Archive for April, 2008

Another PR Problem

The IDF says it did not know that it was firing at a TV crew when it killed Reuters journalist Fadel Shana on 4/16/08.

His car had clear press markings, and his clothes had clear press markings.

Israeli troops were unable to identify Reuters News cameraman Fadel Shana as a journalist before they fired at him from a tank, the Israeli army said on Wednesday, citing the preliminary results of an investigation.Shana died while filming on a road in central Gaza on April 16. Five other Palestinians also died in the attack.

Shana had been traveling in a vehicle that was marked with large press and TV stickers on the front and sides and was wearing blue body amour with “Press” in large blue letters on a white fluorescent panel on the front.

Responding to repeated requests for an official explanation of the incident, Israeli military spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovich said the army had not yet completed its investigation but would provide a full account as soon as possible.

“The initial investigation showed they were not identified as members of the press,” she said.

I’m no military expert, but I find it impossible to believe that the IDF doesn’t have the latest, greatest laser sight technology on all their tanks and weapons. So either one of two things happened:

1. They didn’t use the sights and fired indiscriminately at a bunch of Palestinian men, not knowing or caring who they were or what they were doing.

2. They used the sights, saw that Shaha was a journalist, and killed him anyway.

So which one is it? Do they just fire indiscriminately at Palestinians, or do they specifically target journalists? Because I don’t see how they can justify shelling these people unless they had some information on who they were. And the fact is, they were unarmed journalists and civilians posing no threat whatsoever to the tank parked a half mile away. So did they know that and not care, or did they not bother to find out before firing?

You know, a moral person would not fire a tank shell at a group of unidentified people. It’s really as simple as that. Every moral person can see this, and no amount of public relations spin can make this truth go away.

By the way, American Citizens, do you like knowing that we paid for the IDF to have the very best military technology so that they can use it to kill innocent people? Isn’t it enough of a scourge on humanity that our own enormous military has killed innocent civilians in our names, that we must augment our shame by enabling the Israeli army’s atrocities?

Living with Uncertainty

The entire argument for attacking Iran rests on a hypothetical future scenario, also known as fear-mongering: If we allow Iran to develop nuclear power technology, they might start up a secret nuclear weapons program, and then they might use a nuclear weapon to attack Israel. Therefore, we must attack Iran and stop all these things from ever possibly happening. (Notice that Iran might attack Israel in this hypothetical scenario, not the United States.)

I’m sorry, but that is just lame, especially given that Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear power technology, and Iran has complied with the IAEA, and Iran has not attacked another country in a couple hundred years. Israel, on the other hand, has nuclear weapons but never declared them, and Israel has repeatedly attacked its neighbors and continues to do so. So let’s get real. Israel is the country that needs to be controlled here, not Iran.

But if that does not satisfy those who can’t stand living with the possibility that some horrible thing might happen to Israel somewhere down the road, let’s just talk about the horrible things that would definitely happen to all of us here on Earth if the US or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear power plants. There’s a moral argument to be made here, or at least an argument about justice. Let’s set up our little scales of justice with Israel’s paranoid fears of Iran on one side and the consequences of bombing Iran’s nuclear power plants on the other side, shall we?

Never in history has it happened that nuclear power plants and nuclear enrichment facilities have been deliberately bombed. Such facilities, everywhere in the world, operate under severe safety conditions because the release of radioactive materials is deadly, immediately and also long after exposure. If the USA or Israel deliberately bomb a fully fueled nuclear power plant or nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, containment will be breached; radioactive elements will be released into the environment. There will be horrific deaths for families in the surrounding vicinity. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated 3 million deaths would result in 3 weeks from bombing the nuclear enrichment facilities near Esfahan, and the contamination would cover Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the way to India.

Reactors and enrichment facilities are built of extra strong concrete, often with multiple layers of containment domes, often built underground. Bombing such facilities will require powerful explosives, earth penetrator war heads, maybe nuclear warheads. The explosions will blow the contamination high into the atmosphere. Where will it go is a question that is difficult to predict.

The nuclear fallout from bombing Iran will have a half life of 700 million years. That is a duration difficult to comprehend. Jesus Christ was preaching a mere 2 thousand years ago. In the evolution of humans, our earliest ape-like ancestors were walking upright a mere 5 million years ago. The Bush administration and its Israeli advisors are now planning to contaminate the planet for 700 million years. From the rhetoric of Presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton, they, too, think that is a good idea. The US media seem to applaud.

Either Americans do not understand what it is they are preparing to do, or they think themselves immune to the consequences. The planet is not large. What goes around, comes around. Smoke from the Gulf War oil fires went around the world and was detected in South America. Radioactive fallout from bombing a nuclear reactor will also go far, especially considering that it has millions of years to make the trip. The Persian Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran have more than half the world’s known oil reserves. The 1981 study by Fetter and Tsipis in Scientific American on “Catastrophic Releases of Radioactivity” estimated that bombing a nuclear reactor would cause 8600 square miles around the reactor to be uninhabitable, depending on which way the wind blows. Bombing the Bushehr reactor will mean half of the world’s oil is instantly inaccessible. Bombing Iran means that Americans will not be driving cars any where, any more, for a long, long time. The American Way of Life will be finished. An economic collapse unimagined by Americans will follow. Mechanized farming and food transport will be finished. Famine is a possibility. Food riots are a certainty, in the land of plenty, with the fuel gauge on empty.

Hmm. I dunno. I’m thinking the Israelis better learn to live with a little uncertainty, because honestly, I think polluting our planet with nuclear contamination for 700 million years is asking just a wee bit too much of the rest of us. But, admittedly, I’m a bitch that way.

A Charming Young Man

I love how his English is just a little shaky, except for all the swears and insults, which come out perfectly.

The Witnesses

I read with interest this LA Times story about the Gen X and Y crowd.

People everywhere are coping with rising credit card balances, falling home values and layoffs. But such worries are particularly jarring for a younger slice of the workforce that has known little but long-term financial prosperity and optimism.

After all, a large share of today’s 20- and 30-somethings — a nearly 80-million strong cohort — were in college or high school (and some in grade school) the last time the country experienced a severe financial jolt. Some can barely remember the mild recession of 2001, which was followed by an extraordinary boom that coincided with their entry into the workforce.

Raised amid a long stretch of financial bounty and weaned on video games, cellphones, iPods and weekends at the mall, many Generation X and Y members have barely seen a time when they couldn’t spend freely on the latest styles and gadgets.

The Boomer generation (1946-1964) mostly enjoyed a social contract which included joining the work force and expecting things like job security and pensions. I was born in 1965 and entered the workforce in 1987. Technically I’m Gen X but never really felt like I fit in with the Xers. I always loved old people, even as a young adult.

Around the time I entered the workforce, things had already begun to change. Many people who had worked at the big companies of the day (ATT, GE, Data General) were offered great deals to retire. Some people had been with the same company for about 30 years and looked forward to retiring in financial security. They would not have to worry about health insurance. Their houses were paid for. They could go off and golf or whatever. But within a matter of a few years, the pressure to leave increased and the packages got less generous. I believe we called it corporate downsizing at the time. Companies forced out the people who didn’t leave voluntarily. By the mid-nineties all the old-timers were gone and those good old days were over. Suddenly we worked under a new social contract: we all shared the burden of health insurance with our employers and none of us expected job security anymore.

As a young person new to the work force, I saw it all happen. I saw the doors closing, and it happened quickly. I knew people who had come up through the old way and then retired, and I knew that their experience would not be my experience. Even though my blue-collar parents had raised me with the expectation that I would earn and enjoy the perks of a good corporate job, and even though I had prepared myself to do just that, it was all a mirage in the desert. No oasis existed for people who worked hard and played by the rules. It evaporated just as I arrived.

Of course I worked, but I didn’t make much progress. There was so much downward pressure and so many people who wanted up. I couldn’t figure out how to move upward, but I saw others my age or younger figuring it out. What was it? What did they have that I didn’t have? They seemed so much freer, so much less constrained. And I think that was exactly why they were selected to succeed. Corporations no longer wanted to promote people like me. I was too old-school. They promoted the ones who wouldn’t mind overlooking a few things, who wouldn’t be offended by a little indiscretion here or there. They promoted the people who had an edge, a cut-throat edge. The combination of being smart and honest, rather than being an asset, was in fact a liability.

So I had been raised with an ethic from my immigrant mother and blue collar father (born 1930s), an old school ethic that was literally being dismantled as I entered the workforce. The oldest Boomers’ (born 1946) children came into the workforce around the same time and just after I did, but they were new school. We have different ethics, and their ethics aligned with their Boomer parents who were now in charge of corporate America. Therefore, they succeeded while people like me didn’t. Why? Because people like me are basically too dangerous for corporations. Starting in the late 80s, they didn’t let ethical people deep inside corporate America because they could turn into whistle-blowers and ruin the fun.

Anyway, there aren’t that many of us in this no-man’s land between the Boomers and the Xers, but I think we’re going to have the last laugh. I hereby name us the Witnesses, because we’re the ones who saw the whole thing turn to shit thanks to the Boomers, their rotten kids and their greedy ethics.

Go ahead. Put us on the stand.

Psychopaths always blame their victims

I’m sure you haven’t heard on TV news that the IDF killed a Palestinian family of four small children and their mother, among others, as they were getting ready to eat breakfast. I mean, if an Israeli family was killed we’d be hearing about it non-stop; but this was just a Palestinian mother and her four little children. Just some collateral damage…

Four Palestinian children, all members of one family, were killed Monday morning in an Israel Defense Forces strike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. According to the report, an IDF shell hit a house in the town of Beit Hanoun, killing five members of the Abu Meatak family. Palestinian medics identified the dead children as sisters Rudina and Hana Abu Meatak, aged 6 and 3; and their brothers 4-year-old Saleh and 15-month-old Mousad. Their mother, Miyasar, was in her late 30s. Her two older children were critically wounded in the strike, the officials said.

A 15-year-old boy was also killed in the strike while making his way to school. Nine people were reportedly injured, three of them sustaining serious to critical wounds.

A Palestinian source in the Strip said that a member of the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, was also killed by IDF soldiers.

The IDF reported that it had attacked a group of gunmen spotted near forces operating in Beit Hanoun. Soldier belonging to the Givati patrol brigade exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the area. During the military activity, an IDF soldier was lightly injured in the leg and rushed to hospital.

It sounds like there was some gunfire exchanged between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunman, slightly wounding an IDF soldier, and then a shell hit the house killing all these innocent civilians. Source article http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3536673,00.html.

The IDF is looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened. Military sources noted that a group of gunmen was spotted shortly after 8 am near Givati forces operating in the area. An aircraft fired at them and hit them, while tanks fired shells towards the area.

Translation: The IDF has yet to prepare an adequate excuse for the utter disregard of Palestinian lives. They need an excuse suitable for international consumption because, though they don’t care about these people who were killed, they know that some people will whine about it causing a slight inconvenience to Israeli public relations activities. So the IDF is ‘looking into the incident, but has yet to obtain a full picture of what happened’, which means they haven’t got the story down yet. They do know, however, that ‘a group of gunmen was spotted…near Givati forces’, and the IDF hit them with aircraft fire and then, just to be sure, fired tank shells toward the area. After all, ‘a group of gunmen’ must never be allowed near IDF forces, even if they gunmen are inside Gaza where they live. An IDF soldier patrolling Occupied Gaza could get injured and have to be rushed to hospital. So, you know, the IDF was just defending themselves.

“The area where the fighting is taking place is very crowded,” a source said. “The terror organizations are knowingly operating near civilians and putting them in danger. We are thoroughly looking into the circumstances of the incident.”

You see, it’s not the IDF’s fault that these people were killed because the ‘area where the fighting is taking place [Gaza, where the Palestinians live and can't leave] is very crowded [right, because the Israelis have them trapped in there like animals and they can't leave]…The terror organizations [aka Palestinian men trying to help their people survive] are knowingly operating near civilians [uhh, yeah, seeing as they're all trapped inside a cage] and putting them in danger [or trying to save them from death by Occupation]‘.

One of the options the army is looking into is whether the family members were hurt as a result of an explosion of weapons on the gunmen’s bodies.

Yeah, how do you know it wasn’t a Palestinian suicide bomber that murdered this Palestinian family by blowing up the entire house? Huh? That could happen.

Addressing the possibility that the family was hit by IDF fire, the source said, “This is an essential activity taking place within the populated areas in a bid to distance the terrorists from the border fence. If we don’t operate there, we’ll find the terror organizations on the border fence and inside Israel.”

OK OK…it’s possible that the IDF killed them, but listen…the Israelis have to fight the Palestinians over there in Gaza and the West Bank so that they don’t have to fight them in Israeli cities. Fighting in Israeli cities would just, like, totally wreck their beautiful democracy. Ask George Bush. This is totally moral.

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to win the war on terror. We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) We’re denying our enemies sanctuary and making it clear that America will not tolerate regimes that harbor or support terrorists. And we’re spreading freedom, because the terrorists know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East. (Applause.) - George W. Bush speech, 7/4/05, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

UPDATE: Exhibit A: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Defense Minister Ehud Barak placed the blame squarely on Hamas.

“We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries,” he said while on a tour of an Israeli weapons factory, as reported on Israeli radio. “The army is acting and will continue to act against Hamas, including inside the Gaza Strip.”

This is a Test

As I’ve said before, an attack on Iran would be very foolish for many reasons. But to leave aside all the moral reasons, since that seems to bore people, it’s sufficient to focus on the economic consequences to people here in America.

The minor skirmish yesterday between a US cargo ship and some Iranian speed boats caused oil to jump $3 per barrel almost immediately.

US military personnel aboard a cargo ship traveling into the Persian Gulf fired nearly a dozen warning shots at Iranian speed-boats Thursday, according to several breaking news reports.

Reports of the incident prompted a nearly immediate spike in oil prices, which jumped $3 per barrel.

…The cargo ship apparently was sailing into the Strait of Hormuz, site of a showdown between US Navy warships and Iranian speedboats in January.

More than one Iranian “fast boats … were approaching this vessel at a high rate of speed,” in the Persian Gulf, MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent said. US military personnel on board fired eight .50-caliber rounds and three warning shots from M-16s when the boats got within 100 yards of the cargo ship. After the shots were fired, the ships veered off, according to MSNBC.

Miklaszewski said the military believes the Iranians were mostly trying to harass the ship and perhaps see how close they could get before being fired upon. He said those types of boats could not do much damage unless they got nearly right up next to the ship and were packed with explosives.

This does not seem to be a very dangerous incident as far as military matters go, and yet look at the logarithmic response in oil prices. Just imagine if something bad really happened. Use your imagination. Extrapolate.

Settlers

I notice today a story about the Israeli settlers: Israelis Claim Secret Agreement with US.

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president’s efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush’s letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush’s peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts.

Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.

Who are these people, the settlers?

The word settler has a nice, wholesome, Laura Ingalls Wilder feel to it, no? It’s a word that evokes the rugged individualism of those hardy souls who set off in covered wagons across the prairies, killing and displacing Native Americans heroically fighting off savage Indians as they set up their little towns and villages in the heartland. Oh, they were God-fearing people, our settlers, were they not? Or perhaps we think of the Pilgrims or the tragic souls who founded Jamestown, fleeing religious persecution and striking out on their holy errand to make a shining city on the hill. It’s all good, right? Who wouldn’t be proud to trace the family tree back to some quintessentially American settlers?

Settlers are by definition people who bravely go into the unknown, fighting off hostile natives as they valiantly fulfill their God-given calling to make ’something’ out of ‘nothing’.

Is that what the Israeli settlers are doing? Is that the narrative we’re being fed, subconsciously and overtly?

It’s not true. It occurs to me that good Americans might assume that they can relate to these people based on a vague historical narrative that we barely articulate. Some Israeli settlers might be lovely people. But you should know, my fellow Americans, that some of these settlers are absolutely despicable. They hate, and most disturbingly, they teach their children to hate from a very young age.

Please watch this video to see what I mean.

Do you understand? These settlers have gone into Palestinian areas and planted themselves. The spit on the Palestinians, verbally abuse them, throw rocks, even murder them, and the IDF soldiers do nothing. The settler children act like little monsters, obviously encouraged by their parents. The entire situation reeks of moral depravity. I have read that IDF soldiers consider some of the settlers pure evil — that’s how bad they are. The IDF! Not exactly a bunch of boyscouts.

Go to the main page and watch some more videos. It’s unbelievable. Watch Rt 443, night vigils, forced eviction, water shortage. This is the reality of the Occupation. This is the reality of settlements and the Occupation. This is the reality that you are not supposed to know, American Citizen, because when you understand this you must admit that this is wrong. So utterly, morally wrong. So incredibly offensive to decent people everywhere.

It’s easy to go about our lives while this outrage happens on the other side of the planet, but we need to wake up. American public opinion and American tax dollars and American leaders make this all possible. From now on when you read these sanitized stories about settlements, understand what that word really means. It’s a clever euphemism for a despicable policy, and it’s long past time to pull the plug on this bullshit.

More White House Lies

Knowing how much the wingers love to hate Jimmy Carter, and knowing that Condi Rice lies like other people breathe, it comes as no surprise to learn that the current ‘outrage’ over Carter’s discussions with Hamas is completely fabricated.

Supposedly the State Department told Carter not to speak to Hamas, and supposedly he disregarded this warning. Some news accounts say he ‘defied’ the warnings. And supposedly Hamas showed it’s ‘true colors’ on Saturday when 13 Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded at a Gaza border crossing.

The State Department has said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, issued the warning before Carter, a veteran of Middle East diplomacy, went on his trip last week.

Rice said in Kuwait on Tuesday: “We counseled President Carter against going to the region and particularly against having contact with Hamas.”

That’s so funny because Carter says the complete opposite. So somebody must be lying. Let’s see…which party must be lying?

“No one in the State Department or any other department of the U.S. government ever asked him (Carter) to refrain from his recent visit to the Middle East or even suggested that he not meet with Syrian President (Bashar) Assad or leaders of Hamas,” it said.

It said Carter attempted to call Rice before making the trip and a deputy returned his call since Rice was in Europe.

“They had a very pleasant discussion for about 15 minutes, during which he never made any of the negative or cautionary comments described above. He never talked to anyone else,” the statement said.

Carter had already on Monday, in an interview with National Public Radio, described as “absolutely false” any suggestion he had been warned not to meet Hamas.

“The United States is not going to deal with Hamas and we certainly told President Carter that we did not think that meeting with Hamas was going to help the Palestinians,” Rice said Tuesday while attending a conference in Kuwait.

The White House backed Rice and said events after Carter’s meeting showed Hamas’ true character.

Carter “is a private citizen and he made a decision to not comply with what the State Department asked him to do,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters on Wednesday.

Perino made an apparent reference to an attack on Saturday in which a Palestinian suicide bomber and two other gunmen were killed when they attacked a border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, wounding 13 Israeli soldiers.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Perino of Hamas.

I love that lying little tart Dana Perino, official spokesliar for the lyingest government on earth, curtly admonishing people that actions speak louder than words. Why yes, Dana. Yes they do. Thanks for pointing that out.

As for the ‘true colors’ comment, give me a break. The people in Gaza are dying. Their children are starving, they have no fuel, their ambulances can’t travel, their hospitals can’t treat people, and the IDF kills them indiscriminately. The Palestinians in Gaza live in a filthy cage under constant threat of violence, and they’re trying to break the cage before they all die of starvation and illness or are killed by the IDF. Can you blame them? Who is really showing their true colors, the people forced to live inside the cage, or the people who put them there?

The Proper Use of Video and Marketing Skills

The Last to Know

Like a baby bird breaking out of its shell, reality has begun to peck its way through the brittle veneer of corporate news. The Wall Street Journal informs its readers: Load Up the Pantry.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

“Load up the pantry,” says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street’s top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. “I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn’t going to happen here. But I don’t know how the food companies can absorb higher costs.”

Very interesting. “People are too complacent. They think it isn’t going to happen here.” Hmm. How could that have possibly happened? Perhaps because the corporate media has spent billions and billions of dollars distracting people and dumbing them down, filling their heads with all sorts of nonsense and encouraging them to buy more and more stuff they didn’t actually need? Not too long ago I heard some whack jobs on Fox News telling people to use Bush’s forthcoming check to buy new shoes and flat-screen tvs. That’s the kind of advice you can expect from Fox News — advice that will totally screw you and your family.

Well, it’s kind of them at the WSJ to tip off the folks that they should buy some extra pasta and beans. That’s a good tip. Of course, those of us who follow alternative news have known to stock up the pantry for quite some time now, and we stocked up our pantries before the food prices rose. But all the same, it’s good to see the big guys are catching on.