Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pakistan's road to Gitmo

I'm at a loss with the news yesterday that a bill passed through the Senate regarding how the U.S. will try and treat the thousands of enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay. At the same time Amnesty International released a report that said most of the prisoners that end up in Cuba are there because of frivolous bounty hunters in Pakistan with an eye on the $5000 U.S. bounty.

According to the Associated Press:

The report by the London-based rights group contended that hundreds of suspected terrorists have been quietly handed over to the United States, and detained at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and other locations.

Or as Claudio Cordone, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International
puts it :

"The road to Guantanamo very literally starts in Pakistan."

So how will the Military Commissions Act keep you and I safer from terrorists?

  • Expands the rules for what it means to be an enemy combatant to include people living in the U.S. who are not citizens.
  • Denies habeas corpus (the right to challenge ones detention) to detainees being held by the U.S.
  • Gives the president final say on how to interpret Article 3 of the Geneva Convention that deals with “cruel and unusual punishment” and prohibits prisoners from filing suits if a violation of human rights has taken place.
  • Grandfather’s in past cases of torture into this new definition that could have been challenged.
  • Relaxes the rules so certain statements made under torture are admissible as testimony.
  • Up holds secret and hearsay evidence in court.

The U.S. government is asking citizens to sacrifice a lot for the war on terror. But as long a the sacrifice only includes human rights and justice for beared foreigners being held at a prison on some far off island or secret CIA prison, then I guess that’s ok and its business as usual. I wonder what the out cry would be like if instead of straining the principals and rights this country was founded there was a bill passed by congress asking people to, say, ration gas or stop eating spinach to fight the war on terror. Would there be lots of media coverage and a public outcry then?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Iraqi Street : Attacking US Troops Okay

On the heels of the leaked National Intelligence Estimate that said, in part, "the Iraq conflict has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement," a new poll of Iraqis done for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes gives another indication of just how much the Bush administration's policies there have achieved.

Among the findings:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Olbermann blasts Bush and Fox News

I had a brief e-mail correspondence with Keith Olbermann in my last years at NBC. I was in NY working on the TODAY show, he was in Fort Lee, NJ, anchoring MSNBC's nighttime coverage of the Monica Lewinsky show-trial. He, like myself, was livid at both the "liberal" media and our corporate bosses for doing the bidding of the GOP and selling this admittedly vulgar affair as a bona fide constitutional crisis. I liked him immediately.
Love him or hate him, it's impossible not to give him credit for having the guts to tell the emperor he's walking around naked. In the last months he has been calling the Bush administration out on a regular basis. He is no longer content to sit by and witness wrongdoing, listen to lies, accept coverups, and allow corporate shills to make ad hominem attacks on conscientious Americans who think their country is moving ion the wrong direction.
I respect the hell out of him.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fox Clinton Interview - Part 1 - Osama bin Laden

Here is is the first 20 minutes of Bill Clinton’s interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. I had the opportunity (an unpleasant one) to work with Wallace when I was with NBC's TODAY program in the 1980s. He was an unctious, obsequious twit. This fact, it appears, was NOT lost on President Clinton.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Trash-Talking Mohammed : Just what Was Ratzinger Trying to Say?

The man who calls himself Pope Benedict XVI addressed the faculties of Science at the University of Regensberg, Germany (his alma mater) one week ago today. In his remarks, he said some things that offended Muslims around the world, may have inspired the murder of a Catholic nun in Somalia, and moved Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to charge that the Pope was enlisting in a global "crusade" against Islam.

Meanwhile, the western media have bent over backwards to defend Joseph Ratzinger, pointing out that he was giving voice to ideas that were not his own, and that the specific words he used were "taken out of context."

The image this creates is of a rather naive leader of 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide, someone who might choose his words carelessly without anticipating their consequeces, stumbling into controversy, meaning no offense.

Not everyone -- even in the Vatican -- is convinced of the Pope's naivete:
The Rev. Robert Taft, a specialist in Islamic affairs at Rome’s Pontifical Oriental Institute, said it was unlikely that the pope miscalculated how some Muslims would receive his speech.

I've avoided posting on this until today. Being a Catholic (even though some Catholics like Joseph Ratzinger might take issue with my claim of Catholic identity), I try to look as objectively and dispassionately at my Church and its leaders as I can (whatever disagreements of a political nature I had with John Paul II, I have had the greatest respect for his -- and the Church's --teaching on social justice, as made evident in his 1987 encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis). But I have trouble seeing Joseph Ratzinger as naive or intellectually lazy. I think he knew exactly what he was saying, and exactly what effect it would have. Madeleine Bunting, writing in the Guardian, apparently agrees:
This is a man who has been at the heart of one of the world's multinational institutions for a very long time. He has been privy to how pontifical messages get distorted and magnified by a global media. Shy he may be, but no one has ever before accused this pope of being a remote theologian sitting in an ivory tower. On the contrary, he is a determined, shrewd operator whose track record indicates a man who is not remotely afraid of controversy.

Ratzinger has had no problem with making insulting remarks about other religions in the past. Bunting observes that
what has become increasingly clear is that this is a man with little sympathy or imagination for other religious faiths. Famously, the then Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to Buddhism as a form of masturbation for the mind - a remark still repeated among deeply offended Buddhists more than a decade after he said it.

And in his "apology" (if it was one at all) for his Regensberg remarks, he managed to insult Judaism:
The Vatican was yesterday braced for Jewish reactions to a passage in the Pope’s Angelus address in which — having apologised to Muslims — he quoted from I Corinthians on the alleged role of Jews in the Crucifixion, an issue which in the past has aroused heated debate.
What exactly did Ratzinger say? Was it taken out of context? That is a matter of some interpretation. I have in the past seven days read and re-read his lecture, and can make some observations. One, his words were perhaps taken out of context, in the sense that any quote "snipped" from any public utterance is by necessity a removal from context. But I think the quote speaks for itself, and in my opinion creates the context for his entire address.

Ratzinger sought to reconcile faith and reason. But it is not for nothing he speaks. In truth, he sought to reconcile the Christian faith and reason. There is no point in arguing that he has respect for any other faith, with or without reason.
Particularly telling is the line directly preceding the offensive quote in question, which are Ratzinger's words and opinions, and not those of Manuel II Paleologos (the italicized emphases are mine):
(Paleologos) he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Ratzinger frames the Byzantine Emperor's ideas as "the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general." By my reading, it seems clear to me that Ratzinger is trying to make a point that (my right-wing friend in NY) Howie is desperate to see gain credence: that Islam is, fundamentally, a religion lacking reason --an entirely irrational religion -- and therefore, fundamentally, a religion that worships violence.

This is, plain and simple, trash-talking Mohammed.

What is Ratzinger thinking?

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Polls

Two new polls came out yesterday that illustrate once again the differences between "fair and balanced" FOX and other news outlets and research organizations. The FOX poll (by Opinion Dynamics, 900 "likely voters", September 12-13, +/- 3 point margin of error) diverges wildly from a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (1,597 adults, 18 and older, September 6-10, 95% certainty of a +/- 3 point margin of error).

Consider some discrepancies:

Which party is leading and by how much?
FOX: The gap has narrowed to a slim 3-percentage point advantage for Democrats over Republicans in the latest FOX News likely voter poll...By a 41 percent to 38 percent margin, likely voters say if the election were held today, they would choose the Democratic candidate in their district.

PEW: As in six previous surveys over the past 12 months, voters by a wide margin say they favor the Democratic congressional candidate in their district (50%-39%). When the sample is narrowed to likely voters, approximately half of registered voters, the Democratic lead is undiminished. That Democrats poll as well among likely voters as among all voters may reflect the fact that Democrats, in contrast to recent campaigns, are more enthusiastic about voting than are Republicans.
FOX: Opinion is sharply divided on whether it would be a wise to get rid of all the incumbents and start with a clean slate: 39 percent think it would be good for the country if all new people were elected, while a slightly higher number — 42 percent — think it would be bad.

PEW: Roughly half of voters (49%) say that most members should not be reelected, compared with 57% in June, and the share saying their own member does not deserve reelection has slipped from 32% to 27% over the same period.
Pessimism hurting the war cause?
FOX: Just over half (51 percent) support the U.S. war in Iraq and 44 percent oppose it. There is a 58-point gap between the level of support for the war among Republicans (84 percent) and Democrats (26 percent).

Some voters feel so strongly about Iraq that they are willing to vote for a candidate from the opposite party who shares their view over someone from their own party they disagree with on it.

Nearly half of Republicans (46 percent) say they would vote for a pro-war Democrat over an anti-war Republican. Among Democrats, 29 percent say they would vote for an anti-war Republican over a pro-war Democrat.

Voters are somewhat more inclined to think the United States will win the war in Iraq if Republicans are in control (34 percent) than if Democrats are (20 percent). Regardless of which party is in control, more Americans are pessimistic than optimistic about the chances of winning in Iraq.

PEW: Public opinion on the Iraq war continues to be stable. The public is evenly divided over whether the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible or maintain troops in Iraq until the country is stabilized (47%-47%). However, there has been a significant increase in the percentage viewing the violence in Iraq as a civil war, rather than an anti-U.S. insurgency.

Currently, half of Americans describe the violence in Iraq as mostly a civil war between competing factions; 37% say it is mostly an insurgency aimed at the U.S. and its allies. In March, opinion on this issue was almost evenly divided, and last December 58% of Americans said they viewed the violence as mostly an insurgency directed against the U.S. and its allies.

FOX: By a 10-percentage point margin, more Americans think the country is losing the war on terrorism than think the U.S. is winning. In polling since 2001, this is the first time that a majority thinks the United States is not winning the fight against terrorists.

PEW: Currently, about as many people say the U.S. is losing the war on terrorism as say it is winning (41% vs. 39%). That represents a significant shift from the presidential campaign of two years ago, when pluralities consistently said the U.S. was winning in the struggle against terrorism.
There were some things that FOX couldn't spin:
Americans do not think the economy is improving and Democrats are seen as the
party that can make it better.
And some other findings from the PEW survey:
Even on such traditional GOP strengths as reducing crime and improving morality, at least as many Americans trust the Democratic Party to do a better job as trust the Republican Party.

The survey updates views on the parties across a wide range of issues, and in most cases confidence in the Republican Party has fallen slightly over the past six months. But the Republican Party continues to hold a substantial lead in terms of having the "stronger" political leaders – 43% say the GOP has stronger leaders, compared to 30% who see the Democratic Party's leaders as stronger.
And then there's Iran (Bush administration take note):
The public's preference continues to be for the United Nations – not the United States – to take the lead in dealing with Iran's nuclear program. Fully 70% favor the U.N. taking a lead role, which is comparable to the number expressing that opinion in May (72%) and February (78%).

Notably, the public is amenable to the idea of direct negotiations with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program. A 54% majority favors such negotiations, while 32% are opposed. Among those who say they have heard a lot about Iran's nuclear program, an even larger majority (64%) favors direct negotiations with Tehran. Republicans are a bit more supportive of direct talks with Iran than are Democrats. Six-in-ten Republicans say they favor the U.S. negotiating directly with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program; somewhat fewer Democrats agree (51%).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Evidence That "War on Terror" is a Sham : Posada May Be Given Amnesty

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The great and powerful W has spoken."

Luis Posada Carriles (honest to God, click on his name, go back and read those links) may soon be a free. CIA records document the fact that he is a terrorist. But, since he worked for the US as a CIA operative, blowing up an airliner and killing 76 people is not terrorism -- or is it "good terrorism?" George H. W. Bush (head of the CIA when Posada was doing his "work" there) pardoned another terrorist, Orlando Bosch, who worked closely with Posada.

This is a disgrace, and every American should be both ashamed and clamoring for the impeachment of George W. Bush:
The Cuban-born Venezuelan citizen Luis Posada Carriles will be released from a United States Immigration jail and given amnesty, a U.S. federal judge announced Sept. 12. Both Cuba and Venezuela have demanded his extradition in order to try him for a 1976 airplane bombing that killed 73 people. Carriles has been in U.S. custody since he immigrated one year ago after serving a prison sentence in Panama for his role in a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
May God have mercy on us all if we allow this to happen without AT LEAST raising our voices in protest.

War against terror, Howie? War to save civilization, Howie?


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2006

There’s a lot of retrospective soul-searching going on today. This is understandable. Much of it, however, will avoid the painful realities of the last five years – that we have neither brought those responsible for 9/11 to justice, nor have we done anything to change the conditions which create terrorism.

We’ve let Osama bin Laden and the terrorists go free. Poor planning at Tora Bora let him go once, and subsequent lack of will and preoccupation with Iraq has allowed him to remain on the loose ever since. I don’t understand that, and it bothers me – a lot. The Bush administration created a case for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein, and the entire case was made of hot air. Not a shred of truth to it.

Between 40,000 and 100,000 innocent civilians have dies needlessly in Iraq since our invasion. More Americans have died in Iraq – again, needlessly – than died on September 11, 2001.

We’ve antagonized the world – both our enemies and our allies – with belligerent rhetoric and actions. We’ve castigated traditional allies like Germany and France for failing to support a stupid, costly, and immoral invasion. We have marginalized moderate, progressive governments in Latin America for socially responsible economic policies.

We’ve empowered fundamentalists in our own country.

We have, for the first time in American history, countenanced torture.

Civil rights have taken a hit in the United States. Religious groups espousing pacifism have been the targets of government surveillance.

We have ignored all of the following, and much, much more:

The Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden reports that on average 9 minor armed conflicts (where the number of deaths does not exceed 1000 during the course of the conflict), 12 intermediate armed conflicts (where the number of deaths exceeds 1000, but is fewer than 1000 in any given year), and 13 wars (with more than 1000 deaths a year) go on at all times somewhere in the world.

In the year 2000, war took the lives of 168,000 Africans, 65,000 Asians, 39,000 "middle-easterners," 37,000 Europeans, and 2,000 Central and South Americans.

At the same time, American arms manufacturers profit from this death and destruction. Forty of the top one hundred arms-producing companies in the world are American companies with profits totaling $664 billion dollars in 1999. Over $93 billion of that profit comes from the manufacture and sale of weapons, more than the profit of the other 60 companies combined (US$64 billion).

Meanwhile, those in the less technologically developed world who are not dying in warfare are likely to be dying of disease or starvation. While the life expectancy of the average American was about 75 years in 2001, it was 65 for the Indonesian, 64 for the Russian, 45 for the Afghan, 39 for the Zambian, and 38 for the Rwandan and the Mozambiquan. While an American baby has 99.4% of survival after birth, the infant mortality rate is 2% for the Russian, 10% for the Ethiopian, almost 15% for the Afghan, and nearly 20% for the Angolan.

And while much of the "third world" believes that we care little for their welfare, many more question our motivations even less kindly. They believe we are more interested in exploiting their natural resources for our benefit, and exploiting them for their cheap labor.

Among the violations of the fair labor conventions of the International Labor Organization between 1996 and 2000, were many committed on behalf of American companies. Some examples:
  • Factories in the Northern Mariana Islands (a US Commonwealth) that produce clothing for Abercrombie & Fitch, Cutter & Buck, Donna Karan, The GAP, J. Crew, Levi Strauss, Liz Claiborne, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren Polo, Target, Dress Barn, and Tommy Hilfiger demand contracts of their workers which: waive basic human rights including the right to join a union; demand 12-hour workdays seven days-a-week; subject workers to "lockdowns" in the factory;
  • Factories in China producing clothing and shoes for Adidas, Disney, Fila, Nike, Ralph Lauren, and Reebok employ forced labor in prison camps; demand of their employees 12-16 hour workdays, seven days-a-week; employ child labor; demand forced overtime; and Chinese workers for Nestle have been subjected to electric shock to maintain productivity.
  • Factories in Indonesia manufacturing clothing and shoes for Adidas, the GAP, and Nike subject workers to forced overtime at a poverty wage.
  • Factories in El Salvador producing clothing and shoes for Adidas, Ann Taylor, the GAP, Liz Claiborne and Nike pay their female employees about US$30/week for a 60-80 hour week; subject their female workers to forced pregnancy tests; fire their female workers if they become pregnant; and force some employees to work overtime without pay, up to 11 hours a day.
  • Factories in Haiti producing clothing and toys for the Walt Disney Company pay their workers an average of US$2.40 per day, and charge them for transportation ($.66/day), breakfast (cornmeal and fruit juice--$.53/day), and lunch (rice and beans--$.66/day).
  • Factories in Russia producing clothing for the GAP pay their employees US$.11/hour.

If terrorism is evil-and it is-this is terror's recruiting station.

I will pray today for the United States of America.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

An E-mail Exchange With a Right-Wing Friend in NY, Re: ABC's "Path to 9/11"

From Howie:

I am waiting here with anxiety to see your blog attacking the Demoncrats with their if not dangerous precedent, then definitely their groundbreaking attempt to use the power as members in OUR government, threatening, and I won't use the word NEWS, but our media with new rules for censorship. Their letter threatening a media outlet to pull their FCC licence because they didn't like the content of a program, besides smelling of partisanship, begins to set a path I don't believe this country should go. If you were outraged because you felt out rights were being violated with computer scans of phone conversations looking for key words to PROTECT our country. This should send you over the top. Yet, your silence is deafening.
My response:

I would love to be inside your head when you go off on these (completely inaccurate and totally biased) rants.

"Dangerous precedent?" "Groundbreaking?" Did you get this right from or something? You don't talk like that, Howie. I've been teaching long enough to know when a student didn't write a paper, or at least "cut and paste" someone else's words and ideas and presented them as his own. You need to start thinking for yourself. No, I'm not busting your balls now. I'm really serious. You desperately need to sit and examine your own heart and your own mind and your own conscience and admit to yourself that you're supporting an enormous lie, here. Everything you've argued to me over the past several years has been a lie, even if you won't admit it to me -- or to yourself. The facts are in the public domain, and they've been documented. If you care, you can look them up. But you will listen to what I have to say and then call ME closed-minded.

Where is the censorship, Howie? Disney has deliberately (further) blurred the boundaries between fact and opinion, between truth and propaganda, between news and entertainment. Howie, one thing you may not understand about the mass media, but I teach my students every day, is that they are MASS media. The messages they broadcast and transmit reach millions, tens of millions, and sometimes hundreds of millions on a daily basis. You say they are threatening "I won't use the word NEWS." Then why bring it up? The fact of the matter is that this is NOT news, but Americans might no longer be able to tell the difference. This is not a documentary. A documentary could conceivably be categorized as news. Many documentaries are unquestionably news. This is a "docudrama." A DRAMATIZATION of events. It is NOT news, though undoubtedly many will mistake it as being "true." But it is a work of fiction. And, from what I'm hearing and reading, it is more fiction than fact in many places. This is irresponsible, and dangerously so.

This whole topic is actually far more complicated than I am able to go into in an e-mail. I read, research, and teach about this stuff my entire life. But to boil it down to a few sentences, we have "news" programs that present stories to us which are utter crap, but we call them "news." Tom Cruise's rant on Oprah. The "scandal" of race-based teams on "Survivor." The advantages of liposuction. At the same time, we have "serious" reporting that is itself irresponsible. Just look at Judith Miller. We have "journalists" presenting as "facts" things that are complete fabrications. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence just released the first of its findings yesterday, and guess what they said? No link between Saddam and 9/11. No link between Saddam and al Qa'ida. No link between Saddam and Abu Moussad a' Zarqawi. All things that YOU (and most GOPers) insisted on. They were lying. You were duped. In all three of these cases, I saw the lie and was not duped. I read. But most Americans don't read, and most were duped. Some were duped so badly, that they STILL believe these three lies, even though history and official government reports say they were -- ummmm -- not true. The Senate Intelligence Committee has not yet made a report -- which it eventually will -- on whether the intelligence that was used was "cherry-picked" in the face of OTHER, more reliable, more verifiable (and verified) information that was also in the possession of the Bush administration. Would you like to make a wager now on what the results of that report will be?

The answer to all of this is NOT to let more lies go unchallenged. What ABC is doing is wrong, and so obviously political. We have a right to demand that they act responsibly, and if they insist on acting irresponsibly, we have a right to demand they pay consequences. And what the Democrats are doing now is no different than what GOPers have done in the past -- for less justifiable reasons. Republicans demanded that CBS pull its "Reagan" miniseries for completely subjective reasons, not -- unlike "Path to 9/11" -- because of outright fabrications. It was Disney itself who tried to kill Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" by blocking its distribution. And every word in that movie was true!!! Where were your cries of (so-called) moral outrage then, Howie?

Don't you feel a little bit hypocritical? Of course you don't; you're a REPUBLICAN.

Apparently, it is okay for corporations, whose sole allegiance these days seems to be to their bottom line and their shareholders, to practice censorship. But democratically elected representatives cannot demand, at their constituents' request, responsible behavior from mass media? Tell me again that "fascism" is a bad adjective for your ideological orientation, Howie.

Yes, I AM outraged by the Bush administration's infringements on constitutional rights. I'm not the only one, and FINALLY, that message is getting through to this administration. And I am outraged by "The Path to 9/11." Contrary to your suggestion that "my silence is deafening," I have already sent an e-mail to Disney and to ABC asking them not to air this work of fiction (written and directed by a close friend of Rush Limbaugh's) masquerading as fact.

But you're right, Howie, that's not enough. I ought to post something on IN THE DARK. I will right now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Sign the GOP Should be Worried....

What are Americans thinking and saying about the two major political parties in the US?

49% say the GOP is the party with "strong leaders." Yes, strong like Genghis Khan was strong. Strong like Mussolini. Strong like Macchiavelli. Only 35% said the same of the Democrats (Howie calls them the Demoncrats -- isn't that clever?).

But 49% think that the Democratic party is "The party of the future -- that is, the most forward-looking in their policies." Only 39% said that of the GOP. 56% say that the Democrats are "the party of change," while only 29% said that of the GOP.

And "the party of extremism?" By a 5 point margin, 45%-40%, it's the GOP.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New York Times Ignores its Own Record : Opium Harvest at Record Level in Afghanistan

What's up with the New York Times?

The "newspaper of record" seems to be ignoring the very record it aspires to produce on a daily basis.

It reports today on the post-Taliban re-emergence of opium poppy cultivation, but blames that re-emergence on the return of Taliban influence in parts of Afghanistan. Reporter Carlotta Gall quotes the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, who said that

the increase in cultivation was significantly fueled by the resurgence of Taliban rebels in the south, the country’s prime opium growing region. As the insurgents have stepped up attacks, they have also encouraged and profited from the drug trade, promising protection to growers if they expanded their opium operations.

"This year’s harvest will be around 6,100 metric tons of opium — a staggering 92 percent of total world supply. It exceeds global consumption by 30 percent,” Mr. Costa said at a news briefing.

This is all very true. So what's my problem?
He said the harvest increased by 49 percent from the year before, and it drastically outpaced the previous record of 4,600 metric tons, set in 1999 while the Taliban governed the country. The area cultivated increased by 59 percent, with more than 400,000 acres planted with poppies in 2006 compared with less than 260,000 in 2005.

Ah. Well. Here's my problem. The Taliban banned the cultivation of opium poppies in 1997. The initial ban seems to have been fairly ineffectual. Afghanistan is, after all, an extremely poor country, and farmers had a steady and significant source of income in poppies. So the figure of 4,600 metric tons in 1999 appears to be correct. And it was a record set while the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. But the Taliban instituted yet another ban in 2000, one with "teeth," and the New York Times, and other news sources, reported on the success of that ban five years ago. In the February 7, 2001 edition of the Times, Barbara Crossette reported that
Initial results from a survey of opium-growing areas of Afghanistan in recent days indicate that the Taliban may have succeeded in sharply reducing the annual poppy crop, astonished United Nations narcotics-control officials say.

On April 25, 2001, the same reporter noted that
United Nations narcotics officials reported earlier this year that it appeared that the Taliban, a militant Islamic group that controls most of Afghanistan, had all but wiped out poppy crops under a ban announced last year. American drug experts have begun their own survey and expect to have final results by early summer. Until this year, Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of opium, the source of much of the heroin sold in Europe.

Crossette then reported on May 20, 2001 the acknowledgement of the US Government that the Taliban poppy ban had been successful:
The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement's ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world's largest crop in less than a year, officials said today. The American findings confirm earlier reports from the United Nations drug control program that Afghanistan, which supplied about three-quarters of the world's opium and most of the heroin reaching Europe, had ended poppy planting in one season.

But by October of 2001, after the events of 9/11 and immediately preceding the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, it was clear that poppy cultivation was still going on in Afghanistan, but NOT in areas controlled by the Taliban. Barry Meier, writing in the October 5, 2001 edition of the New York Times reported that
New data collected by the United Nations indicates that most opium grown in Afghanistan this year was in areas controlled by the Northern Alliance, a rebel
group now being courted by the United States and its Western allies as a means to destabilizing and even toppling the ruling Taliban. The United Nations study confirmed earlier findings by United Nations officials and United States narcotics experts that opium harvests in areas controlled by the Taliban -- said by the United Nations to be about 90 percent of Afghanistan -- have plummeted after a recent Taliban ban on the growing of opium poppies.

The invasion probably put the nail in the coffin of the Taliban's opium poppy ban. Tim Golden, in the New York Times, October 22, 2001:

A highly successful government ban on the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan, which had been by far the biggest source of opium in the world, has begun to unravel as the United States presses its war against the ruling Taliban, American and United Nations officials say.

Reports from Afghanistan received last week by the United Nations show that farmers are planting or preparing to plant opium poppies in at least two important growing areas. Recent American intelligence reports also suggest that the year-old ban may be eroding as the military assault continues, United States officials said.

None of this is to meant to endorse or "support" the Taliban. It is merely meant to set the record straight; one that was first recorded by the New York Times itself. Now, the Times is contradicting its own reports.

Now I will have to listen to people like Howie, who take no notice of the news when it contradicts their fantasy-worldview, but will grab onto anything that supports their dangerous delusions.

The Times, I think, is getting either very sloppy, or very politically biased.