Georgia Republican and impeachment hawk Rep. Bob Barr was the keynote speaker at a Counsel of Conservative Citizens (CCC) semiannual meeting in June, reports the WASHINGTON POST. Although the CCC sounds like precisely the type of place Barr would feel most comfortable, he has come under fire due to the group’s white-supremacist views on race, such as this excerpt from the group’s Web site:
“Take 10 bottles of milk to represent all humans on earth. Nine of them will be chocolate and only one white. Now mix all those bottles together and you have gotten rid of that troublesome bottle of white milk. There too is the way to get rid of the world of whites. Convince them to mix their few genes with the genes of the many. Genocide via the bedroom chamber is as long lasting as genocide via war.”
Harvard law professor and shameless publicity seeker Alan Dershowitz is also quoted in the POST article, stating (in a letter to Henry Hyde) that Barr “was fully aware of this organization’s racist and antisemitic agenda.”
It’s worth noting that the group met in June in the secession-happy state of South Carolina where—until November of this year—miscegenation was still illegal.
A Deeper Analysis of the U.S.-Iraq Crisis, from Edward Said
Columbia University professor EDWARD SAID will tell you what the American media won’t about the U.S.-Iraq crisis. In his essay “Apocalypse Now,” first published in November 1997, Said gives a clear, critical examination of the real situation behind the conflict. And although Said is a renowned scholar of Middle East politics and has appeared on network news broadcasts as an expert source, a combined NEXIS and Web search today indicates that no major U.S. news media have published this article.
Said (pronounced Sah-EED) argues convincingly that while Saddam is certainly not the “innocent victim of American bullying,” neither is the U.S. justified in imposing such crippling economic sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions are, according to the Clinton administration, “unprecedented for their severity in the whole of world history”; Said calls them vindictive, sadistic, and inhumane. (According to a UNICEF report from April 1998, more than 600,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions, mostly of malnutrition, disease, and poor medical care. Iraq says the sanctions have killed 1.5 million people.) The only victims of this conflict, Said says, are Iraqi civilians.
Analyzing the history of U.S.-Arab tensions, Said criticizes the United States’ opposition to any sign of Arab independence, its loyalism to Israel despite that country’s illegal occupations and terrorism against Arabs, its dehumanization of Arabs, and its overzealous drive to “bomb the enemy into the Stone Age.” He criticizes “the U.S. and its mostly brain-washed citizens” for their “orgiastic delight” in bombing Iraq.
Said lays the burden of blame for the Iraqi crisis on Bill Clinton, the American media, and countries that support the U.S. (How can other countries continue to fear Saddam’s threat of using biological warfare when it’s clear he lacks the military equipment to do so?) He calls UNSCOM director Richard Butler “racist” for saying Arabs have a “different notion of truth than the rest of the world.” He blasts Clinton for using Iraq as a distraction from his domestic crises (and that was before the Monica scandal erupted). And he chastises the American media for its poor analysis and pro-America bias: “The media exists mainly to derive its mission from the government, not to produce a corrective or any dissent…[it is] an extension of the war against Iraq.”
“What is needed,” Said concludes,” is a concerted will on behalf of Arabs who have suffered the U.S.’s egregious blows for too long without an adequate response.”
Said’s essay was first published in the Arabic paper AL-HAYAT in London, and the English-language AL AHRAM WEEKLY in Cairo. It’s been reposted online by THE SALAM REVIEW, a monthly electronic magazine about the Middle East.
Iraq Bombing “Another Lie,” Says Historian Zinn
[Immediately after President Clinton announced the bombing of Iraq today, we called Boston University historian HOWARD ZINN and asked for his take. After a few minutes, he e-mailed this forceful accusation:]
President Clinton has just told another lie, this time not about the relatively trivial matter of his sexual activities, but about matters of life and death. In explaining his decision to bomb Baghdad, he said that other nations besides Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, but Iraq alone has used them.
He could only say this to a population deprived of history. The United States has supplied Turkey, Israel, and Indonesia with such weapons and they have used them against civilian populations. But the nation most guilty is our own. No nation in the world possesses greater weapons of mass destruction than we do, and none has used them more often, or with greater loss of civilian life. In Hiroshima hundreds of thousands died, in Korea and Vietnam millions died as a result of our use of such weapons.
Our economic sanctions are also weapons of mass destruction, having resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Saddam Hussein may well have weapons of mass destruction, he may indeed be inclined to use them, but only the United States is actually using them, and at this very moment, people are dying in Iraq as a result.
However evil Saddam Hussein is, whatever potential danger he may represent, he is not, as the president said tonight (telling another lie) a “clear and present danger” to the peace of the world. We are. And, as the president said, if there is a clear and present danger we must act against it. It is a time for protest.
We are living in times of madness, when men in suits and ties, and yes, a woman secretary of state, can solemnly defend the use, in the present, of indiscriminate violence—they do not know what they are bombing!—against a tyrant who may use violence, in the future. The phrase “clear and present danger” has therefore lost its meaning. The phrase “weapons of mass destruction” too has lost its meaning when a nation which possesses more such weapons, and has used them more often, than any other, uses those words to justify the killing of civilians “to send a message.” We who are offended by this should send our own message to our demented leaders.
Howard Zinn is professor emeritus of history at Boston University, and author of A People’s History of the United States.
Total Coverage: Iraq Bombings
For breaking news on the bombing of Iraq, other than the ones you’ll hear blathering away on TV tonight, the MoJo Wire has just compiled this list of the best sites to supplement your coverage of the attack:
IraqNet’s News Center seems to be the unofficial site for all things Iraqi. Most importantly, it has a discussion forum where expatriate Iraqis are already discussing the air strikes.
The “International Op/Ed Pages” offer just that—a comprehensive list of editorials from newspapers around the globe. Nothing about the bombings yet. But this will be the place to check out world opinion tomorrow.
Arabia On-Line’s coverage includes breaking stories, though they’re mostly culled from wire services. It also has an “Arab Forum” you can sign into to discuss the air strikes—though you have to register first. Hopefully the site will have more regional-based reporting in the next few days.
The BBC Online carries information on the strikes from the British point of view—which is very similar to the U.S. point of view, as Britain is the other country bombing Iraq along with the U.S.
“NewsCenter,” a project of Common Dreams, is the Yahoo of progressive news (admittedly a niche). It links to the latest news on the attacks, with the spicy headline: “Cruise Missiles Fall on Iraqis as Clinton Wags the Dog.” The site has a huge list of links to progressive columnists (some from the MoJo Wire)—plenty of them are sure to write about the attack.
The Iraq Action Coalition is an activist group that has long opposed economic sanctions against Iraq—let alone bombings. They’re sure to be pissed and have something to say.
The International Action Center home page already lists the locations of nationwide protests against the bombing of Iraq.
THE MILITARY DETAILS
The Federation of American Scientists’ “Iraq Crisis” page: It’s the ultimate site for military wonks who want to dive into the Tom Clancyesque details. For starters, the site claims to have the “Orders of Battle for Operation Desert Fox.”
The official Web site of the U.S. Department of Defense. Check out the RealAudio file of the Defense Department press briefing on the attack. It’s about a half-hour long—and not all that thrilling.
Koko and Mr. Rogers: A Story of Love
“Koko’s affinity for Mister Rogers was immediately apparent. His soothing and quiet manner soon had Koko so relaxed that she had her arm around him and was intent on removing his sweater and shoes.”
Yes, that is Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and, yes, it’s Koko the signing gorilla. But before firing off any nasty letters to PBS, the Gorilla Foundation, or PETA, check out the article in the 1998 issue of GORILLA, JOURNAL OF THE GORILLA FOUNDATION (conveniently located at gorilla.org), detailing Koko’s visit to Rogers’ beloved children’s show in March (the show aired in July and August).
The online version doesn’t have as many (disturbingly hilarious) pictures of Mr. Rogers and Koko getting to know each other, but the two on the site are, well…keepers. The print GORILLA journal (No, we’re not charter subscribers. It just showed up in our mailbox. Honest.) also contains the best account of the visit, such as this piece of simian erotica:
“[Koko] holds Mister Rogers’ hand to her lips, and smells his hand. She pulls him close and touches his face gently. Then she unceremoniously unzips Mister Rogers’ trademark cardigan sweater.
[Penny Patterson, one of Koko’s keepers]: You know how to work a zipper. Very good.
Koko holds Mister Rogers’ hands, studies his tie, and then takes him by the hand and leads him to her room.”
Whew! Reads almost like a passage from NERVE, doesn’t it?
http://www.gorilla.org/news/mr2.html (This links to a picture of Koko and Mr. Rogers. It’s the funniest and most disturbing part of the whole thing.)
Republicans Clamp Down on Hurricane Aid to Central America
Since Hurricane Mitch thrashed Central America, many countries have canceled debts owed by Honduras and Nicaragua, and last Friday the World Bank said it will provide $1 billion in interest-free, 40-year loans. For its part, the U.S. has also coughed up more than $300 million in immediate aid, and the Clinton administration has asked Congress to forgive most of the $238 million the two countries already owe the U.S.
But in a development reported by the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, it seems that Republican lawmakers on the House Foreign Appropriations Subcommittee, led by Rep. Sonny Callahan of Alabama, are now insisting that any additional aid given to the hurricane-torn countries must be taken out of allotments already budgeted to other countries. (A quick NEXIS search by the MoJo Wire reveals that Callahan welcomed federal aid when his own state was inundated by Hurricane Georges in September.)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, has taken Honduras and other countries under her wing and is promising to wage a battle in Congress for long-term reconstruction aid and debt cancellation.
Year One: What Has Julia “Butterfly” Hill Accomplished?
One year ago, Julia “Butterfly” Hill climbed a giant redwood tree in Northern California to protest the logging of ancient redwoods in the Headwaters Forest by Pacific Lumber Co. and its parent Maxxam Corp. She’s still up there. Lots of news outlets this week will run a short ASSOCIATED PRESS wire item on the anniversary, and you might catch a wacky-hippie segment on TV news (CBS’ Charles Osgood delivered his yesterday in cutesy rhymes).
But only the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE ran a thoughtful profile that looks at what Julia Hill has accomplished in her year as a sought-after sound-bite poster girl. Hill has almost singlehandedly shifted the terms of the Headwaters debate, reports the CHRONICLE: Once it was hippies vs. loggers, but now it’s environmentalists and loggers vs. the rapacious Maxxam Corp. and its boss Charles Hurwitz. “I’ve never felt that loggers were the enemy,” Butterfly says. “Maxxam is the problem—a company that has accrued hundreds of environmental violations from the California Department of Forestry in the last eight years. A company that’s just had its logging permit pulled. A company that just handed 180 loggers their pink slips because it couldn’t continue clear-cutting as fast as it wanted. They don’t care about their employees, and they don’t care about their forests. When they’re finished, there’ll be no jobs, no trees—just eroded earth. We don’t have a problem with sustained-yield logging. But this isn’t sustained-yield, and the loggers will ultimately suffer with the rest of us.”
That message has reached millions of readers and viewers thanks to Hill, and it’s even reached some loggers, reports the CHRONICLE. One logger from Pacific Lumber fell in love with Hill—and quit his job.
Who Needs the International Space Station?
The past week has brought us one step closer to the completion of the $40 billion dollar, 361-foot International Space Station. Fourteen years after Ronald Reagan first proposed it—with an $8 billion price tag and a completion goal of 1992—we are still six years, 40 launches, and billions of dollars away from finishing it. With the GAO warning that the total could reach $96 billion, some in Congress are listening: A bill introduced in October would stipulate, among other things, a total cost cap on the project.
Recent articles in TIME have questioned the space station’s true mission: NASA proclaims it “a test bed for the technologies of the future and a lab for research on new, advanced, industrial materials, communications technology, medical research, and much more,” but critics say its real purpose is to prop up the U.S. and Russian aerospace industries. It didn’t help matters that two antennas on the Russian-built Zarya control module failed to deploy after the November 20th launch.
But incompetence and runaway costs aren’t the only threats to the space station. In a compelling article from July’s ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Steve Olson warns that “space junk”—mechanical debris scattered in various orbits around the Earth—could wreck the station, thanks mostly to the U.S. government and communications companies who scattered it in the first place. According to Olson, the risk of a “critical penetration” which could destroy the station or kill a crew member is 20 percent each decade the station is in orbit. After reading Olson’s article it is difficult to imagine a bigger waste of $40 billion (although we’re sure the government could come up with one).
Yep, this season’s adorable consumer craze has a dark secret: Workers make just $20 a week in the southern Chinese factories where the Furby toy is made, reports the NEW YORK POST. Compare that to the price of a single Furby, which sells for about $35 in U.S. toy stores and up to $300 on the black market.
The POST paints a grim picture of a Furby factory in Shenzhen, reporting that it is in bad condition, with bars on the windows and garbage heaped against the walls (anybody remember the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911?). Workers sit in dimly lit rooms full of dust and chemicals. They live in cramped quarters, and are forced to buy expensive meals from the company store. And with the new demand for the toy, they are also overworked, putting in 14-hour days and receiving only 25 cents per hour for overtime.
Vernon, Ill.-based Tiger Electronics, the maker of Furby, is an international subsidiary of Hasbro, the second-largest toy company in the world. In a 1996 report by the World Development Movement, Hasbro was cited for “poverty pay and appalling working conditions.” But a Tiger Electronics executive disagreed with the POST’s findings, claiming that “the conditions [in the factory] are reasonable.” And one worker told the POST, “We make more money here than at almost any factory in Northern China.” However much that is.
U.S. Lagging in Human Rights Efforts
“[T]he U.S. government today poses a threat to the universality of human rights.” So concludes HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH in its WORLD REPORT 1999, released last Thursday. The introduction to the report characterizes the U.S. as “severely out of step” with worldwide human rights efforts. The ASSOCIATED PRESS reported the conclusions of the report, and focused on the spicy quotes. Plenty of papers picked up the AP story, but few mentioned the details behind HRW’s accusations.
What did the U.S. do to prompt HRW to slam it so harshly? Absolutely nothing:
In addition, the United States still hasn’t ratified treaties on women’s rights, children’s rights, labor rights, economic rights, and the protection of civilians during time of war. Oh yeah, and we also blocked a proposed U.N. Security Council investigation into our bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant.
Tip: In the HRW report, click the link in the right-hand column labeled “U.S. Isolation on Human Rights.”
Throw Away Vinyl Toys, Warns Consumer Product Safety Commission
Greenpeace won a major victory yesterday in its campaign against chlorinated chemicals when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned parents to throw away baby pacifiers and toys made with vinyl, because they contain a softening chemical believed to be a cancer risk. The agency also asked toy manufacturers and retailers to discontinue such items; large retailers like Toys “R” Us, Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Sears have already pulled them from the shelves.
But the CPSC stopped short of banning products containing the chemical, diisononyl phthalate (DINP), because it lacks the data to determine how much kids absorb from chewing on such items, and how much of a health risk the chemical really poses.
The Chemical Manufacturers Association insists DINP is safe in the small doses children would absorb, but lots of news stories yesterday omitted that side of the argument. One that gave both sides was NEWSDAY out of Long Island, N.Y.
Number of Undernourished People Is Growing, U.N. Says
The world may be more interconnected than ever before, but it’s also getting hungrier. A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released last week found that the number of “chronically undernourished people” in developing countries is actually rising, reports ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS NETWORK.
In its report The State of Food and Agriculture 1998, the U.N. estimates that 828 million people were chronically undernourished during 1994-1996, an increase of six million people from the 1990-1992 period. The FAO says the growth is a result of increased poverty and a widening income distribution gap in many parts of the world (although it’s worth noting that those 6 million people represent just 0.7 percent growth in hunger, and we suspect the world population has grown faster than that).
We couldn’t find the report itself online. But we did find the U.N.’s press release about the report.
According to a LEXIS-NEXIS search today, only one major U.S. news outlet picked up the story: ABC’s “GOOD MORNING AMERICA.” They wedged it in between a summary of the president’s latest troubles and a preview of a story about Americans’ holiday giving.
Temporary Foreign Workers in the Computer Biz
This month, the DALLAS OBSERVER runs a well-written and well-reported article on “body shops.” The term, in its latest usage, refers to controversial companies that recruit skilled foreign labor to work temporarily in the tech industry.
Congress recently approved a raise in the number of temporary, or H-1B, work visas that allow foreign computer workers into the country on a temporary basis. The law is a victory for the tech industry, but it is especially good news for body shops, companies that specialize in finding foreign computer workers, sponsoring them for H-1B visas, bringing them over to the U.S. and then contracting them out to big tech companies. Body shops have been the biggest sponsors of H-1B visas, but critics accuse them of exploiting their employees. Some have been cited by the Department of Labor for ill-treatment of workers and work environments that resemble “indentured servitude.”
The OBSERVER provides a rare in-depth look at these body shops, profiling the story of one body shop owner and presenting the full array of labor issues that arise. In the end, writer Miriam Rozen points out, H1-Bs may become obsolete anyway. She predicts that companies will eventually send their work to workers overseas rather than the other way around.
With 1.8 million people behind bars, the United States imprisons more of its people than any other nation in the world, at any time in history. Not even China—a nation notorious for its prisons—has more people or a higher percentage of its population serving time. In the December issue of THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Eric Schlosser takes a hard look at the U.S. prison system and the industry it has spawned. Schlosser argues that we have embarked on a new era of incarceration—the age of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC)—and he examines the way state and federal governments interact with private corporations to control our inmate population. Delving into the history of the PIC, its effects on society at large, and what the future may hold, this article is a good overview of an extremely underreported subject.