Category Archives: History

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: Giuliani sets MSM Ferguson spin


A fascinating segment from RT America focuses on the deft Ferguson semantic shuffle deployed by one of America’s more prominent Republicans, former federal prosecutor and New York Mayor Rudy Giulani, who after selling out his piece of a private security contracting firm has devoted his life to lobbying and lawyering for Big Oil and Big Pharma.

That his masters also share a vested interest in keeping folks of African and Latin American heritage off the voting roles also receives no attention whatsoever.

That television news turns to people like Giuliani without mentioning that his income comes from people who have every interest in preserving the corrupt status quo is a major journalistic sin, one that not even the RT producers interviewed in this segment bother to mention.

But their key point is valid: Giuliani deflects analysis of deep structural problems by endlessly harping on one theme that plays all too well with racist Republican base.

From RT America:

Rampant media malpractice of Ferguson coverage

Program notes:

Coverage of the Ferguson, Mo. unrest spans the usual spectrum of media malpractice. With many examples of misinformation and oversimplication, just how much can viewers trust what they see and hear? RT’s Tabetha Wallace and Tyrel Ventura discuss.

Interestingly, the same thoughts about Giuliani also occurred to a member of the mainstream media, Lexington Herald-Leader editorial cartoonist Joel Pett:

BLOG Rudi

The anti-Blair, a man who really did save children


His name was Chinue Sugihara, and he saved more than 6,000 men, women, and children from Hitler’s Holocaust, far more than the 1,200 saved by the famous Oskar Schindler — yet Sugihara’s name is virtually unknown.

We knew his story only because we’ve been studying the Holocaust for the last half-century, accumulating a library of more than 900 books on the subject. We’ve also interviewed survivors and watched endless hours of documentaries driven by an imperative to understand how what had been regarded as the most civilized nation in Europe could descend into such barbarity.

And so we were delighted this afternoon to come across a brief documentary from Australia’s endangered SBS television focusing on Sugihara’s memorable accomplishments, and it serves as a refreshing anodyne for any bad taste left by thoughts of Tony Blair conjured up by our previous post.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

The “Japanese Schindler” Who Saved Thousands in WW2

Program notes:

The remarkable story of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara has long been overshadowed by other heroes of WW2. Now, a new play is finally set to be memorialise his rescue of 6,000 Polish and Lithuanian Jews.

“Sugihara was an incredible person. He probably never saw a Jew before in his life and he saved so many families.”

91-year-old Holocaust survivor Lilly Singer was one of the thousands who would not be alive today without the intervention of Sugihara. She’s in the audience of a new play dramatizing his actions which saved thousands of lives. As the Nazi tanks rolled eastwards, Polish Jews began flooding into Lithuania – their only route of escape onward through Russia. Brian Liau is playing the part of Sugihara. “He asked the Japanese foreign office 3 times for permission to issue visas.” Despite being refused, Sugihara went on to issue over 6,000 visas for families trying to cross the border. Largely forgotten, for Lilly Singer he remains the hero of the conflict. “He saved me and that was the end of that”.

A final enigma. . .

In drafting this post we chanced upon an image at Sugihara’s Wikipedia page that leaves us hungry for more information. It is this Eastern Orthodox icon of the Japanese diplomatic, offered without further explanation:

BLOG Sugihara

Sugihara joined a politically connected Christian fraternity while in college in Japan, and we can only presume he took the Beatitudes in their purest sense.

But the question is the halo itself: Has he been declared a saint? We would love to know more. . .

Whatever the answer, it is people like Chinue Sugihara who are the real cause for hope and thanksgiving, and not loathesome, obsequious toadies like Tony Blair.

Dave Brown: Tony knows how to Save the Children


For British Prime Minister Tony Blair dove into the limelight to scoop of Save the Children’s Global Legacy Award, which we can only presume was given because the endless wars he enabled have killed a lot of parents, thereby leaving so many children to save.

The irony of the award was noted by 200 or so of the NGO’s staff who have signed a petition calling on the award to be withdrawn because not only was the bestowal “morally reprehensible, but [it] also endangers our credibility globally.”

Editorial cartoonist Dave Brown of the Independent took up the tools of his trade and came up with this:

Blog Blair

An implicit reference in the cartoon is the remark of esnl‘s favorite musical satirist, Tom Lehrer, who famously declared that “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.”

And having mentioned our favorite songster, how can we not append a telling example of his craft, written at the height of the Cold War’s nuclear terror, via The Tom Lehrer Wisdom Channel:

Tom Lehrer: We Will  All Go Together When We Go

EbolaWatch: Devastation, aid, labor, & politics


We begin today’s compendium with a stunning graphic from the World Bank, revealing the extent of the devastation the disease has wrought to one country’s working class:

BLOG Ebola jobless

From the News in Monrovia, Liberia, critical context:

‘Dumpsite Food’ Eaters

Residents of a community outside Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, known as ‘Own your Own’ are said to be surviving on food from dump sites in the county.

The area is where Arcelormittal and other concession companies are operating. These companies dispose spoiled foods in the dump sites just opposite the Ebola Treatment Unit constructed by the United States Government.

Some of the citizens and residents who spoke to our reporter said the dump site has been their source for food for the past seven years.

Our reporter who recently returned from the county said most of the citizens using the dump site for survival are women and children.

Meanwhile, returning American sailors smile through quarantine, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Seabees’ morale high despite long Ebola quarantine, congressman says

There were no hugs or handshakes just in case Ebola germs lurked, but Rep. Steven Palazzo found 15 Navy Seabees from Mississippi in “good spirits” Friday as they waited out a 21-day isolation period at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base after a seven-week stint building treatment facilities in disease-ravaged Liberia.

“Everybody had a smile on his face,” Palazzo said.

The Seabees “were nowhere near any of the Ebola victims or the medical personnel that were treating them” while working in Monrovia and even had “limited involvement” with Liberians in the community who had been found free of the disease, he said.

While Reuters covers critical quarantine questions:

US quarantine moves hurting Ebola response in Africa -Harvard

Moves by some U.S. states to isolate medical workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa could worsen the global health crisis by discouraging badly needed new volunteers, according to health experts at Harvard University.

Ebola has killed more than 5,450 people in West Africa since March in the disease’s worst outbreak on record, striking hardest in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are among the world’s least developed countries.

“By far and away what is needed most in West Africa are care providers who can help,” Paul Biddinger, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, said during a panel discussion about the disease on Tuesday.

But “because of a fear of stigma, of being involuntarily quarantined … people don’t want to necessarily subject themselves to this, and that is tragic.”

From Agence France-Presse, a video about a video:

African celebrities in Ebola campaign video

Program notes:

African celebrities have called for action against Ebola in a video produced by the ONE Campaign.

Next, a warning from the United Nations Development Program:

Ebola crisis may result in more hunger: UNDP study

Wild price swings caused by the Ebola health crisis are making it more difficult for households to feed themselves and make a stable living, according to a new study by the UN development programme.

“Border closures, movement restrictions and a slowdown in farming activity are shaking food  markets badly,” said Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist at the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“This could have a disastrous impact on households, both because farmers are unable to make a living and because families are finding very different prices on the local market from one day to the next. People living in rural and remote areas are feeling the impact of reduced purchasing power more than their urban counterparts,” he added.

Since the onset of the Ebola crisis, buying power went down by 20 percent in Sierra Leone and by more than 25 percent in Liberia. The study also found rural communities were worst affected, due to more expensive transport costs and dependency on declining farming incomes.  Reduced traffic has been observed in more than two-thirds of Liberia’s counties, for instance.

As a result, in October, Monrovians paid $17.5 for 25 kilograms of rice, while people in the Southeast paid $21.3 for the same quantity. Because Liberia and Sierra Leone depend on Guinea for food imports, their situation is particularly serious.

PCWorld covers another development:

Ebola speeds up educators’ embrace of tech in Sierra Leone, Liberia

The deadly Ebola outbreak has sparked some creative thinking among academic institutions and private education initiatives determined to reach out to students who have been hunkering down for months in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Faced with a raging epidemic, the University of Sierra Leone plans to upload lecture notes on its website, send learning material through email and engage students through social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook. The 2014/2015 session, which should have begun Oct. 1, was postponed due to the Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst hit by the disease, which has already claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa. Just last week, Sierra Leone recorded 435 new confirmed cases of Ebola and 110 confirmed deaths.

On to Mali with the Associated Press:

Mali confirms eighth Ebola case

Mali has confirmed a new case of Ebola, bringing to eight the number of people who have fallen ill with the deadly disease in the West African country.

A government statement issued Monday night said the patient had been placed in a treatment center.

All of Mali’s Ebola cases can be traced back to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the country from Guinea, where the epidemic first began.

Six of Mali’s eight Ebola patients have died. The government said Saturday that another patient who tested positive was also receiving treatment and had been isolated.

From Voice of America’s TV2Africa, a video report on the course of the disease in Mali:

Mali Ebola

Program notes:

Almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean Imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako, Mali is scrambling to stop a potential outbreak. Five people have died so far. A sixth related Ebola case was confirmed Saturday. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.

On to Liberia, first with FrontPageAfrica and another campaign launched:

Initiative Spearheads Setting up of Ebola Force on Reducing Denial

UNDP /Ministry of Health Community Based Initiative in the West Point Community District #4, has organized a meeting with the elder Council, the new Commissioner and the youth of West Point.

The meeting was part of efforts by Active Case Finders and Contact Tracers of West Point to facilitate the establishment of an Ebola Task Force to help mitigate the resurging denial of the Ebola Virus, stigma, and hiding of the sick.

An earlier meeting held with the elder council indicated that the people of West Point were hiding their sick because it was popularly believed that those who went to the ETUs never came back to their families. As a way of dispelling this belief, Active Case Finders providing services in the Community, identified 12 survivors from the West Point Community and presented them to the elder council.

The Inquirer covers a return:

Catholic Hosp. Reopens

The St. Joseph Catholic Hospital yesterday opened its doors to the public following months of closure as a result of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak which victimized a number of medical staff and missionaries.

The hospital’s re-opening was attended by a number of international Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Catholic Church in Liberia and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The Human Resources Manager of the hospital, Mr. Joel N. Williams said the hospital attended to 23 patients yesterday but did not admit any because the reopening process will be carried out on a gradual basis.

Mr. Williams said the hospital is beginning its operations on a gradual basis by first reopening its Maternity ward with eight beds which will be increased on a weekly basis with the sponsorship of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

From the NewDawn, laying down the law:

MoH issues Ebola regulations

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has set up anti-Ebola regulations to govern all citizens irrespective of status or affiliation.

Outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, has mandated that all video clubs, night clubs or restaurants should have chlorinated water placed at the entrances of those businesses for hands washing, and everyone’s temperature should be taken, stressing that anyone with 37.5 degree Celsius should be denied entrance and considered an Ebola suspect.

Minister Gwenigale has also instructed that vehicles in Liberia should continue to carry three persons at the back seat until Ebola is eradicated here. He said no community should allow visitors from various counties, especially when the person is sick, adding that if any community has such case, it should be reported to community leaders, who will immediately inform health authorities.

From FrontPageAfrica, another hot zone:

Ebola Hotspot: Rural Rivercess Towns Ravaged by Virus Outbreak

Deplorable roads, lack of food and adequate awareness are massive challenges affecting efforts to contain the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 13 persons in Kinkayah Chiefdom, Nyorwein Administrative District in Rivercess County.

Residents in the area where authorities of the county have quarantined since the virus surfaced killing 13 people told FrontPage Africa they desperately need food in other to have the quarantine remain in force and at the same time support efforts to contain the virus in the area.

“Since the outbreak on October 21, the people abandon their farms and the whole chiefdom is being quarantine and there’s no food for them,” Augustus T. Yarpah, Speaker of the County Traditional council told FPA. He said MSF is doing well for the quarantine communities by giving treatment to people who are sick, but one of the problems is the lack of food for people in the whole of Kinkayah (Kayah for short) chiefdom especially in Gozohn Town.

After the jump, more from Liberia, including an instance of either irrationality or crime, good news from one region, quarantine for a banker, and the World Bank boosts its emergency funds to Monrovia, then on to Sierra Leone and quarantine regulation, emergency workers stage a gruesome job action and retribution follows, Nigerian medics head to Freetown, the extra burden faced by disabled students, and a crucial diagnosis is made. . . Continue reading

History, cultural arrogance, and two images


We’ll begin with two images, the first a screencap of the home page of Public Radio International’s The World, and linking to this story:

BLOG Pee story

We used the capture image rather than text from the story for the simply reason that the headlines on the home page capture the critical issue: India portrayed in a way that enables cultural stereotypes to snap unconsciously into place, namely a vision of India as semi-primitive in a way endangering women. And to a certain extent that is true, expressed in the numbers of women killed or burned in attacks acid and kerosene and other burning fuels.

Come to think of it, though, America’s own record toward women isn’t anything to write home about either, what with the Cosby thing and the unfolding University of Virginia scandal.

At least we got lots of free toilets, with women having their separate facilities, right?

Well, as anyone knows, finding a place to pee isn’t all tht easy in most downtowns, where truly public toilets are non-existent and most retailers reserve their facilities for paying customers — making them pay toilets in all but name.

But pay potties in publicly owned facilities are outlawed here in California, unlike when we first came to live in the Golden State back in 1968 [although privately owned business in private building can and sometimes do charge].

In those days, toilets in public buildings often cost a quarter [equivalent to more than a dollar today], we recall the stall wall scrawl of a commode we sat down to enjoy at San Francisco International Airport way back when:

Here I sit
All broken-hearted
Paid a quarter
And just farted

But that would end in 1974, which brings us to our second image, a screencap of an Associated Press image in the Oakland Museum of California collection:

BLOG Eu smash

The woman with the sledgehammer was State Assemblymember March Fong Eu, taking down a toilet on the steps of the California Capitol on 26 April 1969 as she launched what would become a five-year campaign to win the abolition of pay stalls [men invariably peed for free in urinal troughs, while women had no such option, a point that particularly irked Eu].

The legislator’s colorfully campaign kept her in the news and her Oakland constituents kept sending her back to Sacramento, where she kept introducing her free john bills until she won in 1974, the same year Californian’s elected her Secretary of State — an office she held for the next two decades.

So while millions of women in India live where there are no toilets at all, when it comes to pay toilets in public buildings, they’re only four decades behind California.

A blast from the past: Paul Conrad’s Reagan


A devastating 1984 portrayal of the man now enshrined as Saint Ronnie by the editorial cartoonist so controversial the Los Angeles Times moved him from the lead editorial page to an op-ed slot:

BLOG Conrad

The tragedy of Ferguson and a failure of history


It was fifty years ago this month on 9 November 1964 that we had out first front page newspaper byline, and less than two years later we landed our first job in a metro daily, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

We were 19 when we started in Vegas, and we created the first civil rights beat in Nevada’s history, covering the 25 percent of Las Vegas residents who were never seen dealing blackjack or operating the craps tables on the Strip or in downtown’s Glitter Gulch.

There were no black waiters or cocktail servers, and the only people of color you saw were mopping floors, changing sheets, and washing dishes. Such was the “natural order” pleasing to the Texas and Louisiana oil men who were the high rollers of the day.

Yet before we started our reporting, that glaring omission was never covered by either the Review-Journal or the Las Vegas Sun [whose publisher, Hank Greenspun, had started out as Bugsy Siegel’s PR man and went on to become a billionaire through dubious real estate deals bankrolled by Howard Hughes and an equally dubious cable television monopoly].

Within six months of our first stories, the first black dealer was hired by a downtown casino. More would quickly follow. For our coverage of civil rights and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Review-Journal would win the state’s top journalism award, a recognition by our peers that something had changed in the Silver State.

Yet in the half century since we won that prize, America’s race problem remains just as deeply embedded and poverty in the black community remains at abysmal level, while the quality of schools is plunging as whites enrol their children in private schools and refuse to fund aging schools, inadequate athletic facilities, and other critical infrastructure.

While the overt expression of racist had dwindled prior to the onset of anonymous Internet comments, the latest racism remains deeply embedded in a culture increasingly anxious because of the rise of non-white Asian economic power and an influx of immigrants from south of the border.

Yet the Republicans maintain that racism is dead, and that only lack of motivation [wink wink] holds African Americans from rising up the Jacob’s Ladder of the American Dream.

In other words, while they’ve learned new word games, they’re just as racist as ever. . .and they’re ruthlessly dedicated to destroying the last vestiges of those social programs we were covering way back in 1966.

Granted, some of them may not be deeply racist; rather, they’re simply following the dictates of plutocratic donors zealously pursing the elimination of any remaining hindrances to their gathering up what little remains of the wealth that was once part of the commons.

But the inflammation of prejudice is useful to folks like the Kochs and the Waltons, because it diverts attention to the Grand Theft Country they’re been conducting with a ruthless single-pointedness.

Waves of riots have swept the country in that half century, yet no real progress is made in addressing the deep structural problems that had driven angry people into the streets, rather to smash and burn.

And so it will continue until either those at the pinnacle sweep up all remaining wealth and restore the hereditary aristocracy of yore or until the rest of us wake up and realize that we have a lot more in common with people who don’t look like us than with the very few who resemble us only in the color of our skins.

We look at Ferguson and weep.