I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area so much of my life that it is far, far easier to count the years away than it is to figure out how long I’ve actually lived here. I’m sufficiently casual about earthquakes that I live within a stone’s throw of the San Andreas fault, on which both the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1906 earthquakes occurred. But an earthquake always grabs my attention even when it’s a little one like the 3.0 this afternoon. The U.S. Geological Survey has the details and a map that shows me just how close this one really was.

It was real close, along what appears to be the south side of Soda Springs canyon east of Lexington Reservoir. I live near the southern tip of Lexington Reservoir.

Repeating with Iran the errors of Iraq

Media Matters for America has argued that the mainstream media are being insufficiently skeptical about United States military claims that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents. It cites Washington Post blogger Michael Froomkin’s advice to journalists:

  • Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
  • Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
  • Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should … make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion — or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion — may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
  • Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.

A tidbit appears in the Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency story that somehow didn’t make it into the mainstream reports: “[T]he unnamed officials who briefed the media Sunday admitted that the claim is merely ‘an inference’ rather than based on a trail of evidence.” It turns out that the weapons Iran is accused of supplying are widely available on the black market.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace further underlined the weakness of the administration’s case by declaring Monday in an interview with Voice of America, “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved,” he continued, “but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”

According to Media Matters, “Apparently bearing out Froomkin’s concerns, media outlets such as The New York Times, CBS, and NBC have continued to report Bush’s allegations about Iran’s role in Iraq in a muddled, incomplete manner — at times offering rebuttals to baseless and unsourced allegations of Iranian influence, while at other times serving as little more than stenographers.”

Evidence (finally) of Iran supplying arms in Iraq?

The Boston Globe reports that the military has finally offered support for its claims that Iran has been supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents. In addition, the military specifically points to the “Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which reports to Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,” as the culprit.

The article shows a picture of an Iraqi police vehicle destroyed in an attack the military claims employed armor-piercing explosives. Yet it is not clear that any armor even existed on this vehicle. While it is clear the vehicle is badly damaged, it is unclear that the body of this rather ordinary looking vehicle was penetrated. It does appear that the windshield has been blown out.

Far down in the article, Iran’s response to these allegations is summarized in a single line: “Iranian officials immediately denounced the allegations as propaganda.” As well they might.

Further down in the article:

Trita Parsi , president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based educational organization representing the Iranian American community and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, said “there is a tremendous amount of skepticism” about the US intelligence on Iran’s activities in Iraq.

“People fear this is about trying to expand the war into Iran or trying to pass blame onto Iran for the disaster in Iraq,” he said.

Several US specialists also have questioned why the Bush administration has placed such a high focus on the Iranian-supplied weapons in Iraq, since even by US estimates, they account for a small percentage of the total of US casualties.

Count me amongst the skeptics. Despite an emphasis favoring U.S. military claims (largely through placement in the story), the article in sum fails to support those claims.

Blair “delusional” in defense of role as Bush’s poodle

The British prime minister, Tony Blair, who just won’t take the not-so-subtle hint and relinquish power, has defended Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States. Blair argued, “You only get the ability to use ‘soft’ power properly if you are prepared to do the other difficult things.”

Labour MPs reacted with disbelief to Mr Blair’s claims about what the relationship with America had achieved since 1997. Peter Kilfoyle, a former defence minister, said: “It is delusional. It could be self-justification. It is a special relationship in one sense – it is one-way traffic. In the depths of night, he must realise how very wrong he has judged where Britain’s national interests lie.”

Alan Simpson, the MP for Nottingham South, said: “This is the politics of dangerous self-delusion. Even the White House laughs at the notion that Britain has influence over American foreign policy. The only door Bush opens at the moment is the one marked ‘exit.’ He [Mr Blair] has clearly entered the David Icke phase of his political career.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Tony Blair talks about his closeness with the United States with regards to climate change and poverty in Africa. But there is not much to show for it.” He questioned the value of the relationship when it had taken America so long to release the video tape of the “friendly-fire” incident in which L/Cpl Matty Hull was killed in Iraq in 2003.

David Bacon: Legalizing An Underclass

I have argued that “illegal” immigration offers employers an exploitable work force with which they can intimidate “legal” workers. But David Bacon argues that an obvious alternative–making it possible for workers to enter the country “legally” as “guest workers”–is insufficient:

Today, many Congressional leaders—Democrats and Republicans—want to allow corporations and contractors to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year outside of the U.S. and put them to work here on temporary visas. Labor schemes like this have a long history. From 1942 to 1964, the Bracero Program recruited temporary immigrants. They were exploited, cheated, and deported if they tried to go on strike. Growers pitted them against workers already in the country to drive down wages. César Chávez, Ernesto Galarza and Bert Corona all campaigned to get the program repealed.

In practice, “guest worker” programs do not protect worker rights. Nor does it truly protect “legal” workers:

By their nature, guest worker programs are low-wage schemes, intended to supply plentiful labor to corporate employers at a price they want to pay. Companies don’t recruit guest workers so they can pay them more, but to pay them less.

Bacon’s argument undermines my logic that “legalizing” these workers would undermine employers’ ability to pressure citizens to accept lower wages. Such a change would merely serve to reduce the risk and increase the incentives for employers to hire these workers. Bacon writes, “The schemes create a second tier of workers with fewer rights and less job security. They have none of the social benefits U.S. workers won in the New Deal—retirement, unemployment and disability insurance.”

But the cruelty of the existing system is no answer. Bacon begins by noting that immigration “raids do cause terrible suffering.” He also writes:

The question Congress is deciding isn’t “what can stop immigration?” With over 180 million people in the world living outside their countries of origin, nothing can. Migration begins when people are displaced. In the countries that are the main sources of migration to the U.S., most migration is caused by economic dislocation—people can no longer survive as farmers or workers. Other migrants fled the wars that raged in Central America.

Bacon winds up arguing for a far more liberality in issuing green cards, allowing people “the chance to come and go—to work, study or take care of family members in the U.S. or in their home country. They can’t be deported if they lose a job.” He also argues for prohibiting companies from recruiting abroad.