Thursday, June 22, 2006

Law and Disorder on tasers

Good evening. I'm teaming up with Cedric tonight so be sure and check out Cedric's Big Mix for his thoughts on the headlines. (Elaine's off on Thursdays.) Let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

7 Marines, Naval Corporal Charged With Murdering Iraqi Civilian
The US military has charged eight service members with the murder and kidnapping of an unarmed Iraqi. Hashim Ibrahim Awad was pulled from his home last April in the town of Hamdania. Military investigators believe the Marines shot him and then planted a shovel and an AK-47 rifle at the scene to make it appear he was an insurgent. Awad was in his 50's with a lame leg and bad eyesight. His family has alleged a small group of U.S. servicemembers offered them money in exchange for supporting the Marines' version of the killing. The charges were announced Wednesday at California's Camp Pendleton, where the servicemembers are being held. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty.
Marine spokesperson Colonel Stewart Navarre: "It is important to note that the charges are accusations, against the individual, and the accused is presumed innocent. All marines are trained in the law of armed conflict, and are expected to fully comply with it. The marine corps takes allegations of wrongdoings by its members very seriously, and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations."

So presumed innocent that the paper of no record (New York Times) didn't front page the story. I don't know, seems pretty damn important to me. If I'm remembering C.I.'s past "Iraq snapshots" right, NBC may have broken this story. I know a woman at Knight Ridder did strong work on it. So maybe this is all about the paper not being able to put in one of those self-stroking sentences they loves like "As the New York Times reported last month . . ."? But it's inside the paper. Not on the front page. Not important for them to front page.

A case where troops are charged (not investigated now, this is charges) with killing an innocent Iraqi and then trying to cover it up by planting items to make it look like he was an "insurgent."
And it's not big news?

I love how the military flack says, "Remember, innocent until proven guilty." That's a laugh coming from the military flack considering that the same principle doesn't apply at the military base on Guantanamo.

Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Increase
Back in the United States, the Senate rejected a measure Wednesday that would have raised the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade. The proposal called for a 40 percent increase from the current wage of Five Dollars and Fifteen cents an hour. A study released this week by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the real-dollar value of the minimum wage is now at its lowest level in more than fifty years. But Congress has not rejected all federal pay hikes: last week, House lawmakers voted to increase their salaries by more than Three Thousand Dollars. It was their seventh straight pay raise.

Must be nice to give yourself a raise. Congress gets seven pay raises in a row. Minimum wage has to settle for once in a decade. Who do you think needs it more? Workers working like slaves for $5.15 an hour or Congress members who already have a health insurance policy that should be the envy of all the rest of us. I think they should have to give that up. If the people can't have it, their elected representatives shouldn't either. It's not like they'd be hurting, they could just vote themselves another raise to cover the health care costs.

C.I. paired this up with a paragraph from page 100 of Antonia Juhasz' The Bush Agenda: Invading The World, One Economy at a Time (page 100):

Just compare CEO pay to that of the average worker. Twenty years ago, U.S. corporate CEOs earned on average forty-two times more than production workers. Today, they earn a whopping 431 times more. Put another way, if the average production worker's pay had kept pace with that of CEOs, he or she would be taking home more than $110,000 a year instead of less than $28,000. Likewsie, the average minimum wage earner would be taking home over $23 an hour instead of $5.15. Imagine what one could do with an extra $18 an hour -- perhaps afford a better place to live, child care during work hours, or health insurance for the entire family.

You get that? When your paper (the Times, the Boston Globe, whatever) does a front page fluff about how the economy is better or it's still growing or whatever nonsense, you need to realize where that "growth" is going. It's not going to you and me. It's going to the people who need it the least.

It reminded me of Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse. He's talking about the idiot Thomas Friedman and his attacks on the French and what he calls "European socialism" (pages 154- 155):

And thus, Friedman concludes, China will snuff the torch of "European socialism." It's simple arithmetic, according to Friedman. Europeans can't "preserve a 35-hour workweek in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day."
What he need not add is that if a 35-hour week is a frivolous luxury for the French, then the 40-hour week in U.S. law is hardly less extravagant. Luckily for us, it too will soon go. (See "The Grinch That Stole Overtime" in Chapter 5.)
Just as Europe's 35-hour week cannot survive global competition, and America's 40-hour week cannot survive, neither can India maintain a 50-hour week. The very month that Friedman's The World Is Flat hit the bestseller list, India's government lifted the limits on the workweek in textile sweatshops from 50 hours a week to 60.

Monday on WBAI's Law and Disorder, the second segment (the one I'm grabbing) was an interview Dalia Hasshad did with Mona Cadena who is an expert on Tasers and with Amnesty International.

Mona described a circle shock, a group of people hold hands and the shock gets sent through them. "What happens is the entire circle immediately falls to the ground," Mona said. She talked about being five-feet tall, standing with a group of "big, giant police officers" and how they all crumbled "just like that." The normal time length for the shock is five seconds and what was done in the group shock didn't even last that long.

A man was shot multiple times, in Portland, and died. "Tasers are really billed as an alternative to deadly force" and they're put on the street that way by a lot of police departments. "They'er not used as an alternative to deadly force . . . We're seeing them being used on senior citizens, on young children," on people who don't go along with a verbal command and "we're also seeing them being used in the dry-stun mode" applied right against the person's skin.

Dalia talked about a 92 y.o. man with a cane and Alzheimers was shocked repeatedly. "If you will use a taser on a 92 year old man you clearly have the sense that this is a harmless weapon.
A 92 year old man using a cane cannot really harm someone very seriously. You could just,
a healthy polic ofic can just reach out and grab the cane from that person. I think the taser was seen as a shortcut and that's what concerns me, it's a short cut to law enforcement that people don't understand how serious the consequences can be."

She made the point that "when older people fall, break bones, break hips, that could be something that kills them." Then Mona talked about how a kid stole a salad at Chuckee Cheese and police tasered him. Dalia thinks (I agree) that there needs to be a real study, a comprehensive study. Mona said that all the studies she knows about use data given to them by the makers of Tasers so there's not any independent studies.

Cedric's got the third segment. Right between them, there was a song. I didn't get to hear it because there was a community announcement. Ruth missed it to but I played the tape recording for her and from the little bit we got to hear, she says it's "Feeling Alright" and she'd guess it was Paul Weller. (Who? Ruth says he was in the Replacements in the eighties. I go, "I'm impressed!" She goes, "Mike I have kids and grandkids!" I'm still impressed. She's so cool.)

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq. Elsewhere some merely strike poses.
In the United States, the Senate has said "NO!" to US forces leaving Iraq by July 2007. As the so-called coalition continues to break apart with other nations deciding to pull their troops out of Iraq, one might think the issue would garner a serious debate. Always one to posture, John McCain (Senator from Arizona) declared: "The United States, with our Iraqi partners, has the responsibility to see this through" apparently auditioning for the role of passenger on the Titanic. Russ Feingold (Senator from Wisconsin) stated: "It is time to tell the Iraqis that we have done what we can do militarily." Instead of addressing that reality, most preferred to posture; however, 13 senators did vote in favor of the proposal John Kerry and Feingold were supporting (troops out by July 2007). The other (weaker and, as Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, "nonbinding") proposal much supported by Democratic Party hacks such as DiFi and Harry Reid? It lost in a 60-39 vote. In Vienna, the Bully Boy faced questions about Iraq. "What's past is past," declared the Bully Boy on the issue of Iraq. What's past? How about what's passed? The 2500 mark for American military fatalities. As Amy Goodman noted today on Democracy Now!, 2512 is the current fatality count.
While the United States Congress can't say "Withdrawal" and the Bully Boy can't even toss out a phrase correctly (it is: "What's done is done."), it's not suprising that it has become increasing harder for US military recruiters to meet the needed recruitment numbers. As the UK's Daily Mail notes, the U.S. Army's decision to raise the maximum age for recruitment, to forty-two, is the second time this year that the military has raised the age. In January, the maxium age was raised from 35 years-old to 40. Why the Army? As Reuters notes: "More than three years into the war, the Army continues to provide the bulk of U.S. ground forces in Iraq." Which is why military recruiters, when not stalking school campuses, attempt to recruit at NASCAR events.
Speaking to Fluxview, for their AWOL in Canada series, Christopher Mogwai noted that, "In the Vietnam era they didn't kick you out for drugs, now they do" so some choose any number of means to leave the service. Fluxview also interviews war resistors Darrell Anderson and Ryan Johnson.
Noting the charging of "eight US troops with kidnapping and murdering a handicapped Iraqi civilian," Demetri Sevastolulo and Neil Buckley (Financial Times of London) note that the speaker of the Iraqi parliment is asking "the US to investigate the killings of 'many innocent people' by American forces." According to CNN, Masmoud al-Mashhadani is specifically calling for "an investigation . . . into this week's U.S. bombing of a poultry farm in northern Iraq." This is the incident Amy Goodman noted yesterday where a human rights worker states that "two of the dead were young boys aged ten and twelve." As Al Jazeera noted: "The Association of Muslim Scholars said US warplanes bombed a house and a poultry farm in al-Bushahin village in northeast Baquba, then dropped soldiers to kill the survivors of the attack."
In Baghdad today, CNN notes a car bomb went off by a movie theater and two people were killed, five wounded. Reuters notes a motorcycle bombing, in Baghdad, which resulted in two dead and eight injured.
In Baquba, Reuters reports that Raad al-Mowla was wounded in a roadside bomb (al-Mowla is the governor of the Diyala province). The Associated Press notes a bomb in Jibla that resulted in the death of an unidentified civilian and an "Iraqi army solider." As Amy Goodman noted this morning, "at least fifty of the more than eighty [kidnapped] workers have been released or freed."
Reuters notes the discovery of 14 corpses of electricity plant workers who were "abducted and killed June 12". Associated Press notes that six corpses ("bullet-riddled bodies") were found in Kut. In Najaf, a police officer was shot dead, Reuters notes, and, in Dhuluiya, an Iraqi soldier was shot dead. Like the US Congress, John Howard (prime minister of Australia) plays baby Bully Boy and speaks of how things might get even riskier for Australians stationed in Iraq, Australia's ABC reports Labor leader Kim Beazley's response in Parliment: "Iraq is a quagmire and staying htere is not in our national interest. Make no mistake about it, we are opposed to the war in Iraq, we want these troops in Al Muthanna province home now."
While Japan used the Iraq government's decision to take over responsiblity for the Al Muthanna province as a sign to withdraw troops, Howard has decided to move Australian troops to other areas in Iraq. Though of little concern to the mainstream US press, the shooting by Australian security guards yesterday of three Iraqi bodyguards (one dead, two wounded) for Iraq Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudany has resulted in an expression of regret from the Australian Defense Force and, today, has led al-Sudany to issue a statement that he "demands an apology and payment of compsenation." Reuters notes: "The incident could potentially embarrass Australia, which has been trying to imrpove trade ties with Iraq after Iraq suspended dealings with Australia's monopoly wheat exporter AWB over a kickbacks scandal."
Besides trade deals being put at risk (remember, it's the markets), Labor and Green reps in Australia says that the incident is another reason Australia needs to withdraw troops from Iraq. Kim Bezley stated, "The point is this: we shouldn't be there." Bob Brown, Greens leader, stated: "It should send a signal to this Prime Minister, who just does not seem to connect that we should be bringing the troops home. They shouldn't have been there, they should be brought home."
Speaking to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now! today, Italian journalist Giulana Sgrena discussed the details of her kidnapping in Iraq as well as the details of the rescue that went wrong when US troops fired on her vehicle as it was enroute to the airport. During the interview, Sgrena stated: "So there are many things that we don't know and we would like to know. I don't want to accuse Mario Lozano to know who was in the car and to shoot because he knew that there, there were agents and me. But we want the prosecution just to know, to have more information of what happened, because we gave the information to the commander, the Italian one that was in touch with the American one in the airport, that we were on this road to the airport. And we know that they were monitoring the telephone that we used in the car, the Americans, and they were monitoring the mobile telephone on the satellite." Remember that: Sgrena will be in New York City Friday June 23rd for an event with Amy Goodman at Columbia University. (Event starts at 7:30 p.m.)