Lying Media Bastards

January 31, 2007

Free the GRL!

[Article Failure]

I wrote an article here, posted it, and then folks the article refers to contacted me with criticisms. And honestly, those criticisms are fairly accurate, and kinda cause the article as written to fall apart. Oh well, can’t win em all.

Essentially, an advertising company [Interference Inc.] pulled a dumb stunt, and the police thought that the stunt was a potential act of terrorism. Then members of the media erroneously claimed that the stunt had been pulled by an art group [Graffiti Research Lab]. Therefore I made the mildly humorous stretch of claiming that the art group had been “accused of terrorism.” Which was an irresponsible joke to make, really. Sorry GRL.

The commenter also wanted me to make clear that there was no connection between Interference Inc and GRL. I thought that I’d made that clear, but I may as well make that explicit. Interference Inc. are a sleazy advertising company that makes money with their “edgy”, sometimes illegal advertising campaigns. GRL is an open-source art/grafitti/technology group that makes zero money with their projects.

There we go.

So we’ll jump to the final, non-irresponsible part of the article.

[/Article Failure]

This brings us to the point of advertising vs. grafitti, vandalism vs. art vs. commerce. And rather than try to pontificate on that issue, I’ll just point you towards this video on the subject by GRL and comrades the Anti-Advertising Agency.

And while I’m at it, here’s a link to the God Bless Grafitti Coalition.

Posted by Jake on January 31, 2007 8:00 pm

The FBI: Watching You Watch Internet Porn

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method

Apparently, when the FBI gets a warrant to intercept a suspect’s internet communication, they figure they don’t need to limit it to just that single individual. If they can’t get down to an individual’s IP address, they just set up shop on a broader part of an internet network and record all of the data that passes through. So maybe if your neighbor is a suspect, the FBI records all of your internet traffic as well. Or maybe someone in your neighborhood. Or city. No one seems to know how broad this goes. And all of this data is stored to be sorted later. Allegedly, the data from non-suspects is then deleted. Is it really? How long do they store it before deleting it? Again, no one knows.

Internet wiretapping, warrantless phone wiretapping, Guantanamo gulags, enemy combatants, torture… Seriously, when can we change our country’s name to “Soviet Union II”?

Posted by Jake on January 31, 2007 11:33 am

January 29, 2007

Army Backs Off of Journalist

According to a new press release, journalist Sarah Olson will no longer have to testify in court against dissident Army lieutenant Ehren Watada.

The U.S. government has agreed to drop two charges that carried a maximum of two years in prison against Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada…

As part of the agreement, two reporters who had been issued subpoenas to appear before the court-martial will not have to testify…

“By agreeing beforehand to all of the facts the government would ask of the … reporters, Lt. Watada shielded these journalists from the heavy-handedness of the government,” said Eric Seitz, lead attorney for Watada

The Army is still pressing charges against Watada on several other counts, but by dropping the charges, his maximum sentence is now two years less than it would have been otherwise. So it’s some positive progress, and the journalists have been saved, but the dude still faces a court martial and possible jail time.

Posted by Jake on January 29, 2007 9:06 pm

January 27, 2007

Do Not Pass Go

Back in high school, I read a pretty excellent cyberpunk novel called Snow Crash. Lots of cool sci-fi stuff, action, deep thoughts, and humor. Years later, I was surprised to find that not only was the book well-known, but that college classes were using passages from the book to raise issues on everything from geography to business to racism. Amazingly, much of the book’s humor and satire has come true, or nearly so. In part, the book depicts a future where governments have collapsed and everything has been privatized. You get a glimpse of a world where competing law enforcement franchises (hired by independent gated communities) take people to competing corporate prisons. Even roads are privatized, built and operated by corporations, and you are only allowed to drive on the ones for which you’ve paid.

And none of that is very far-fetched anymore, with private security companies, “military contractors”, and corporate-run prisons.

But today, we’re even seeing that road privatization has arrived.

This trend already appears to be underway in other countries, the US is just late to the party. In this particular case, it is the state of Indiana leasing the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG), an Australian company which owns/operates toll roads in Australia, Canada, Britain, Portugal, Germany, and France. They also run the Dulles Greenway in Virginia, the Skyway in Illinois, and the South Bay Expressway in San Diego. About 15 miles from my house.

Anyhow, for $3.8 billion, MIG will get control of the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years, and can raise the tolls by a certain percentage every year (and something tells me they will). MIG also gets some sweet tax breaks as part of the deal. The article linked to above claims that two estimates were done about the deal; the analysis from Indiana governor’s office (who strongly supported the deal) claimed that the state would come out ahead, but the article implies that this report was shady. A second report by an economic professor argued that the state would lose about $8 billion over the course of the lease.

Public opinion in Indiana ran about 2-to-1 against the privatization. But who cares what the peasants think? The state legislature passed it anyway. What will the state do with that $3.8 billion? Build more roads. No, really.

The other fun bit is that the Indiana state government got advice about the MIG deal from Goldman Sachs (for a cool $20 million). And at the same time, Goldman Sachs was investing in MIG. Nice work if you can get it.

Setting aside the sleaze and corruption here, I can’t get over how bone-headed it is to give up your ROADS. You kinda need those to get around. Maybe next they can lease out the sidewalks and weather.

Posted by Jake on January 27, 2007 9:03 pm

Blogging for a Living

I’ve been reading Arthur Silber’s Once Upon a Time blog for the past several months, and have been frequently impressed by his radical conclusions, internationalist viewpoint, and insights into mainstream American ideology.

Silber has recently posted some alarming personal information on his site; basically, he has such severe health problems that he can’t work a regular job, and the only income he has is the Paypal donations he receives on his blog. Which is enough to keep him at the “practically broke” level and uber-spartan existence. Most of the time.

In other words, he says, he blogs because he doesn’t want to die.

Maybe y’all should check out his site and think about helping him out.

Posted by Jake on January 27, 2007 9:56 am

January 26, 2007

Free College Money

If you’ve got a political blog and are in college, there’s now a scholarship that you could apply for.

Sorry, there’s no punchline, just passing info along.

Posted by Jake on January 26, 2007 9:05 am

January 25, 2007

LMB Radio 01-25-07

LMB Radio 01-25-07

- melty technical difficulties
- State of the Union debunkage
- CEOs against global warming (really!)(sorta)
- Cheney still full of shit
- life in Baghdad
- reality TV on the rise
- reality TV = union-busting
- obesity = class war
- media smears Barack Obama
- DefendThePress.org
- Jan 27 anti-war protests
- erasing revolutionary history

Musically, we’ve got Rage Against the Machine, Ladytron, Haiku, Bad Religion, Cat Empire, Devotchka, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Boris with Michio Kurihara, Mr. Lif, This Machine Kills, Ani Difranco, Japanther, the Immortal Lee County Killers, Ozomatli, and more.

Posted by Jake on January 25, 2007 9:37 pm

Too Smart

Middle East expert Juan Cole has a lengthy take-down of the Iraq portions of Bush’s State of the Union address. But he begins by admitting some confusion about Bush’s policies that I think I can easily clear up for him. Cole says:

it is unclear what “taking the fight to the enemy” means in Bush’s ill-conceived “war on terror.”

I think it’s very clear what Bush means by “taking the fight to the enemy.” It’s a delicate and intricate process.

1) Go to another country.
2) Bomb the people of that country until they start fighting back.
3) Declare that the people who fight back hated America even before you started bombing them.
4) Ta-da!

Prof. Cole might argue that this process is “making enemies” and not “taking the fight to them”, but then he’s studied the Middle East and speaks Arabic, so he probably loves the terrorists and wants to have all their babies and stuff.

Posted by Jake on January 25, 2007 12:50 am

Separation of Press and State

Back in June, independent radio journalist Sara Olson interviewed Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the highest-ranking member of the US military to refuse to fight in Iraq.

Unsurprisingly, the Army decided to court martial Watada for his disobedience. But in a more sinister turn, a significant portion of the Army’s evidence against Watada comes from statements he made in his interview with Olson. The not-so-subtle message is that soldiers with dissenting opinions should keep their mouths shut and that they definitely should not share their opinions with the press.

And more sinister still, the Army is subpoenaing Olson to be a witness against Watada. If Olson refuses, she will be charged with a felony, and could face jail time.

This is highly reminiscent of the Josh Wolf case, where the government is trying to coerce journalists to become de facto police informants, or police investigators. This is a slippery slope that could lead to a public afraid to speak to the press about anything, because their words could end up in the hands of prosecutors. Or, to put it more eloquently:

It is a journalist’s job to report the news, not to participate in government prosecutions. The press cannot function if it is used by the government to prosecute political speech. Hauling a journalist into a military court erodes the separation between government and press. Turning reporters into the investigative arm of the government subverts press freedoms, and chills dissenting speech in the United States. The press must preserve its ability to cover all aspects of a debate, not just the perspectives popular with the current administration. We believe a journalist’s duty is to the public and its right to know — not to the government.

Olson points out that the Army’s actions in her own case are particularly nauseating because the Army is attempting to use her to infringe on another’s right to free speech.

A group of journalists and activists have started a website to aid Olson, DefendThePress.org. And while many members of the press are sleazy folks that we wouldn’t want to defend (e.g. Fox News, CNN, all those bastards who helped sell the war, etc.), journalists like Sara Olson and Josh Wolf are the sort of folks who deserve our support. In addition, supporting these dissenting reporters helps support our own freedom, and helps in the efforts to keep encroaching government at bay.

To learn how to help out, visit DefendThePress.org.

Posted by Jake on January 25, 2007 12:20 am

January 23, 2007

State of the Apocalypse 2007

DJ Al and I did our second annual “let’s yell and make fun of the president while he gives his State of the Union speech” radio thing. You can listen here.

We managed to get a copy of the speech before Bush gave it, but not so far in advance that we could dissect it and plan for great insight and comedy. But it’s still definitely preferable to sitting there alone and letting his lies wash over you.

The folks at Think Progress have done a pretty good job of on-the-fly debunking of the speech.

Posted by Jake on January 23, 2007 8:08 am

January 22, 2007

25-Minute Hate

NY alt-weekly The Beast has released their annual 50 Most Loathsome People in America list. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes adequate, sometimes mean for the sake of being edgy, it’s worth a read, if just in the hope of finding the Karl Rove gem* from last year’s list.

Note that You (#16) are on the list this year, too!


* “Rove is decidedly not a genius; he is simply missing the part of his soul that prevents the rest of us from kicking elderly women in the face.”

Posted by Jake on January 22, 2007 9:43 am

January 18, 2007

LMB Radio 01-18-07

LMB Radio 01-18-07

- more yapping about mp3 players
- media landscape: internet vs. traditional, professional vs. “you”
- RIAA: Fourth Branch of Government
- media conferences everywhere
- observations on somewhat healthy eating
- Iraq war now more unpopular than Vietnam war
- Congress doing stuff
- White House pretends to stop spying on people
- movie reviewin’
- conservative Disney bastards
- Iraq quagmire

Music includes The Knife, Bad Religion, Panjabi MC, PJ Harvey, Brother Ali, Elastica, Radiohead, Bugz in the Attic, Belle & Sebastian, Bikini Kill, Spearhead, Beastie Boys, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Powerman 5000, the International Noise Conspiracy, and more.

Posted by Jake on January 18, 2007 11:48 pm

January 17, 2007

National Holiday

No real posts today, it’s my birthday, I shall be lazy and/or decadent.

And to conclude my thrilling ipod story from the other day: I spoke with an Official Apple Store Expert Guy, who told me that no, it is impossible to do what I want with my ipod. “I don’t know why,” he said. “I think we do,” I shot back. Pause. “Apple had to make some concessions to the record industry,” he admitted. That concession being that once you put your song files –that you ripped from your CDs on your computer– onto your ipod, you can no longer control them as you see fit. It’s Apple’s way or the highway.

However, since I bought the obscenely large ipod (80gb), I think I can work around this by putting my entire record collection on the player twice: once the way Apple intends, the other as a regular hard drive for DJin’. The only other options I can think of cost about the same and add hassle. So excessive wins the day!

Then we ate the gingerbread house and fed the princess to the dragon and lived happily ever after.

Posted by Jake on January 17, 2007 1:16 pm

January 16, 2007

Don’t Fence Me In

‘Gated communities’ planned for Baghdad

The military’s new strategy for Iraq envisions creating “gated communities” in Baghdad — sealing off discrete areas and forcibly removing insurgents, then stationing American units in the neighborhood to keep the peace and working to create jobs for residents.

Sweet Jesus.

Here in the US, “gated community” is a phrase used to describe suburban neighborhoods surrounded by walls, where guarded or locked gates are the only entrances and exits. They are generally inhabited by fearful, upper-class white people, who are willing to pay good money to be shut off from the outside world. Ironically, these neighborhoods are usually in the most affluent, lowest-crime areas of town, and therefore would have the least need for walls and security.

So I was a little extra horrified when I heard the US military using this term to mean “neighborhood we are going to seal off and control with roadblocks and checkpoints.” The US version is luxury. The Iraq version is, well, Palestine. Or, as the article mentions, the “strategic hamlets” of the Vietnam war. Which is a bit of an exaggeration, as the hamlets were basically concentration camps. These “gated communities” will be some sort of cross between the WWII Warsaw ghetto and house arrest. For the Iraqis’ own protection, of course.

Apparently, this strategy is based upon the success of US tactics in the Iraqi city of Tall Afar, in which the US forces “built a berm around the perimeter to control access, then swept through to rout insurgents and Al Qaeda members.” Some critics point out that for the Tall Afar strategy to work in Baghdad, the US would need 150,000 troops in that one city alone. But journalist Matt Taibbi argues that Tall Afar wasn’t even that successful:

I was in Tal Afar’s “genuine success” story over the summer. It was such a success story that the city’s neurotic, hand-wringing mayor, Najim Abdullah al-Jubori, actually asked American officials during a meeting I attended if they could tell President Bush to stop calling it a success story. “It just makes the terrorists angry,” he said. At the meeting he pointed to a map and indicated the areas where the insurgents held strong positions.

“Here,” he said. “Oh, and here. And here. Here also….”

After that meeting, the unit I was with — MPs from Oklahoma on a personal security detail, guarding a colonel who was inspecting police stations in the area — went to a precinct house in one of Tal Afar’s “safe” neighborhoods. There I found five American soldiers huddling in a room about the size of a walk-in closet, hunched over a pile of MRE wrappers and PlayStation cassettes.

They seldom ever left that room, they explained. Occasionally they would have to go out and fight whenever someone started shooting at the police station (a regular occurrence, they said); sometimes they’d even round up the aggressors, only to have some Iraqi army creeps come by later and insist on the attackers’ release, telling the soldiers they had the “wrong guys.” The Iraqi army units and the Iraqi police in the town were constantly at odds and the soldiers there spent a lot of their time breaking up violent outbreaks between the two groups. In short, Tal Afar was a total fucking mess, a violent chaos, and yet Tal Afar is still upheld as the Iraqi success story

Taibbi admits that he wasn’t in Iraq that long, but that those are his impressions from his time there.

The supporters of this plan also point out that it was used successfully by the British in Malaya and Northern Ireland, and by the French in Algeria (well, allegedly successful. The Bush administration abuses history too much to take them at their word). Blogger and military history buff Steve Gilliard points out that at least the Malay example is flawed, because the insurgents there were a fairly unpopular minority, and were outnumbered by the British by about 5 to 1.

Again, I’d argue that this strategy is doomed to failure because a) the insurgents and militias can either leave the area and kill someplace else, b) the insurgents and militias can lay low for a while, or c) the Iraqi military, who will be responsible for much of this campaign, are so thoroughly infiltrated by Shia militias that they will follow their own agenda and not the Americans’. The only possible upside is that being imprisoned in their own neighborhoods will so enrage Iraqis, that the Shia and Sunni will once again come together, unified by their hatred of the Americans.

Which might be helped along with this little gem from Pharaoh President Bush, from a weekend interview with 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn’t do a better job or they didn’t do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we’ve endured great sacrifice to help them. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.

PELLEY: Americans wonder whether . . .

BUSH: Yeah, they wonder whether or not the Iraqis are willing to do hard work necessary to get this democratic experience to survive. That’s what they want.

Those damn Iraqis, too lazy to become democratic, so ungrateful for all those free explosives we sent them.

And finally, Bush is also saying that it’s “irresponsible” to oppose his policies for saving Iraq without proposing any of your own. Which is ridiculous, of course. It’s usually the smart course to oppose a bad idea. And why do I have to propose a solution to a problem that I don’t think can be solved?

Posted by Jake on January 16, 2007 12:09 am

January 15, 2007

iSOS

Anyone know anything about ipods? If you don’t, then the rest of this post will be a bunch of techy jargon, and you may as well skip it.

I purchased an ipod today to replace my dying non-ipod mp3 player, and unless there’s some trick to it, I’ve been misled as to its capabilities.

Previously, I could plug my old player into my computer, and view its contents just like it was an extra hard-drive. I could add and delete files the same way. I could then listen to those files by simply plugging in headphones and pressing ‘play’. The former aspect is important to me because that’s how I do my radio show. I view my song files and drag them into my laptop’s DJ software. And the latter is important if I want to listen to my songs while walking along, or driving in my car.

As I understand the ipod, it can do both of those things, but not simultaneously. If I want to be able to access the files hard drive style for my DJing, then the ipod won’t be able to recognize the songs and play them while I’m walking about. If I add the songs so that I can listen to them while walking about, itunes changes all of the filenames into gibberish; and while I could theoretically DJ in this fashion, I’d have no idea what song was what because they wouldn’t have recognizable names.

Can anyone save me?!?!

Posted by Jake on January 15, 2007 10:10 pm

January 14, 2007

Theat0r

Go see Children of Men. Excellent, intense tale of a horrific, yet unsettlingly familiar future, in which mankind may have very well killed itself. Trailer here. Imagine Blade Runner meets the present, or V for Vendetta if it was a realistic drama instead of an action movie. And although it doesn’t look it, I think it’s clearly the anti-anti-immigration movie of the year.

I also hear amazing things about Pan’s Labyrinth, which combines Franco’s fascist Spain with a dark Alice in Wonderland-style fantasy. I think I’m seeing that one soon, I’ll let ya know how it is.

[update]

Pan’s Labyrinth was excellent. Not as good as Children of Men, but they were very different styles of film. PL had its own intensity, brutality and politics, and managed to bring the wonder that comes with most fantasy films with the darkness that comes with the original versions of our common fairy tales. Almost a bizarre cross of Schindler’s List, Harry Potter, and Hellraiser, if you can believe that.

Posted by Jake on January 14, 2007 12:04 am

January 12, 2007

Aim

Wow, the US airstrikes in Somalia managed to kill over 100 civilians and miss the three al-Qaeda leaders they were aiming for.

The US says that their bombs did kill 10 “al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists”, which I’m sure is a great comfort to the families of those 100+ innocent victims.

Posted by Jake on January 12, 2007 11:01 am

LMB Radio 01-11-07

LMB Radio 01-11-07

- Bush’s latest insanity speech
- Iraq war heads towards WWIII
- troops fight, America watches TV
- also, troops kill people
- vinyl security/domestic desperation
- victory for Umoja
- hey military guys: refuse to fight in Iraq!
- Canadians: support war resisters!

Musically, you get the best mash-ups of 2006, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, BARR, Rancid, Man Man, the Pipettes, Lifesavas w/ Fishbone & Nas, Death Cab for Cutie, Death from Above 1979, Against Me!, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Madlib & Talib Kweli, Fur Cups for Teeth, and more.

Posted by Jake on January 12, 2007 12:37 am

January 11, 2007

Support the Resisting Troops

Just got this email today. Canadian readers, listen up:

URGENT HOUSING REQUIRED FOR AMERICAN SOLDIERS
*EMERGENCY HOUSING APPEAL!!!*

Since the news broke that George Bush will be announcing an increased deployment of 20,000 troops to Iraq, there has been a huge response within the U.S. military.

The War Resisters Support Campaign has been inundated with requests from soldiers who are considering coming to Canada.
*
This is an urgent appeal for housing spots for the new arrivals. If you have room where you can house a resister for a few days, a few weeks or longer, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH WITH US.
*
Welcoming a war resister here with the offer of temporary housing is a concrete way to help put an end to war in Iraq. Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated!

Please contact:
Tom at tomriley@pace-il.ca
or
Christine at 647.393.3096
or
Leave a message at the War Resisters Support Campaign office:
416.598.1222 * resisters@sympatico.ca

So there you go. You Canadians want to help stop the Iraq war? Give some lodging to a soldier who’s refusing to be part of the war machine.

Posted by Jake on January 11, 2007 11:45 pm

Newspapers Discover Fisking

President Bush’s Speech Analysis

While dissecting political speeches line by line has long be a staple on blogs, it’s much rarer to see in the mainstream media. The link above takes you to an interactive version of the president’s speech, where two or three dozen claims from Bush’s recent Iraq speech are singled out for scrutiny by a NY Times op-ed contributor. This sort of analysis and criticism that try to link rhetoric with concrete reality should be standard for major political speeches.

Posted by Jake on January 11, 2007 11:41 pm

Surging Towards the Cemetery

So everyone knows that Bush’s plans to send more troops into Baghdad won’t work, right?

The primary, horrific problem in Iraq right now is the violence that touches nearly everyone (aka “lack of security”). To quote journalist Nir Rosen:

I think people don’t understand how terrible the violence is. It effects everybody in Iraq. Everybody is a target. You’re a target for being a Sunni, a Shia, a Kurd, a Christian, secular, religious, a doctor, a businessman, for working in the former regime, working for the current regime. Nobody is safe in Iraq, death can come to anybody.

People are afraid to leave their homes, go to work, send their kids to school, etc. And this violence comes from three main sources: the Sunni-led insurgency, the Shia-Sunni civil war, and secular criminal violence.

The Sunni insurgency is aimed at both the American occupiers, the new Iraqi government (seen as illegitimate, for obvious reasons), and anyone who works for either the Americans or the Iraqi government.

The civil war is a battle of mutual ethnic cleansing. In areas with high concentrations of Sunni, Shia are being driven out. In areas of high Shia concentration, Sunnis are being driven out. And where there is a more even mix, there is a lot of killing.

And honestly, I don’t know enough about the criminal violence to say much on it.

Of course, the Iraqi government, police force, and army, are predominantly Shia, and many are supporters of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Some are even members of Sadr’s Mahdi Army, and are carrying out executions, kidnappings and tortures of Sunnis while on duty. This sectarian allegiance means that when the US asks the Iraqi government to stop the insurgency, they are telling Shia to fight Sunni. And when they tell the government to stop the civil war, they are asking Shia to fight Shia (which doesn’t happen) and Sunni. Which has made the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni the de facto US policy in Iraq.

I think the US is trying to change that. The “surge” of troops in Baghdad seems to be just a hit on Sadr, with the naive hope that killing him off will shift the balance of power to more moderate Shia, who will be willing to negotiate peace and power-sharing with the Sunni. As if murdering the leader of a group of radicals will make that group of radicals settle down and follow a new guy who’s friendly with the murderers. Killing Sadr would make him a martyr and likely make the Sadrists even more militant.

Not that I think they’ll actually get Sadr. Large segments of the Iraqi army and police unlikely to go after their hero, but Sadr is also drafting every able-bodied Iraqi male in Sadr City to join his Mahdi army. Sadr City has a population of about 2 million people. If his call is heeded, that gives him, what, another 100,000 soldiers? 500,000? To fight off the 20,000 extra American soldiers? On Sadr’s turf, in a sympathetic neighborhood, where the Americans won’t really know the lay of the land? Welcome to Stalingrad.

Bush also mentioned sending more troops to Al-Anbar province. The Sunni heartland, home of the insurgency. And we’re going to send in an extra 4000 troops to solve the problem. Good luck with that.

Has anyone told Bush that counterinsurgencies rarely succeed? The insurgents have nowhere else to go, and the occupiers can never afford to stay indefinitely.

But it’s much worse than all that. Iraq is not a civil war, it’s become a regional war between Shia and Sunni. All nations in the region have an interest in this war ending up with either Shia or Sunni victorious, and they’re supporting their boys. Let me quote Nir Rosen again:

This is only the beginning of the end. The civil war in Iraq will continue for many years to come. What’s more frightening is that it’s also going to involve the countries of the region. A good model might be the complex war in central Africa, which involves several countries—Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi—they’re all going to get involved. In this case: Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and you’ll have volunteers coming from elsewhere. The entire region is going to be sucked into this larger conflict, and the borders won’t remain the same. You’re going to have hundreds of thousands more dead, and millions more refugees. And eventually, I imagine, it will disrupt the economy so Americans might start caring, when their gas prices go up. But until then, I just don’t think that Americans care anymore.

Check the map. Iran is supporting Iraq’s Shia. Saudi Arabia and Syria are actively supporting the Sunni. Turkey wants to put down the Kurds. Most Middle East experts I listen to say that it’s likely the government of Jordan is likely to fall, and that the governments of Syria and Saudi Arabia will also be at risk. Not that these are governments worth supporting, but their demise means that much more chaos and bloodshed.

But 20,000 exhausted American troops in Baghdad will stop the regional war. Right.

It’s simply arrogant and insane to think that the US can control the situation here. The American government and military are extremely ignorant about the Middle East, and don’t realize that everything is connected to everything else. The United States is trying to do delicate brain surgery by punching the patient in the side of the head.

There is even one scarier scenario than the one in front of us, and that involves a direct US war with Iran. I hear rumors about “America’s exit strategy for Iraq being through Iran”. This would mean provoking the Iranians in some way, giving the US an excuse to attack Iran, bomb its nuclear facilities from the air, and say “we’ve got to pull out troops out of Iraq because we need them to fight Iran.” Yes, the president is that stupid, and invading Iran has been a neocon fantasy for decades. In his recent speech, Bush essentially threatened Iran and Syria, has moved aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf, and apparently US soldiers stormed the Iranian Embassy in Iraq (which, if I’m not mistaken, counts as an invasian of Iranian territory under international law). He seems to truly think that he is leading the fight against Evil, and that willpower and grit will win the day. Not when you’re single-handedly fighting wars with four different countries it won’t.

Sadly, I can’t think of any way that this broad Middle East crisis can be avoided. I think that the US can get out, and the invasian of Iran can be stopped, but it seems that that will only happen if a) Congress outright refuses to fund it, and/or b) the military stands up publicly and says that Bush’s plans won’t work. The American people don’t want this war, the Iraqi people don’t want this war, the US military don’t want this war. The only people who want it are Bush and the American Enterprise Institute, who apparently have replaced Bush’s National Security Council.

Blogger Arthur Silber found the absolute most ironic part of Bush’s speech, and it’s worth mentioning. Speaking about what will happen if we leave Iraq and the Islamic extremists “win” if we leave Iraq:

They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions.

Sound familiar?

Posted by Jake on January 11, 2007 10:10 am

January 10, 2007

Sexyploitation

After the dust-up about American Apparel in some of the radical independent media last year (2006), I’m surprised that there wasn’t more coverage of the sale of American Apparel last month.

As you’ll recall, American Apparel is the successful anti-sweatshop, anti-union, pro-sexual harassment clothing company with the creepy, near-softcore-porn ads. For a long time, they were the clothing company of choice for lefty groups that wanted to sell t-shirts but didn’t want to support sweatshops. Over time, the company’s opposition to the unionization of their workforce and sexist advertising turned them off, and many looked for alternatives.

In late December, AA was purchased by Endeavor Acquisition Corp, one of these mysterious consortiums that seem to serve no purpose but taking huge sums of money from investors, and buying companies and stocks to make them more money.

All along, AA CEO Dov Charney has said that his workers don’t need unions because he treats them so well. But this sale shows why that was always a ridiculous argument. What happens if Endeavor’s clients decide that AA isn’t making enough profit and that it should cut labor costs? Granted, part of AA’s brand identity is their positive treatment of workers. But what if Endeavor decides to screw that and try to cash in? What if they decide to fire the “benevolent” Charney and replace him? Who will treat the workers then?

Posted by Jake on January 10, 2007 11:01 am

January 8, 2007

It’s Fun to Yell

Yeah, everyone else has already been on this story, but my internet connection was down all week and I didn’t get the chance. [insert sad punctuation face]

As you’ll recall, back around Thanksgivingtime, the world was shocked to see the violence in Iraq rise to a whole new level: six Iraqi Sunnis were grabbed by Shiite militiamen, doused in kerosene and burned alive.

The horrific event was reported by the Associated Press, who’s story was based upon a single source, “police Capt. Jamil Hussein”. And shortly after the AP story spread across the world, spokesmen for the US and Iraqi governments claimed that there was no man by that name who worked for the Iraqi police.

So here was a controversy: the AP claimed that Jamil Hussein was a real person and Iraqi government spokesmen claimed he was made-up.

When faced with two contradictory stories, the rational response is to say to yourself “I wonder which one is true?”, look at the evidence for both claims, and then (if possible) draw conclusions. But the rabid right-wingers of the blog world aren’t real familiar with rational responses, and simply declared that the government account was the true one. The government said that there was no Jamil Hussein, therefore there was no Jamil Hussein, therefore the AP were liars, therefore all of AP’s news stories about death and civil war in Iraq were fake, therefore things are going great in Iraq, therefore the US won the war! Yee-haw!!!

It’s just maddening and offensive. There were so many potential explanations for this situation, all ignored by the right-wingers. Maybe the Iraqi government keeps bad records. Maybe the police officer was using a pseudonym. Maybe there were typos. Maybe the AP made it up. Maybe the government lied. Maybe everyone made honest mistakes. But no, with absolutely no consideration or evidence, the warbloggers concluded that the AP had fabricated a source, and therefore all their reporting was suspect. Or they were liars. Or they were on the side of the terrorists, take your pick.

Do you think they really buy into this bullshit? Or are they conscious that they are full of shit, but knowingly tell and repeat any lies and nonsense to score points for their team?

After the government denial and right-wing bashing, the AP went tried to back up their story by talking in more detail about Jamil Hussen, and citing additional witnesses to the murders. I never saw the right-wingers talk about that part. And indeed, they seemed to stop caring about the murders altogether. The only thing that mattered now was that the AP had “fabricated a source”.

And of course, the conclusion of this tale is that the Iraqi government now admits that Captain Jamil Hussein exists.

One would hope that these right-wing bloggers would feel a bit of shame and embarassment, but not much luck there (although Glenn Greenwald has tried to help in that response by assembling a long list of similar failed crusades by right-wing bloggers). A few of the warbloggers have admitted error, but “apologize for nothing.” Some of them are now arguing that it’s all a trick, that the Iraqi government has simply stuck some guy in a uniform and is claiming that he is Jamil Hussein. Jeez, when the Iraqi government claimed there was no Hussein, this crew couldn’t lap it up fast enough, despite the lack of evidence. Now, they make another claim with more evidence, and suddenly these bloggers are towering skeptics. Or they could follow their AP model: obviously the Iraqi government told one lie, therefore we can’t believe a single word they’ve ever said or will say in the future.

In a fun little twist, the Iraqi government wants to arrest Hussein for talking to the media at all. However, it seems that they’re case against him falls apart if the AP refuses to pick him out of a line-up (which some of the right-wingers will surely cite as “proof” that this isn’t the real Jamil Hussein blah blah blah).

It’s really disgusting. Either these guys are complete idiots, living solely on outrage and “truthiness”, or they are the worst sort of lying partisan suck-ups.

Posted by Jake on January 8, 2007 10:32 pm

January 7, 2007

LMB Radio 01-04-07

LMB Radio 01-04-07

First show of 2007! Woo!

A bit of a continuation of last week’s Best of 2006 show. Sadly, we had the techno-gremlins invade again; I think my mp3 player may be dying. I will surely ask for your collective advice about mp3 players in the near future.

- politician sticks up for homeless community*
- werst jurnalizm of 2006
- stupid right-wing media shitbags
- Bush is reading your mail
- Iraq: present and future (hint: it’s not good)
- Saddam’s execution

Musycally, we’ve got James Brown, MsFortune, the Dresden Dolls, Young and Restless, Heavenly, TV on the Radio, Marit Larsen, Cage, Jay-Z, the Lylas, Moka Only, MF Doom, Parts & Labor, lady Sovereign, Scala & Kolacny Brothers, Malcolm Holcombe, Automato, and more.


* Rock. Happy ending for this story. For now.

Posted by Jake on January 7, 2007 8:53 pm

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