"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Total Surrender

Melanie Phillips, of Daily Mail and Question Time fame, writes:

"The bottom line is that this jihad against the west started long before even the first Iraq war. And any defence against it mounted by the free world is used to boost recruitment to the jihad. There is only one sure way for the west to prevent such recruitment: total surrender. That is the inexorable logic of all who inhabit the fantasy world of Planet Chomsky."


And here's a completely pointless/ridiculous exchange with her:

Dear Melanie,

I have only just read your latest blog entries, and I was surprised to read this:

"But the fact remains that had Saddam remained in power, we would now be having to deal with Saddam-sponsored terrorism, possibly armed with WMD.

The justification for toppling Saddam remains as valid as it ever was: that he was an unconscionable danger to the world because of the axis between his sponsorship of terror, his ambition to lead the Arab world and his intention to develop weapons of mass destruction."


Does this mean you have finally given up your belief that "[a]bsence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence"?


Yours sincerely,


No. There is no contradiction. I have also said this on several previous


Hi Melanie,

Well to the 'lay man' it does appear that in the first post you describe Saddam's intentions to pursue WMDs and that left in power he may well possess them by now.

In the second you suggest that prior to being ousted he had WMDs.

It would seem, by your logic, that if Saddam had been left in power he would have sought to increase his stock piles and further his WMD program?



Thanks for the further explanation of what you think is inconsistent. I'm afraid, though, that I just can't see that it is. I think you have also misunderstood what I wrote.

We went to war not because of the supposed stockpiles -- which at the time everyone thought Saddam had -- but because we thought he was actively pursuing a WMD programme and trying to construct WMD, in breach of the ceasefire conditions at the end of the first Gulf War , as I said in the earlier of my two posts.

What I wrote in my recent post was: 'But the fact remains that had Saddam remained in power, we would now be having to deal with Saddam-sponsored terrorism, possibly armed with WMD.' I did not write, as you claimed, 'that left in power he may well possess them by now'. I thought he was actively pursuing them, and may well have had some of them, at the time. Either way, in my view if he had remained in power we would now be having to confront a WMD-armed Saddam.

I also believe that the assertion that it has now been shown that he never had any stockpiles is absurd, because he was known to have had them and never showed that he had destroyed them -- and could well have hidden them in Syria, as has been repeatedly suggested, or destroyed them when the Americans arrived, when he razed the sites where they thought the stuff was. Hence my remark about absence of evidence and so forth.

I hope this now explains the matter.

Best wishes



Thanks Melanie,

I'm nearly there. So if Saddam had as you say the weapons Bush says he didn't have and the CIA said went out of date in '91 and if he was in cahoots with the terrorists Bush says he wasn't in cahoots with and if we'd left him in power, which we couldn't because of the imminent threat he posed to the West because of his possession of, I'll quote, 'the most lethal weapons ever devised' which he had failed to account the destruction of, then he would now be arming the terrorists he wasn't arming before, even though he had weapons to arm them, though George Tenet testified he was only likely to use them in self defense, although now they say he didn't, but you say they're in Syria presumably along with the uranium he was not attempting to acquire, so maybe the Syrians were behind the whole thing, but they're working for the US now, unless they cynically orchestrated the attack on the embassy, but then again if he had the weapons that he hid and if he posed the threat he did...

Sounds a bit convoluted. Have you been reading John Grisham?



Sorry, I'm afraid I don't think you understand what I have written. I'm afraid I'll have to leave it there, since I've run out of time on this one. Thanks for your thoughts anyway.

Best wishes



Monday, September 25, 2006

The Sound of Violence

Further to Media Lens' Haiti alert:


A response from RTE's News Editor and my reply:

Dear Mr. Good,

Apologies for my delayed response.

As far as I am aware the complaint regards the use of one of the coordinators names and does not question 'the figures for the number of sexual attacks and murders', this confusion has been exploited by the media in order to undermine the the study by speculating on the political motivations of the coordinator. However, neither the Lancet's investigation, nor the complaint, question the validity of the study's core findings.

"It is not suggested that the Lancet report had misreported its findings or that Ms Kolbe had any other agenda than the welfare of ordinary Haitians at heart. It is accepted by all parties that the study's core findings - that there have been disturbingly high levels of violence and sexual abuse in Haiti in that period - are true and need to be urgently addressed by the Haitian government and other bodies." [1]

It is alleged that this coordinator, in 'failing' to clearly state that she had worked at an orphanage founded by Mr. Aristide, has attempted to disguise her political association. This insinuation is then used to suggest this 'undisclosed' favour may have coloured the findings, so as to cast a more favourable light on pro-Lavalas groups.

Yet, "Prior to beginning research, [the study's coordinators] received written permission from Latortue's [Prime Minister of Haïti] administration to conduct the study. We fully informed the government of our intentions to research human-rights abuses and of Athena Kolbe's background as a journalist writing under her mother's maiden name, as well as the volunteering she did with orphans in Port-au-Prince." [Exert from a letter to the Miami Herald from the study's coordinators, Royce Hutson and Athena Kolbe, attached in full below] [2]

It appears, this relatively inconsequential issue has been exploited in order to cast doubt on the findings, which do not support the 'complainants' contention. Therefore there is some reason to believe the speculation is politically motivated.

"The main reason why I doubt this finding is that it contradicts the information that I have received from independent human rights investigators working in some of the most violent areas of Port-au-Prince...I have some doubts about the credibility of the research with regard to the perpetrators of these acts. These doubts focus on the contention that very few of the human rights violations have been attributed to "Lavalas members or partisans" (by which I assume the authors mean members or partisans of the Lavalas Family party led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide)." [Exert from a letter from Charles Arthur to the Lancet] [3]

Though the 'contention' has been extensively examined: "The publisher of the Lancet, Richard Horton, said the study had come with excellent credentials and peer reviews. "It was very thoroughly reviewed by four external advisers," he said."

The investigation into this complaint by the Lancet, which I might add has received more publicity than the actual study, is presumably standard procedure for a peer reviewed scientific journal.

As I pointed out before, the results of the study and the level of violence depicted in Haiti is not disputed. And while it is unalarming that such a study should be treated with hostility in the mainstream press, it is shameful that the media would choose not to report the findings, and in the case of the Guardian, for instance, focus on the unsubstantiated allegations.

There remains several options open to the media; firstly, ignore the existence of the study in compliant fashion, secondly, report the findings of the report, but choose to focus on the unfounded insinuations, or thirdly, report the findings and also the complaint, while ensuring that appropriate weighting is assigned to each.

If the purpose of the media is to provide adequate and accurate information in order to afford citizens the means to maintain democratic institutions, then refraining from reporting such findings amounts to a conscious attempt to hinder that process.

While the 'complainant' and those that conducted the study have much common ground, in that they both have the interests of Haitians at heart, the media has cynically used this issue to bury the report. Much of the responsibility for the human rights abuses detailed in this study falls at the feet of those that supported the 2004 coup, namely, France, the US, and Canada. The reason they were able to conduct this operation with little resistance from their citizens is that the media has consistently and continually failed to report the situation in Haiti.



1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/
2. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news
3. http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1842

Haitian-abuse study legitimate

Re Gerard Latortue's Sept. 9 letter, Kurzban column gets it wrong: We were surprised to see Latortue's attack on our study, which estimates that 8,000 murders and 35,000 sexual assaults -- half against children -- were committed during his tenure as Haiti's interim prime minister.

Prior to beginning research, we received written permission from Latortue's administration to conduct the study.

We fully informed the government of our intentions to research human-rights abuses and of Athena Kolbe's background as a journalist writing under her mother's maiden name, as well as the volunteering she did with orphans in Port-au-Prince.

Using Random GPS Coordinate Sampling, we surveyed 1,260 households accounting for 5,720 individuals and found extensive violations by Latortue's interim-government forces. More than 20 percent of the murders and 13 percent of the sexual assaults were attributed to government-security agents. Had Latortue had any questions about our credibility, his administration should not have authorized the study.

Latortue's claim that we were ''discredited'' is false. The Lancet's editor has publicly stated that the study's findings are not under dispute. The journal's only concern is with tangential issues regarding the use of one of our names. Neither of the researchers was ever a member nor paid employee of any Haitian entity or political party. Volunteering to do child care and teach communications classes at an orphanage's youth radio station 10 years ago is not a conflict of interest, either by academic ethics or by common sense.

ROYCE HUTSON and ATHENA KOLBE, assistant professor and research assistant, Wayne State University School of Social Work, Detroit

Dear [Me],

Thank you for your recent letter concerning the Lancet report on human rights abuses in Haiti.

As are probably aware, the Lancet has been investigating allegations that this report may have been misleading. They have received complaints questioning the findings - especially in relation to the role of the Lavalas groups, and the figures for the number of sexual attacks and murders.

However, all parties do appear to accept that the level of violence and sexual assaults in Haiti is disturbingly high.

We will continue to monitor the situation in Haiti with a view to returning to this story in the near future.


Michael Good

Dear Mr. Good,

It is now over three weeks since that damning report detailing human rights abuses in Haiti was published in the peer reviewed medical journal The Lancet. There has yet been no mention of it in the Irish media. Are we to wait until it reaches the agenda of a politician before it is deemed worthy of reporting?

Please find attached below my original email and one I sent to the Irish Times.

Thank you for your time.


See 'Silence and Complicity' for the rest.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Just War

Or a conscious act to murder

[cross posted over at Indymedia.ie]

Five years on since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the wars that precipitated from that act are now discussed in frustratingly candid terms. While the thousands of American deaths are fittingly remembered as avoidable tragedies, the military responses, claiming the lives of many more innocent people, are described as 'mistakes' and 'necessities'.

A legitimate response to terror

In a recent RTE Questions & Answers discussion all but the token 'left of centre' panelist described the war in Afghanistan in much the same way, a necessary response to an act of terror, which has resulted in a more favourable situation in the region. The removal of the Taliban was, though not the principal goal of the conflict, a welcome result. [1]

Noel Whelan and Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent with The Irish Times, laid out the fundamentals of the war as they see them. Noel commented that the war was a 'necessary issue that had to be dealt with', Mr. Collins reinforced the point stating that the 'Americans were right to go in... they have improved the lives of people in the long term... they were attacked by Al Qaeda and were entitled to respond.'

The principle point the panelists wished to bring across was that while one could criticise the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan was an act beyond reproach. It was a legitimate response to an act of aggression.

A media so detached from reality

In a lecture held by the Technology and Culture Forum of MIT in 2001 Noam Chomsky addressed the idea of a 'Just War' in Afghanistan. [2]

He was asked whether Richard Falk's (who incidentally also opposed the Iraq war [3]) October 2001 article in the Nation [4] provided a valid justification for the Afghan conflict. The article read: “The war in Afghanistan against apocalyptic terrorism qualifies in my understanding as the first truly just war since World War II...The perpetrators of the September 11 attack cannot be reliably neutralized by nonviolent or diplomatic means; a response that includes military action is essential to diminish the threat of repetition, to inflict punishment and to restore a sense of security at home and abroad.“

Chomsky's answer was quite simple, “if you can't find out who did it you can't punish anyone... [you] certainly can't do it by aiming activities against hundreds of thousands of people who had nothing to do with it.”

Many of these people, Chomsky noted, were in need of basic food supplies prior to the attack. These supplies were then severely hampered by US bombing:

“After the first week of bombing, the New York Times reported on a back page inside a column on something else, that by the arithmetic of the United Nations there will soon be 7.5 million Afghans in acute need of even a loaf of bread and there are only a few weeks left before the harsh winter will make deliveries to many areas totally impossible, continuing to quote, but with bombs falling the delivery rate is down to half of what is needed. Casual comment. Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that.”

Taking into account what we knew before the invasion, including what we could predict would happen, the invasion of Afghanistan amounts to a conscious act to murder.

With reference to the fact the US was 'requesting' the Taliban hand over Bin Laden, Chomsky proposes that the Taliban were probably quite sincere their request for evidence before any handover. A letter to the New York Times in October 2001 [5] made the same point; “If NATO has ''clear and compelling proof'' of Mr. Bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, why doesn't it just hand that evidence over to the Taliban so that they can give their people a legitimate reason for surrendering him?”

This is all quite irrelevant though. The purpose of the war was to capture those found responsible for the attack of 9/11. If we assume that the Taliban were protecting Osama bin Laden, we must also accept that it was the Taliban, a regime unpopular with it's people, were the ones protecting him, not the Afghan people. In contributing to the starvation of thousands of people and the bombing of many others it is obvious that it was the victims of the Taliban who were attacked, not Bin Laden.

A more favourable situation

The Senlis Council published a report on Afghanistan's current situation paints a bleak picture:

“After five years of intensive international involvement in Afghanistan, the country remains ravaged by severe poverty and the spreading starvation of the rural and urban poor. Despite promises from the US-led international community guaranteeing to provide the resources and assistance necessary for its reconstruction and development needs, Afghanistan's people are starving to death. Afghanistan continues to rank at the bottom of most poverty indicators, and the situation of women and children is particularly grave. One in four children born in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five and certain provinces of the country lay claim to the worst maternal mortality rates ever recorded in the world.

...[t]hose who do not want to turn to the Taliban are forced to do so in order to survive and support their families.

Taliban now control southern Afghanistan. Since 2001, the day-to-day security of ordinary Afghan people has deteriorated markedly. Despite the concerted focus on military and security issues in the country, the Taliban are tightening their grip on the southern half of Afghanistan. In addition to their current de facto military control of entire towns, districts, and neighbourhoods in the provinces capitals, the Taliban have psychological control over nearly half of Afghanistan. A doctor in Kandahar City reported that parents are no longer sending their daughters to school, women only rarely venture outdoors, and even then only when wearing a full burka." [6]

A tragedy of errors

The Independent [7] reported earlier this month: “The Senlis Council claimed that the campaign by British forces against the Taliban had inflicted lawlessness, misery and starvation on the Afghan people.

Thousands of villagers fleeing the fighting and a continuing drought, as well as farmers who have lost their livelihood with the eradication of the opium crop, were suffering dreadful conditions in refugee camps.

In a separate intervention, the influential International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) said that a vital opportunity was lost when the West failed to carry out adequate reconstruction work after the 2001 war.”

While the Times hears the opinion of someone 'on the ground':

“The former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan has described the campaign in Helmand province as a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency.

'We're now scattered in a shallow meaningless way across northern towns where the only way for the troops to survive is to increase the level of violence so more people get killed. It's pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of.'” [8]

The Media's Role

RTE's summary of the 'Removal of the Taliban':

"It was suspected that the hardline Islamic regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban, was sheltering Bin Laden and his followers. US President George W Bush issued the ultimatum that the Taliban must either hand over Bin Laden and other suspects immediately or "share in their fate". This did not happen." [9]

Note there is no reference to the Taliban's offer to hand over Bin Laden.

"The US and Britain began air strikes on Afghanistan on 7 October, knowing that bombing alone would not overthrow the ruling Taliban regime."

Note no mention of the other 'repercussions' to bombing.

And then follows the typical account of a media approved conflict. All told through the prisim of truth that is Donald Rumsfeld. Shockingly, there is no reference to the civllian death toll since US intervention in this summary. It is not even alluded to. It seems an efficient journalist must make no association between 'benevolent' military machines and civilian casualties. In fact, it would appear from this distilled version of events the only people to die as a result of this invasion were those killed in 2002's earthquake.

Based on this account of the war there is little wonder why five years on RTE's idea of balance is as skewed as it is. A balance that offers 'debate' on a war that claimed thousands of lives with not one dissenting voice.

Whatever the 'blunders' and lack of forethought those behind the Afghan conflict are guilty of, there remains one elementary truism. The humanitarian situation was well known and the risks clearly identified prior to the attack on Afghanistan. The dangers posed to the Afghan people were considered and the bombing was sanctioned.

The death of thousands of Afghans was not accidental, it was inevitable. But this is not an acceptable truth in the studios of licensed liberal discourse.

1. http://www.rte.ie/news/2006/0911/qanda.html
2. http://web.mit.edu/tac/past/2001-2002/index.html
3. http://www.transnational.org/forum/meet/2002/
4. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20011029/falk
5. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?
6. http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications
7. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article
8. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087
9. http://www.rte.ie/news/features/oneyearon/


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Slow vs. Regular

No News Is Slow News

The news that doesn't make the front pages or the BBC bulletins is 'slow news'. For example, the resistance to foreign power by the Palestinians, ordinary Iraqis and Afghans is 'slow news' while the internecine machinations of Bush and Blair is 'regular news'.

By John Pilger

09/15/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- When I began working as a journalist, there was something called "slow news". We would refer to "slow news days" when "nothing happened" – apart from, that is, triumphs and tragedies in faraway places where most of humanity lived. These were rarely reported, or the tragedies were dismissed as acts of nature, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The news value of whole societies was measured by their relationship with "us" in the west and their degree of compliance with, or hostility to, our authority. If they didn't measure up, they were slow news.

Few of these assumptions have changed. To sustain them, millions of people remain invisible, and expendable. On 11 September 2001, while the world lamented the deaths of almost 3,000 people in the United States, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that more than 36,000 children had died from the effects of extreme poverty. They were very slow news.
Let's take a few recent examples and compare each with the regular news as seen on the BBC and elsewhere. Keep in mind that Palestinians are chronically slow news and that Israelis are regular news.

Regular news: Charles Clarke, a spokesman for Tony Blair, "revives the battle of Downing Street" and calls Gordon Brown "stupid, stupid" and a "control freak". He disapproves of the way Brown smiles. This is given saturation coverage.

Slow news: "A genocide is taking place in Gaza," warns Ilan Pappe, one of Israel's leading historians. "This morning... another three citizens of Gaza were killed and a whole family wounded. This is the morning reap; before the end of the day many more will be massacred."

continued... Information Clearing House


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Deja vu

"IAEA complains of 'outrageous' inaccuracies in Iran report to House Intelligence Committee"

International Hearld Tribune

"UN criticises 'erroneous' US report on Iran"

The Irish Times

and the Irish Times does the unthinkable, employs historical perspective:

"It is a subject Dr Blix knows all too well from his experience as the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq three years ago, when his advice that more time was needed to assess whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was disregarded by the coalition led by the United States. As he put it yesterday: "The world was told that the invasion would lead to the 'moment of truth'. It did, and the truth was that there were no weapons of mass destruction!"
His remarks remain extraordinarily apposite as the world faces into a similar crisis over Iran's nuclear programme."

The Irish Times

Though these infrequent lapses in compliance make the liberal press what it is today.

Just take a look at almost ever other report on Iran's nuclear program for the last year.

"...for the mainstream media every fresh deception should be judged on its own merits, in isolation from economics, politics, history, and simple common sense."

Media Lens


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Silence and Complicity

A recent Media Lens alert covers the silence surrounding the killing in Haiti.

Emailed to The Irish Times and the Irish Independent:

lettersed@irish-times.ie, gkennedy@irish-times.ie, independent.letters@unison.independent.ie

Dear Madam,

It is now two weeks since the Lancet medical journal published the findings of a study which examined human rights abuses in Haiti since the ousting of democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Only a handful of news outlets have bothered to report on the findings, though this should come as little surprise to those that have followed events in Haiti since the US backed coup of two years ago.

UK based media watch organisation Media Lens, in monitoring the media's reporting of Haiti's human rights situation, have revealed a remarkable trend. Prior to the ousting of President Aristide the British and US media published many articles about the human rights situation in Haiti in order to vilify a leader, unpopular with the US, Canadian and French governments.

Yet following the 'forced exile' of President Aristide there followed large scale human rights abuses in Haiti which have gone unreported in the media. The most blatant example of this silence is the lack of coverage of this study's shocking findings: "8,000 people were murdered in the greater Port-au Prince area of Haiti alone," many by anti-Aristide groups, also, "35,000 women and girls were raped or sexually assaulted, more than half of the victims were children."

In failing to report the dire situation in Haiti the liberal media walks a fine line between inexplicable silence and complicity.

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.medialens.org/alerts/index.php
2. http://www.thelancet.com/search

To the RTE News Editor:

complaints@rte.ie, Michael.Good@rte.ie

Dear Mr. Good,

A study conducted by the Wayne State University school of social work in Detroit Michigan in 2005 of human rights abuses in Haiti since the ousting of democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide was published in the British medical journal The Lancet last month. The study has received surprisingly little attention given the disturbing picture it paints of life in Haiti since the US backed coup. Among the figures:

8,000 people were murdered in the greater Port-au Prince area of Haiti alone

[22 per cent of the killings were committed by the Haitian National Police (HNP), 26 per cent by the demobilised army or armed anti-Aristide groups, 48 per cent by criminals]

35,000 women and girls were raped or sexually assaulted

[more than half of the victims were children]

The findings are particularly unwelcome for those countries who actively engaged in 'disturbing' the democratic process by forcibly removing President Aristide, as the figures show a sizable proportion of attacks were conducted by political groups with 'Western' support. This however should not impede RTE in reporting the facts.

I hope you can find time to address this issue.

Yours sincerely,

For more information on the report please see:




Proportional Terror

Haaretz reports:

"IDF commander: We fired more than a million cluster bombs in Lebanon By Meron Rappaport "What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs," the head of an IDF rocket unit in Lebanon said regarding the use of cluster bombs and phosphorous shells during the war.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets.

In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law. According to their claims, the vast majority of said explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war. "


Friday, September 08, 2006

Kidnap/Capture Again

The BBC Director of News responds and I do the same.

[Read from the bottom up]

Ms. Boaden,

Incidentally, the BBC's use of the term 'kidnapping' in relation to the capture of Israeli soldiers was not the main point of my complaint.

I was simply asking why you had not implemented the editorial policy you refer to in your email. Under what authority to Israeli soldiers 'arrest' Palestinian officials?


Ms Boaden,

Thank you for responding. Here are two examples I have just found of the BBC using the word 'kidnap' to describe the capture of Israeli soldiers:


BBC News Online

There are presumably more. Also, a cursory glance at the BBC website reveals that the BBC has published numerous quotes by various people which again refer to the capture as a kidnapping.

I had seen the entry on the blog, however if the editorial policy is not strictly applied, what use is it?


Thank you for your email, but it is not right to say that the BBC has continually used the word "kidnapping" in relation to the Israeli soldiers. You may be interested in this entry on the Editors' Blog setting out our position that we prefer the word "capture":

Editor's Blog

Yours sincerely
pp Helen Boaden
Director, BBC News

Dear Ms Boaden,

A BBC TV news segment earlier today reported that Israeli forces had arrested the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser al-Shaer. The BBC website now states that he is presently being detained by Israeli forces.

Under what authority do Israeli forces act within Palestinian territories? The term 'arrest' implies that this action is in some way legal. Nasser as-Shaer is not simply being 'detained' he is being illegally detained.

I live in Ireland and noticed a similar pacification of language with regard to the capture of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian and Lebanese militants. I wrote to the RTE News Editor with respect to this issue: "Israeli detention assures prisoners no more rights than Palestinian captivity. Why does Israel 'detain' and Palestine 'kidnap '?"

He responded:

"Fair point. We have put a message in our general mail to this effect."

The BBC has continually referred to the capture of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian and Lebanese militants as 'kidnappings', yet Israel's captures are referred to as 'seizures' and 'arrests'. Could you please explain this disparity?

Yours sincerely,



Thursday, September 07, 2006

'Sustainable' transport solutions

In a letter to the Irish Times today Michael O'Leary writes:

"The Dublin metro makes even less sense than wasting €50 million on electronic voting machines. Linking Dublin airport to St Stephen's Green will not encourage any early morning passengers from around the city to do anything other than drive to the airport on the already congested M50. The airport metro will carry fewer than 20 per cent of passengers using Dublin airport. Wasting €1.5 billion (at current estimates) providing airport access for this small visitor group, who are already well served by competing bus services, is economic lunacy.

If this Government knew anything about transport - and it doesn't - then it would scrap this madcap plan to waste €1.5 billion of taxpayers' money building an airport metro which passengers neither want nor need. This money would be far better spent building an outer orbital ring road outside the M50, relieving the intolerable congestion on the M50, and providing better access to Dublin airport for cars and buses, which is how the overwhelming majority of passengers will continue to get there." [The Irish Times]

Here he makes a few slightly suspect statements:

"Linking Dublin airport to St Stephen's Green will not encourage any early morning passengers from around the city to do anything other than drive to the airport on the already congested M50"

Presumably this is because the Metro will not run at 5 O'clock in the morning, yet how busy is the M50 at this time?

Since the plan is to provide links between existing infrastructures such as the LUAS, the DART and Dublin Bus, why would people refuse to use the service?

"The airport metro will carry fewer than 20 per cent of passengers using Dublin airport."

With air travel on the rise and future growth needs to be met, this figure of 20% seems extremely low. And stating that the public service will "provid[e] airport access for this small visitor group" seems a little unlikely. Do the majority of people not travel into Dublin City on arriving in Dublin airport? Would those that don't, change their route if an efficient mode of transport was available? Certainly a guaranteed metro trip trumps a 25 euro taxi.

"This money would be far better spent building an outer orbital ring road outside the M50, relieving the intolerable congestion on the M50, and providing better access to Dublin airport for cars and buses, which is how the overwhelming majority of passengers will continue to get there."

Firstly, could someone, as I am unsure, tell me how many buses run on the M50 to the airport, and from which locations do their trips originate?

This is though, beside the point, and appears only as a diversion, used by Mr. O'Leary to enhance his point. His solution, quite simply, is to build more roads, wider roads and most importantly, roads to the airport. Does this sound like a sustainable solution?

Martin Cullen wrote; "It is not an airport rail link. It is designed to provide a high-quality rail service along a north-south corridor, meeting existing transport requirements in that corridor, serving the airport and facilitating major residential development in the Swords area." [The Irish Times]

Therefore Mr. O'Leary is not just protesting a proposed airport link, he is protesting a public transport initiative. He proposes an alternative though, yet one that takes no account of economic or environmental factors. He suggests building another M50, therefore decreasing car journey time in the short term, promoting further car use. While improved public transport encourages people to move from road to 'rail', Mr. O'Leary's solution simply ensures we will have the same (if not worse) problems, of congestion, pollution etc, in 10 years time.

This is all completely predictable though. For a man that makes his money through air travel in a time of 'a bit of a climate crisis' [Zmag]

"The Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, recently described climate change as "probably the greatest environmental threat facing the global community". Most scientists would agree; indeed, they would go further by saying it is the greatest threat to the survival of humanity on the planet." [The Irish Times]

['Greenhouse gases are already past threshold that spells disaster.' A May 4 article read: 'Global warming fastest for 20,000 years - and it is mankind's fault.'] [Media Lens]

to hear him suggest the solution to our transport woes is more roads for more cars is not surprising. Air travel has a serious impact on global warming, and Mr. O'Leary's ruthless and successful attempts to increase that pollution, and his bank balance, evidences his disregard for the environment and those that live in it.

"Aircraft emissions that go directly into the stratosphere have more than twice the global warming effect of emissions from cars and power stations at ground level and, based on the Government's own calculations, the effect of the 2030 emissions will be equivalent to 44.3 million tons of carbon - 45 per cent of Britain's expected emissions total at that date.

That growth alone, the environmental audit committee says, will make Britain's 60 per cent CO2 reduction target "meaningless and unachievable". The clash of interests cannot be ducked any more, say the green groups. "The convenience we enjoy in covering huge distances in a short time is one of the fast-growing threats to life on earth," said Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth.

"Aviation is an increasing source of climate-changing pollution and we must take steps to curb it now. Planes pump out eight times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a train. A return flight to Australia will release as much carbon dioxide as all the heating, light and cooking for a house for a year."

Blake Lee-Harwood, campaigns director for Greenpeace, said: "The simple fact is the boom in cheap air travel cannot be reconciled with the survival of those things we most value about the planet, and will ultimately kill millions of people."

No one is suggesting the governments approach to providing sustainable transport solutions has been anything more than abysmal, but Michael O'Leary's offering is just plain ridiculous and impressively short sighted.

Why does Michael O'Leary want another M50?


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

blood and petrol

beyond petroleum

""Their campaign worked. You can argue on whether they're green, but they've clearly gained brand trust and brand value," said Andrew Winston, co-author of the upcoming book Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage." [The Irish Times]

"As the world approaches a climate collapse that will likely consume millions of lives, this represents the most critical response to BP's latest ruse to appear anywhere in our 'free press'.

In considering the credibility of oil industry greenwash, one might deem relevant its documented history of subordinating human life to profits. One might describe its role in supporting dictatorships, in overthrowing obstructive governments, and in suppressing democratic movements. One might even refer to its tireless, fanatical attempts to deny the reality of climate change. But for the mainstream media every fresh deception should be judged on its own merits, in isolation from economics, politics, history, and simple common sense."

continued... Latest Media Lens Alert

And from an interesting paper on the subject:

"Analysis of a recent BP public relations campaign will attempt to show how its call for action masks an intention to carry on with business as usual. The call to the public to change their behaviours, part of a wider discursive formations, will be related to Fowler’s work on the food poisoning scare of the late 1980’s in the UK, whereby mounting criticism of food production techniques was transformed into a the consumer’s problem, who was showered with advice on what they could do in the home to reduce the risk of food poisoning. (Fowler, 1991). The BP discourse will be positioned as part of a wider discourse employed by business and the state which is designed to ensure solutions to this problem are all embedded within discursive formations which seek to preserve the goal of continued economic growth." [Trust me, I’m an institution: BP and climate change]

Athan Manuel, who directs lands protection for the Sierra Club and who negotiated with BP officials over drilling in ANWR several years ago, gives BP only a qualified endorsement. "Compared to their colleagues in the oil and gas industry, they're the best," he said.

Manuel added, however: "Being the best of the oil industry is like being the smartest of the Three Stooges. At the end of the day you're Moe, you're still a stooge." [IT]


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monbiot on the IMF

What will be passed off as a democratisation is in fact a way of ensuring the poor global majority continue to have no say

George Monbiot
Tuesday September 5, 2006
The Guardian

The glacier has begun to creak. In the world's most powerful dictatorship we detect the merest hint of a thaw. I am not talking about China or Uzbekistan, Burma or North Korea. This state runs no torture chambers or labour camps. No one is executed, though plenty starve to death as a result of its policies. The unhurried perestroika is taking place in Washington, in the offices of the International Monetary Fund.

Like most concessions made by dictatorial regimes, the reforms seem designed not to catalyse further change, but to prevent it. By slightly increasing the shares (and therefore the voting powers) of China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey, the regime hopes to buy off the most powerful rebel warlords, while keeping the mob at bay. It has even thrown a few coppers from the balcony, for the great unwashed to scuffle over. But no one - except the leaders of the rich nations and the leader writers of just about every newspaper in the rich world - could regard this as an adequate response to its problems.

continued... The Guardian