Behind Enemy Lines
22 March 2006
Helen Thomas and The Chronicle show their bias
So, the Chronicle has a new podcast of "Helen Thomas' Washington" which is a classic presentation of a biased media wherein Mark Sandalow and Helen Thomas present their personal views of the President and politics.

Helen Thomas: "I asked a very simple question: 'Why are we in Iraq, when Iraq did nothing to us?'. Certainly was not tied to 9/11, they were not involved. Ahh, no ties to al-Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction, but so many people dead."

Apparently Helen and Mark haven't been reading the news about the declassified Iraq documents (doesn't surprise me seeing as how the media has been keeping it quiet...)
Now, I don't speak Arabic, but here's some interesting synopsis of some of the documents:

"Iraqi Minister of Defense calls for an investigation into why documents of WMD nature were found by a UN inspection team"

"IIS report on Kurdish activities, mention of Kurdish reporting on Al Qaida, reference to Al Qaida presence in Salman Pak "

"An order from Saddam Hussein to present $25,000 for the suicide bomber families in Palestine "
"Secret meeting with Taliban group member and Iraqi government"

Ya know Helen, Hitler never did anything to us either. I suppose we could have left him alone no? Personally I think it's reprehensible that we left Hitler and Saddam) alone for so long to conduct their evil.

A "reporter" interviewing another "reporter" who apparently waited three years to ask a politically motivated question . Sad.
20 March 2006
What passes as fact checking at the BBC nowadays?
I was reading a rather slanted piece by Mr. John Simpson over at the BBC website today and was surprised to read the followingm "facts" on that current state of Iraq:

Despite the investment that has undoubtedly taken place, virtually all basic services are in a worse state now than they were before the invasion. There is less clean water, less sewage control, less gas, less petrol, less power. Baghdad now has an average of only 5.8 hours of electricity a day. At present Iraq is producing 1.8 million barrels of oil a day; just before the invasion the figure was 2.5 million barrels a day.
Things are expensive and inflation is high. So is unemployment: perhaps above 50%. There is malnutrition, and the level of infant mortality is still disturbingly high.

Now me, being me, just had to double check these figures. I mean, surely the "Beeb" wouldn't make a mistake about such things right?

For this analysis, I decided to use the most up to date and complete statistics I could find. The Brookings Institution of Washington D.C., has a document that is updated every Monday and Thursday with the best available statistics on Iraq. Their compendium covers all aspects of Iraq from security, economic indicators, polling and politics. If there is a better source out there, I can't find it.

Let's look at what Mr. Simpson states (with you'll note, not a single source listed for his numbers) individually:

"There is less clean water..."
According to the Brookings Institution statistics, the capability to serve clean potable water is up by 3.1 million people since pre-war.

"...less sewage control..."
There are no pre-war stastics available to compare this claim. However, the implication exists in the statistics that the number hasn't decreased.

"...less gas..."
There are no pre-war stastics available to compare this claim.

"...less petrol..."
There are no pre-war stastics available to compare this claim.
There are also a 2.5 million more registered cars in Iraq now as compared to pre-war.

"...less power. Baghdad now has an average of only 5.8 hours of electricity a day"
Pre-war estimates for the number of Megawatts produced for the entire nation of Iraq were 3,958 and for Baghdad alone 2,500. Current numbers for the entire nation are 4,200 Megawatts (Baghdad specific numbers are not available). Pre-war nationwide estimates were that people had 4 - 8 hours per day of electricity, Baghdad had 16-24 hours per day of electricity (it's good to be in the dictators pocket I guess). Current estimates for March, 2006 show the entire nation now averages 12.1 hours per day and Baghdad averages 8.1 hours per day. So while Baghdad may have suffered a bit of a come-uppance, the rest of the nation is on the rise.

"At present Iraq is producing 1.8 million barrels of oil a day; just before the invasion the figure was 2.5 million barrels a day"

He actually got this one right. As they say "even a broken watch is right two times a day"

"Things are expensive and inflation is high..."
Yes, things are expensive and inflation is high. But so is the countries GDP. High inflation and prices are accounted for by the amount of money people are making now. GDP growth rate in Iraq in 2002 was -7.8%. That's right, NEGATIVE 7.8%. The GDP growth rate in 2004 was 46.5% and for the partial year of 2005 it's been 3.7%. That's why there is inflation and high prices Mr. Simpson. Future projections for Iraq show extreme GDP growth over the next four years with high inflation reducing each year.

"...So is unemployment: perhaps above 50%."
Perhaps it's above 50% but since you provide no source information that's like me saying perhaps it's 1%. The Brookings Institution puts the number at 25% to 40%. Check out the statistics on France and Germany. France, a first world global powerhouse has a 9.3% unemployment rate officially. Unofficially it's estimated to be much higher. Same for Germany at 9.7% officially, perhaps even as high as 22% unofficially. Of course, those European numbers are from 2003 which is the last year that the Europeans produced a report so what the "real" numbers are in Europe is anyones guess.

"There is malnutrition, and the level of infant mortality is still disturbingly high. "
True, there is malnutrition, but that exists in the first world as well. Unfortunately there are no statistics to compare Iraq to neighboring countries, but I am willing to bet that the numbers aren't too far off. Compare the infant and child mortality rates. They are comparable to other countries in the region with the same conditions. I am not saying that it's right or trying to sugar coat it, but the statistics aren't that far off.

It seems to me that Mr. Simpson was at best cherry-picking data thats out there and chose to concentrate on the negative (surprise!) and at worst just out and out made up numbers. Until the BBC cites a source on those numbers the truth is anyone's guess
10 March 2006
Viva Enrique! Viva Puerto Rico! Abajo Fidel!
Howdy all, I know it's been a while, but I've been really busy with both personal life (death in family) and work (damn lot of it). But when I saw this story today I just had to talk about it:

Anti-Castro sign at WBC sparks furor in Cuba

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying: "Down with Fidel," sparking an international incident that escalated Friday with the velocity of a major league fastball.
The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers -- including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

Wuh oh! A Cuban official is upset! Surely the police will arrest the protestor right? Wrong!

Puerto Rican police quickly intervened and took the Cuban official -- Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports -- to a nearby police station where they lectured him about free speech. "We explained to him that here the constitutional right to free expression exists and that it is not a crime," police Col. Adalberto Mercado was quoted as saying in El Nuevo Dia, a San Juan daily.
Local organizers of the tournament responded by banning posters of a political nature, but a top police official said his officers would not enforce the ban."The police of Puerto Rico will not interfere at any time with any type of expression," Puerto Rico Police Chief Pedro Toledo said.

Viva Puerto Rican Policia! Viva Col. Adalberto Mercado! Viva Chief Pedro Toledo!
Now that is how you do it!

Abajo Fidel!
A Republican in San Francisco (Yes, he's under deep cover) relays his tales of interest... ...ok, "interest" is a strong and subjective word but you get the point.
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I shall know but one country. The ends I aim at shall be my country's, my God's and Truth's. I was born an American; I live an American; and I shall die an American. -Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

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