KMart employees all without severance pay. Since he took over in May, 2000, Conaway has lost $4.6 billion for his investors.

Now, having led KMart into the largest retail bancruptcy in history, Conaway has been rewarded with a severance package of at least $9 million.

Can you imagine how much they would have had to pay him had he actually succeeded at something?

The Insidiousness of Propaganda

Lots of mainstream media and bloggers, many of a conservative bent, are running the story about Saudi girls being burned to death because religious police kept them inside for not having the "correct" clothing for outdoor wear. This is a terrible tragedy and deserves to be publicized.

But what about this story, where 46 workers, mostly women, were burned to death because the factory owner kept the doors locked. Death for the sake of profit. Where was the outrage then? The only difference between these stories is that the Saudi girls died because of Muslim fundamentalism, while the others died because of corporate greed.

The point is, when you publicize a story like the Saudi girls and don't publicize the other, it is because there is an agenda, however unconscious. The Saudi story fits perfectly into today's western agenda of anti-Islamic superiority and is therefore headline news. Seven months ago, this would have been on page 18. This is exactly how the insidious Propaganada Model works its evil ways.

This Land Is Your Land

Last evening I went to the fourth in a series of seminars at Simon Fraser University regarding the position of First Nations’ issues as we approach the Campbell regime’s Referendum this summer.

Recent legal rulings – such as the tax-exempt status of Treaty peoples, and most especially the Delgamuuk ruling -- have strengthened First Nations’ confidence in their ability to win back their rights through litigation. The treaty process, if compromised by Campbell’s ideological rigidity, could be bypassed.

Tonight’s topic was the Nisga’a Treaty. This Treaty, negotiated between the Nisga’a Nation, British Columbia, and Canada, which came into effect in May, 2000, is the only modern Treaty in B.C. Rather confusingly, it was negotiated outside the “B.C. Treaty Process.” Many people on several sides of all issues assume (rightly or wrongly is itself a hotly contested issue) that the Nisga’a Treaty will be a form of model for the treaties still under discussion.

The speakers this evening included the chief legal advisor to the Nisga’a Nation, and the senior negotiator for the Provincial government. They each gave interesting overviews of the negotiation process, and defended particular controversial clauses.

The more interesting part of the evening came with the third speaker, Chris Harvey, a patrician lawyer who represents corporations, private property owners, and discontented but absentee Nisga’a, in claims against the Treaty provisions. His primary concern is that there be no barriers to non-native access to land and resources. He insists that western capitalist-democratic notions of property rights (the foundations of colonialist economic domination) be enshrined in the foundational laws of Nisga’a and any other lands covered by treaties.

The problem with Harvey and his people is they simply do not accept the notion – thoroughly accepted by the courts today – that First Nations are nations in the sense that they can make their own laws. A First Nations’ view of “private property” and its so-called “rights” may be entirely different from the western capitalist notion, and the courts have held that such views need to have precedence in those territories within which First Nations’ control exists. Harvey and the corporations don’t like that one little bit.

In the meantime, the BC government continues to press on with its Referendum, a political program designed (1) to increase racial tension in the province in the hope that the natives will react and thus allow for repression, and (2) to try to undo politically the gains already made by aboriginal peoples in negotiations and litigation. It will fail because the results will be ignored by the First Nations, and because it tries to deal with matters that are not within the Province’s jurisdiction. It is a mean-spirited and deliberately confrontational tactic that will backfire.

Palestine Daily Log

As Israel pulls back some of its troops in what all observers agree is Zinni-motivated window-dressing, a Palestinian militant was killed at the Sufa checkpoint in northern Gaza. Another Palestinian militant was killed in action at the Elai Sinai occupation settlement.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PST March 15th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,140. In the same period, 342 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 239 Palestinians and 103 Israelis have been killed.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Wither Anthrax?

I have been wondering for a few days what had happened to the anthrax investigation. The sending of anthrax envelopes caused significantly more widespread inconvenience and panic than any other series of events last fall, and yet I have not seen or heard a news story on it for quite a while.

It seems I wasn’t alone in wondering. Once I started looking, I quickly happened upon the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial of 26th February. The editorial suggests a conspiracy theory in which the FBI knows who did it but is keeping quiet to protect details of the U.S. biological weapons program. (Hey, listen, this is the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s conspiracy theory, not mine!)

Actually, to be fair, the Plain Dealer is quoting “two East Coast papers.” But which ones? My eye immediately fastened on this little number published just the day before the Cleveland editorial on the World Socialist Web Site, and Justin Raimondo’s Antiwar.com column from a few days before that.

Now, it is true that neither the World Socialists nor Justin Raimondo seemed likely sources for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, so I was pleased to see that the Trenton Times was listed as a more likely originator.

According to all reports,
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Program for the Federation of American Scientists, an independent, non-governmental professional group, made the charge in a speech February 18 at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

“We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington, DC area,” Rosenberg said. “He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom.... There is also the likelihood the perpetrator made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid medium and weaponized it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.

She said the FBI had known since last October the identity of the person who mailed lethal quantities of anthrax in letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Patrick Leahy, and several media outlets. Sources she described as “government insiders” told her the individual in question had been interrogated several times, but not arrested.


This woman was serious. Just how serious you can judge for yourself at Barbara Hatch Rosenberg’s own site.

Eventually, I wound myself over to the FBI site where, I discovered, the investigation has the fancy name of Amerithrax . Unfortunately, there is nothing new on the site since the reward was upped to $2.5million on 23rd January.

So? What is happening? Is Ms. Rosenberg correct? Is this a cover-up? Or is it all silly rumours? And – why aren’t the networks covering this?

Elitist Greed

Doctors in British Columbia have been offered an average increase of $50,000 a year. That's not a salary, that's an increase in salary.

The doctors say this is an insult. They have decided to indulge in work stoppages to show just how insulted they are.

This is just one more example of elites somehow expecting to live outside the real world. The real world where the average wage in British Columbia last year was $34,000 - $16,000 a year less than the increase the doctors are calling "insulting."

It is the doctors who are insulting. They insult the people they claim to be caring for. They laugh in our faces all the way to the bank.

Palestine Daily Log

In continuing violence over the past twenty-four hours, 3 Israeli soldiers were killed when their tank was attacked near Netzarim, and 4 Palestinians were killed in gunbattles around Ramallah.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:30am PST March 14th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,138. In the same period, 342 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 237 Palestinians and 103 Israelis have been killed

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Sticks and Stones

I am getting pissed at the ignorant name-callers who, bereft of genuine argument, hurl the epithet 'anti-Semite' at me because of my root-and-branch opposition to the policies and actions of the Israeli government.

There are plenty of anti-Semites out there; evil people with evil minds. It is to cheapen the proper effect of the label to use it on someone like me who merely threatens your politics. I challenge any one at any time to find any writing of mine that targets Jews as Jews. Nothing will or can be found because the only people on this site who are concerned that most Israelis are Jews are those who are throwing names at me. It is they who like to divide people into identifiable and opposing groups based on racial, religious or ethnic characteristics: Jew, non-Jew, black, white, Catholic, protestant, etc. etc., etc.

I see only people, governments and corporations.

I see truly good and creative people, such as Jean Vanier, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nelson Mandela, and Mary Robinson.

I see evil people, such as Ratko Mladic, Ariel Sharon, the RUF in Sierra Leone, the Burmese Generals.

I see billions of men and women on every continent, exploited for the benefit of the few, doing the best they can in the circumstance in which they find themselves.

I don't see Jews and Muslims, blacks, browns, Buddhists, animists or Presbyterians. If you do, I'm sorry for you but don't impose your racist stereotypes on me.

Where's The Damn Support?

An article by Tunisian writer Hichem Karoui has a title -- "Why Israel is so frail when it is so powerful?" -- that suggests it is about Israel. And, indeed, it ends with an argument that Israel is eventually weakened by unremitting violence.

However, it is much more a critique of the Arab states' indifference to the plight of the Palestinians. They do not give enough money to have a significant impact on a nascent Palestinian economy -- "The Europeans, have perhaps given more funds to support the crumbling Palestinian economy than the rich Arab states - with few exceptions - have ever done." Nor are they willing to step up to the plate and face Israel themselves. Belligerent rhetoric from Syria, for example, yields nothing in the way of action.
"The point is that the Arab states are neither ready to oppose the Israeli government efficiently, nor to support the PA's daily struggle for freedom and justice adequately. Their absence is perhaps the sole permanent reality of the Middle East."
It is this supine inactivity by Arab leadership that allows America to trample all over the region, interfering at will.

It is this craven willingness by the elites to accept western consumerist luxury in place of regional solidarity that forces resistance to the extremes of Osama bin Laden.

It is Arab indifference as much as American cupidity and Israeli tanks that kill Palestinian children day after day.

Coming Attractions - In a Theatre This Summer

David Letterman's Arrogance

So Dave's going to stay with CBS. Whooptee-doo! A whole lot of trees were killed and a whole bunch of ink spilled just to soothe the egos of Letterman, Leslie Moonves, Eisner, Koppel and the rest.

I don't give a damn what the guy makes a year. Good for him, I say. Take them for all you can get.

But what does get my goat is reported by the LA Times:
"CBS made the unusual concession of agreeing to trim the local news on the stations it owns to start Mr. Letterman's show on time at 11:35 p.m. whenever a network program, like an awards show or a movie, runs five minutes or less past 11 p.m."
Local news be damned; let's just make sure Dave's show starts on time. That is arrogant.

An Old Terror Rears Its Head

While our attention has been diverted towards Kosovo and New York and Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, many have forgotten the terrible events that swept East Timor just three years ago.

After decades of brutal occupation during which hundreds of thousands of East Timorese were butchered, the U.S.- and Australian-supported Indonesian government was obliged to allow a U.N. sponsored independence referendum. Not liking this one bit, the Indonesian elites and large segments of the armed forces organised a campaign of ethnic cleansing that destroyed the territory's infrastructure and drove more than a third of the population out of the country.

Trials for some of the lower-level Army officers involved begin today in Jakarta. Not coincidentally, information has been leaked which shows direct evidence of two things: One, that senior Indonesian Ministers and Army Generals were directly implicated in the massacres and destruction. Two, that the Australian Government has known this since day one but withheld the information in order to protect their own interests in Indonesia. Indeed, they have publicly played down the role of senior leaders, blaming the war crimes on "rogue elements."

Now, as Dubya Dubya Three expands into Southeast Asia, the Australians and the Americans are once again making deals with the same murderous generals and officials. America Imperium, Inc. and callow camp followers such as John Howard, have no shame.

Palestine Daily Log

After yesterday's extraordinary death toll, the killing seems to have slowed a little. Overnight, another Palestinian was killed in Ramallah, along with an Italian journalist cut down by Israeli tank fire. In the incident previously reported near the Lebanese border, 2 Palestinian militants were killed.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (6:30am PST March 13th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,134. In the same period, 339 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 233 Palestinians and 100 Israelis have been killed

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Neither Secure Nor Free

It was Ben Franklin -- that awful dangerous radical -- who coined the wise aphorism: "Those who are willing to trade civil liberties for temporary security, deserve neither". It will be good to keep this in mind as you learn that the American government endorses torture and simply ignores all the judicial rules of its own "civilized society" when it chooses.
"Since Sept. 11, the U.S. government has secretly transported dozens of people suspected of links to terrorists to countries other than the United States, bypassing extradition procedures and legal formalities, according to Western diplomats and intelligence sources. The suspects have been taken to countries, including Egypt and Jordan, whose intelligence services have close ties to the CIA and where they can be subjected to interrogation tactics -- including torture and threats to families -- that are illegal in the United States, the sources said ... [A] U.S. diplomat said. "It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can't do on U.S. soil."

***

"U.S. forces seized five Algerians and a Yemeni in Bosnia on Jan. 19 and flew them to a detention camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after they were ordered released by the Bosnian Supreme Court for lack of evidence -- and despite an injunction from the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber that four of them be allowed to remain in the country pending further proceedings. The Human Rights Chamber, created under the U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war, was designed to protect human rights and due process"
Some will scoff at the importance of all this. After all, these are just terrorists, right? As one right wing commentator has already opined, "shit happens, ya know? When I look at the big picture, I'm willing to risk a few folks being treated badly."

Right now this is happening to those the government -- and, note, the government alone -- has decided are potential "terrorists." They all happen to be Muslims. What if a new government gets into power and decides -- all alone -- that, say, Jews, or Ohioans, or yellow Methodists are potential "terrorists." The present situation will give that government all the precedent it needs to remove the constitutional rights and administrative safeguards from that group. And the next group, and the one after that.

Ben Franklin was right and he deserves the repetition: "Those who are willing to trade civil liberties for temporary security, deserve neither".

Sources: Guardian; Washington Post

Gratitude

Some of the more outrageously Know-Nothing right-wingers of the weblogging community are salivating over the latest gushings of Victor Davis Hanson as if they had found a long-lost scripture.

They love it so because it feeds into their systemic anti-Otherness by accusing the Kuwait people in particular and all Muslims in general of not being suitably grateful for all the good things the U.S. claims to have done for them.

As part of this, he tries to portray the Gulf War as somehow having been fought for moral and ethical reasons. Hanson here uses the technique of silence, of not bothering to mention, in order to evade the fact that the U.S. interferes in other people's lives only whenever they -- the U.S.-- feel their own interests might be at stake (or might be improved). He knows as well as the rest of the thinking world that had there been no oil in Kuwait, there would have been no U.S. troops for a thousand miles no matter how brutally Iraq may have invaded, and no matter how much the princes may have whined in Washington.

And did the Americans at least return sovereignty to the people? No, they re-installed the same set of feudal tyrants that were there in the first place. The same set of anti-democratic tyrants that signed the deals with U.S. oil companies.

But that doesn't matter, apparently. The Kuwaiti people are supposed to be fawningly grateful to the Americans anyway

Again, Hanson complains that the "billions of dollars" going to Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian "moderates" are not gaining the U.S. the resperct and admiration he says they deserve. He ignores, once again, the simple fact that these "billions of dollars" would not be needed at all if the U.S. would simply tell its client colony Israel to stop murdering Muslims and give back the land it stole. Every Palestinian death is indirectly (at least) caused by American money and support.

But that doesn't matter, apparently. The Muslims are supposed to be fawningly grateful to the Americans anyway

And, as the Muslims are not suitably grateful, they should be destroyed. Which fits in nicely with Hanson's primary academic thesis, carefully drawn in his excellently-written "Carnage & Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power" which I finished just recently. Hanson's book proves in horrific detail that a regimented mechanistic brutality lies at the very heart of western capitalist-democracy; that whenever private property "rights" are violated, the western system treats this as justification for the utter annihilation of the 'enemy.' Mr Hanson claims this as a virtue, the vital strength of the west. It is nothing if not bloody.

Finally, let me make note that Hanson makes a valid point when he stresses the hypocrisy of most Muslim states over the Palestinian question. I agree entirely. But so what? All this proves is that both sides -- American and Arabs alike -- are involved in a battle of power. To suggest that "morality" or "gratitude" has anything to do with it is just pompous crap.

Palestine Daily Log

When troops arrive in a village and single out the young men, segregating them from their families, handcuffing them and lining them up against a wall, this all begins to sound so reminiscent of something else.

Sharon talks publicly of a "ceasefire" but, in another night of brutal killing, Sharon's murderous troops invaded Jabilya refugee camp killing 24 Palestinians. During the early stages of another invasion of Ramallah, 2 Palestinians have already been killed. 7 Israeli civilians were killed in a shooting attack near the border with Lebanon, and another Israeli was killed in an attack at the occupation settlement of Kiryat Sefer on the West Bank.

From the beginning of the renewed Intifada on 29th September, 2000, until now (5:00am PST March 12th), the total number of Palestinians killed is 1,131. In the same period, 339 Israelis were killed. This year so far, 230 Palestinians and 100 Israelis have been killed

Monday, March 11, 2002

Permanent Surveillance for a Temporary Emergency

As part of the right wing’s Big Brother dream scenario being played out as a result of the 11th September attacks, the U.S. Patriot Act included hundreds of millions of dollars for additional surveillance on Americans by American agencies.

“Defenders of personal freedom” in the Congress argued for and received a sunset clause in the bill, which calls for the review of some of the bill’s provisions in 2005. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), for example, called the expiration date "crucial in making sure that these new law enforcement powers are not abused." That’s all very well so far as it goes. Unfortunately, as a Wired article points out today, the 2005 sunset date in the Act applies only to limited clauses.

Even after 2005, the police will still be able to search your house or office without notifying you, internet surveillance will continue to be available to the forces of domestic control, and the police will still be able to pass on confidential grand jury testimony to the CIA. More, investigations already ongoing by December 2005 will continue to be covered, along with any investigation of crimes that were allegedly committed prior to that date.

The “land of the free” is soon to be the “land of the free to do whatever we can watch you doing.”

Inquiring Minds Need Not Apply

The Bush Administration just doesn’t want people to know what is going on. They have severely reduced press access to military affairs, they are going to court to defend withholding of White House documents, and they have taken administrative measures to ensure that compliance with Freedom of Information requests is as tardy as possible.

The United States’ Freedom of Information Act of 1966 operates on the premise that all government documents are available for public view unless they are specifically excluded. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft have done everything in their power to subvert that purpose. Indeed, John Ashcroft issued a memo in October advising civil servants that if, against the spirit of the FOIA, they “decide to withhold records . . . you can be assured that the department of justice will defend your decisions.”

The energy department, presumably taking Ashcroft at his word, withheld for many months court-ordered delivery of papers relating to the Administration’s energy policy. Last week, Presiding Judge Gladys Kessler lost patience, calling the department’s response “glacial,” and ordering the delivery of documents immediately. In her judgement, Judge Kessler noted that "[t]he government can offer no legal or practical excuse for its excessive delay."

On a related matter, the Supreme Court will shortly be asked, I am sure, to rule on Dick Cheney’s withholding of papers relating to the involvement of Enron and other energy companies in the Vice President’s Task Force on Energy.

Over at the Pentagon, news management has reached micro-management levels, far beyond those necessary for security purposes. As the Guardian complains, “[t]elevision cameras have been barred from ‘negative’ incidents, like the evacuation of friendly fire casualties, while film crews have been encouraged to concentrate on soft lifestyle features about US soldiers.”

More worrisome, perhaps, is the secrecy that continues to surround the detention of hundreds of “suspects” taken into custody since 11th September last year. No lawyers, no press coverage of hearings, no names, no charges. Silence.

And what is the purpose of all this secrecy? Why are Bush and Ashgcroft and the others obsessed with keeping Joe Public out of the loop. Certainly, there are two main reasons. First, domestic social control can be most easily accomplished when the subject population is left in the dark. Second, they have things they don’t want us to know about.

Rumours abound that Cheney’s task force material may show not only close involvement by Enron with government policy (from some perspectives this a good enough reason by itself to withhold documents), but may well show that oil policy influenced reaction to the Taliban and al-Qaida; oil policy that required a pipeline from Central Asia and may well have made the full-scale invasion of Afghanistan a priority over and above any terrorist involvement.

For Dubya, this is old hat. He managed to circumvent Texas public access laws by sending his Governorship Papers not to the Texas archives where they would have been available for open study but to his father’s Presidential Library where access is considerably more restricted. Why? If Bush’s term as Governor involved corporate control at the top, he might well be keen to hide the evidence.

Finally, in a move damaging to all our futures, he has restricted access to the papers of former Presidents, in a move many commentators have argued was designed specifically to protect the reputation of some of Dubya’s Cabinet Secretaries who served in the previous Bush Administration.

The same regulation will, quite deliberately, cause serious difficulties in trying to get to the bottom of the current Administration’s history even when it is over.

Sources: Guardian; Wired