Archive for June, 2005

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

…If this is a potentially fascinating work of architecture, it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer’s architectural nightmares were fascinating – as expressions of the values of a particular time and era. The Freedom Tower embodies, in its way, a world shaped by fear.

At a recent meeting at his Wall Street office in New York, Childs tried to deflect this criticism by enveloping the building in historical references. The height of the tower will match the height of the tallest of the former World Trade Center Towers – 1,368 feet – which will re-establish its relationship to the nearby World Financial Center, which was built at exactly half that height. The fortress-like appearance of the base was inspired by the Strozzi Palace in Florence, the relationship between the base and the soaring tower by Brancusi’s “Bird in Space.”

But the tower has none of the lightness of Brancusi’s polished bronze form, let alone its sculptural beauty. And the Strozzi Palace’s blank stone facade is beautiful because it is a mask: Once inside, you are confronted with a courtyard flooded with light and air, one of the great architectural treasures of the Renaissance.

What the tower evokes, by comparison, are ancient obelisks, blown up to a preposterous scale and clad in heavy sheaths of reinforced glass – an ideal symbol for an empire enthralled with its own power, and unaware that it is fading.

Covering up Napalm in Iraq

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

by Mike Whitney
“You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like… victory. Robert Duvall, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Two weeks ago the UK Independent ran an article which confirmed that the US had “lied to Britain over the use of napalm in Iraq”. (6-17-05) Since then, not one American newspaper or TV station has picked up the story even though the Pentagon has verified the claims. This is the extent to which the American “free press” is yoked to the center of power in Washington. As we’ve seen with the Downing Street memo, (which was reluctantly reported 5 weeks after it appeared in the British press) the air-tight American media ignores any story that doesn’t embrace their collective support for the war. The prospect that the US military is using “universally reviled” weapons runs counter to the media-generated narrative that the war was motivated by humanitarian concerns (to topple a brutal dictator) as well as to eliminate the elusive WMDs. We can now say with certainty that the only WMDs in Iraq were those that were introduced by foreign invaders from the US who have used them to subjugate the indigenous people.

“Despite persistent rumors of injuries among Iraqis consistent with the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm” the Pentagon insisted that “US forces had not used a new generation of incendiary weapons, codenamed MK77, in Iraq.” (UK Independent)

The Pentagon lied.

Blair: Africa must address Zim

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

London – British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that neighbouring African countries had a responsibility to address the crisis in Zimbabwe, and suggested it could hamper his G8 goal of helping the continent.

Blair said it was harder to argue for a boost in international aid to Africa with such a prominent example of “abuses of governance and corruption.”

President Robert Mugabe’s so-called urban renewal campaign has displaced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans.

Mugabe says he is trying to fight crime, maintain health standards and restore order in Zimbabwe’s cities. But the opposition, which has its strongholds among the urban poor, says the blitz is intended to punish its supporters, who voted against the government in recent parliamentary elections.

Blair was asked in the House of Commons whether he would call on South African President Thabo Mbeki to help the suffering people of Zimbabwe when he attends the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland next week.

Blair said he would, and added, “We will continue to exert all the pressure we can… But in the end the best pressure will come from those countries surrounding Zimbabwe.”

“We have to make sure that African countries realise the deep responsibility there is to sort this out themselves,” he added.

“We are going to the G8 to try to make the case for helping poverty in Africa,” Blair added. “There is no doubt at all that it is harder to make that case whilst abuses of governance and corruption occur in African countries.

“Now I do not believe that what is happening in Zimbabwe should prevent us from still taking action on poverty in Africa. I think that would be wrong. But it is right also to say that of course we should draw attention not just to the abuses in Zimbabwe but also the urgent necessity of changing what is happening in that country for the benefit of its own citizens.”

What crushing hypocrisy. We will help you on the condition that you ‘deal’ with Mugabe, whose great sin was to expel whites off stolen land. Whatever moral outrage they manage to muster about these evictions or whatever they are, the real issue is Mugabe’s willingness to take on the West and his refusal to play along with this ‘aid’ charade. So in exchange for illusory debt relief, Africa is forced to capitulate to European demands. This is the devil’s bargain, and I wish African leaders would call the bluff. This is just another sickening chapter in the tawdry history of imperialism.

President Bush’s Speech About Iraq

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

President Bush told the nation last night that the war in Iraq was difficult but winnable. Only the first is clearly true. Despite buoyant cheerleading by administration officials, the military situation is at best unimproved. The Iraqi Army, despite Mr. Bush’s optimistic descriptions, shows no signs of being able to control the country without American help for years to come. There are not enough American soldiers to carry out the job they have been sent to do, yet the strain of maintaining even this inadequate force is taking a terrible toll on the ability of the United States to defend its security on other fronts around the world.

We did not expect Mr. Bush would apologize for the misinformation that helped lead us into this war, or for the catastrophic mistakes his team made in running the military operation. But we had hoped he would resist the temptation to raise the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks. We had hoped that he would seize the moment to tell the nation how he will define victory, and to give Americans a specific sense of how he intends to reach that goal – beyond repeating the same wishful scenario that he has been describing since the invasion.

Well since the Times was one of the main perpertrators of the 9-11/Saddam story, their moral outrage at this late date is extremely hypocritical.

CIA blunder on al-Jazeera ‘terror messages’

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

CIA analysts forced 30 flights to be cancelled and raised the US terror alert from yellow to orange because they thought that al-Qaida was sending hidden messages through the headlines of the Arabic television news channel al-Jazeera, it has been revealed
According to a report by NBC, CIA experts thought they had decoded messages that they believed gave dates, flight numbers and geographic coordinates for targets that included the White House, Seattle’s Space Needle and even the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia, which has a population of 2,000.

“These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond,” said the homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, at the time of the incident in December 2003.

But in an interview with NBC 18 months later he conceded that the intelligence analysis was “bizarre, unique, unorthodox, unprecedented”, and that “speaking for myself I’ve got to admit to wondering whether or not it was credible.

“Maybe that’s very much the reason that you’d be worried about it, because you hadn’t seen it before.”

Code yellow denotes a significant risk of terror attacks. Code orange denotes a high risk, and additional precautions are taken at public events.

The analysis led to several international flights, operated by Air France, British Airways, Continental Airlines and AeroMexico, being cancelled.

Seven men – one French, one American and five Algerians – were questioned in Paris and released.

“The people with Arab-sounding names turned out to be, for example, a diplomat and a sports player. There were no terrorists,” a police source told the newspaper Le Parisien at the time.

Indian Affairs panel hears ‘tale of betrayal’

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff was an avatar of greed and contempt who betrayed his friends and associates, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asserted yesterday.

McCain, presiding over the third of four scheduled hearings by the Indian Affairs Committee on Abramoff’s questionable business dealings with Indian tribes involved with gambling, turned the spotlight on Abramoff client the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, which he represented from 1995 to 2004.

“Today’s hearing is about more than contempt, even more than greed,” McCain said. “It is simple and sadly a tale of betrayal.”

McCain traced the trail of money from the Choctaws’ coffers to a private company controlled by Abramoff, a private Jewish school founded by Abramoff and even paramilitary groups in Israel.

According to an e-mail released at the hearing, Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon charged the Choctaw tribe $7.7 million in 2001 for public affairs and grassroots lobbying. After Scanlon spent $1.2 million on the activities, the two split the rest.

Much of the money Abramoff and Scanlon solicited from the Choctaws was filtered through various nonprofit groups, allowing Abramoff to conceal the fact that most of it was not spent on lobbying or public-affairs activities benefiting the Choctaws, records show.

For example, the Choctaws paid $1 million in 2002 to the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank of which Abramoff was a board member.

Although the tribe was led to believe it was paying for “professional services” performed as part of Scanlon’s public-relations duties, half of the money went to a company controlled by Scanlon, Capitol Campaign Strategies; $50,000 went to repay a personal loan Abramoff incurred during his days as a filmmaker; and the remaining $450,000 was a donation to a charity controlled by Abramoff, the Capital Athletic Foundation.

The great majority of the contributions to the foundation were later passed on to the Eshkol Academy, an all-boys Orthodox Jewish school in Columbia, Md., that Abramoff founded. The foundation also paid a monthly stipend and Jeep payments to a high-school friend of Abramoff who conducted sniper workshops for members of the Israeli Defense Force in Israel’s West Bank.

Why does the moon look so big now?

Monday, June 27th, 2005

For the past few nights the moon has appeared larger than many people have seen it for almost 20 years. It is the world’s largest optical illusion, and one of its most enduring mysteries.

It can put a man in space, land a probe on Mars, but Nasa can’t explain why the moon appears bigger when it’s on the horizon than when it’s high in the night sky.

The mystery of the Moon Illusion, witnessed by millions of people this week, has puzzled great thinkers for centuries. There have even been books devoted to the matter.

Not since June 1987 has the moon been this low in the sky, accentuating the illusion even further.

But opinion differs on why there is such an apparent discrepancy in size between a moon on the horizon and one in the distant sky.

Amid the Turmoil, Iraqis Who Seek Historical Perspective, Skills and Solace Turn to Books

Monday, June 27th, 2005

…Mr. Jazaery said he worried about the power of religion among young Iraqis. Anyone who was born after 1980 grew up during Iraq’s decline into war and economic sanctions. Corruption and poverty have eroded the once-strong educational system, leaving young people vulnerable to populist leaders like Mr. Sadr.

“They can read, they can write, but they can’t understand,” Mr. Jazaery said. “That’s good for dictatorship and dangerous for democracy. It’s a spare army for all hard-line elements.”

Yeah well what’s our excuse for the erosion of our educational system, where the worst victims of disastrous policies are not sufficiently educated to either see through the smokescreen and whitewash or articulate their opposition?

Chinese dragon awakens

Monday, June 27th, 2005

China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials say all the signs point in one troubling direction: Beijing then will be forced to go to war with the United States, which has vowed to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium

Monday, June 27th, 2005

The Bush administration is planning the government’s first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

“The real reason we’re starting production is for national security,” Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, said in a recent interview.

He vigorously denied that any of the classified missions would involve nuclear arms, satellites or weapons in space.

And they sweat Iran about ‘peaceful nuclear energy.’ In Newspeak a ‘vigorous denial’ is an admission.