Saturday, April 02, 2005

Global Eye

Global Eye
By Chris Floyd
The Moscow Times
April 1, 2005. Issue 3137

Today we take up the case of Murat Kurnaz, one of the thousands of innocent captives held illegally in the belly of the new American beast: U.S. President George W. Bush's deadly global gulag, where homicide and torture are quite literally the order of the day.

Kurnaz, a German national of Turkish descent, was grabbed from a bus of Muslim missionaries in Pakistan in October 2001, when Bush was getting his first taste of unbridled blood-and-iron power. Although Kurnaz was far from the battlefield in Afghanistan, he was of course guilty of being one of those swarthy Koraniacs, so he was shoved through the beast's guts before ending up in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, The Washington Post reported.

There he languished for more than two years until he was hauled before one of Bush's "military tribunals" last fall. The khaki kangaroo court duly ruled that Kurnaz was a heinous terrorist who should be locked up forever -- despite the fact that both U.S. military intelligence and German police had cleared him of any connection whatsoever to terrorist activity anywhere in the world. Completely ignoring almost 100 pages of exculpatory evidence offered by these experts, the kangaroos relied instead on a brief, uncorroborated memo submitted by an unidentified Bush official just before the proceedings began.

The last-minute Bush memo -- clearly intended to keep Kurnaz in chains without charges, without counsel, without appeal, for the rest of his life -- "fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record," said a federal judge who examined the case. In other words, it was just lies and unfounded assertions -- the same scam the Bushists used to "justify" their war crime in Iraq.

The judge ruled that Kurnaz's imprisonment, indeed, Bush's whole kangaroo pen, was illegal and unconstitutional. To which Bush -- a staunch defender of law, liberty and civilization -- answered: Who cares? So Kurnaz, 23, remains in captivity: year after year of hellish limbo, his youth sacrificed to the caprice of the prissy autocrat in the White House. Meanwhile, Bush is appealing all of the pending judicial challenges to his arbitrary power, while ignoring or skirting any ruling that goes against him. As we first reported here in November 2001, he continues to assert his right to capture, imprison or even assassinate anyone on earth he designates a "terrorist," without any judicial review or congressional oversight of his decision.

The Washington Post -- normally a willing handmaiden of Bush's abuses of power, marshalling "bipartisan consensus" behind his blood-soaked foreign policy and much of his morally deranged domestic agenda -- seemed uncharacteristically troubled by the Kurnaz case. Perhaps the tyranny was a touch too blatant for the paper's well-wadded consensus-seekers. They brought in an expert on military law to "suggest" that the tribunals might be -- gasp! -- "a sham," where "the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there's a mountain of evidence on the other side." Another lawyer wondered why the U.S. government would ever imprison a man it knew was innocent.

Poor lambs. Now that the American Republic has been well and truly lost -- seized by a band of extremist goons after decades of slow rot from corporate and militarist corruption -- a few Establishment worthies are bestirring themselves to express some mild perplexity at the hideous reality that has arisen outside their comfortable cocoons. But their questions come too late. The reality is already entrenched.

Each day brings new revelations of torture, murder and government whitewash in Bush's gulag. At least 108 prisoners have died in Bush's captivity so far; dozens of these have been listed as homicides, CBS reported. But last week, the Pentagon declined to prosecute 17 soldiers for brutal murders of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the recommendation of Army prosecutors. Army investigators also released 1,200 pages of new evidence last week detailing widespread "systematic and intentional" abuse of prisoners throughout Iraq, especially in Mosul; again, the Pentagon declined to prosecute. A trial of low-ranking scapegoats who, under orders, "pulpified" an Afghan prisoner's leg in a fatal beating revealed that such "compliance blows" were taught by the Pentagon as an "accepted way" of dealing with prisoners, Knight-Ridder reported.

Let's pause here to praise these military prosecutors. Many of them are doing outstanding work in a thankless and dangerous mission: investigating their fellow soldiers for crimes committed in a lawless system established by their own superiors. The Bush Regime has not yet been able to remove all of these honorable soldiers from the ranks, so fragments of the truth are still getting out. But be assured: The Regime is relentlessly bringing forward cadres of mindless zealots to replace them -- and everyone else in government. Another term or two of Bushist Party rule, and there won't be an officer, judge or civil servant left with any loyalty to the old Constitutional Republic.

As for the cocooners' anxious questions -- "Why imprison the innocent? Why the sham tribunals? What's with all this torture stuff?" -- there is a simple answer. Bush's gulag has little to do with "fighting terrorism"; it is itself an instrument of terror -- state terror -- designed to strike "pre-emptive" fear into the hearts of anyone, at home or abroad, who might oppose the Regime's crusade to make the world safe for klepto-plutocracy. Such a system actually requires innocent victims and lawlessness, in order to underscore its arbitrary nature -- an essential element of terror. For Bush, Murat Kurnaz is a more important prisoner than a genuine criminal like Osama bin Laden.


Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee
Washington Post, March 27, 2005

US Army Says Prison Deaths Were Homicides
Boston Globe, March 26, 2005

US Admits Wider Abuse of Iraqis
Associated Press, March 27, 2005

Pentagon Will Not Try 17 GIs Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths
New York Times, March 26, 2005

U.S. Troops Tortured Iraqis in Mosul, Documents Show
Reuters, March 26, 2005

Afghan Detainee's Leg Was 'Pulpified,' Witness Says
Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2005

UK Lawmakers Accuse US of Grave Human Rights Violations
Reuters, March 24, 2005

American Homicide
Boston Globe, March 29, 2005

Is No One Accountable?
New York Times, March 28, 2005

Memo Shows U.S. Inmate Interrogation Plans in Iraq
Reuters, March 29, 2005

Bush's Death Squads, Jan. 31, 2002

Bush Has Widened Authority of CIA to Kill Terrorists
New York Times, Dec. 15, 2002

Special Ops Get OK to Initiate Its Own Missions
Washington Times, Jan. 8, 2003

Our Designated Killers
Village Voice, Feb. 14, 2003

A U.S. License to Kill
Village Voice, Feb. 21, 2003

Drones of Death
The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2002

Coward's War in Yemen
Spiked, Nov. 11, 2002

© Copyright 2005 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.

Abu Ghraib Prison Assault: At least 18 Confirmed U.S. Casualties

Attack Launched Against Infamous Baghdad Prison

Reports are coming out of Iraq today (April 2nd, '05) of a coordinated assault against Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. -{ape}

Attack Launched Against Abu Ghraib Prison
C.L. Cook
April 2nd, '05

A U.S. helicopter flies over the scene of an attack against an M-1064 armoured personel carrier, burning in the background, in West Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 1st, 2005. Two were injured in the attack.

American military spokesmen confirm at least 18 U.S. casualties resulting a sophisticated, multi-pronged attack against the massive prison complex outside Baghdad. A combination of car bombs, Rocket Propelled Greanade barrage, and estimated 40-60 member troop assault occured as night fell and lasted about 40 minutes, according to the U.S. military.

Abu Ghraib, made infamous by the release of pictures of the torture and humiliation routinely practiced there, has repeatedly come under mortar and bombing attacks. The on-set of attacks corrosponded to last year's discovery of a female inmate's letter detailing the rape and torture of women. In the letter, she begged the prison be destroyed.

According to a Red Cross report released last year, as many as 90% of those incarcerated are innocent civilians, arrested from the street, or in their homes and held without charge, or legal recourse.

The U.S. admits more than 10,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Paper Tigers and Ivory Towers

The Troglodytic Myopia at UVic’s Ivory Tower
Ingmar Lee - March 28/05
As Vancouver Island’s most voracious consumer of paper products, the University of Victoria is blatantly linked to the ongoing trashing destruction of the islands final ancient forests. As one of BC’s most thoughtless and gluttonous consumers of paper products, UVic is directly complicit in the crimes against nature being perpetrated by the giant trans-national logging corporations which rule this province.

Comox Valley-Slated for Developement

On a planet facing unmistakeable ecological catastrophe, the chief administrator of this so-called institution of higher learning should hang his head in shame with his pathetic paper-procurement announcement last week. And so should all the other myopic denizens of UVic who wantonly consume paper without a care for the world.

UVic is a humungous paper consumer and an evil paper waster. Day in, day out, semi-truckloads of paper stream through hundreds of copiers, printers and other paper processing machinery all over this campus. People stand in line-ups at the machines, staring blankly into space as they print off thousands of pages of bleached single-sided copy, to be read once, marked and then thrown away. Although some of the printers do double-sided copy, the instructions take several seconds to read and are ‘complicated,’ ~too complicated apparently for the mental calibre of people being ‘educated’ here.

Some say that certain Profs are demanding that paper submissions must be handed in single-sided. Let their names and photos be listed in this paper. What planet are these people living on? Such outrageous ignorance boggles the mind. Just look around, and everywhere, it’s clear, this campus is awash in a giant tsunami of paper. Extend your vision a bit further, and see the Vancouver Island stump-fields stretching off to the horizon.

Last week, President Turpin announced, without discussion, consultation, or any strategy for a complete ethical conversion, that UVic would now move to 30% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled paper. Whoop-de-do. The week before, UVic’s Commerce Students Society out-classed the university and approved their conversion to 100% ethically-produced PCW paper. Two weeks ago the UVic Student Society unanimously approved the conversion of the SUB to 100% ethically-produced PCW paper.

UVic students are trying to lead, but the UVic administration just will not follow. All around the world, progressive universities have initiated sophisticated paper reform projects which include switching to ethically-produced 100% PCW. They are finding creative ways to do so, and often at a cost reduction to students. People are examining what the obstacles are and are figuring out how to get around them. But not here at UVic.

Steps to Re-use
Paper reform isn’t just about ethical procurement, it’s also about the shocking wastage going on at the machines. If Turpin gave a rat’s ass about forests, he could initiate paper consumption requirements that would significantly reduce paper wastage on campus, and cost virtually nothing to implement.

The President could decree that all paper submissions, correspondence, dockets, or anything else using paper at UVic would require double-side printing from this day forward. A simple edict from his office and all paper processing equipment purchased hereafter must do default double-siding, and be required to handle recycled and tree-free paper.

The President could have issued a challenge to industry: UVic is offering a substantial contractual incentive to whichever business can supply ethically-produced, 100% PCW paper at cost-reduction. He should loudly declare that this is where this university is headed. Other universities are finding ways to do paper reform. The technology is available; tragically, at UVic, the imagination and the will is not.

Within ten years, UVic students will explain to their children that there ‘used to be’ tigers, chimpanzees and gorillas in the world, as all these and many more forest-dwelling species will have gone extinct. We study all about the human-caused global disaster, but there is not a single course at UVic which examines what it takes to protect forests from this onslaught of destruction.

Bye, Bye Birdie
In a George Bush, Gordon Campbell and David Turpin world, there are insurmountable obstacles to the protection of ancient forests. What is it about paper that makes people refuse to relate the massive scale of impending extinctions to the paper spewing out of that machinery here at UVic? How is it that all around us in these halls of learning, we discuss and debate the dreadful fate of this planet, while ignoring our major contribution to its destruction?

In my 7 years at UVic, every year enthusiastic, imaginative and energetic students fan out around campus, hoping to forward their ideas to somehow drag this so obviously primitive university into the 21st century. And every year, their vision is dashed against a tired and obstinate good-old-boys bureaucracy which fights back and puts up obstacles to even the simplest suggestions for improvement. It is a totally frustrating and humiliating experience trying to forward environmental progress at UVic.
Bye, Bye Walkies
There is such a huge opportunity at UVic to set a powerful example for institutions of education around the world. A concerted effort from UVic could stop the destruction of Vancouver Island’s final ancient forests in its tracks. Such action would set a precedent for others to follow.

UVic should not continue to bear responsibility for the destruction of the planet’s final ancient forests. We need a concerted effort, using expertise from all departments on campus to find a way over the barricades of UVic’s Ivory Tower. Please wake up and get off your butt’s folks. It’s Now or Never for Earth’s final ancient forests.

Automated Aid: Wolfowitz's New Order at the World Bank

Wolfowitz: World Bank ATMs in Every Poor Village
by Scott Ott
March 17, '05

(2005-03-17) -- Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy defense secretary nominated by President George Bush to head the World Bank, said today that his number one goal in his new role will be to install an automated teller machine (ATM) within five miles of every poor person in each developing country.

The World Bank, a shorthand name for the International Development Agency (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), provides low-interest loans, interest-free credit, and grants to developing countries. Its major goal is to cut in half the number of people who live on less than $1 per day by 2015 -- currently about 1.2 billion people.

Under the Wolfowitz ATM plan, the World Bank would bypass governments and non-governmental aide organizations (NGOs) to provide direct loans and assistance through the machines to individual entrepreneurs in their own communities.

The World Bank's 10,000 "development professionals" in offices in 109 countries would be redeployed as armored-truck drivers to deliver cash to the ATMs in regions like sub-Saharan Africa.

"Wealthy nations last year poured $9 billion through the World Bank funnel, most of which will not advance the cause of eradicating poverty," said Mr. Wolfowitz. "Funding government projects has never ended poverty anywhere. Individual responsibility, creativity and initiative ends poverty. People who are sick of being poor, rise up and take their future, their governments and their fortunes into their own hands."

Patrick Watt, policy officer at British charity Action Aid, slammed Mr. Bush's nominee, telling the Associated Press yesterday that Mr. Wolfowitz is not "pro-poor" and that the ATM plan would never work because many of the nations that receive World Bank money live under corrupt, totalitarian or socialist governments whose officials would find ways to channel the money toward their own personal enrichment.

Mr. Wolfowitz simply said, "Mr. Watt is right. I'm staunchly anti-poor. So are most poor people."

He added that his "plan B" is to fly airplanes over poor countries and drop $9 billion per year from the sky, "thereby increasing the chance that the funds will achieve their purpose."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Covering up the Wave Disaster: Who Knew and When?

As it stands, the most sophisticated monitoring equipment is the Pacific warning system and only that equipment could really have estimated the size and direction of the waves. So it makes sense to ask why this sophisticated network simply didn’t prevent the biggest natural disaster of the century.

Questions are still seething about the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami. I’ll avoid the ones about what set off the quake, although speculation is rife about nuclear, and more controversially, electromagnetic technology, some of it referencing a remark by then defense Secretary William Cohen that admits to on-going research in environmental weaponry (DOD briefing, Monday, April 28, 1997 at the University of Georgia).

I’ll skip the other set of questions too about why the aid effort seems to be highly politicized and militarized or what long-term strategy may be served by the penetration of South Asia by spy satellites and soldiers when some of the countries there are battling insurgencies and others are making economic changes crucial to the world financial markets.

The truth is, under Secretary Rumsfeld’s watch, civilian and military functions have become so melded together that it’s likely military involvement is unavoidable in the humanitarian efforts. As for what the governments in the Asian countries did wrong, so far it’s not clear what kind of warnings they received and when, what types of seismic detectors they had, and whether those were sufficient to predict tsunamis.

As it stands, the most sophisticated monitoring equipment was in the Pacific warning system and only that equipment could really have estimated the size and direction of the waves. So it makes sense to ask why this sophisticated network simply didn’t do anything at all when it came to preventing what looks right now as if it will end up being the biggest natural disaster of the century.

I’ll start with the troubling inconsistencies in the statements that have come out of the scientists and bureaucrats involved. Most important of these is NOAA. That’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, headquartered in Silver Spring Maryland under the U.S. Dept of Commerce. NOAA runs the National Weather Service whose Pacific HQ is at Honolulu, Hawaii. The part of the service that monitors tsunamis is the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) located on Ewa beach on Oahu island in Hawaii.

The International Tsunami Information Center (the ITIC), the department which extends information internationally, is not at Ewa but at the Honolulu HQ. Pressure readings from the sea floor are sent to NOAA's weather satellites, and then analyzed at NOAA's tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska, from where alerts go out.

The International Center was established by UNESCO and according to its website, “it maintains and develops relationships with scientific research and academic organizations, civil defense agencies, and the general public in order to carry out its mission to mitigate the hazards associated with tsunamis by improving tsunami preparedness for all Pacific Ocean nations.” To repeat - their mandate is to extend warnings to ALL Pacific Ocean countries. Their 26 member countries include Indonesia and Thailand, as well as China, the Russian Federation, United States of America, Australia and others, but not India and Sri Lanka.

Why weren’t Indonesia and Thailand specifically mentioned?

Forgetting India and Sri Lanka for the moment, let’s take a look at what NOAA has to say about the failure to get through to Indonesia and Thailand. Here is Bulletin 1 issued at 1:14 GMT. Remember Hawaii is about 10 hrs behind GMT, so at Ewa Beach its Christmas Day around 3 pm. The quake hit on the 26th at about 7:58 am local time in Indonesia. The quake is rated a 8 on the Richter scale which makes it a “great.”


The earthquake is outside the Pacific but there is NO specific reference to the two member countries - Indonesia and Thailand - who would certainly be affected by a quake in the Indian Ocean. Some reports claim that bulletins went to Thailand and Indonesia, but Ian Herbert in the Independent on 12/28 says the bulletin was sent to all the member countries including Australia and Indonesia but NOT to Thailand. AP reports that even Indonesia was only contacted indirectly through Australia. Why? The Independent article indicates that Australian scientists on Cocos Island were able to contact Thai officials (as well as Indonesian). If so, why wasn’t NOAA?

The bulletin’s tone is also quite laconic and bland. Jeff LaDouce, the Weather Service Director at NOAA’s Honolulu center thought 8.0 was no big deal. On Dec 29 he told the Washington Times, “the magnitude of the earthquake [initially] was 8.0, which is not a guaranteed tsunami-producer.” His explanation for the failure to warn? “Our business is not to guess, so we did not guess there would be tsunamis.”

Is a Richter 8 earthquake no big deal?

According to Dr. Tad Murty, a Canadian expert, who has tried lobbying the Indian government to come up with the money for a warning system, ‘‘Anything more than an earthquake of 6.5 on the Richter scale can trigger a tsunami.’ The Telegraph in India quotes scientists who think 7.5 is the danger mark where tsunamis can be triggered. According to the US Geological Service, an earthquake that is 8 or greater “can cause serious damage in areas several hundred kilometers across.” The scientists on duty that Saturday afternoon certainly say they thought it was big. “The first thing, when you realize the quake is a magnitude 8, you go, 'Uh!' You feel that gut hit, that this guy is big," said Barry Hirshorn in the Honolulu Advertiser on December 31.

So maybe LaDouce changed his mind when the quake registered an 8.5? Here’s Bulletin 2 issued at 0204 GMT on the 26th. That’s an hour after the quake first registered.


Why are the bulletins so vague?

A tsunami “near the epicenter” but there’s still NO specific reference to Indonesia or Thailand. When the first bulletin goes out, the quake has hit several Indonesian cities around 8 am and been reported widely. When the 2nd bulletin goes out, its 9 am in Indonesia and the waves are racing to Thailand, but there’s still no reference to Indonesia or Thailand. Half an hour later, the Thai coast is hit. Notice also how vague the bulletin is - “the possibility of a tsunami.” is all it mentions. There’s no hint of the “gut hit” that Hirshorn talks about. Were the bulletins really sent out by the scientists or just automatically triggered without staff input? Remember, it was Christmas Day at Ewa.

Was the tsunami that unexpected?

The bulletins may be vague about the threat in the region, but Ken Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California is pretty explicit, “We knew the whole coast of Sumatra was capable of large damaging earthquakes and large tsunamis, " he says. Dr Elizabeth Keating, current president of the Tsunami Society, also thinks the tsunamis were predictable especially since “almost on a weekly basis for the last two months, there had been seismic activity in the Indonesian area." USGS geophysicist Bruce Presgrave told the BBC that the after effects of a quake in shallow water could be expected to travel “basically throughout the ocean.” As recently as June 2004, a meeting of the UN’s Inter-Governmental Oceanographers’ Commission concluded, ‘‘The Indian Ocean has a significant threat from both local and distant tsunamis.’’

Bluntly, the scientific consensus seems to be that it’s quite likely that there’ll be a tsunami when there’s even a Richter 8 let alone a Richter 9 quake underway after months of continuous seismic activity in the notoriously volcanic Ring of Fire region. So why does the chief administrator of NOAA’s National Weather Service for the Pacific region, think differently?

Why is the media focusing predominantly on the lack of a warning system in India and Sri Lanka? What about the fact that India and Sri Lanka weren’t part of the warning system and that Thailand lacked the sea-surface buoys on the west coast?

Waverly Person, director of the U.S. Geological Survey national earthquake information service in Golden, Colorado insinuates that sensors were the crucial problem because without them it’s impossible to estimate the timing and the direction of the tsunami. Yet the article which quotes him then blithely contradicts itself by stating that tsunami waves “typically radiate out in directions opposite from the seismic disturbance.” If it’s TYPICAL, then there should have been an urgent tsunami alert automatically in the first bulletin instead of the bland and uninformative text that went out.

But it’s not NOAA’s curious off-duty demeanor but the lack of communication in the coastal areas that’s the theme of the bulk of the reporting in the major media. It’s the coastal people who failed because they lacked “organized communication system as well as discipline and widely understood procedures,” says AP primly on Dec 26, which may be true, except it’s beside the point.

All that would have been required for evacuation really would have been a public alert to people to put 15 minutes between them and the coast - something surely even the most impoverished region can manage. There would have been a stampede in crowded areas, but its unlikely that that would have produced anything like the devastation not knowing about the tsunami produced.

No one denies that the warning system would have helped. But though it’s been given a lot of play in the media, experts say it’s not the all-important factor it’s being made out to be because it’s just one source of information.

Paul Whitmore, scientist in charge at the West Coast / Alaska Tsunami Warning Center says, "Earthquake information travels a lot faster than the tsunami wave travels. The first alert may well be issued based on seismic data even BEFORE (my emphasis) a tsunameter registers the wave…” In the early stages of an alert, "we have to make decisions so fast, all we look at is earthquake magnitude and location."

In other words, even if there had been a system in place, any alert would have gone out based only on the quake because there wouldn’t have been time to wait for the sensor readings. The alert would have had to be based on the magnitude which was known from the start to be above 8.

The next point that Whitmore makes is that NOAA draws upon readings from about a dozen government agencies and universities and the coordinated readings from all these agencies should have told NOAA what it needed to know.

NOAA also has computer simulation at its finger tips. Its warning system analyzes quake information from several networks to create computer models of the origin, speed, and expected arrival times in different areas. The quake information was all that was needed for that, not the ocean sensors.

In fact, just last year, Charles McCreery, the head geophysicist of the 3 man team at Ewa Beach went on record saying that the initial warning for a tsunami is based on seismic data and not the wave action (Hawaii Star Bulletin, March 31, 2003.)

That’s the same McCreery who now tells the NY Times (Dec 28, 2004) that not until the deadly wave hit Sri Lanka and the scientists in Honolulu saw news reports of the damage there did they recognize what was happening...'Then we knew there was something moving across the Indian Ocean,' said Charles McCreery.

The tsunami reportedly hit Indonesia at 8, Thailand at 9. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite imagery would have available to a number of American agencies including the military and intelligence from those first hits and after that, there were news reports and photos. The Australians south of India knew almost immediately. The US Naval Base at Diego Garcia west of India also knew immediately. So how did the top geophysicist at the warning center not know soon enough to tip off either India or Sri Lanka?

Why wasn’t it possible to reach any of these countries?

McCreery, at Ewa, claims to have had no contacts at all in South Asia. Jeff LaDouce, the chief at Honolulu HQ, only mentions emails - not even calls - to Indonesia which he is not sure reached and the international center spokeswoman, also at HQ, claims that they had no contacts in place they could call and were starting from scratch.

The team under McCreery at Ewa paints a more frenzied picture. “We started thinking about who we could call. We talked to the State Department Operations Center and to the military. We called embassies. We talked to the navy in Sri Lanka, any local government official we could get hold of," Bruce Hirshorn said. “We spoke to people in the foreign ministries, and everywhere we could think of. We were collecting phone numbers, e-mail addresses — whatever contact information we could. There was a conference call with officials in Madagascar," says Stuart Weinstein, the third of the trio at Ewa.

Do the bland bulletins that went out sound like this description of frenzied effort?

Also, why was the international group - the ITSU - unable to find a list of contacts when the Tsunami website lists contacts for all countries in the international warning system including Shih Lai Woon for Singapore, Mastur Masturyono for Indonesia, both with email, fax and telephone contacts.

True, for Thailand’s Sukit Yensung, there is no phone, fax or email contact information but doesn’t that also show the ITSU’s negligence?

India and Sri Lanka were of course not part of the system but contact information was available for the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Data Centers A and B, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ISCU), the United Nations Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO), and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), all of whom had extensive relations with the international tsunami center. How could NONE of these bodies know how to get through to the Asian countries that were hit?

McCreery's team remembers his calls to American and Australian officials and also to the Maldives, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka but about the other international conversations supposedly made to India, Thailand, and Indonesia, there’s only the tell-tale admission that these were conversations “that the individuals don't fully recall.” Why not? If you are frantically contacting people, don’t you remember whom you contacted as you go from person to person? So far, Indian officials have denied that they received any warning from the center.

Notice that besides the Australian and American contacts (neither of whom were clearly in any danger of the tsunami themselves) and the American embassies in the Madagascar and Maldives only Sri Lanka is mentioned. After reports of deaths in Sri Lanka, a Lankan Navy commander called the center to ask about the chance of more tsunamis. The U.S. ambassador in Sri Lanka also called wanting to be notified of big aftershocks. That doesn’t sound too frantic.

Anyway, even if they couldn’t reach people, why did they use email bulletins which were unlikely to be opened immediately? Why didn’t NOAA simply contact the media? A CNN bulletin or an AP news flash would have reached almost at once and gone to local radio stations fast enough to have saved lives in India and Sri Lanka for certain and probably also in Thailand. It boggles the mind that in an age of instant global communication, the combined efforts of the military, top university seismic systems, and the national weather service weren’t able to get through to anyone in four large Asian countries and also can’t remember whom they spoke to.

“We cannot watch tsunamis in the Indian Ocean," said Conrad C. Lautenbacher, the Commerce Department's undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere and a retired Navy vice admiral, but of course they do because, Diego Garcia knew.

Why was the magnitude of the earthquake underestimated?

Lives would also have been saved if from the start NOAA had got the earthquake reading right at 9. Instead, for at least a day, the reading was at 8.1 and 8.5 and located at 250 km (155 miles) SSE of Banda Aceh, Sumatra.

Jakarta's Meteorology and Geophysics Office seems to have recorded the quake first at 6.4 then 6.6 and finally 6.8 on the Richter scale and stated that it was centered some 149 kilometres (93 miles) south of Meulaboh. A monitor at Strasbourg station in France put it at 8. If seismic forecasting is such an inexact science, shouldn’t the public be made aware so it doesn’t repose so much trust in experts who end up reacting to events and giving us the benefit of only hindsight?

We are not talking about a minor discrepancy here but a logarithmic leap in magnitude. To make things clear, a 6.5 quake would need 5 million tons of TNT to create the equivalent seismic energy yield while an 8.0 quake would need 1 billion tons and a 9.0 would need 32 billion. That’s a colossal difference. To carry the example further, a 12.0 quake would be the equivalent of 160 trillion tons or earth’s daily receipt of solar energy and the fault that produced it would split the earth in half.

Question - how big would a disaster outside the Pacific have to be for NOAA to pay attention? Why was the original time and location changed?

There’s also a question about the time. An early USA Today report (dated 12/25 11:13 pm) gave the time of the earthquake as 6:58 am local time in Indonesia reflecting the data on the US Geological Services site at the time. That appears on, Maps of the World, a California government site and others, but elsewhere, it’s 7:58 am. When did this change take place and how was it possible to get the quake time wrong by an hour?

A blogger who viewed the original USGS site also noted that the location changed from 3.251°N, 95.799°E to 3.316°N, 95.854°E and the depth from 10 km (6.2 miles) to 30 km (18.6 miles) and the parameters of the quake were changed from Nst=169, Nph=169, Dmin=>999 km, Rmss=1.4 sec, Gp= 29° to Nst=276, Nph=276, Dmin=654.9 km, Rmss=1.04 sec, Gp= 29°.

It is impossible for laymen to figure out what the significance or not of all this is but it certainly is food for thought.

NOAA’s shoddy response is by no means unique. It seems that Thai officials played down the tsunami threat so as not to interfere with the tourism business; we know that Lankan officials seemed to have also not responded in a timely way; and we know that an urgent message from the Indian air force base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean was not directed right away to the federal Ministry of Home Affairs responsible for dealing with natural disasters because of red-tape.

India's science and technology minister has requested an investigation into the delay that certainly cost lives. Also, despite some scientific concern about the potential threat expressed earlier this year, India did not put in a warning system. Certainly, the state of the art system is very expensive with each tsunameter costing a quarter of a million, but there were also less expensive things that could have been done, like joining the international warning system for $5,000 a year. So there’s enough blame to go around.

Still, these countries do have an excuse. Tsunamis don’t show up often enough in the Indian Ocean for them to have been a priority and records dating back to 1509 show that Indian Ocean tsunamis have also never hit more than one place at one time. The last multi-ocean tsunami anywhere was in 1883 at Krakatau.

The fact also remains that joining the warning system didn’t help either Thailand or Indonesia.

And that finally is the bottom line. “The fact that the potential danger rose to the level of prompting a swift warning to two nations, while others could be faced with a potentially devastating impact, raises serious questions,'' the Senate oceans subcommittee chair, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said in a letter to Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Lautenbacher. Maybe hearings before the Senate will get the serious answers this calamity deserves.

About the Author
Lila Rajiva was born and raised in India. She received her Masters at the School for Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. She now teaches part-time at universities in the Baltimore-DC area while working as a political commentator, free-lance writer, and peace activist. She is currently completing a book on Indo-American relations. She has also written for the Indian Express, Antiwar, Alternet, Countercurrents, Baltimore Sun, Chronicle, and Himal South Asia. She is a member of several DC- based South Asian organizations.

Her first book "The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US Media" will be coming out in March-April 2005 from Monthly Review Press.

Some curious bulletins I tried to decipher in the hours following the quake. Notice the shift from HST (Hawaii Standard Time) to Z (Zulu) military-speak? --ape

0536 AM HST 27 DEC 2004





ORIGIN TIME - 0259 PM HST 25 DEC 2004



ISSUED AT 1535Z 27 DEC 2004


.................. TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ..................



ORIGIN TIME - 0059Z 26 DEC 2004



0315 PM HST 25 DEC 2004





ORIGIN TIME - 0259 PM HST 25 DEC 2004



0536 AM HST 27 DEC 2004





ORIGIN TIME - 0259 PM HST 25 DEC 2004


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Loosing the Dogs: Right Wing Attacks Against Alternative Media

Danny Schechter has been ruffling the fine plummage of the ruling class for more years than anyone. FIrst in print, then radio, and television. Now, he's made his mark on the blogosphere with, one of the originals. I recommend you sign up for his e:mail alerts. They're free, no strings, just lots of links. -ape

Blindsided by the Right
Danny Schechter, News Dissector
March 31st, 2005

Hear Danny Schechter's latest recording in the Audioblog. It's a reading of his essay "Making Media Matter" from the book "What We Do Now." (Melville Books)




I guess it's a sign of backhanded respect when the targeting-meister of that rightwing hit-squad Accuracy in Media (AIM) runs out of bigger "liberal media" fish to fry and decides to take a shot over my bow. With Dan Rather out of the limelight, another Dan would have to suffice.

They don't have any tank shells or mortars at their command, so they have to resort to insinuation, name calling, guilt by association and selective denigration.

For years, fired up by the animus of Reed Irvine, Accuracy in Media (sic) was numero uno among the rightwing media bashers but, in recent years, it's been relegated to the minor leagues, what with Brent Bozell's better-funded Media Research Center and the ditto heads on talk radio, and now the Foxoids blasting away on the hour.

Yesterday, they cranked up their old smear machine with a smarmy blog or whatever it is by Cliff Kincaid, denouncing your News Dissector as "Eason Jordan's Friend."


Needless to say, they didn't call me to ask if indeed I was his friend, which I am not. (Friends of mine who have worked closely with him hold him in the highest personal regard as an experienced and concerned newsman and exec.)

I worked briefly at CNN but in a different area, programming, not news.

The truth didn't seem to matter as Kincaid set out to tie the now-departed CNN news chief to this pinko lefty commie terrorist lover, which would complete the circle (jerk), and "prove" once and for all that CNN is hopelessly compromised by radicals.

Of moi, he says, "It's not clear when he made his far left turn, but he is not shy about advertising it these days." That's research? The last time I looked, there were 180,000 documents on me listed on Google alone, and I am sure if they called their friends at the CIA or FBI they could have come up with more. (The first FBI file I saw was a report on my civil rights activism whileI was in college back in 1961. I was spotted associating with small n, "negroes.")

And never mind the books. I am proud of what I have done and what I am doing "these days."


First, read what they say happened, and then let me reveal the totally bizarre reality of what actually did happen. I may have written about it before, but no matter.

AIM: "CNN news executive Eason Jordan resigned after he couldn't back up his charges that the U.S. military deliberately attacked and killed journalists in Iraq. Jordan tried to talk his way out of the controversy, but when that failed he quit. However, a former CNN employee came forward to take up Eason Jordan's cause. Danny Schechter says that he asked Jordan if 'he could help me get on CNN to discuss and debate the issue.' Contacted by one of Schechter's associates, Jordan replied, 'I will let my colleagues know of Danny's availability as an on-air guest. I thank you and wish you well.'"

I believe we emailed Jordan along with other CNN people to pitch my coming on to discuss the question of journalists being targeted that I raise in my film WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception). Low-budget filmmakers like myself have to seek out every opportunity to promote their films, and Jordan's remarks at the World Economic Forum provided a perfect news peg.

We first asked him if he would elaborate on his remarks, which he declined to do.

I later learned he was under tremendous pressure from CNN to shut up, which pissed him off after almost a quarter of a century of working for the company. I later also heard that he left because CNN was being smeared for his remarks and wouldn't stand by him. His critics and CNN's critics , especially Fox, saw an opportunity to discredit their competition and went for it.

The insinuation was that Jordan had charged that U.S. soldiers deliberately killed journalists. But as I learned from someone who was in the room during the off-the-record discussion up in the Swiss Alps in Davos, and who took notes, Jordan never said that. The whole issue came up in a discussion of safety for news people, something he was very concerned about.

CNN knew that and when the heat came, they did not back him but instead decided to get out of the kitchen. Jordan left. CNN might have launched a journalistic investigation of their own. They chose not to.

(In a statement announcing his resignation, Jordan wrote that he was stepping down 'to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq.' He added, 'I never meant to imply US forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise.' (Many critics found this groveling. I was disappointed because there are important questions here that must be raised.)


CNN, I was told by someone in the know, gave him a payoff, but with a gag clause. In other words, he agreed to keep his lips sealed. That type of chilling of the First Amendment is, unfortunately, quite common in our unbrave media world. CNN had done it before when settling a lawsuit with the producers in the infamous Tailwind Story who insisted their account of the Pentagon's use of chemical weapons in Vietnam was true. (See Mediachannel's archive for an extended discussion from all sides, including the right.)

CNN is not alone. This is done all the time in every business. It's been reported that CBS recently offered a big payout to Dan Rather's producer Mary Mapes if she would go quietly into the night. She wouldn't play, and has now signed a contract to do a tell-all book. The same practice was in place at ABC when I worked there.

Anyway, Jordan wasn't talking to me or anyone. Executives tend to be shrinking violets when controversies erupt. He figured he had dug his own grave by then.

We also asked if he could tell bookers about my availability for interviews. That is no crime, but it led nowhere. He may or may not had time to follow up. No CNNer called me. The network "most Americans trust" was tighter than a mosquito's tweeter on the story. They battened down the hatches until the storm blew over. (I did get on CNN two weeks later, appearing on the International Correspondents Show with the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad.)


When I found CNN was a no go, guess what happened? Fox called and I was promptly booked for that night. Yes, Cliff -- FOX! I went on the air, and ended up debating Bozell and Sean Hannity. They even showed a clip (sans sound) from WMD, and Hannity at the show's end even half urged viewers to see it. I described this encounter in my blog, and you can still hear the audio of that media tete-a-tete on my audioblog.

Since then, as we know, the issue returned to the front burner as a result of what happened to the Italian intelligence agent and the journalist he freed. The U.S. refused to let the Italians see the car that soldiers shot up.


But none of this seemed to rate the attention of the Accuracy mob. Their critique goes on:

"Schechter has an impressive background in journalism, having worked for CNN and ABC, among other news organizations. It's not clear when he made his far left turn, but he is not shy about advertising it these days. He recently participated in a so-called 'World Tribunal on Iraq.' The group's website features a complaint filed by somebody named Matthew K. Owen with the International Criminal Court. It asserts that President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and other U.S. leaders are guilty of war crimes because of what happened at Abu Ghraib and other facilities. But two official investigations, one conducted by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and one conducted by Vice Admiral Albert Church, have said there is no evidence that top U.S. officials approved or condoned a policy of torture.

"Schechter provided testimony for this tribunal on the role of the media in covering the Iraq war. He insists the media were too pro-war in their coverage. After hearing Schechter and others, the tribunal found the media 'guilty of deception' and contributing to the commission of war crimes by the U.S. Schechter has also produced a film that asks, 'Were Journalists Targeted in Iraq?' This was produced before the controversy over Eason Jordan. We have requested a copy of the film to review. Schechter says that his film points to Kate Adie of the BBC, who 'was told by the Pentagon that independent journalists would be targeted.'"

Interesting that they criticize a film they admit they haven't seen or seem to know the name of, pissed that I wouldn't give them a free copy to trash me with. God forbid that they used their largesse from rightwing funders to actually buy one.

Kincaid continues:

"We tracked down these comments, which were made before the Iraq War, and that's not exactly what she said. What she claims to have been told by an unnamed 'senior officer in the Pentagon' is that 'if uplinks - that is, the television signals out of... Baghdad' were detected by U.S. military aircraft 'they'd be fired down on,' even if they were journalists. It's clear from the comments, if you make the assumption that they are accurately reported from a real person, that the military had targeted unauthorized transmissions out of Iraq that were perceived to be aiding the enemy. What's more, the reference is to taking out satellite uplink positions, not the journalist themselves.

"Adie's comments were posted on a website devoted to independent media under the headline, 'Pentagon Threatens to Kill Independent Journalists.' Someone with common sense responded by saying, 'The Pentagon has a legitimate interest in controlling information in the war zone. [Independent] reporters carry the risk of revealing information that could prove deadly to our troops and therefore ultimately to Iraqi civilians. Any uplink that provides uncleared information is a legitimate target, and the chaos-mongering fool who sets it up must accept the risks associated with being nearby.'

"Since Adie's quotation is not as authoritative as he claimed, perhaps we can anticipate that Schechter's film will be updated with a contribution from Eason Jordan, his old friend."

Actually Jordan is in my film, but he is criticized for that op-ed piece he wrote in the NY Times admitting that CNN did not report Saddam's abuses. But why let facts get in the way of their argument? Kate Adie made her comments in an interview on RTE in Ireland. Her reference to the uplink was part of the Pentagon's strategy of bullying non-embedded journalists out of Baghdad. In fact, many networks did pull their people out and CNN, I believe, was thrown out briefly. The Pentagon not only wanted to control the battlefield, but all the coverage of it as well. In the end, most networks ran footage from Al Jazeera stripped of its narrative. Peter Arnett was there working first for National Geographic and later NBC-MSNBC. He stayed.

Many other journalists say independents were harassed. Some were killed in "friendly fire" incidents.


In that article in TV WEEK, a trade magazine for TV executives, I wrote:

The reality is that Jordan's concerns have a background and context that were under-reported in our media. Before the war, the Pentagon issued warnings that sounded like threats, saying it would not guarantee the safety of journalists who were not officially "embedded" into assigned U.S. military units.

Pentagon publicist Victoria Clarke, around the time the war began, said that journalists who went out on their own were "putting themselves at risk."

On March 8, 2003, 12 days before the invasion, Kate Aidie, then a war correspondent for the BBC, said on RTE radio in Ireland that she was told by Pentagon officials "that any [satellite] uplinks by journalists would be fired on" by coalition aircraft.

What they were doing was creating an environment of intimidation and threat. This was a ploy to ensure that the reporters who did go to Iraq without Pentagon cooperation would be blamed when anything happened.

This was part of a larger strategy to keep the media in line. It was no secret that an administration that insisted "You are with us or against us" was determined to keep the media "on message" by implementing an intrusive "information dominance" strategy to monitor coverage and "manage perceptions."

Int his plan for the Iraq war, according to published reports, out of patriotic correctness, the major U.S.-based news networks went along. Jingoism often displaced journalism. Flag-waving replaced objectivity.

Phillip Knightley, a respected historian on war and media and author of "The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker From the Crimea to Kosovo," correctly said, "There will be no investigation." He added, "I believe that the occasional shots fired at media sites are not accidental and that war correspondents will now be targeted."

You can read my whole piece again on Mediachannel -- and I was surprised that no one in the TV business had the guts to write back to me about it. Talk about a silenced and cowed bunch. But then, who would be dumb enough speak up publicly after the public beheading of Eason Jordan? It would be suicidal.


See this week's Village Voice:

Hard Target: U.S. Military is pressed to probe run-ins between reporters and troops in Iraq

Jarrett Murphy looks into the Palestine Hotel incident and quotes the brother of a cameraman who died there:

"Javier Couso ... is not convinced it was an accident. Couso, younger brother of Spain's Telecinco cameraman Jos? Couso, one of the men slain at the Palestine, says that according to U.S. military guidelines on urban combat, 'they have to get authorization from the head of division' to fire.

"'There was an order that came down from above to silence, to blind, to take out those cameras,' Couso tells the Voice. The reason for such an action might have been to prevent any broadcast of U.S. troop movements.

"Couso says he's willing to believe the shelling was a mistake but not the Pentagon version that it was self-defense. 'This has direct consequences for reporters -- colleagues and friends of my brother -- who are afraid that if they go to report on another war, the U.S. military will attack them,' Couso says. He is touring the U.S. to urge an independent investigation and the prosecution of five soldiers involved in the incident, including General Buford Blount, the division commander.

"Recent news gives Couso little hope. Even as it OK'd the Sgrena investigation, the Pentagon said it has decided not to reopen the case of three Iraqis working for Reuters who claim they were detained and abused by U.S. troops in January 2004."


These stories keep coming. This was in my email just last night:

Intentional Targeting of Independent Journalists
--An archive of articles.

US admits killing Arab journalists in Iraq

"The U.S. military has acknowledged it was responsible for killing two journalists working for Dubai-based satellite channel al-Arabiya who were shot close to a checkpoint in the Iraqi capital earlier this month. Al-Arabiya cameraman Ali Abd al-Aziz died on 18 March from a gunshot wound to the head. Correspondent Ali al-Khatib died from his wounds in hospital the next day. Both were Iraqis.

"Colleagues said U.S. troops fired on their car near a checkpoint in central Baghdad. The US military initially said it was unlikely its bullets had killed them.

"On Monday, a U.S. military official said an investigation into the deaths showed troops were responsible, but had acted "within the rules of engagement".

"U.S. soldiers were aiming at a different car, a white Volvo that had driven through the checkpoint at high speed, the investigation said. Al-Arabiya's grey Kia car was 50m to 150m down the road, trying to turn when it was accidentally hit, the military said.

"'The investigation concluded that no soldiers fired intentionally at the Kia,' the U.S. military said in a statement.

"Iraq 'most dangerous'

"Last week, an Iraqi cameraman working for U.S. network ABC was shot and killed while covering clashes west of Baghdad. Witnesses said he was shot by U.S. troops.

"A senior military official said on Monday that the U.S. military was considering whether to investigate the incident."

For more, see my book EMBEDDED (Weapons of Mass Deception) and WMD.

More on the Quake and Tsunami

Doug Carlson writes from Hawaii to tell us about his Tsunami Lesson site which is a MUST READ?? Brilliant:

"Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara forwarded your 'Tsunami Questions, Few Answers' e-mail. I've been blogging since Jan. 2 on this issue and would welcome your visit to my site.

"I'm a former reporter and former corporate communications manager who had to reach mass audiences in a timely fashion, so we naturally used the mass media. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center doesn't see much of a role for the mass media in issuing warnings, as three months of writing on this blog documents. My visit to the Center and two-hour meeting with its director last Friday revealed that the National Weather Service "won't allow" the PTWC to proactively engage the news media as another channel to send tsunami warnings to regions in peril. It seems inconceivable. I've written today to a NOAA communications officer and asked several policy-related questions.

"Interesting that you used Lila Rajiva's column on your site today; while she's 'out there' pretty far, I thought enough was pertinent to my premise that I linked her from my site back on January 7.

"My post today pans the NOVA show, which was nothing more than a travelogue and VNR -- video news release -- for the Center. At the bottom of today's post please note that scientists this week made it clear they believe any quake 8.0 or above will probably generate a major tsunami. Back in December, with the same assumption (presumably), they waited for over an
hour to kick out a bulletin that mentioned a possible tsunami. This time it only took 19 minutes.


Check this out from a site on the current crisis:

Today's Quake Was Predicted 2 Weeks Ago
Seismologists are getting better at calling their shots:

"Paris (March 16) - Seismologists say there is a heightened risk that a major earthquake may soon strike the western coast of Sumatra as a result of the monster quake that generated the December 26 tsunami. The Indonesian city of Bandar Aceh, which was already badly hit by the killer wave, could be at risk from a quake measuring up to 7.5 on the Richter scale and there is a potential for a tsunami-making 8.5 quake offshore, they warn."

Now that he has our attention, Professor John McCloskey is saying today another massive quake is to be expected in the region.

So, as you can see, there is so much more on this story and other news to dissect.

Sorry I got carried away on Iraq today, but I felt that I should respond to the AIM attack lest it get picked up elsewhere, and the targeting of journalists is an issue that gets my back up and I that am still following.

I also managed not to forward all your letters and comments from my office computer to my computer at home, so I will have to post them when I get back from Boston.


I am up at Brandeis today, speaking and screening WMD at 1:30 PM at Golding Auditorium. I also expect to be on the New England Cable Network, a great regional TV news service, at 8:45 PM.

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If you can help us sell our DVDs; write

If you haven't seen The Making and Mission of WMD, it's online still at in DVD quality. Special thanks to Jody Kolodzey, who is now editing this blogothon from her base in the City of Brotherly Love.

Hear Danny Schechter's latest recording in the Audioblog. It's a reading of his essay "Making Media Matter" from the book "What We Do Now." (Melville Books)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Faking It: The New News Paradigm

April Media Fools
By Rory O'Connor
March 30, '05

NEW YORK, March 30, 2005 -- Why leave fake news and media scams to the White House, CBS News and the New York Times?

Instead I say -- with apologies to Scoop Nisker -- "If you don't like the news, make up some of your own!"

After all, it's surprisingly easy -- as George Bush, Dan Rather, Jayson Blair and innumerable other politicos and journalists have already demonstrated.

As a result, activists of every stripe are increasingly scoring political points with media pranks. From Michael Moore's self-aggrandizing stunts to the more focused corporate spoofs of Yes Men Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno to the parodistic "non-traditional media transformations" of the Newsbreakers, more and more merry media pranksters are now fighting fake news fires with fire of their own.

Yes Men

A case in point: the brilliant trick the Yes Men played last December upon the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India. After they set up a bogus website, purporting to represent Dow Chemical (Dow took over Union Carbide, the plant's owners at the time of the catastrophe that killed 20,000), the BBC logged on to request an interview. Bichlbaum and Bonanno accepted the misguided invitation and, posing as Dow representatives, went on air to announce that the company accepted full responsibility for the disaster and would pay billions of dollars in compensation to the victims. Naturally, their apology quickly made worldwide headlines -- thus forcing Dow to retract the phony "apology" and the Yes Men's "offer" of bogus billions.

The anarchic daddy of all media hoaxers, however, is undeniably Joey Skaggs, who first turned the public prank into a high art form. As his web site proudly notes, Skaggs "has been called everything from the World's Greatest Hoaxer to a royal pain in the ass." In the course of decades of manipulating mainstream media makers -- mainly by using their own hypocrisy, laziness, and stupidity against them -- Skaggs has been "threatened, assaulted, summonsed, subpoenaed, arrested, deposed, dismissed, trivialized, maligned, even thanked and praised." Along the way, he's carved a unique niche as a "notorious socio-political satirist, media activist, culture jammer, hoaxer and dedicated proponent of independent thinking and media literacy."

"When I create a false reality, I always try to create a plausible structure to help convince people," Skaggs once explained in an interview with McSweeney's. "Most important to any fake story is a plausible, realistic edge with a satirical twist that is topical. I want people to be amused or amazed but fooled. I want them to say, "Unbelievable!" but believe it. Satire and believability are irresistible to the news media. Sensationalism gets them every time."

Skaggs calls his pranks "plausible but non-existent realities," and says he was inspired "by the need to be cunning enough to fool journalists, while leaving clues and challenging them to catch me. "

Sometimes it's simply a matter of being topical and outrageous. "Other times you can use a calendar to predict the kinds of stories the media is looking for," explains Skaggs. "Celebrations of anniversaries of disasters, such as nuclear power plant meltdowns or political assassinations, provide opportunities, as do holidays. And then there are the ubiquitous animal or pet stories. There's one every day.

"If I'm successful in fooling a wire service, I don't really have to do anything else to promote the story," he adds. "Because the media will feed off of itself. They all assume the original author did his or her homework!"

Skaggs, who works for and often by himself, rarely profits from his stunts (although his "fish condos"-- designer apartments for guppies -- started as a joke and ended up selling as gifts for yuppies). He's not looking for dollars -- just change. "Revelation is the most important aspect of the process," as he once told US News and World Report. "That's the point where consciousness can change."

A product of the anti-Establishment, Sixties-protest counter-culture, Skaggs stages his Yippie-like stunts in that spirit. He considers himself a performance artist, in the mode of the Surrealists and Dadaists. As Mark Borkowski noted in a recent article in The Independent, Skaggs' first effort was nearly forty years ago, in 1966, "when he carried a 10ft crucifix on an Easter parade in New York to rail against the hypocrisy of the Church and man's inhumanity to man. He later strung a 50ft bra across the steps of the US Treasury on St. Valentine's Day to highlight the American male's obsession with female breasts. His premise was simple: he set out to ridicule the media façade, and the fallibility of the public's blind acceptance of the media, so he used the media as his medium."

A decade later, Skaggs placed a newspaper ad announcing the opening of a brothel for dogs ("A cat house for dogs featuring a savory selection of hot bitches"), complete with a media "photo-opportunity." One company received an Emmy nomination for its coverage of the event.

Another Skaggs piece involved the opening of a "Celebrity Sperm Bank", where Bob Dylan and The Beatles had allegedly left deposits. Then there was the made-up laboratory where Dr. Josef Gregor (aka Skaggs) bred a strain of cockroaches that produced hormones to cure illness and protect humans from radiation. In the competitive frenzy to report the new miracle drug, no one in the MSM noticed that the phony doctor's name evoked the main character in Kafka's The Metamorphosis, who turned from a human into a giant insect. And it's hard to forget the time Skaggs posed as the president of a Korean group called Kea So Joo and sent letters to shelters asking that unwanted dogs be sent to him to be used as food.

Without Skaggs, as Borkowski notes, "there would have been no Yes Men, no Michael Moore, because Skaggs -- as little known as he is -- is the originator. Unlike Moore, he is not driven by ego, because he is an artist first and an activist second. Because he shies away from publicity for himself, he remains unknown to the world at large, but his name should be written in lights as an example to us all."

"The issues of my performances vary, but most of the questions buried in the work remain the same," says Skaggs. "What do we believe? Why do we believe it? My challenge as a satirical artist is how to present ideas to people to enable them to question and reexamine their beliefs. My hope is that my work provokes people to look at things in a new way.

"The media's job is to question a premise," he concludes, "But information overload and the strain to get a story first get in the way of getting it right."

What do you think? Post a comment.

-- Rory O'Connor's blog, "Media Is a Plural," can be found at

More details about all of Skaggs' past work is available on And for all you Assignment Desk Editor's out there, here's his latest release:


Subject: 20th Annual April Fools' Day Parade


The New York April Fools' Committee is proud to announce:


The 20th Annual April Fools' Day Parade will march down Fifth Avenue, from 59th Street to Washington Square Park, beginning at 12 noon, Friday, April 1st, 2005. After two decades, New York's most irreverent parade has finally been officially sanctioned by the City of New York. Also a first, the parade will be broadcast live from 12 noon to 3 p.m. on Time Warner Cable channel 25. The New York April Fools' Committee thanks the Mayor, the city, all our sponsors and participants over the years for their support.

The New York April Fools' Day Parade was created in 1986 to remedy a glaring omission in the long list of New York's annual ethnic and holiday parades. These events fail to recognize the importance of April 1st, the day designated to commemorate the perennial folly of mankind. In an attempt to bridge that gap and bring people back in touch with their inherent foolishness, the parade annually crowns a King of Fools from the parading look-alikes. This year's parade, "Divided We Stand", will memorialize the efforts made by people around the world to maintain their power, whether political, religious or personal, at the cost of the greater common good. The Parade Grand Marshall will be Ex CBS Anchor, Dan Rather. The theme song "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" will be sung by President George W. Bush. The public is encouraged to participate, in or out of costume, with or without floats, and may join the procession at any point along the parade route. Large float entries must be at 59th Street and 5th Avenue no later than 11:30 a.m.

This year's floats will include the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth float, sinking in a sea of lies; the New York Governor George Pataki float in a canoe up a canal without a paddle; the Mud Wrestling float, with Michael Moore taking on all challengers; the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons "We'll Kick Your Butt" float (bystanders are invited to throw beer); the NHL Ice Rink float featuring owners and players kicking each others' butts; and the Airlines' Lost Luggage float. The rear of the parade will be flanked by an empty flatbed truck representing the "Where's God?" float.

Marching celebrity look-alike fools will include: Donald Trump handing out pink slips while wearing one; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shouting "girlie man!"; Ex New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey announcing "I am a gay American"; Sponge Bob screaming "I am not gay!"; Jimmy Swaggert looking to kills gays if they look at him romantically; Bill O'Reilly looking for lust; Anna Nicole Smith looking for money; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looking for someone to torture; Bill Burkett handing out forged documents to any reporter who will take them; Jeff Gannon, White House pseudo-reporter, handing out fake IDs; Zell Miller ranting "Dissent is treason!"; Howard Dean just ranting; Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps toasting the crowd again and again; Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi looking for the Halloween Parade; and Ann Coulter being Ann Coulter.

There will be a party with live music, entertainment and food concessions at the end of the parade in Washington Square Park. Revelers can visit the Ukrainian Home Cooking booth featuring the famous Dioxin Borscht served by Ukraine's Ex Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych; a Social Security Casino concession; and a Steroid Sampling booth manned by Baseball players José Conseco, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. Mel Gibson will also be on hand to man his Crucifix Photo-Op concession featuring a ten foot cross with a portrait portal. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be collecting scrap metal donations for his Soldiers Vehicle Rearmament Program. And, Harvard President Lawrence Summers will oversee an innate intrinsic gender aptitude research booth featuring Condoleeza Rice and Karl Rove naked as test peek-a-boo science of sex comparison subjects. For $5.00, which will help to support next year's parade, the public will be allowed to seek essential differences by asking one question each. Also, Kofi Annan will host a U.N. Food for Oil concession stand. Generous funding for this parade is provided by Pfizer and Merck who will distribute free Celebrex and Vioxx. The King or Queen of Fools will be chosen based on the loudest cheers of the crowd at Washington Square Park. The winner will reign through March 31, 2006.

For information contact: Joey Skaggs, Committee Chair, at 212-254-7878 135 Sullivan Street, Suite 24, New York, New York 10012

Europe Holds its Nose for Bush Bank Nominee

Europe Holds its Nose for Bush Bank Nominee:
Giving Wolfie the Nod
by Ape

March 30th, '05

steve bell-the guardian

"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."
- The Peter Principle

U.S. Under-Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz is being touted favourite in the mainstream for the #1 job at the World Bank. The man also known as Bush’s “Architect” of the war in Iraq will, if the craven media mavens are right, now be rewarded his efforts with the sceptre to the world economy. -{lex}

The management theorist and creativity champion, Laurence J. Peter’s ‘Peter Principle,’ harpooned the dominant belief, most comfortably ensconced among they populating the stratospheric regions of the social melange, of an intrinsic meritocracy determining the pecking order. Operating invisibly, their ‘Jack Principle,’ as, “I’m alright, Jack!” fell like a stone before the eloquence of Peter’s simple observations of the general trend of hierarchical mobility within organizations of people.

Barely described, The Peter Principle observes: the capable in their given vocation move up and away from their studied milieu, while the under-achievers tend to be tolerated more often than dismissed. The effect is a picture of organizations manned by the least able leading a spiral down a pole of ever tightening circles of mediocrity; thus creating a culture of incompetence ultimately ruining its own enterprise.

While many may view Paul’s mounting of the World Bank’s Poobah throne a promotion, for Wolfie it means a further degree of separation from his accustomed fire-side proximity to the lap of power. So, he’ll the head of an international organization controlled from Washington. So, what?

I suppose it’s fitting Wolfowitz be the one to parachuted into the rubble “his” war has made of America's, and so the World economy. Peter would not be surprised. Since day one, the pirate administration has been busy disassembling every existing international institution; diminishing those institution’s relevancy, and generally dissing the very idea of Internationalism. It’s a rich irony now to see the Major Domo of the recent, and continued chorus of denigrators of ‘World Community’ and its manifestation through institutions like the World Bank, finding himself sequestered to just such a marginalized corner of the Empire. Or is it less irony than design?

Peter’s Prediction?

The fact is, and the cowering Europeans are well aware of this: Wolfowitz’s move is not so much an ascension as a lateral move, placing him in practical terms as a Static player. Like the pawn that's power is more in its position than potentcy. Wolfie will make sure the World Bank toes the line, (when didn't it?), but his position there will be more like graveyard security at museum no-one cares to plunder.

Despite his near unerring record of abject failure, (consider his analysis of Iraq and the greater middle-east), Wolfie has been on-message with the Bush Bunch, and deserves a bone, if one far from the limelight; the hope is, he'll be far from the reach of the xenocentric mob-glob media in the States.

Succeeding Through Failure

There is yet no guarantee of Wolfie’s securing of the World Bank’s purse-strings. But, should the supposed ascension come to pass it may prove more boon than bane to the many opponents of all that Mr. Wolfie represents.

C.L. Cook produces and hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. Check out the GR Blog site at and contributes to the progressive website, Peace, Earth and Justice, found at:


The Independent--

Bartleby--The Peter Principle