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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Helping the Victims of Beslan

The terrorist attack on the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia left behind a wide path of destruction. About 350 people were killed, and hundreds if not thousands of families had suffered casualties. Many families now face years of caring for their injured loved ones; for many of them, rehabilitation, both physical and psychological, will be a long and uncertain road.

Many groups and organizations have since started various initiatives striving to help the victims. Some of them have been more effective than others. According to various news reports, the actual disbursement of funds have been slow in coming, especially from the funds provided by various Russian governmental bureaucracies. As is almost universally the case in such situations, many victims of this tragedy are not receiving the necessary aid exactly at the time they need it most. The general bureaucratic confusion and foot-dragging are most often the reason.

A group of teachers and parents who either were held hostage at School #1 themselves, or who had children held hostage, have set up this website in an attempt to inform the world of their plight and seek assistance for the victims of this tragedy. These are people who for the most part know those in need of help personally. A good friend of mine in St. Petersburg, Russia has a business partner whom he fully trusts on this matter in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, which is about 25 km from Beslan. That man had traveled there, spoke with the organizers of this initiative and believes they can be fully trusted. Given that somebody who has my absolute confidence is vouching for this group, I consider them the best conduit for delivering aid to the victims of Beslan.

Their website is part-Russian, part-English. The caption on top of the homepage reads,
We shall never forget what befell our children on 1 September. He who did this is forever condemned. He who is indifferent to this is inhumane. He who comes to our aid is forever our friend.
This appeal contains instructions on how funds can be sent to the victims. While I believe there will be no loss once the funds are received in Russia, the transfer methods suggested are rather expensive (for instance, it costs about USD15 to send USD100 via Western Union, a steep fee of 15%). I am currently looking for a way to minimize transfer expenses and will likely post if I succeed in that. Feel free to contact me with any and all questions about helping the victims of this terrible tragedy.

Friday, September 24, 2004 9/11 Archive

This is not a bad collection, although somewhat hastily put together. Contains this telling video of New York City firefighters describing what they saw as the World Trade Centers collapsed. We must applaud the bravery and composure of these men; we must also listen very carefully to what they have to say.

Greg Palast on the Media Freedoms in the US

Greg Palast has given an interview to Hustler magazine. Most of the interview is dedicated to the issues of press freedoms in the US,- or, rather, how the mainstream media outlets choose to exercise those freedoms.

It is rather curious that this sort of interview was published in Hustler and not, for instance, The New York Times. While I have little interest in pornography, I certainly need to acknowledge Hustler's achievements in presenting controversial opinions which still need to be voiced,- especially in the times when the journalistic mainstream shies away from such opinions.

Greg Palast speaks about potentially scandalous issues which most Americans likely never heard about. The interview is centered around Mr Palast's explosive book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
HUSTLER: What kind of material do you have in the book?
PALAST: How about this for an example: After Daddy Bush left the White House, he went to work for a company called Barrick Gold Corporation in Canada, something you haven't read in the United States. The first thing he does is pick up a big, fat check and stock options from Barrick Gold Corporation for, essentially, selling them the presidential seal and the presidential Rolodex. And he writes letters to dictators like [former president of Indonesia] Suharto, saying, "Give these nice guys gold-mining concessions."
HUSTLER: What is Barrick Gold?
PALAST: It was founded with money from Adnan Khashoggi, the arms dealer. You may remember that Adnan was the bagman in the guns-for-hostages, Iran-Contra scandal. The sheikh got out, then Bush got in. You have to ask yourself a question: What would a Canadian gold-mining company do with a used president? Well, it turns out that before he left office, Daddy Bush put in motion an expedited process for laying claims to gold in the United States. It allowed Barrick Gold Corporation and a couple of other operators to lay claim to the largest gold mines in America. To stake a claim on $10 billion worth of gold ore, Barrick paid the U.S. Treasury less than $10,000.
HUSTLER: I would have gone for that myself. I could have scraped together $10,000.
PALAST: All I can say is that Barrick was very, very grateful for the gold mine. But the public got the shaft, and Daddy Bush got the job. And George W. got the donations. That's the other thing that has been unreported here: People don't realize how much easy squeezy [campaign money] is flowing in. That includes things like parallel spending and soft money and hard money, which, by the way, hasn't ended. You know that our Congress has passed campaign-finance reform, so-called. What they did was eliminate soft money, but they doubled the amount of hard money. It's just Viagra for campaign donations. Our big problem is that we held something closer to an auction than an election in America. A lot of the reason [George W.] Bush raised all that cash-that easy squeezy-is because of his father's business connections. You're never quite sure where the Bush family's bank account ends, and the campaigns and our American policy begin.
While there is a natural connection between political and business activities, one would think that it is a media's natural responsibility to explore and report on such connections. And it Mr Palast's account is correct, then it would appear that the US media is not doing a terribly good job of such reporting. And, given that there are no official attempts to deny his account, it is likely correct.

Mr Palast also asserts that corporate interest stood in the way of preventing 9/11 before it happened, and investigating it afterwards.
HUSTLER: Your book also mentions Bush and intelligence failures prior to September 11, right?
PALAST: CIA and FBI agents told BBC Television, for which I was reporting, that they were ordered not to investigate Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks such as al Qaeda. The FBI agents "accidentally" left a file about the Bin Laden family on the desk of one of my researchers. They called up and said, "Oops, we left our file on your desk by accident. You haven't read it, have you? Well, we'll be back to pick it up in 30 minutes-unless you need 45." The FBI agents handed us material dated September 13, 2001, two days after the attack. It was on that date that the FBI was finally released to go after two members of the Bin Laden family, who they had already identified as being involved with a suspected terrorist organization. But by September 11, they were flown birds.
HUSTLER: What happened to other members of the Bin Laden family living in the U.S. after 9/11?
PALAST: Just after the no-fly restriction was lifted, a private Saudi Arabian jet airlifted the Bin Laden family members out of the country before the FBI could talk to them. Everyone thinks there's just one black sheep in that family, but the FBI agents were telling us at BBC that they think there's a couple of gray sheep, and they had some questions for the family members. There were a lot of people
dead under the rubble at that moment when those people left.
HUSTLER: What had American policy been regarding the Bin Laden family prior to the Bush Administration?
PALAST: Bill Clinton had already put a go-slow on investigations of Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks. Clinton had always taken the position that we can't annoy our dear friends, the Saudis, even if our dear friends happen to be funding terrorists like the al Qaeda network; however, he never actually stood in the way of investigating them, whereas George W., according to FBI and intelligence agents, said, "You can't go there. You may not look. You may not investigate the American Bin Ladens."
HUSTLER: So the FBI and CIA agents were pissed at George W.?
PALAST: They are furious. He blindsided our intelligence agencies. How could a trillion-dollar intelligence operation like the CIA not foresee the most deadly attack on America since Pearl Harbor? The answer is not because Bush knew about September 11 in advance. Rather, they were told not to look because of connections that are political, personal and financial between the Bushes and the Saudis. When these agencies were told not to look, there was a lot not to look at. There was a 1996 meeting between the al Qaeda financial arm, Saudi billionaires and key international arms dealers. There was a discussion about which Saudis would pay how much to al Qaeda. Now if I can find out about it, and the French intelligence had a mole in the meeting, you can bet that our trillion-dollar CIA could find out about it; so why wasn't there follow-up? Why wasn't there action? How about a note to the Saudis saying, "Do us a favor: Stop giving money to people who are killing us."
HUSTLER: What about the Bin Laden and Bush connections to the Carlyle Group?
PALAST: The Bin Ladens were investors in a very private and a very exclusive operation called Carlyle, which is an investment group. Carlyle is one of the biggest private corporations on the planet; so they report to no one, and they're responsible to no one, except their little coterie of owners, which is made up of an ex-president and dictators. Daddy Bush worked for, and still continues to be on a retainer for, the Carlyle Group, representing the company in Saudi Arabia and in Asia. His son, our President, was also put on the board of one of the companies owned by Carlyle, Caterair, and he was paid on the order of $50,000 for them to access his great business acumen. Caterair went under, but they never asked for their money back.
HUSTLER: What about George W.'s oil ventures?
PALAST: He had several oil ventures and could never find oil in Texas, which is almost impossible, as you know. On the other hand, he had a company, Spectrum Seven, which was bought out by another company, Harken Oil. Before that, he had Arbusto, which means shrub. He could never find oil, this guy. But he did find Saudi Arabians who put money into Harken and got him on the board where he was paid consulting fees. Then, despite the fact that the company seems to be going south, a miracle occurred. That is, the Bahraini government insisted on giving Harken Oil a contract to drill in the Persian Gulf. This is a dry-land Texas company suddenly being given an offshore oil lease by a country that had previously been doing business with Amoco. They picked this little, teeny company out of nowhere, which of course has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the guy was the son of the President of the United States.
While there is nothing wrong with being in the oil business, it appears that George W Bush has a strong conflict of interest when it comes to conducting policy in oil-rich regions. And Middle East happens to be just such a region. And it also happens to be where the most crucial world events happen today. The logical summation of these observations must be that due to a conflict of interest, George W Bush ought to be disqualified from formulating the US foreign policy, especially in the capacity of President.

Palast gives a powerful account of the state of journalism in the US today. We must note that the blame lies on all of us, not just the corporate powers, for in a situation where there is no direct state oppression it is still our choice whom to support and finance in the media.
HUSTLER: What has happened to the news media in this country?
PALAST: I vomit every time I see Tom Brokaw.
HUSTLER: And Dan Rather-
PALAST: I feel sick at heart when I see Rather, because he's actually a journalist. He came on my program, Newsnight [in England] and said, "I can't report the news. I'm not allowed to ask questions. We're gonna send our children and our husbands into the desert now, and I can't ask a question, because I will be lynched." This is what Rather said in London. He looked defeated and awful, and I was thinking, Why am I feeling sorry for this guy who is worth millions? He should turn to the camera and say, "Well, now for the truth. Over to you, Greg, in London." The problem is that he can't report the story of the intelligence agents who are told not to look at the Bin Laden family, not to look at Saudi funding of terror.
The journalists themselves are also to blame, says Palast. And I think he's got an excellent point there.
HUSTLER: What makes Rather afraid to do his job?
PALAST: It's not just that there are brutal shepherds like Rupert Murdoch out there to beat the dickens out of any reporter that asks the wrong questions; it's all about making news on the cheap. You know, for some of these editors, cheap and easy is a philosophy of life. To do a heavy-duty story on Bush, his oil and Bush and his gold-mining company is beyond them. A little bit of the Harken stock scandal came out, but that story was already seven years old. To some extent they know that there are certain things you cannot say. Rather says he would be necklaced for telling the truth.
HUSTLER: He said that? What did he mean?
PALAST: In South Africa, under apartheid, if someone didn't like you, they put a burning tire around your neck. That was called "necklacing." On my show, Rather said, "If I ask any questions, I'll be necklaced." And I'm thinking, Oh, that's a good image. It's sad, but if Dan Rather doesn't have the cojones to ask a question, then you name a reporter who's gonna step out and ask about what's going on. It's not that the corporate guys say, "Don't run that story," although that has happened to me many times in North American media, but also the shepherds pick the lambs who won't ask the questions. For example, there was a reporter, some poor producer, who wanted to run a story about how Jack Welch had lied about polluting the Hudson River. The story didn't run. Shockeroo. That was for Dateline NBC, owned by General Electric, of which Jack Welch was the chairman of the board. Or as in the case of Venezuela, I was stunned to come back from Caracas to find a picture on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle of 100,000 people marching against the president of Venezuela. Sounds like he's a terrible guy and people hate him. What they didn't say was that half a million people were marching for him. At least the Soviet Russians knew that the stuff in Pravda was coming out the wrong end of a toilet, whereas, we live under the pretense that the New York Times prints all the news that's fit to print.
HUSTLER: I won't read the New York Times. That publication has no credibility with me.
PALAST: The New York Times ran a story, front page, the first week of September 2001, talking about gold-mining companies in Nevada and how they seem to be getting let off the hook by the Bush Administration on environmental rules. They didn't mention two things in that front-page article: They didn't mention the owner of the big gold mine-Barrick-and they didn't mention who had been on their board-the President's daddy. I brought that up to an editor of the Times. They said, "How dare you? No one has ever accused the New York Times of cowardice," and [former Times writer] Seymour Hersch leaned over to me and said, "That's the guy who had me pushed out of the Times."
HUSTLER: They haven't really told the truth about Bush and the 2000 election, either.
PALAST: I've got brand-new, deeply evil stuff about that in the new book. What happened was that, five months before the election, Katherine Harris, acting under orders from Jeb Bush, knocked 57,000 voters off the rolls. They were suspected of being evildoers and felons and, therefore, not allowed to vote in Florida. Here's the news: Of the 57,000 people, 97% were innocent of crimes, but they were guilty of being black. Half of them were African-American or Hispanic-in other words, Democratic voters. Was the state guessing who the people of color were? In Florida, it's like South Africa; they list your race right on your registration. There was no guessing. These people not only lost their vote, but lost their president. BBC figures Gore lost 22,000 votes this way, but you didn't read that in the U.S. press. You didn't read in the U.S. press that they say they're going to allow the voters back on in 2003. That means that they were screwed for the election of 2002 as well. I ran the story of the theft of the election on the BBC. Then a hotshot with CBS News calls me and says, "Oh, that's a great story, can we have a piece of it? We want something new." I said, "Yeah, I got something for you: Jeb Bush's office, the governor of Florida, is involved in knocking off the voters too, not just Katherine Harris, and there's a letter dated September 18, 2000, which directs county-elections officials to deliberately violate the law and not register a bunch of people who are Democrats. These are people who committed crimes in other states. Jeb can't legally stop them from voting, but he did anyway. And he knows that these people are Democrats, because there's something about going to jail that turns people [into] Democrats, about 93% [of ex-cons vote Democrat]."
HUSTLER: So, people who were either black or who had previously gone to jail were just automatically eliminated?
PALAST: Right. Jeb sent out the letter anyway, September 18, 2000, despite two court orders saying he couldn't do that. I had an insider in his office, some poor woman, shaking, saying, "I gotta read you this letter." She knew about the court orders. Okay, so I said to CBS, "That's a story." CBS News didn't run the story-one night, two nights. I said, "What happened?" They said, "It didn't stand up." I said, "How do you know the story didn't stand up?" "Well, we called Jeb Bush's office, and they said, 'We didn't do it.'" Oh. Hotshot Dan Rather investigative news team. They said, "The letter doesn't exist. It's not in the computer files; it's in no one's files, not in the governor's files. It's nowhere to be found." Then Katherine Harris writes a hysterical, screeching letter to Harper's magazine, calling me twisted and maniacal, but she didn't say I was wrong. She said, "Yeah, we knocked off these people, but it's not my fault; I got a letter from the governor." I called up her office-I didn't say, "This is Mr. Twisted and Maniacal"-I said, "Um, excuse me, I got a letter from your Secretary of State saying that she had a letter from the governor, before the election, regarding removing people from the voter rolls. Could you fax that to me?" Suddenly, the letter that CBS says doesn't exist is faxed to me. I've got it in my hot little hands, the letter that was in Katherine Harris's desk; so CBS just took an official denial, because they're not gonna say, "The President's brother, the governor of the state of Florida, fixed the election"-that we had a coup d'├ętat by computer.
So, in essence it took Mr Palast one phone call to find a confirmation for a story that CBS News was unable to obtain. That may, of course, have been a case of laziness on the part of the CBS News, however, I find it quite reasonable to ask whether that was laziness or lack of willingness to learn the truth.

Greg Palast is certainly a very energetic and dedicated journalist. I think he is setting an example that the media in the US critically needs to follow. For now, however, alternative media appears to be where those interested in the truth as it is ought to go to.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Voting Disenfranchisement Appears to be as American as Apple Pie

In his Reuters article Alan Esner writes about the ways US citizens have been deprived of their fundamental right,- the right to participate in elections. He expects the process to continue apace in the upcoming November 2 Presidential Election.

The way the game is played is surprisingly beneficial to the Republicans on the ballot.

The largest category of those legally disenfranchised consists of almost 5 million former felons who have served prison sentences and been deprived of the right to vote under laws that have roots in the post-Civil War 19th century and were aimed at preventing black Americans from voting.

But millions of other votes in the 2000 presidential election were lost due to clerical and administrative errors while civil rights organizations have cataloged numerous tactics aimed at suppressing black voter turnout. Polls consistently find that black Americans overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

"There are individuals and officials who are actively trying to stop people from voting who they think will vote against their party and that nearly always means stopping black people from voting Democratic," said Mary Frances Berry, head of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights.

This article is an interesting overview of the process, though it is not complete. It does not cover massive electronic fraud that will likely take place in the next election. The preparations for defrauding the nation appear to be underway and going full steam, yet the attendant outrage one would expect from that is almost nowhere to be found in the American society.

Alan Elsner reports some curious tactics used by those seeking to disenfranchise Black voters.

"In elections in Baltimore in 2002 and in Georgia last year, black voters were sent fliers saying anyone who hadn't paid utility bills or had outstanding parking tickets or were behind on their rent would be arrested at polling stations. It happens in every election cycle," she said.

In a mayoral election in Philadelphia last year, people pretending to be plainclothes police officers stood outside some polling stations asking people to identify themselves. There have also been reports of mysterious people videotaping people waiting in line to vote in black neighborhoods.

While videotaping in public places is not illegal, all other tactics listed above are. I would certainly like to know whether or not law enforcement authorities have investigated those allegations, and what those investigations have yielded.

“We don't have a strategy. We can't even decide what the problem is.”

This is what Daniel Goure, an adviser to the Department of Homeland Security, is quoted as saying. This may sound like an out-of-context remark of a man who feels frustrated as he is coming out of an unproductive meeting,- but to anyone who has read this article by Mick Youther it will likely sound like anything but.

As Mr Youther correctly observes,
Whenever pollsters ask, “Who is better on terrorism”, George W. Bush always gets high marks. Why? I don’t know, because the facts say something quite different.
This reflects precisely the impression I have had for a long time,- namely, that in all of this Administration's activities related to combating terrorism there is little to suggest that an outstanding job has been done. For some reason, however, the Bush detractors often fail to point this fact out, opting to give Bush credit for combating terrorism and criticize him for his performance in other areas. But there is reason to believe that even credit given him for his counter-terrorism efforts may be largely undeserved.

Mr Youther provides an excellent list of facts to believe that. Here are some.
• “Bush had been saying that he was proposing $3.5 billion in ‘new’ money for first responders. However, his budget tried to cut more than $1 billion out of existing grants to local police/fire departments to fund this. Then, in August of 2002, Bush rejected $150 million for grants to state and local first responders.” (There are fewer police and first responders on the streets today than on 9/11.-- The Progress Report, 9/9/04)

• “‘We're working hard to make sure your job is easier, that the port is safer.’--Bush, 6/24/02…The President’s 2003 and 2004 budget provides zero for port security grants. …Additionally, in August, the President vetoed all $39 million for the Container Security Initiative which he specifically touted.”

• “While Bush did hold a photo-op to sign legislation promising more INS/Border Patrol staff and facilities, his budget provided no additional money for this. Additionally, in August, Bush vetoed $6.25M for promised pay upgrades for Border Patrol agents…. His 2004 Budget slashes total total “Border and Transportation Security” by $284 million.”
It is about time for me to call it a night. As Mick Youther puts it,
So, sleep soundly tonight. George W. Bush will protect you (unless he’s on vacation).

The Republican War Against Vietnam Veterans

This is an excellent article by Stewart Nusbaumer, a disabled US Marines veteran of Vietnam who had suffered grave injuries in the war. He is giving his views on the recent smear campaigns unleashed by the Republican Party against his fellow veterans John McCain, Max Cleland and John Kerry.
First they assaulted a U.S. Navy pilot shot down over North Vietnam who was imprisoned and tortured for five long years. Shadowy Republican groups whispered he was mentally unfit to be President of the United States because he had been a POW in Vietnam. The rumor spread and spread. They said he had a Black baby and he was morally unfit to hold political office. The propaganda was sneaky and relentless, eventually undermining John McCain’s credibility and his bid to be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. The winner was George W. Bush.

Then they went after a man who lost three limbs--two legs and one arm--on the bloody battlefield of South Vietnam. First in Georgia and then nationally--highlighted by Ann Coulter, a volcano of hate toward veterans--the machine proclaimed that Max Cleland made no sacrifices for America and should not be respected. The man lost three limbs in Vietnam! And Cleland lost his Senate seat to a tough Republican patriot who somehow missed the fighting in Vietnam. Those Republicans sure know how to fight a war.

Among veterans, the smearing and defeat of Max Cleland is referred to as the “Shame of George.” As for John McCain, the dirty tricks that brought him down still burn strong inside his soul. They burn on top of the torture scars from Vietnam.

In both campaigns, Republicans sought not to educate the public but to create doubt in voters, not to discuss the issues, but to undermine the character and reputation of two honorable men. Republicans twisted John McCain's and then Max Cleland's heroic service in Vietnam into a political liability here in America and rendered both men ineffective politically. Two combat veterans defeated by men who supported the Vietnam War--George Bush and Saxby Chambliss--yet hid behind deferments so they would not have to fight in the war. Two honorable American veterans defeated by a ruthless, effective Republican propaganda machine of political dirt.
Mr Nusbaumer adds a powerful perspective of a veteran. I must say, although I am familiar with the workings of a propaganda machine, and aware of how effective such a machine can be, it is difficult for me to understand how anyone can feel any different in this situation.
When anger reaches a certain level, one has two options: rage or repression. I’m teetering on a violent explosion, or possibly catatonic silence. I’m not sure, but I know that some injustices are too unjust to deal with rationally.

You see, I’m a disabled Vietnam veteran. One leg was amputated and the other has nerve damage, my spleen and a testicle were removed, and I have lots of shrapnel scars. But I’m just another Marine who made it home, minus a few parts. The war is over for me, a long time ago. Yet some Americans want to bring this war back, and to bring it back to hurt us who fought that war. It is not the longhaired hippies of yesterday or the war protestors that marched in our streets against that divisive war or the "liberal" media that are attacking us, but supposedly patriotic Americans.

And these so-called patriotic Americans say they represent the heartland of America. But do they? I don’t think so.

By trashing these three combat veterans, two Democrats and one Republican, they have trashed all combat veterans of the Vietnam War. Is this what Americans want? These men and women have insulted the 58,000 Americans who died in that horrible war and also the parents, most of whom are now in their graves, who lost a son in Vietnam.

This ugly Republican attack machine does not speak for the heartland of America; it is attacking the heart of America. Their war against Vietnam veterans is a war against America. They see what they believe is a soft spot in America, veterans of the Vietnam war, and they are attacking.
This says it all, in my humble opinion.

That Was One Considerate Unnamed FAA Employee!

On September 11, 2001 a group of FAA employees who were directly involved in handling the hijacked aircraft, or at the very least witnessed the actions of those directly involved with those aircraft, gathered to discuss what they had just been through. That meeting was recorded on an audiotape.

One does not have to be a top-notch detective to realize that such a recording could easily be an invaluable piece of evidence in any subsequent investigation. And anyone whose IQ exceeds that of an absolute imbecile would likely realize that the murder of many hundreds of people would not go uninvestigated.

Yet an FAA employee,- whose identity has to this day not been made public,- destroyed this tape,- allegedly, in a very meticulous and thorough manner, making absolutely sure it would never be heard. I have heard about this occurrence before,- and now I have come across this report in Aviation Magazine. This is a professional publication, so it is more likely to be exact on aviation-specific details than a general-purpose news source. Here is how this report relays the story:
...Each of at least six air traffic controllers and some ten other employees who were on the job at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., during the World Trade Center attacks gathered several hours after to recall their version of events. But that tape, which could have helped determine how the agency responded to clues that four planes had been hijacked, was destroyed before it was ever heard. In fact, officials at the ARTCC were never even told of the tape's existence. According to the report given to the 9/11 Commission by Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead, the audiotape was crushed in the hand of the unnamed FAA employee, then cut into small pieces and tossed into different trash cans around the ARTCC building. Despite the fact that the quality assurance officer had been told to retain all records pertaining to 9/11, he told inspector general investigators he destroyed the tape because he felt making it was contrary to FAA policy, which calls for written statements. He is also quoted to have said the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day, and told investigators that faced with a similar situation, he would repeat his actions.
Well, for one thing, let us hope that the above-mentioned anonymous man and the rest of us are never again faced with a situation akin to 9/11. Let us also note the fact that the above-mentioned individual was explicitly told,- by his superiors, I would assume,- to keep all records,- which would include that tape,- but chose to disobey their instructions. His concern for his colleagues' current state of mind is certainly touching, however, that would in no way diminish the reality of the situation,- namely, that he had in all likelihood compromised the 9/11 investigation. I ain't no legal expert,- but don't them smart folks call this sort of thing "obstruction of justice"?

The federal officials appear to have taken a rather light view of what had transpired in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. on that fateful day.
Inspector General Mead told the 9/11 commission the employee showed "poor judgment," and in calling for administrative action, said the employee's attitude about the destruction was "especially troubling." The FAA confirms disciplinary action has been taken against the employee, but will not say what that action was, or identify the employee. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) says the matter could be investigated further.
This appears to be one of those matters on which I am fully with Senator McCain. I would word it stronger,- I'd say this matter MUST be investigated. The public has every right to know this man's name. And if his actions constitute a criminal offense,- which I am more than sure they do,- he must be properly charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Also to be noted is the 9/11 Commission's timidity in approaching the matter. It appears the Commission has never subpoenaed the "unnamed employee", nor do they even know his identity. Does that sound like an aggressive investigation? I guess I am forgetting that the Commission's objective was not to assign blame...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Rape in the Ranks

In his excellent article on the subject Col David Hackworth writes about issues that most in the military hierarchy would apparently rather not deal with.
By April 2004, rapes and assaults of American female soldiers were epidemic in the Middle East. But even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq, the 24-hour rape hotline in Kuwait was still being answered by a machine advising callers to leave a phone number where they could be reached.

“Nobody had a telephone number, for crying out loud,” says Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, then commanding general of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who was in Kuwait preparing to bring her unit home after running the military prisons in Iraq.

Military stupidity at its finest, or senior male brass who chose to shrug and look the other way?

Karpinski believes the latter. “Reports of assault ... were mostly not investigated because commanders had other priorities,” Karpinski says. “The attitude of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,” then the ground commander in Iraq, “permeated the entire chain of command: The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory.”

Monday, September 20, 2004

Jimmy Swaggart vs Osama Bin Laden

According to this report in John Aravosis' blog, Jimmy Swaggart has essentially called for killing of homosexuals. I watched the video, and this particular sentence is somewhat garbled there. Mr Swaggart talks about the gay marriage, stating that he "never met a man he'd want to marry". Then he says something to the effect that "If one wants to marry me, I'll kill him and tell God he died on his own". Attention: this is not verbatim, you are welcome to watch the tape on your own, I don't feel like it anymore, plus I couldn't quite hear that sentence anyhow.

We are told that Bin Laden hates us because he hates our freedoms. That statement is not, in my opinion, the ultimate truth,- but be that as it may, how is Mr Swaggart different?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Collection: Religious and Ethnic Issues

Jimmy Swaggart vs Osama Bin Laden
According to this report in John Aravosis' blog, Jimmy Swaggart...
posted by dikayasobaka @ 9/20/2004 01:17:15 PM

Jimmy Carter on Religious Right
Here is an interview Jimmy Carter gave to Prospect writing fellow Ayelish McGarvey...
posted by dikayasobaka @ 9/19/2004 01:44:06 AM

Uri Avnery on The Two Recent Public Letters in Israel
This is Uri Avnery's analysis of the two manifestos recently published in Israel...
posted by dikayasobaka @ 9/16/2004 01:28:47 AM

A Rabbis' Letter
According to numerous on-line reports, a group of prominent Rabbis in Israel has recently written a letter to Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz...
posted by dikayasobaka @ 9/9/2004 01:58:08 PM

The Jewish problem, according to Theodorakis
This is the text of the Haaretz interview with a world-renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.
posted by dikayasobaka @ 8/31/2004 04:34:10 PM

Benny Morris, An Honest Zionist Historian
The following is an interview with Benny Morris conducted by Ari Shavit (originally published in Haaretz)...
posted by dikayasobaka @ 8/30/2004 04:39:18 AM

Clear Link

Courtesy Retro vs Metro

Jimmy Carter on Religious Right

Here is an interview Jimmy Carter gave to Prospect writing fellow Ayelish McGarvey. I believe Mr Carter to be a rather ineffective politician, but a true Christian. Here's what Mr Carter has to say on the nature of the right-wing Christian movement and its influence on the Republican party:

When I was younger, almost all Baptists were strongly committed on a theological basis to the separation of church and state. It was only 25 years ago when there began to be a melding of the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christianity, particularly with the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a fairly new development, and I think it was brought about by the abandonment of some of the basic principles of Christianity.

First of all, we worship the prince of peace, not war. And those of us who have advocated for the resolution of international conflict in a peaceful fashion are looked upon as being unpatriotic, branded that way by right-wing religious groups, the Bush administration, and other Republicans.

Secondly, Christ was committed to compassion for the most destitute, poor, needy, and forgotten people in our society. Today there is a stark difference [between conservative ideology and Christian teaching] because most of the people most strongly committed to the Republican philosophy have adopted the proposition that help for the rich is the best way to help even poor people (by letting some of the financial benefits drip down to those most deeply in need). I would say there has been a schism drawn -- on theology and practical politics and economics between the two groups.

Here is another very telling question-answer pair.

How do you think the fundamentalist Christian right has misrepresented Christianity, as well as the democratic process?

Well, what do Christians stand for, based exclusively on the words and actions of Jesus Christ? We worship him as a prince of peace. And I think almost all Christians would conclude that whenever there is an inevitable altercation -- say, between a husband and a wife, or a father and a child, or within a given community, or between two nations (including our own) -- we should make every effort to resolve those differences which arise in life through peaceful means. Therein, we should not resort to war as a way to exalt the president as the commander in chief. A commitment to peace is certainly a Christian principle that even ultraconservatives would endorse, at least by worshipping the prince of peace.

And Christ reached out almost exclusively to the poor, suffering, abandoned, deprived -- the scorned, the condemned people -- including Samaritans and those who were diseased. The alleviation of suffering was a philosophy that was enhanced and emphasized by the life of Christ. Today the ultra-right wing, in both religion and politics, has abandoned that principle of Jesus Christ’s ministry.

Those are the two principal things in the practical sense that starkly separate the ultra-right Christian community from the rest of the Christian world: Do we endorse and support peace and support the alleviation of suffering among the poor and the outcast?

Allegations of Voter Intimidation in Florida

The Justice Department is investigating alleged intimidation of elderly voters in Florida.
There have been growing calls for a federal investigation of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's response to allegations of voter fraud in Orlando's mayoral election. Democrat Buddy Dyer's (search) narrow victory sparked accusations that a black activist may have improperly filled out absentee ballots. FDLE agents interviewed dozens of voters who cast absentee ballots.

Civil rights groups and Democrats contended the agents' presence and behavior, including allegedly displaying their guns, intimidated the minority voters they visited.

If in fact that black activist improperly filled out absentee ballots, effectively manufacturing votes, that is an ignoble practice that needs to be brought to a stop. The same goes for deliberate intimidation on the part of law enforcement agents if such intimidation did in fact take place.

WRH: 911 Archive

A nice collection of 9/11 related links, courtesy

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