The Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” Video

 

New Baghdad, Iraq – 2007

An Apache helicopter hovers above a group of men on the ground.  Soldiers in the chopper are watching the men through a gun-sight camera.  Two of the men on the ground are journalists, a cameraman for Reuters and his driver, but they look just like others in the group milling around in the street.  One appears to be carrying a camera on a sling.  The other is carrying something as well.   The soldiers in the Apache,  who are apparently trying to clear the area for approaching coalition troops, have no idea who the men on the ground are.  The soldiers in the Apache appear to mistake the camera for a weapon.

Other men nearby appear to be armed.  The soldiers in the Apache see AK47 rifles and an “RPG,” a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

After establishing that men in the group are armed, the Apache asks for and receives, permission to open fire.

From that point on it’s like fish in a barrel.

When the shooting stops, one of the men is alive and trying to crawl away for cover.  The men in the Apache see that he appears to be unarmed.   They hold their fire.

Then, a van pulls up to evacuate the wounded.  The Apache again opens fire, this time on the van which has two children inside.   The soldiers in the Apache appear to know nothing about the children, who are wounded as the helicopter opens fire on the van.  Later, coalition troops move in to take the children to a hospital.

That’s what I saw as I watched the highly publicized so-called  “collateral murder” video  recently released by “wikileaks.org.”

I’m not surprised some of the media is avoiding it.  It’s really nasty stuff.  Just like war.   Like the wars/police actions in Afghanistan and Iraq the American public has been partially shielded from by a media that appears to be increasingly influenced by the Pentagon.

Americans became incensed with what was happening in Vietnam, because the media was bringing it into their living rooms every night.  The wars/police actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been presented more like video games than reality.   An acceptable product for a world desensitized by hi-tech electronics.

Death by remote control.  Forget about it.  It’s only a game.

The wikileaks video has that effect to a degree, but this time its not just a gray screen with crosshairs targeting an inanimate object.  This time it’s not just a missile going in to blow up a truck or building.  This time you can see the unsanitized version.  The bodies being hit by gunfire.   You can see them as they fall, with one wounded man pathetically trying to crawl away to safety.

A mistake was made.  A journalist and his driver were killed.  They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Two guys hanging out with a group of armed men, one of whom appeared to be carrying a rifle and another carrying what could have been an RPG.  That’s they way it looks to me, and the two armed men I see are not the journalist or his driver.

To the soldiers in the helicopter they were all members of a group of armed insurgents.   So they opened fire and people died.   No one should be surprised.  That’s what happens during a war.

In this war, as with Vietnam, it’s difficult to identify the enemy.  They aren’t wearing uniforms.  They aren’t out in a field somewhere hiding in foxholes.  They’re just people who look like everyone else.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is supporting the troops-

‘”It’s obviously a hard thing to see. It’s painful to see, especially when you learn after the fact what was going on. But you — you talked about the fog of war. These people were operating in split-second situations,” Gates said.

The U.S. military said an investigation shortly after the incident found that U.S. forces were unaware of the presence of news staff and thought they were engaging armed insurgents, mistaking a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The Reuters staff killed in the attack were photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chamagh, 40.

“We’ve investigated it very thoroughly,” Gates said on ABC. The military’s Central Command said last week it had no plans to open a new investigation.”‘ –Reuters

Those who want to use this video as anti-American propaganda will  undoubtedly find an audience eager to condemn the military and the United States.

If there is any condemnation to be made, it shouldn’t be directed at the soldiers in the Apache,  but at those government leaders who for so long kept reality from the eyes and ears of America.

The Bush Administration cleverly banned all media coverage as the coffins bearing the bodies of fallen troops were carried off the planes.  The government has also done pretty well in containing coverage of Iraqi and Afghan civilians being wounded or killed.

TV coverage?   Compared to Vietnam, there is none.  And much of America has stopped reading the papers.

Being embedded with the military can provide the media with increased access.  It can also limit one’s ability to show things as they really are.

As I watched both the American media and Al Jazerra during the invasion of Iraq, I was struck by the difference in coverage.   Al Jazerra actually showed the dead and dying, up close and personal.  The American media presented a  more sanitized version of the same events.  It was a troubling comparison.

The wikileaks video can be seen by clicking here.  It’s no fun to watch, but it’s reality.   Some would argue that’s  more than enough reason for everybody to see it.

CEO’s Flights Kept Secret

In a new piece from ProPublica entitled “Off the Radar: Private Planes Hidden From Public View,” the news service reports on how some business leaders and government officials manage to hide information on their use of company or government owned aircraft.

“To prevent the public from seeing where they fly, all have over the years turned to a little-known program that lets private plane owners block their flights from view in the government’s system for tracking air traffic.

The owners don’t have to meet any test to keep their flights secret. They merely submit a request to the National Business Aviation Association [1], a trade group that lobbied to set up the program on the grounds that secrecy is justified to protect business deals and the security of executives.

But in at least some cases, the program has also served as a refuge for plane owners who’ve faced bad publicity, according to a review by ProPublica of 1,100 blocked planes in the program. The list was obtained after a 15-month public records battle in which the business aviation group sued [2] the FAA to keep it confidential.

After a federal judge ruled [3] that the records are public, the FAA provided the list this week.”

“Registered owners include:

  • College booster clubs and athletic programs for the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi, who blocked flights to hide coaching searches and recruiting trips.
  • The CEO of Hooters, who along with other business partners, has a blocked jet to conduct surprise checks on restaurants, according to the company.
  • Owners of newspapers that have fought for access to public records, including Journal Enterprises, owner of the Albuquerque Journal, and Sam Zell, chairman of the Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.”  –ProPublica

 

Poizner “Political Toast” In Race For Governor

 Steve Poizner for Governor

The folks over at Calpeek aren’t mincing words – but then, they rarely do.  Here’s what they are saying about Steve Poizner’s chances against Meg Whitman in the race for Governor’s here in CA-

“…Governor’s primary first. In her GOP primary against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, businesswoman Meg Whitman continues to hold a huge lead: 60% to 20% with 3% other and 16% don’t know. The spread is slightly smaller than the Field Poll conducted March 9-16, where EMeg held a 63% to 14% lead over Poizner with 23% undecided…


…Is there any chance Poizner could close the gap and win this primary? Most Calpeek sources, GOPers and Demos, say he’s done – political toast. The only thing Poizner’s negative ads are doing is causing problems for EMeg in the general. It is difficult to go up against a rival who thus far has spent $39 million dollars – and has just added another $20 million to her warchest. It’s not that Poizner doesn’t have deep pockets, he does and has put about $19 million dollars of his own into the campaign. The problem is he’s about a 4-6 weeks late in getting up on tv.

EMeg has now defined Poizner with some hard hitting negative tv ads, while doing some positive tv for herself. Poizner’s tv ads are fair, but as one consultant told Calpeek, “The camera is not kind to Steve Poizner.” He comes across as nerdy…”

-Calpeek

KCAL/KCBS – Two Mints In one

The L.A. Times is reporting on a “major shake-up” at KCBS/KCAL TV here in Los Angeles.

According to the paper, Pat Harvey is being shuffled from KCAL to the anchor desk at  KCBS to anchor the 5 and 11PM casts with Paul Magers.  Magers, who was brought in from Minneapolis/St. Paul at a hefty salary to save the station’s failing news product, will split with his  former co-anchor Laura Diaz, who is moving to a solo anchor job on KCBS’ 6PM cast.  At the same time, Sharon Tay will  move to an anchor job at 8 and 10PM on KCAL.

If you had trouble following along,  the short version is that Harvey moves from KCAL to KCBS and Tay is being moved from KCBS to KCAL to cover Harvey’s old spot, while Diaz is assigned to a less prominent anchor job at KCBS.  Jim Hill stays put at KCBS and the market’s best tv weather guy Johnny Mountain, has been given the heave-ho to make more room for curvaceous weather girl Jackie Johnson.

A “major shake-up?”  I guess, except that it’s all the same station really.  It’s like that old breath mint ad,  “It’s Two!  Two!  Two mints in one!”    CBS, which owns the two “duopoly” stations (another brilliant move by the federal government that helped eliminate competition, jobs and diversity in broadcasting and journalism) has been shuffling its reporters and anchors back and forth for some time now, so it’s likely this new “shake-up” won’t cause all that much excitement.

Besides, it isn’t as though any of this really matters.  It’s only business.  Nothing more than a move to try and bump up profits by increasing market share by playing musical anchors.  Like a car dealer moving cars from one side of the lot to the other.

Whether it will have the desired effect is uncertain.  What is certain, is that this shuffling back and forth is sure to heighten an already high state of confusion the viewing public is feeling and the fear and loathing broadcasters at KCBS and KCAL are being forced to endure.    Those who have managed to hang onto their jobs, that is.

Does anybody care?  There was a time, not so very long ago, when people would have.   You may be old enough to remember those days when the community felt a bond with its local newscasters?  A time before texting and the Internet, when the news really mattered?  A time when the news product was more about journalism and less about entertainment?

Now it’s just two mints in one.

Yawn.

Tribune Co. Settles With Major Creditors

 The Tribune Company, parent company of the Los Angeles Times, KTLA-TV and the Chicago Tribune, has cut a deal with its major creditors.

“Under the plan, the holders of the senior notes would receive 7.4 percent of the company’s distributable value, which would be paid in a combination of cash, debt and stock.  The company’s senior credit facility lenders would receive cash and debt, and stock representing in excess of 91 percent of the equity of the reorganized company.  Under the plan, the company would emerge from bankruptcy, significantly deleveraged, with its business units intact and with adequate liquidity for operating and capital needs.  Once filed, the plan will be subject to a creditor vote and approval by the Court.

Material terms of the agreement have been filed with the Bankruptcy Court.”PR Newswire

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Memo to Tribune Employees-

From: Tribune Communications
Sent: Thu Apr 08 15:55:54 2010
Subject: Message from Randy and Gerry/Agreement Reached

Today we are announcing that an agreement has been reached among some of our major creditors, J.P. Morgan and Angelo Gordon, and Centerbridge Partners. The agreement has the support of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, and will be incorporated into a plan of reorganization for the Tribune and its debtor affiliates, to be filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The details of the agreement can be found in the attached press release.

As the release states, this agreement will enable us to file our plan prior to next Tuesday’s court hearing. It is another significant step forward as we continue to transform our media businesses, attract and retain talented people, and seize opportunities to grow.

We’ll keep you posted on developments next week.

Randy and Gerry

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“Although Tribune Co. portrayed the settlement as a hard-won victory, the reorganization plan, which is subject to a creditor vote and court approval, likely faces opposition by some still-disgruntled parties.”-Chicago Tribune

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I’m not an economist, so I have as much trouble as anyone sorting through the official language of high finance and the corporate spin of company officers, but it would appear major creditors like JP Morgan are going to end up holding more than 91% of the Tribune Co.   If that’s the case, and if the court and the creditors approve the deal,  then stand by for a fire sale of the various Tribune properties.

Tiger Woods – The Return Of An American Cash Cow

 

It’s media driven.  It’s superficial.  It’s pathetic.  It’s the return of Tiger Woods.  And now, just in time for the Masters, a company that makes athletic apparel has resurrected the voice of his dead father Earl  in a commercial, questioning Tiger like he was a small child with the inquiry, “Did you learn anything?”

How sad.  How humiliating.

Rarely has the perspective on any one issue been so expanded beyond the limits of reasonable thinking.

The man is a golfer.  He has not:

-Molested children.

-Provided cover for subordinates who molested children, so that they could avoid prosecution and move on to molest again.

-Lied to a nation about a threat which did not exist to drag that nation into an unnecessary war costing thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer’s dollars.

-Repealed laws that protected the United States against an economic meltdown and then awarded financial institutions that lobbied for the law’s repeal with billions of taxpayer’s dollars after the meltdown occurred.

-Lied through his teeth to get elected and then lied about the original lies to stay in office while accepting millions in bribe money from lobbyists.

-Smeared others lives with lies to get elected.

-Did next to nothing for days while a major American city flooded out.

-Looked the other way while the rest of the industrialized world pays less for health care and pharmaceuticals and continued to lie to Americans about the quality and cost of what they’re getting and why.

He has committed none of these, or any number of other egregious acts.  What did he do?  He had sex with women other than his wife and then drove his car into a tree.  God help us all.  Saints preserve us.   Tiger Woods fooled around and then hit a tree.

Sure, he’s a role model, but he has admitted his mistaken ways and apologized.   And hey, he’s a golfer.  A great golfer, but just a golfer.  Stop acting like the guy is mankind’s last best hope for salvation.  Get over it. There are other issues that actually deserve our attention.  Like the fact that a third of our kids aren’t graduating from high school.

(Sound of gears grinding and wheels squealing, as I fly into an abrupt u-turn and head the other way, back again on the road to reality.)

All of this would be perfectly logical were it not for the fact that it violates the dictates of our national holy grail.  In America, profitability trumps all and Tiger Woods is more than a golfer.  He’s a profit center, pulling down more than $100 million a year in endorsements alone.

It’s all about the money, stupid.  It’s nearly always all about the money.

Probably better to just let it go.  Take another pill to help you forget all that other stuff.  All those troubling issues that are too complicated for us regular folk to understand anyway and go back to watching your 52-inch mind numbing flat panel tv.   Tiger is about to tee off and it’s in high definition.  Sleep…..sleep……it’s good to sleep……

A Call For Villaraigosa’s Resignation

From columnist Doug McIntyre in the Los Angeles Daily News-

“Our City Council members have either been passive spectators or willing participants in the bankruptcy of the public treasury by handing over billions to well-heeled business interests and various public employee unions. They’ll have to be fired one at a time.

But the mayor could do the right thing and resign today.” –LA Daily News

Your Personal Info Is Out There

     

Everything you don’t want others to know.    At least not without your permission.  Your personal information is out there and much of it is available to anyone with a click of the mouse.

I was made acutely aware of this when a friend tipped me off to a website called  “Spokeo.com.”  It’s a simple search engine that needs nothing more than a name to spit out personal information about you, your family and anyone else you or others might be interested in.

Information like your photo, address, phone number , a photo of your house and the names of your spouse and others who live in your house.  That’s just for starters.

I ran a few tests with the names of friends and relatives and found that some of the information Spokeo returned was inaccurate.  Still, the problem of identity theft being what it is, enough of the information the website returned was accurate to make me uncomfortable with just how easy this thing is to use.

Basic information from Spokeo is free.  If you want more in-depth specifics on someone, like their income level, you’ll have to get out your credit card.  For $2.95 a month chances are they’re going to get a few takers.

According to snopes.com, Spokeo is one of several sites that get their information from ” a variety of other sources….as well as databases of other information aggregators.”   It has a “privacy” feature that allows you to file a request for your name to be removed from their public searches.   When I tried to use it to opt out of their service they demanded my email address.  I declined.  Why would I give them more info on me than they already have?

According to snopes.com, it’s important to understand that even if your name is blocked on the Spokeo site, the information on you will still be available “through the underlying sources used by Spokeo.”

This brave new world is getting scarier by the moment.

Mexico Earthquake

Sizable quake down in Baja.  Preliminary magnitude of 6.9 with an epicenter 38 miles SSE from Mexicali.   ABC now reports the USGS has upgraded the magnitude to 7.2 with the quake felt by as many as 20 million people.  Calexico/Mexicali, Tijuana and San Diego were all impacted.   The LA Times reports two dead and several injured in Mexicali.  Initial reports indicated skyscrapers were shaking in San Diego with the rolling felt from Phoenix, AZ to Ventura, CA.  Just a mild rolling sensation here in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, but it went on for quite some time – 30 seconds, maybe longer.  It occurred at 3:40:39 according to the USGS.  

The USGS also reports a magnitude 5.1 at 4:15:20,  1 mile west/southwest of Imperial, CA.

My wife has left for her yoga class to try and relax….

There will be aftershocks.  Good luck, everybody-

Preventing Another Economic Meltdown

I stumbled across an interesting piece by Paul Mason on BBC Newsnight.   Interesting, that is,  to anyone who has wondered about the continued viability of business models which rely upon the unsustainable idea of unending profit maximization.  Mason’s story is about following models that occur in nature and optimizing what we already have, rather than trying to maximize business models and waiting for the economy to explode.  Again.

Mason’s reports are about the U.K. but the similarities with the U.S. are striking.

“Paul Mason’s fascinating two-part Newsnight investigation of the future of Britain’s economy included another example: ‘bio-mimicry’ in business. What the bio-mimicry movement seeks to understand is how we can learn from the adaptive properties of nature.

Only three years ago, this might have sounded like hippy mysticism. But now, with economic rationalism in ruins and an environmental disaster awaiting, Mason’s interviewees sounded eminently plausible. As one of them said with regard to the notion of profit maximisation, “one thing nature never does is maximise. It optimises”.” -opendemocracy.net

Click here for video Part I  (scroll down the blog)

Click here for video Part II

Apparently Wellpoint Just Doesn’t Care

It would appear that Wellpoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, is doing all it can to encourage an expansion of healthcare reform.

Duke Helfand and Walter Hamilton report in the Los Angeles Times, that Wellpoint’s CEO Angela Braley received a 51% raise last year, increasing her compensation package to $13.1 million.  This, while Anthem Blue Cross is going after rate increases as high as 39% for many of its 800 thousand individual policy holders in California, despite having record profits.

The newspaper reports that Wellpoint’s stock price was up 38.4% last year.

The paper also reports three other Wellpoint execs are getting “compensation increases of as much as 75%.”

The company argues that they need to pay the hefty salaries to attract top executive talent.

Apparently they missed the debate surrounding the push for healthcare reform in America?  The fact that the high cost of healthcare is a major contributor to people losing their homes to foreclosure?  The fact that 45 million Americans are dying annually due to their inability to obtain healthcare according to a Harvard Medical School study?

Apparently they missed all that?  Or maybe they just don’t give a damn?  Is that it?  Blind arrogance brought on by their feeling of invulnerability after buying off most of the Senate and much of the House?

How can they miss the obvious, that their actions argue for the absolute necessity of government regulation where the public’s health and welfare are concerned?  They don’t see the monster PR problem they have will only grow with what will surely be viewed as a “public be damned” greed-driven lust for money?

Those words “The public be damned” by the way, are said to have been uttered by railroad magnate William H. Vanderbilt.   His bloodline has now given us reporter Anderson Cooper, who, as a journalist, is out working to educate and enlighten the public so that people like William H. and Wellpoint won’t be able to take undue advantage of the system.

Rock on, Anderson.  We’ve come full circle.

Bring on single-payer health care reform.   Pass the public option and expand it to include preventative medicine and dental care.   Time to join the rest of the industrialized (civilized) world and remove the profit motive from the life and death issues of health care.  This is madness.

52 Journalists Remain Imprisoned In Iran

New York, April 1, 2010—“The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed that several Iranian journalists continue to be held in inhumane conditions at the notorious Evin Prison. At least one journalist is reported in deteriorating health, and two are under severe duress to “confess” to charges that could bring execution.

The daughters of Badressadat Mofidi, the prominent Iranian journalist and secretary of the banned Iranian Journalists Association, have published a letter describing the appalling conditions in which their mother is being held. Mofidi has been held in solitary confinement and deprived of phone calls and family visits for several months, according to the letter. Mofidi’s family also expressed concerns about her deteriorating health. She suffers from a heart condition and is being given strong tranquilizers as the interrogations are causing her a great deal of stress and exhaustion,” her daughters wrote. Mofidi’s lawyer has not been able to meet with her or gain access to her file.

Mofidi was arrested on December 29 after discussing the government’s press policies in an interview with the Persian service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. No formal charges have been disclosed against her.”

“CPJ research found that at least 52 journalists were behind bars in Iran as of March 1.”  -Committee to Protect Journalists

The Coffee Party – A More Rational Approach To Politics?

I saw it on “KCET’s “SoCal Connected” last night.  Judy Muller reporting on a new approach to politics called the “Coffee Party.”   It appears to be people getting together over coffee to discuss politics without going nuts.  How refreshing.  An attempt at sharing information and ideas without tearing one another to pieces.   Where the Tea Party people seem angry, irrational and lacking in focus, the Coffee Party folks appear….well….collegiate.   People who advocate getting involved in the process to promote constructive change by standing in opposition to the obstructionism that seems to permeate government.  The following is from their website.

“COFFEE PARTY MISSION STATEMENT: The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.” –The Coffee Party, USA

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‘”Using social networking outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, it has garnered much attention in its short existence, apparent through its substantial media coverage. While some news organizations portray these movements as honorable and necessary, others criticize the sensationalism and the sometimes-ridiculous outbursts of members during rallies and town hall meetings.

  • Until now, there hasn’t really been an organized counter movement to the Tea Party. So if the Tea Party movement has put a bad taste in your mouth, then grab a mug and join the Coffee Party. The Coffee Party movement is a grassroots campaign that “gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government.”’-GSU Signal

Saudis Set To Execute TV Show Host For Sorcery

Saudi Arabia is threatening to behead a man for “sorcery.”  Really.   He has been charged with insulting God, and in Saudi Arabia,  any perceived insult against God can be punished with execution.

‘ “The condemned man hosted a satellite TV show in which he predicted the future.

He was arrested by the Saudi religious police while on pilgrimage to the country in 2008.

Malcolm Smart, head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said it was “high time the Saudi Arabian government joined the international trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions”.’-BBC

We need to follow Brazil’s lead and go green.  Do whatever it takes to get away from any need to do business with these backward people because of our ongoing dependency on their oil.  They treat women like cattle and execute men for sorcery.   Welcome to the 13th century.  Their ignorance and intolerance is beyond disgusting.  It’s thoroughly  inexcusable.

We’re America for God’s sake.  We won two world wars and went to moon.  And we can’t  gain our energy independence from a crude, backward society like the Saudis?   Of course we can.  Time to lead by example?