Friday, May 21, 2010

Wikileaks Soldiers Apologize And Call For Dialogue On Iraq War

Just read this:

Editor's Note: The WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video shook an apathetic and misled public awake with images of civilian killing in the chaotic streets of Baghdad in July 2007. US forces wounded two small children and killed over a dozen people including members of the media. Two soldiers from the company involved in the shooting incident have written a letter of reconciliation and apology to the people affected by the incident, which is published below. -Matt Renner.

An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military
Peace be with you,
To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video:
We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.
We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.
There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.
We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.
We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.
More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.
Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the values of our nation's leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won't lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation's importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.
We have asked our fellow veterans and service-members, as well as civilians both in the United States and abroad, to sign in support of this letter, and to offer their names as a testimony to our common humanity, to distance ourselves from the destructive policies of our nation's leaders, and to extend our hands to you.
With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.
Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army

Defense Companies Sap Taxpayers, Spread Culture Of Death

Ladies and Gentlemen, the inimitable Noam Chomsky (not the most electrifying speaker in the world by a long shot, but a smart and articulate elder and scholar well worth respecting and listening to.

Thanks to MrInformationMan;

"Chomsky launches a savage, two-pronged assault on national economic policies and efforts at global domination.By now the stakes are so high that issues of survival arise, says Chomsky.

The basic principle underlying our current economy is to make rich people happy and make everybody else frightened. Chomsky lays particular blame for this doctrine on Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan-- Saint Alan-- who claims the economy is working well because of private entrepreneurial initiative and expanding consumer choice. Chomsky disagrees. He claims that in the last 30 years, it has been public spending on such technologies as computers, satellites, the Internet and lasers that has fed the economy. And the wealth derived from these technologies has gone primarily into the hands of corporate masters, who represent a fraction of the American people. The government has used a succession of bogeymen—the Soviets, Communist insurgents around the world, and now global terrorism—to scare taxpayers into supporting core defense programs whose technologies ultimately spin off into private hands. The current administration advocates not merely controlling space, but owning it, with a new missile-based system and satellite-guided unmanned drones. This expensive strategy, combined with the doctrine of striking first at perceived enemies, may well bring global calamity."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Whistleblower: BP Risks More Massive Catastrophes In The Gulf

One commenter wrote:

"If anyone thinks the oil industry actually cares about the environment, they are a fool. The drunken greed for monopoly and power is the very reason all the "new" technology never came to be these last 40 years. Promoting societies addiction to fossil fuel was intentional. This article pulls back the covers and exposes the true intentions of this evil industry. This is not an accident, this is a clear example of willful negligence that 'allowed' something so horrific to happen, that it should fully illustrate the insanity that is going to destroy us. If we destroy our oceans, we are DONE!!!!!!!And since we do have options (but if we don't get our act together now, we wont) this whole offshore drilling issue should be dead in the water, for good! We have a big and complex problem that has only one answer, we have to get serious about alternative energy and maximizing every drop of oil we currently use, and at the same time, we have to require strict responsible standards for the industries presently in place. Because on-shore practices in other parts of the world by these same companies would make you extremely sick when you see what happens when operations are allowed to happen without any responsible standards. And you thought this was bad?"

I like this article so much, I'm going to re-print it here, in its entirety. Jason Leopold is very cool.

A former contractor who worked for BP claims the oil conglomerate broke federal laws and violated its own internal procedures by failing to maintain crucial safety and engineering documents related to one of the firms other deepwater production projects in the Gulf of Mexico, according to internal emails and other documents obtained by Truthout.
The whistleblower, whose name has been withheld at the person's request because the whistleblower still works in the oil industry and fears retaliation, first raised concerns about safety issues related to BP Atlantis, the world's largest and deepest semi-submersible oil and natural gas platform, located about 200 miles south of New Orleans, in November 2008. Atlantis, which began production in October 2007, has the capacity to produce about 8.4 million gallons of oil and 180 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
It was then that the whistleblower, who was hired to oversee the company's databases that housed documents related to its Atlantis project, discovered that the drilling platform had been operating without a majority of the engineer-approved documents it needed to run safely, leaving the platform vulnerable to a catastrophic disaster that would far surpass the massive oil spill that began last week following a deadly explosion on a BP-operated drilling rig.
BP's own internal communications show that company officials were made aware of the issue and feared that the document shortfalls related to Atlantis "could lead to catastrophic operator error" and must be addressed.
Indeed, according to an August 15, 2008, email sent to BP officials by Barry Duff, a member of BP's Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Atlantis Subsea Team, the Piping and Instrument Diagrams (P&IDs) for the Atlantis subsea components "are not complete" and "there are hundreds if not thousands of subsea documents that have never been finalized, yet the facilities have been" up and running. P&IDs documents form the foundation of a hazards analysis BP is required to undertake as part of its Safety and Environmental Management Program related to its offshore drilling operations. P&IDs drawings provide the schematic details of the project's piping and process flows, valves and safety critical instrumentation.
"The risk in turning over drawings that are not complete are: 1) The Operator will assume the drawings are accurate and up to date," said Duff's email to BP officials Bill Naseman and William Broman, the existence of which was revealed three days ago, but is being detailed here for the first time. "This could lead to catastrophic Operator errors due to their assuming the drawing is correct. Turning over incomplete drawings to the Operator for their use is a fundamental violation of basic Document control, [internal standards] and Process Safety Regulations."
BP did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. Despite the claims that BP did not maintain proper documentation related to Atlantis, federal regulators authorized an expansion of the drilling project.
Last May, Mike Sawyer, a Texas-based engineer who works for Apex Safety Consultants, voluntarily agreed to evaluate BP's Atlantis subsea document database and the whistleblower's allegations regarding BP's engineering document shortfall related to Atlantis. Sawyer concluded that of the 2,108 P&IDs BP maintained that dealt specifically with the subsea components of its Atlantis production project, 85 percent did not receive engineer approval.
Even worse, 95 percent of Atlantis' subsea welding records did not receive final approval, calling into question the integrity of thousands of crucial welds on subsea components that, if they were to rupture, could result in an oil spill 30 times worse than the one that occurred after the explosion on Deepwater Horizon last week.
In a report Sawyer prepared after his review, he said BP's "widespread pattern of unapproved design, testing and inspection documentation on the Atlantis subsea project creates a risk of a catastrophic incident threatening the [Gulf of Mexico] deep-water environment and the safety of platform workers." Moreover, "the extent of documentation discrepancies creates a substantial risk that a catastrophic event could occur at any time."
"The absence of a complete set of final, up-to-date, 'as built' engineering documents, including appropriate engineering approval, introduces substantial risk of large scale damage to the deep water [Gulf of Mexico] environment and harm to workers, primarily because analyses and inspections based on unverified design documents cannot accurately assess risk or suitability for service," Sawyer's report said. He added, "there is no valid engineering justification for these violations and short cuts."
Sawyer explained that the documents in question - welding records, inspections and safety shutdown logic materials - are "extremely critical to the safe operation of the platform and its subsea components." He said the safety shutdown logic drawings on Atlantis, a complex computerized system that, during emergencies, is supposed to send a signal to automatically shut down the flow of oil, were listed as "requiring update."
"BP's recklessness in regards to the Atlantis project is a clear example of how the company has a pattern of failing to comply with minimum industry standards for worker and environmental safety," Sawyer said.
The oil spill blanketing roughly 4,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed eleven workers, was exacerbated, preliminary reports suggest, by the failure of a blowout preventer to shut off the flow of oil on the drilling rig and the lack of a backup safety measure, known as a remote control acoustic shut off switch, to operate the blowout preventer.
Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter Thursday to BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay seeking documents related to inspections on Deepwater Horizon conducted this year and BP's policy on using acoustic shut off switches in the Gulf of Mexico.
The circumstances behind the spill are now the subject of a federal investigation.
Profits Before Safety
Whether it's the multiple oil spills that emanated from BP's Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska's North Slope or the March 2005 explosion at the company's Texas refinery that killed 15 employees and injured 170 people, BP has consistently put profits ahead of safety.
On October 25, 2007, BP pled guilty to a criminal violation of the Clean Water Act and paid a $20 million fine related to two separate oil spills that occurred in the North Slope in March and August of 2006, the result of a severely corroded pipeline and a safety valve failure. BP formally entered a guilty plea in federal court on November 29, 2007. US District Court Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced BP to three years probation and said oil spills were a "serious crime" that could have been prevented if BP had spent more time and funds investing in pipeline upgrades and a "little less emphasis on profit."
Also on October 25, 2007, BP paid a $50 million fine and pleaded guilty to a felony in the refinery explosion. An investigation into the incident concluded that a warning system was not working and that BP sidestepped its own internal regulations for operating the tower. Moreover, BP has a prior felony conviction for improperly disposing of hazardous waste.
In 2007, the Department of Interior's federal Minerals Management Services (MMS), the agency that monitors offshore drilling practices, fined BP $41,000 for not properly training employees in well control management related to a near blowout due to a rise in gass pressure on the Ocean King Rig five years earlier that forced the evacuation of all 65 workers for two days and halted drilling for a week.
According to MMS, Diamond Offshore Drilling, operator of the rig, and BP did not know that the critical safety procedures they employed to try and stop the increase in gas pressure on the Ocean King Rig could also have caused a blowout.
"Operator failed to verify employees were trained to competently perform the assigned well control duties," MMS said. "Additionally, they failed to have a remote-controlled station that could operate the valves in the flow and vent lines of the diverter. These violations contributed to a loss of well control event on November 14, 2002. There was no pollution or injuries."
MMS also cited BP and contract workers in the incident for what they said was a 'lack of knowledge of the system, and lack of pre-event planning and procedures."
Additionally, MMS fined BP $25,000 in February 2004 for another incident that took place a year earlier on the Diamond Offshore drilling rig. MMS said "the rig's Gas Detection System was bypassed with ongoing drilling operations being conducted."
In July 2004, BP was fined $190,000 by MMS due to a fire that occurred two years earlier "involving the as-built diverter system [on another rig] leading to damage to property and the environment."
"The diverter system was not installed as in the approved plan, had inadequate supports, added right angle turns at the ends, and did not provide for downwind diversions," MMS said.
In 2003, MMS fined BP $70,000, this time due to inadequate water pressure on the fire protection system on one rig. BP racked up a separate $80,000 fine that year as well for "bypassed relays for the pressure safety... for four producing wells."
That's similar to "what caused the near-blowout in 2002," according to environmental publication Clean Skies.
And the list goes on.
BP was also fined $25,000 in 2003 by MMS because a drilling rig operator "failed to conduct crane dismantling and removal operations in a safe and workmanlike manner, resulting in the crane falling into the Gulf of Mexico. Accident occurred due to failure to follow the procedures established in the Job Safety Analysis (JSA)."
Finally, BP was fined $20,000 by MMS the same year because a "surface-controlled subsurface safety valve...was blocked out of service."
The incident involving Deepwater Horizon, now the subject of a federal investigation, may end up being the latest example of BP's safety practices run amuck.
The issues related to the repeated spills in Prudhoe Bay and elsewhere were revealed by more than 100 whistleblowers who, since as far back as 1999, said the company failed to take seriously their warnings about shoddy safety practices and instead retaliated against whistleblowers who registered complaints with superiors.
In September 2006, days before BP executives were scheduled to testify before Congress about an oil spill from a ruptured pipeline that forced the company to shutdown its Prudhoe Bay operations, BP announced that it had tapped former federal Judge Stanley Sporkin to serve as an ombudsman and take complaints from employees about the company's operations.
That's who the whistleblower complained to via email about issues related to BP's Atlantis operations in March 2009 a month after his contract was abruptly terminated for reasons he believes were directly related to his complaints to management about BP's failure to obtain the engineering documents on Atlantis and the fact that he "stood up for a female employee who was being discriminated against and harassed." The whistleblower alleged that the $2 million price tag was the primary reason BP did not follow through with a plan formulated months earlier to secure the documents.
"We prepared a plan to remedy this situation but it met much resistance and complaints from the above lead engineers on the project," the whistleblower wrote in the March 4, 2009, email to Pasha Eatedali in BP's ombudsman's office.
Federal Intervention
Additionally, he hired an attorney and contacted the inspector general for the Department of the Interior and MMS and told officials there that BP lacked the required engineer-certified documents related to the major components of the Atlantis subsea gas and oil operation.
In 2007, MMS had approved the construction of an additional well and another drilling center on Atlantis. But the whistleblower alleged in his March 4, 2009, email to Eatedali in BP's Office of the Ombudsman that documents related to this project needed to ensure operational safety were missing and that amounted to a violation of federal law as well as a breach of BP's Atlantis Project Execution Plan. The ombudsman's office agreed to investigate.
MMS, acting on the whistleblower's complaints, contacted BP on June 30, 2009, seeking specific engineering related documents. BP complied with the request three weeks later.
On July 9, 2009, MMS requested that BP turn over certification documents for its Subsurface Safety Valves and Surface Controlled Subsea Safety Valves for all operational wells in the Atlantis field. MMS officials flew out to the platform on the same day and secured the documents, according to an internal letter written by Karen Westall, the managing attorney on BP's Gulf of Mexico Legal Team.
But according to the public advocacy group Food & Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, which became involved in the case last July, BP did not turn over a complete set of materials to MMS.
"BP only turned over 'as-built' drawings for [Atlantis'] topsides and hull, despite the fact that the whistleblower’s allegations have always been about whether BP maintains complete and accurate engineer approved documents for it subsea components," Food & Water Watch said in a 19-page letter it sent to William Hauser, MMS’s Chief, Regulations and Standards Branch.
During two visits to the Atlantis drilling platform last August and September, MMS inspectors reviewed BP's blowout preventer records. Food & Water Watch said they believe MMS inspectors reviewed the test records and failed to look into the whistleblower's charges that engineering documents were missing. The blowout preventer, however, is an issue at the center of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
An MMS spokesperson did not return calls for comment. MMS does not have clean hands when it comes to its oversight role. The agency was embroiled in a scandal when a 2008 report by the Interior Department's inspector general found that regulators "had inappropriate relationships with industry that could compromise their objectiveity." Those relationships were sexual and also included sharing drugs, such as cocaine, with industry personnel.
Last October, Food & Water Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for expedited processing, seeking documents from MMS that indicate BP "has in its possession a complete and accurate set of 'as built' drawings ... for its entire Atlantis Project, including the subsea sector." "As-built" means lead engineers on a specific project have to make sure updated technical documents match the "as-built" condition of equipment before its used.
MMS denied the FOIA request.
"MMS does not agree with your assessment of the potential for imminent danger to individuals or the environment, for which you premise your argument [for expedited response]. After a thorough review of these allegations, the MMS, with concurrence of the Solicitor's Office, concludes your claims are not supported by the facts or the law," the agency said in its October 30, 2009, response letter.
In response, MMS said that although some of its regulatory requirements governing offshore oil and gas operations do require "as built" drawings, they need not be complete or accurate and, furthermore, are irrelevant to a hazard analysis BP was required to complete.
Unsatisfied with MMS's response, Food & Water Watch contacted Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), a member of the Committee on Natural Resources and chairman of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, about the issues revolving around BP's Atlantis operations and provided his office with details of its own investigation into the matter.
"Unsubstantiated" Claims
On January 15, Westall, the BP attorney, wrote a letter to Deborah Lanzone, the staff director with the House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals, and addressed the allegations leveled by Food & Water Watch as well as indirect claims the whistleblower made.
Westall said BP "reviewed the allegations" related to "noncompliant documentation of the Atlantis project ... and found them to be unsubstantiated." But Westall's response directly contradicts the findings of Billie Pirner Garde, BP's deputy ombudsman, who wrote in an April 13 email to the whistleblower that his claims that BP failed to maintain proper documentation related to Atlantis "were substantiated" and "addressed by a BP Management of Change document." Garde did not say when that change occurred. But he added that the whistleblower's complaints weren't "unique" and had been raised by other employees "before you worked there, while you were there and after you left."
Westall noted in her letter that "all eight BP-operated Gulf of Mexico production facilities" received safety awards from MMS in 2009.
"Maintenance and general housekeeping were rated outstanding and personnel were most cooperative in assisting in the inspection activities," MMS said about BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling facilities. "Platform records were readily available for review and maintained to reflect current conditions."
Westall maintained that the whistleblower as well as Food & Water Watch had it all wrong. Their charges about missing documents has nothing to do with Atlantis' operational safety. Rather, Westall seemed to characterize their complaints as a clerical issue.
"The Atlantis project is a complex project with multiple phases," Westall said in her letter to Lanzone. "The [August 15, 2008] e-mail [written by Barry Duff, a member of the Atlantis subsea team] which was provided to you to support [Food & Water Watch's] allegations relates to the status of efforts to utilize a particular document management system to house and maintain the Atlantis documents. The document database includes engineering drawings for future phases, as well as components or systems which may have been modified, replaced, or not used."
But Representative Grijalva was not swayed by Westall's denials. He continued to press the issue with MMS, and in February, he and 18 other lawmakers signed a letter calling on MMS to probe whether BP "is operating its Atlantis offshore oil platform ... without professionally approved safety documents."
Grijalva said MMS has not "done enough so far to ensure worker and environmental safety at the site, in part because it has interpreted the relevant laws too loosely."
"[C]ommunications between MMS and congressional staff have suggested that while the company by law must maintain 'as-built' documents, there is no requirement that such documents be complete or accurate," the letter said. "This statement, if an accurate interpretation of MMS authorities, raises serious concerns" and requires "a thorough review at the agency level, the legal level and the corporate level. The world's largest oil rig cannot continue to operate without safety documentation. The situation is unacceptable and deserves immediate scrutiny.
"We also request that MMS describe how a regulation that requires offshore operators to maintain certain engineering documents, but does not require that those documents be complete or accurate, is appropriately protective of human health and the environment."
On March 26, MMS launched a formal investigation and is expected to file a report detailing its findings next month.
Zach Corrigan, a senior attorney with Food & Water Watch, said in an interview Thursday that he hopes MMS "will perform a real investigation" and if the agency fails to do so, Congress should immediately hold oversight hearings "and ensure that the explosion and mishap of the Horizon platform is not replicated."
"MMS didn't act on this for nearly a year," Corrigan said. "They seemed to think it wasn't a regulatory or an important safety issue. Atlantis is a real vulnerability."
Editor's note: On Monday, May 17, BP issued a statement revolving around claims the whistleblower had made regarding Atlantis. The whistleblower, Kenneth Abbott, revealed his identity on 60 Minutes Sunday and recounted many of the allegations about Atlantis covered in this story.
BP said in a statement Monday in response to Abbott's claims:
BP today rebutted allegations that its Atlantis platform in the Gulf of Mexico operated with incomplete and inaccurate engineering documents.
Responding to claims that flawed or missing documentation posed a threat to safe operation of the platform, recently made in various news programs and print media, BP said it had thoroughly investigated these claims when they were first made by a former contract worker in 2009 and found them to be without substance.
The investigation found that the operators on the platform had full access to the accurate, up-to-date drawings (topsides, hull and subsea) necessary to operate the platform safely.
A second investigation of the same allegations by the Ombudsman’s office focused on project document and filing procedures and had no bearing on operating or regulatory issues. After this review BP made some procedural changes in the project execution plan, but these likewise had no connection with the safe operation of the platform.
“As CEO Tony Hayward constantly makes clear, safe and reliable operations are his number 1 priority for BP and the company has a very strong record of safe and reliable operations in the Gulf of Mexico,” a company spokesman said. “It is completely erroneous to suggest that the minor internal process issue we identified and immediately amended last year on the Atlantis platform suggests anything different.”
The design, construction, installation and operation of Atlantis have received a high level of oversight by both the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the US Coast Guard. BP has and will continue to work with the MMS or any other regulator when concerns are raised about any aspect of our operation.
The Atlantis field has been in service since October 2007 and has safely produced many million barrels of oil. The platform was successfully maintained through the course of two major hurricanes in 2008. Its safety, operations and performance record is excellent.

*This story has been updated and reposted since it was first published April 27 to reflect information obtained from MMS.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Michael C. Ruppert

Bush Administration Foreknowledge of 9/11?

The documented pre-Sept. 11 insider trading that occurred before the attacks involved only companies hit hard by the attacks. They include United Airlines, American Airlines, Morgan Stanley, Merrill-Lynch, Axa Reinsurance, Marsh & McLennan, Munich Reinsurance, Swiss Reinsurance, and Citigroup.

In order to argue that the massive and well-documented insider trading that occurred in at least seven countries immediately before the attacks of Sept. 11 did not serve as a warning to intelligence agencies, then it is necessary to argue that no one was aware of the trades as they were occurring, and that intelligence and law enforcement agencies of most industrialized nations do not monitor stock trades in real time to warn of impending attacks. Both assertions are false. Both assertions would also ignore the fact that the current executive vice president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for enforcement is David Doherty, a retired CIA general counsel. And also ignored is the fact that the trading in United Airlines stock -- one of the most glaring clues -- was placed through the firm Deutschebank/Alex Brown, which was headed until 1998 by the man who is now the executive director of the CIA, A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard.

One wonders if it was a coincidence then, that Mayo Shattuck III, the head of the Alex Brown unit of Deutschebank -- which had its offices in the WTC -- suddenly resigned from a $30 million, three-year contract on Sept. 12, as reported by the New York Times and other papers.

The American exchanges that handle these trades, primarily the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) and the NYSE, know on a daily basis what levels of put options are purchased. "Put options" are highly leveraged bets, tying up blocks of stock, that a given stock's share price will fall dramatically. To quote 60 Minutes from Sept. 19, "Sources tell CBS News that the afternoon before the attack, alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the U.S. stock options market."
It is hard to believe that they missed:

- A jump in UAL put options 90 times (not 90 percent) above normal between Sept. 6 and Sept.10, and 285 times higher than average on the Thursday before the attack. [CBS News, Sept. 26]

- A jump in American Airlines put options 60 times (not 60 percent) above normal on the day before the attacks. [CBS News, Sept. 26]

- No similar trading occurred on any other airlines. [Bloomberg Business Report, the Institute for Counterterrorism (ICT), Herzliyya, Israel citing data from the CBOE]

..."tell me that one again about how the 19 goatherders outsmarted NATO?" (anonymous comment)

Rachel Corrie

The investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, an American activist who stood up to bulldozers razing Palestinian homes, who was bulldozed.

She was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket.

from wikipedia:

Joe Carr, an American ISM activist who used the assumed name of Joseph Smith during his time in Gaza, gave the following account in an affidavit recorded and published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR):

Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she knelt down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day... When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer... Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the driver continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the diver. [sic] He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer. We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted; one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer driver continued forward, until Rachel was all the way underneath the central section of the bulldozer.[24]

On March 18, 2003, only two days after Corrie's death, Joe (Smith) Carr was interviewed by British Channel 4 and The Observer reporter Sandra Jordan for a documentary that was aired June 2003 on Channel 4 titled The Killing Zone.

"It was either a really gross mistake or a really brutal murder"[25]

According to the Seattle Times, "Smith, who witnessed Sunday's incident, said it began when Corrie sat down in front of the bulldozer. He said the driver scooped her up with a pile of earth, dumped her on the ground and ran over her twice."[26]

Smith also observed:

"We were horribly surprised. They had been careful not to hurt us. They'd always stopped before."[18]

British ISM activist Tom Dale, who was standing yards away from Corrie, told journalist Joshua Hammer, Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek:

The bulldozer built up earth in front of it... She tried to climb on top of the earth, to avoid being overwhelmed. She climbed to the point where her shoulders were above the top lip of the blade. She was standing on this pile of earth. As the bulldozer continued, she lost her footing, and she turned and fell down this pile of earth. Then it seemed like she got her foot caught under the blade. She was helpless, pushed prostrate, and looked absolutely panicked, with her arms out, and the earth was piling itself over her. The bulldozer continued so that the place where she fell down was directly beneath the cockpit... The whole [incident] took place in about six or seven seconds.[5]

An individual giving the name Richard, who stated that he witnessed Corrie's death, as recorded by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

There's no way he didn't see her, since she was practically looking into the cabin. At one stage, he turned around toward the building. The bulldozer kept moving, and she slipped and fell off the plow. But the bulldozer kept moving, the shovel above her. I guess it was about 10 or 15 meters that it dragged her and for some reason didn't stop. We shouted like crazy to the driver through loudspeakers that he should stop, but he just kept going and didn't lift the shovel. Then it stopped and backed up. We ran to Rachel. She was still breathing.[27]

British ISM activist Richard Purssell gave the following account, in an affidavit made in a manner similar to Carr's:

As the bulldozer reached the place where Rachel was standing, she began as many of us did on the day to climb the pile of earth. She reached the top and at this point she must have been clearly visible to the driver, especially as she was still wearing the high visibility jacket ["orange fluorescent... with reflective strips"]. She turned and faced in my direction and began to come back down the pile. The bulldozer continued to move forward at [5-6 mph]. As her feet hit the ground I saw a panicked expression on her face... The pile of earth engulfed her and she was hidden from my view.[24]

Advance Warning Of 9/11?

The Strange Case of Delmart Vreeland

Ain't it funny how I never heard of this guy before today?

Either he's a crackpot's crackpot, or it's a major fucking story. What say you?

Unpopular Questions Department

Hedy Epstein on a question I have wondered about: What were the aftereffects of the Holocaust? Is it possible that Israel is perpetrating oppression against Palestinians?

Hedy Epstein: They tried to intimidate me, to silence me, hoping I would never come back. Though momentarily they may have succeeded, ultimately they did not. To quote General McArthur, an American army general, who said "I shall return", I have returned four times since the January 2004, event at the Tel Aviv airport, on my way back from Israeli occupied territory, and will continue to return. They will not be able to stop me. And, so, I plan to aboard ship to Gaza in a few months.

Silvia Cattori: Was it not too traumatic for a sensitive person like you to go back to the West Bank and see the Isreali soldiers humiliating, threatening, killing, and destroying Palestinians lives and properties?

Hedy Epstein: As an American I am a privileged person. I am very much aware of this and feel uncomfortable wearing this cloak, especially when I am in Palestine, conscious of the fact that I can come and go any time I want to, a privilege denied the Palestinians, who have great difficulty in moving from one place to another, restricted by road blocks, check points, the imprisoning 25 foot high wall, by young Israeli soldiers who can decide who can pass and who cannot, who can go to school, to the hospital, to work, to visit family and friends.

I have seen the long lines of Palestinians at the Bethlehem checkpoint. I spoke to a 41 year old man, who told me he works three days a week; in order to get to work on time, he gets up at 2:30 A.M. and arrives at the checkpoint at 3:15 A.M. to wait in line, a long line, with others, for the checkpoint to open around 5:30 A.M. He has to come this early because many people line up. Sometimes the Israeli soldiers allow no one to go through. He would like to work full time, but there are no jobs in Bethlehem.

During each of my five visits I have spent some time in Jerusalem. I have been painfully aware how increasingly its current size and boundaries share very little with the city's historic parameters, Israeli only settlements, such as Har Homa and Gilo are referred to as Jerusalem neighbourhoods. East Jerusalem is dotted with Israeli flags flying from homes from which Palestinians were "removed," thus judaizing the area more and more.

During my last visit, in August 2007, I only had time for a brief visit with my dear Palestinian friend, and her husband in Ramallah. During prior visits, I and some of my American travel companions were their houseguests for several days, basking in their hospitality, typical Palestinian hospitality, which is unlike any other I have ever experienced anywhere. The wife, ever cheerful in the past, seemed downcast, though she did not complain, simply stating "Life is more difficult since my husband is no longer working." In a conversation later, alone with her husband, he stated that he left his job in order to go to school and study. There is truth in both statements, but the husband's comments reflect an effort to salvage and maintain some of his dignity.

I also visited and stayed overnight with my Palestinians friends and their children in Bethlehem. The TV, which is always on, at one point caught our attention. There was a story about Jews from all over the world, immigrating to Israel. There were many small Israeli flags waving and welcoming the new citizens of Israel arriving at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. A big banner in the background spelled out in English and Hebrew "Welcome Home".

As the story continued, we all stared at the TV, silently. Then one of us, I don't remember who, broke the heavy silence, asking no one in particular "What about the return of the Palestinians?"

At the regular weekly non-violent demonstration in Bi'lin, as the teargas tossed at us by young Israeli soldiers, choking us, as we all ran to get away from it, I overheard a conversation between two Palestinian boys, one saying to the other "I don't want to die" "Nor do I" said the other. Their fear has stayed with me. What will happen to them? What is their future?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Liberal Vs. Conservative

I have a cool internet friend. We met randomly and started talking to each other. We email almost every day and sometimes talk on the phone. We both like to write, and devote time to it. She lives in Pennsylvania, one state over from my early-years stomping grounds in northeastern Ohio. Attitudes are very conservative there, and her ideas on things are pretty enlightened for that part of the country. She's able to think for herself without apology which is one of the reasons I like her. She also is a good communicator.

Anyway, here's part of a letter I wrote to her. Someone was saying how NPR is "liberal" and she overheard it. I found that to be a laugh.

Don't get me wrong, I think NPR still does some of the best reporting around. The problem is that they fall into line with everyone else on what topics are OK to report on. They'll give you facts, but maybe not the ones you need. For this reason I fell out of love with them (in addition to their solemn and momentous, *unquestioning* coverage of the Iraq war, one of the most evil things our country has perpetrated in the last decade).

So is NPR "liberal"? Ha. I guess I think anyone who thinks that is listening to what right-wing talk radio hosts say about NPR's politics. And you know how reliable those commercial talk radio guys are.

Anyway, here's my letter.

When it comes to political parties, ie dem/rep, they are all part of the same corrupt garbage. There are good people of both parties. However the deregulatory policies pushed by republicans have had a devastating effect on the economy. There has to be rule of law for both the powerful and the not so powerful.

If wanting rule of law for ALL citizens is liberal, than I'll accept the label there. Since Liberal is an epithet spoken by idiots, I generally welcome it anyway. I don't know how you manage over there in PA, it is a different universe from California, very very conservative.

If it's liberal to believe that the 1996 telecommunications act destroyed the already-tenuous local business of radio and TV, then I'm liberal. If it's liberal to believe NAFTA was a disaster, then I'm liberal. Al Gore was all for NAFTA and he was dead wrong. Perot was warning about the sucking sound of jobs going across borders and it has only gotten worse since then.

If it's liberal to believe in representative democracy, then I'm liberal. If it's liberal to believe what Thomas Jefferson said about how banks would destroy the economy if given the power, then I'm liberal.

This is what he said:

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

Abraham Lincoln tried to restore issuing power to the people, and was shot. Kennedy tried the same thing and was shot. Coincidence? You can look that up if you want...or I will supply links. But what it shows is how damn easy it is to shoot a President. Obama is rightly scared from his mind. He is a good man, though an innocent one who's been engaged in losing that innocence these last two years. I would have voted for McCain if he'd stood up to the bailouts. Neither of them did. Which admitted to me how entrenched in the current, corrupt system they both are.

Who's running things? And what does it have to do with conservative or liberal?

People who believe the two parties stand for different things are kidding themselves. Our two-party system is thoroughly corrupt. There are a lot of people today who believe that the enemies of our country are people who differ on policy positions (liberals). This is a dangerous lie propogated by talk radio hosts and television personalities like Sean Hannity. The enemies of our country are those who would suppress the voice of the people, and I certainly count corporations, with their ill-gotten status and power, among the enemies. The enemy is systemic. It is ignorance. The real enemy is in each person, at the point where that person's mind closes down to new information. The real enemy is the point at which people begin to believe that violence and acrimony is the only source of power. This is power over others, rather than power in collaboration with others. These are two very different things.

Many conservatives I have known believe that the only real power is "over" others. And that everything is determined by who you have power over, or who has power over you. The idea of self-governance relies upon the value of collaborative, representative government. But this requires an informed populace, which we largely do not have.

I differ from most people I meet because I have an attitude they consider condescending. My attitude is that most people are badly misinformed.

I don't think I'm especially smart (otherwise I'd have figured out a lot more stuff at this point) but what I do have that I count as a value is my curiosity and open-mindedness. And I do look down on people who don't have those two things, because I think at the point where you limit your learning, you make life dangerous for everyone around you. I chose communications as my field, in part because I wanted to try to make sense of the world. I chose NPR because it was the best in the business (despite the fact that so many people genuinely don't even have it on their radar--including some people I consider friends). I spent eleven years saturated in NPR news all the livelong day, and not just when I was at work. I learned some stuff. If you quizzed me, I wouldn't be able to do very well. My brain cannot retain facts. However, if you watch for long enough, you can easily see the difference between commercial news reporting and NPR-style journalistic engagement. And continuing to watch as the internet makes information available, it's more starkly clear than ever that the vast majority of media is limited to a certain number of stories a day, news cycles following each other relentlessly, with extremely important stories, and viewpoints, being left out of the coverage. I have seen this for far too long to have any respect left at all for television news. I genuinely think people like Dan Abrams and whatshisname, Anderson Cooper, are highly-paid knuckleheads who are trained monkeys in their profession, which is talking on camera. They are far too steeped in the culture of mainstream TV to actually have any idea what's going on.

Both of those guys have infinitely more power and money than I do. They reach into people's minds and take up residence there because the news machine supports what they do. I, on the other hand, don't even have a radio audience anymore. That doesn't change the fact that I have no respect for them. They are part of the problem, and it's really that simple. Anyone who is not pushing the envelope, pushing against the establishment, is a part of what gives the establishment its ill-gotten power. Anyone who thinks journalism can happen without subversiveness is just on another planet entirely. And those guys certainly qualify. They'll color within the lines, and they'll genuinely believe that's OK. The old farts who run things and allow them to talk on camera and make all that money will continue to allow them to do it, as long as they don't try to cover issues not vetted (censored) by the suits.

The establishment MUST be relentlessly questioned. Otherwise, we live in an authoritarian society. In our society, those who question, today, are called "traitors" "truthers" or "tin-foil hat wearers." People are scared to be seen that way----so they don't speak up too loudly if their views are controversial. That is the opposite of democracy.

Closing one's mind around a subject and then allowing violence to happen around those beliefs *in any way* is unbearable to me, and I no longer can be around people who do this, like that man at the American Legion. I am a fully dedicated peacenik. Unfortunately, people are angry and hurting right now, and want to blame someone. The very people they should be blaming are still running things. It is not the poor we have to fear, but the rich and powerful.

Conservatives tend to believe we should venerate the rich and powerful because they must be smart, having figured out how to take a bunch of stuff for themselves. I can understand this inclination, but when they accept propoganda that tells them they have immigrants to fear, that they have to fear the least powerful elements in society, then these people become dangerous, their ignorance supports the corruption and ensures the establishment's continued power to break the law, not pay taxes, not follow regs, pollute, kill, gamble away hard-won pensions, etc.

The law in arizona is just the tip of the iceberg. There is real hatred of immigrants right now. It is boiling over on the internet. It frightens me, because it's a complete distraction from the real problem. The real problem is the new slave labor tradition in the marketplace. Who decides that? Not the slaves.