Saturday, May 15, 2004

Who the Hell Knows? 

Dad, an avid anti-conspiracy theorist, tells me he thought there was something fishy about the Nick Berg video from the start. Not only did he look awfully complacent for a guy who was about to be murdered (perhaps they drugged him), but the very image seemed somehow fake, as if -- ahem -- as if he had been superimposed. Now, there are lots and lots of theories about What Really Happened: why was he wearing an orange jumpsuit a la the US-issued prison garb; why would the terrorists, who proclaim their identities, mask themselves; why no arterial bleeding? Et cetera. And recently I came across this video analysis.
The time-imprinted sequence of the video scenes (no date is imprinted) is irregular: After displaying a title in Arabic, the video opens showing only Berg in a chair, at time 13:26:24 and runs for 3 seconds to 13:26:27. In the next scene Berg is still alone in a chair at time 2:18:33 and runs for 9 seconds to 2:18:42. In the third, longest, scene, starting at 2:40:34, Berg is sitting bound feet and hands behind on the floor in front of five masked persons. The middle person reads from a 2 pages for almost four minutes, then pulls a curved knife from beneath his cloak, grabs Berg by the hair, yanks him prone and prepares to cut his neck at 2:44:12. The video shows a struggle, the time is erratic and then skips to 2:45:48. At the first cut of Berg's neck the time jumps to 13:45:47. Berg's head is severed with several cuts then raised to the camera and the video ends at 13:47:52. The time imprinted on the video is slower than that of the running video: the running video shows that 45 seconds passed in severing Berg's head while the imprinted time is just over two minutes. It is a possibility this was an intelligence operation aimed at the competition, a method often used by black operators around the world to buttress support for their agencies and their murderous countermeasures.

Long and perhaps pointless, but intriguing nonetheless. Of course I don't have access to the video, so I can't look at the Time Code myself. But if this is accurate, it is definitely suspicious. Time Code is in the 24-hour format, so that first jump from 13:26 to 2:40 is a lapse of more than eleven hours, from 1:26 pm to 2:40 am. Why? This time is also hard-wired into the recording device, meaning that either those who were taping really took eleven hours off, or it was edited from two different tapes. It's also possible to make up one's own internal Time Code when transfering to another tape. Either way, it's completely inconsistent, and seems to indicate some heavy editing. There's much more, of course, surrounding Berg's detainment by US forces, his meeting with the FBI, and the fact that his father directly blames George Bush for his murder. Maybe in 25 years...


Don't Fake the Unfakeable 

One thing we do not need is more photos of troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. Another thing we definitely do not need is fake photos of troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. The real stuff is more than enough, and fakery for sensation's sake is despicable. One British editor learned the hard way.

Piers Morgan was last night sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror as the newspaper apologised "unreservedly" for publishing photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse that were faked.

Morgan's nine-year reign came to an end after the Queen's Lancashire Regiment proved that pictures of its soldiers allegedly torturing Iraqi captives were staged and launched a strong campaign denouncing the Mirror's handling of the images.

It became clear that Mr Morgan's fate lay in the hands of a small band of US shareholders. Five of the 10 biggest investors in Trinity Mirror - who speak for nearly a third of its shares - are American and it is believed that yesterday at least one was ready to make representations to the board about Mr Morgan's decision to use the pictures.

It is the latest scalp that the Iraq war has claimed from the British media, after the resignation of the chairman and the director general of the BBC in the wake of the Hutton report.

It appears that things are in disarray across the pond. We like to compliment the freedom of the press as it exists in other countries, but here we see how quickly things fall apart. While the Hutton Report was unabashedly pro-Blair, this is something different. Didn't Mr. Morgan read about that other Blair, Jayson? It remains unclear as to who made the fakes -- perhaps it was the British military itself -- but one thing is certain: another one has bitten the proverbial dust.


Nowwwww It Makes Sense... 

I've long wondered why the Bush Administration -- excepting the always-applicable rule of arrogance -- has been so adament in its opposition to joining the International Criminal Court. They claimed, long before our adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, that other countries would seek to railroad American soldiers, officers and officials. As it turns out, it's us who railroaded the people of other countries (and often with broomsticks and fluroescent lights), so it makes sense that BushCo would want to avoid human rights abuse charges on a world stage, despite the fact that they're already being tried in the global media.
The Bush administration is pursuing its campaign to protect Americans from International Criminal Court jurisdiction even as it deals with the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal that may involve some of the very war crimes the court was created to handle.  

So far 89 countries have signed agreements with Washington promising that Americans accused of grave international offenses, including soldiers charged with war crimes, will be returned to U.S. jurisdiction so their cases can be decided by fellow Americans rather than international jurists.

Other states may soon be added, officials said this week.

"It's never been our argument that Americans are angels," one senior U.S. official told Reuters.

"Our argument has been if Americans commit war crimes or human rights violations, we will handle them. And we will," he added.

What a sad and sorry state of affairs for the World's Greatest Democracy to be in. What hubris to impose our model of government on everyone else, while committing some of the very same tyrannical crimes we so despise. What arrogance to hold everyone else in the world to one standard, while exempting ourselves. This is truly a low point of the last century, that we must shield ourselves from the legal mechanations we helped put into place while carrying on an illegal and -- yes -- immoral war. What is the justification for invading Iraq now? That even though we tortured and humiliated the Iraqis, it's still better than under Saddam? How do people who fear another Crusade feel about American troops blowing up mosques?

America has done a great job of marketing its image for quite some time; now that is unraveling. It remains a place of unparalleled freedom and opportunity, but we should not enjoy an elite status, especially when it comes at such an enormous cost to everyone else, and now to Americans themselves. The image is eroding exponentially overseas, as countries see how we really conduct ourselves. If only Americans would see.


Thursday, May 13, 2004


I have been trying all night, for some unknown reason, to find a clip of Nick Berg's death. I have had NO success. Every link I try to open fails. Every one. All the search leads me to, in fact, is this.


Hey-la Hey-la, Gandhi's Back! 

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee, the man credited with "modernizing" that country's economy, has stepped down after his Hindu-nationalist party suffered heavy losses in elections this week. That means an Italian Gandhi will likely take over the reigns.
Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born heir to India's most famous political dynasty, said she would seek to form a government that was "strong, stable and secular".

Vajpayee, a 79-year-old poet who had been confident when calling the early election, resigned to President Abdul Kalam, the ceremonial head of state, who asked him to remain caretaker premier until a new government was formed.

Congress, which left power in 1996 after ruling India for 45 years, huddled late Thursday to begin choosing a prime minister, with many pushing for Gandhi, the 57-year-old widow of slain former premier Rajiv Gandhi.

But the Hindu nationalists -- and some potential Congress allies -- say Gandhi is unacceptable as they still consider her a foreigner even if she only appears in Indian dress and speaks in fluent, if accented, Hindi.
Apparently, some of India's poorer cases were not as satisfied with their country's dramatic entrance on the world stage as the elites were, and this showed in the election result. Vajpayee, from my completely ignorant position, has seemed like a good leader: he opened a dialogue with Pakistan, he brought American jobs there, and he managed a BILION PEOPLE. But something was left lacking. As I understand it, Indian voters tend to boot incumbents relatively quickly, and they have, like, 358 parties. Wheras we have... two. This, truly, is the world's greatest democracy!


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Brothers Weinstein to the Rescue. Again. 

It looks like anxious move goers will have better luck watching the Bushes sell America out on the silver screen this summer. Disney is handing over the rights to Michael Moore's newest docu-movie-thingy.
Miramax Films said on Wednesday it has reached a deal with Miramax's owners, the Walt Disney Co., allowing it to find a new distributor for director Michael Moore's controversial documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," which Disney refused to distribute.

Under the agreement, the Weinstein brothers would acquire the rights to the film that chronicles America's response to the Sept. 11 attacks and looks at links between the family of President Bush and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden .

The Weinsteins would then be free to find a new distributor to release the documentary into theaters, possibly as soon as July.

If Bowling For Columbine can stir so much controversy, imagine what this could do. Then we'll see who the real patriots are.

All that said, Liberty Soul has a few things to say (and link to) about the incomprable Mr. Moore that are worth reading ("Time to Make the Doughnuts").


Other Good News 

Senator Kerry missed an important vote back in Washington yesterday, a vote that might have protected, for a little while longer, some of the nation's millions of unemployed. Meanwhile, his colleagues passed another tax break for Big Business. Huzzah, as they say, huzzah!
[T]he Senate voted, 92 to 5, on Tuesday for a bill that would create $170 billion in new tax breaks for business while trying to crack down on a variety of tax shelters.

The original goal of the bill had been to replace a tax break for exporters that the World Trade Organization had declared illegal. But the measure that passed was a 900-page behemoth that offered something for almost every business interest...

The final vote on Tuesday was cast after Republican leaders reluctantly agreed to Democratic demands for a vote on extending unemployment benefits for 1.5 million workers who have used up their benefits. That amendment fell one vote short of the 60 needed to pass, and lawmakers moved swiftly afterward to pass the entire bill.
Guess who could have been that one vote? Yes, John F. Kerry. Now I understand he is busy campaigning for November's live-or-die election, but this doesn't look good, and frankly, it leaves me wondering, at least a little, as to what he is thinking. Granted this monster had tag-ons for every state in the union, and it was far from pure (Republicans admitted that they needed to add all these giveaways to attract fence-sitters) but Kerry is trying to build a platform on workers' rights, jobs, a more Democratic vision of the country, and he doesn't bother to show up.

The White House jumped on it immediately, offering up the all-talk-no-action elitist liberal BS, while Kerry says the vote woudn't have mattered since Republicans who crossed over would have voted against the measure if they thought it had a chance of passing. Okay, whatever. The question is why he would set himself up like that. Not that this will make any waves, what with Iraqis being tortured and Americans being beheaded. Still, the bill itself is rather disgusting, at least from an Average American, non-corporate giant's perspective.
Extending the [unemployment] assistance would cost $5.8 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a pittance compared with the corporate tax breaks in the overall bill.

The immediate corporate beneficiaries would include any company that still produces goods in the United States. The bill would also define "manufacturers" to include software companies like Microsoft, mining companies and Hollywood studios.

In an effort to drum up support, Republicans and Democrats added dozens of provisions like $14 billion in tax breaks for energy production, $492 million in tax credits for railroad maintenance, $519 million in tax reductions on small aircraft and $232 million for "Green bonds" for giant shopping malls, including a $2.2 billion project in Syracuse, that use new environmental technology.
Good, clean American fun, eh? Basically Republicans say we'd like to send more jobs overseas, then, when you're all unemployed, we'll pass a massive tax cut that will only benefit the wealthy, further strapping government on every level so that those of you without jobs -- or with low-paying ones -- will have fewer services; then we'll give another round of tax breaks to some of those big companies, and as a courtesy we'll consider throwing you some more benefits, but we won't pass them anyway. Because the economy is "recovering".



Other stuff continues around the world, despite the nightmare that is the Iraq War. For instance, our trade deficit hit an all-time high in March. That's good news, right?
The trade deficit swelled to an all-time high of $46 billion in March as a stronger U.S. economy stoked Americans' appetite for foreign-made cars, TVs and other goods.

The trade gap reported by the Commerce Department (news - web sites) on Wednesday was 9.1 percent bigger than the $42.1 billion deficit posted in February.

Exports, meanwhile, totaled $94.7 billion, also their best month on record. That marked a 2.6 percent advance from February and reflects in part better demand from overseas where economies also are improving.

Even though exports gained ground in March, the mushrooming trade gap and the loss of U.S. jobs have been lightning rods for Democrats who hope to use them as campaign issues against President Bush .
I supose this could create jobs for those of us in the shady export-import business. But seriously, folks, this doesn't bde well for the future of the country if losing 46 billion dollars a month is a sign of improvement. You know? What will we do when China finally gets its act together? Why start a war, of course!


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