Lying Media Bastards

August 31, 2007


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Two related stories hit the presses recently regarding corruption in the US and Iraq. Both are appalling, one is longer and more detailed than the other, and is therefore more appalling.

Secret Report: Corruption is “Norm” Within Iraqi Government- an Iraqi anti-corruption organization released a report detailing how most ministries in the Iraqi government are in the hands of criminals, and the ones that aren’t have little to no way to enforce the rules on the staff.

The Great Iraq Swindle- in a way, this story could be called “Corruption is ‘Norm’ Within the US Government”. The author explains how many of the contractors receiving US money for their work in Iraq are not just war profiteers, but outright thieves. Worse than ordinary thieves, they steal millions, needlessly risk the lives of their employees to get that money, and if the employees don’t like it, the companies will throw those employees out of their secured compounds, to face the chaotic violence and insurgency that the rest of Iraq faces. But worse, the report describes Iraq–and increasingly the US military as well– as a capitalist’s dream, where everything is privatized, competition is a joke, and anybody with connections gets a taste.

There are also some articles out showing how bad things are in Iraq, but do we even need to read them? The country is a fucking mess, and the Iraqi people want us to leave. The only positive news I’ve heard about Iraq is this piece by an Iraq war veteran, arguing that the US military is in “nearly a full-scale revolt” against the president and it” just isn’t willing to go along for the ride anymore”. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot in his article to back up these claims, but I sure hope that the military will start refusing to take part in any more neocon madness.

Posted by Jake on August 31, 2007 12:32 am

August 30, 2007

Keep Doing That and You’ll Go Blind

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So if you’ve absorbed any news media in the past several days, you’ll know that a US Senator plead guilty to a charge of “lewd conduct” for trying to hook up with another man in an airport bathroom. Clearly, this is The Most Important News Story Ever. Or at least so you’d think, given the amount of headlines, talk show gas, and blog commentary it’s getting.

Just to give the quick summary to those who have been living in a cave with their fingers in their ears, conservative Republican Senator Larry Craig from Idaho went to a public bathroom in an airport that was known as a spot frequented by men looking for quick, anonymous sex with other men. According to an undercover cop who was assigned to that bathroom*, Sen. Craig did all the coded gestures and signals usually given by men who are there to hook-up, and he arrested Craig**.

I do have to say that I found the Senator’s lie explanation pretty hi-larious. He claims that he did not go into that bathroom to solicit sex. Y’see, when he stuck his foot into the stall of the man next to him, and touched his foot to his neighbor’s foot, he wasn’t trying to get the other guy’s attention to solicit some hot man love. It was an unintended touch, caused by his “wide stance” when going to the bathroom***.

While the bumbling efforts of an allegedly upright elite to justify his own hypocrisy is an amusing diversion, in no way should this story get the sort of coverage it has. True, the revelation of Craig’s arrest may eventually lead to the end of his political career and shifts in the balance of political power in Washington, and that’s news. But the only reason that the Senator’s actions might have those sort of repercussions is because of American sexual puritanism and homophobia. In what sane country would “person tries to entice other person into having sex” make or break anyone’s career, political or otherwise? (I’ll let you know when I find a sane country). Jeez, if the country were a little more sexually rational, gay men wouldn’t have to be sneaking around and using covert signals to find sex partners, and this particular media circus never would have happened.

Part of the reason this story is getting so much attention is the media’s hunger for a good story that fits an existing template. And man oh man does the American media have the “political sex scandal” template down. The initial report. The sordid details. The denial. The sex partner’s press conference. The repeated denial. The investigation. The cover-up. More sordid detais. The jokes on late night talk shows. The apology and/or resignation. Then the cigarettes and afterglow. The news media are absolute addicts for this shit, because these sex stories are rare occasions when they can actually compete with entertainment media on the entertainers’ terms. When seeking a fickle audience, entertainment usually wins out. But when the news anchor can talk about sex and adultery? With a little homosexuality for spice? Scandalicious!

This story is getting further light and heat by liberals and progressives who would like to rid themselves of an opponent. By keeping focus on Craig’s sexual dalliances, they can turn conservatives against him and possibly get him kicked out of office. And I’m sure that in their minds, they’re focusing on the senator’s “hypocrisy”, juxtaposing his gay-friendly activities with his homophobic rhetoric. But I think what they’re really doing is getting the guy fired because he’s gay. The conservative base isn’t outraged because he says one thing and does another, they’re outraged because he’s a man who likes man cock. Whether intentional or not, these lefties who are normally fairly pro-gay are using homophobia as a weapon against Republicans****. By all accounts Craig has a political agenda that is harmful to many, but I don’t know that his end justifies these means.

But the worst part is that all of the media attention on this nonsense sucks all the news oxygen. Without enough airtime, other stories which actually effect the lives of large numbers of human beings suffocate and shrivel. Reports about how the government is spying on us, the resignation of the lying, law-breaking Attorney General, the failure of the Iraq surge, the plans for war with Iran, all of these have to fight for breath against GAY SENATOR SEXXX. And these important news stories lose that battle, and real people get hurt in the process.

Which is why I will now post a story about something that has nothing to do with what grown adults do with their penises.

* Is this really a top police priority? Stopping bathroom sex at the airport? Shouldn’t they be doing something important, like making sure that no airline passengers try to transport shampoo in their carry-on bags?
** While cop testimony is not always trustworthy, when cops lie, they usually do so against someone relatively powerless, not US senators.
*** The idea that someone sits on the toilet and spreads their legs so wide that the take up three different stalls just cracks me up.
**** Which reminds me of ongoing conservative efforts to attack the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates with homophobia. A number of the assaults on Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are on their allegedly inappropriate gender behavior. Clinton is aggressive, and therefore overly manly, and therefore bad. Edwards is attractive and got an expensive haircut once, therefore he is overly concerned with his appearance, and therefore overly feminine, and therefore bad.

Posted by Jake on August 30, 2007 10:53 pm

August 23, 2007


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Lots of important things that aren’t necessarily related. Or maybe they are.


Probably the most pressing news of the day is a rumor. Middle East expert Prof. Juan Cole tells us that a “reliable, knowledgable contact” has told him that a military coup is being planned for Iraq. There is very little information to back this possibility up, but it does seem to coincide with new reports about the inability of the Iraqi government to govern the country, negative comments about Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki coming from the President Bush himself, the “need” for the Iraqi oil law that the current Iraqi regime is slow to pass, and the generalized scapegoating of the Iraqi government by American politicians. Throw out the current government, put in a dictator and call him a moderate, and pass the oil law over the opposition of the Iraqi population. Pretty much defines America’s “committment to democracy.”

Prof. Cole doesn’t say that he thinks this is going to take place, but that it is likely being “discussed at high levels”. I’m just wondering where this “military” for the coup would come from. The military is mostly Shia, and putting a Shia dictatorship in Iraq would help the Iranians, who America would like to destroy.

I should also mention this new interview with journalist Nir Rosen about Iraq, where he talks about the refugee crisis there, and says that the country has changed to dramatically that it’s like “Iraq” has ceased to exist, it’s something else now. Rosen then goes into deep discussion of Middle East history as it relates to Iraq, and the various national and regional players vying for control.


In other news, the US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has pretty much spelled out that since 9/11, the US government has illegally spied on Americans, without warrants, with the cooperation of American telephone companies. The Congress recently passed a law which would make the government’s actions legal, but now McConnell is pushing for retroactive immunity for his telecom buddies as well.

McConnell is not a whistleblower saying all these things to inform us and bring about change; he’s the man in charge, speaking openly, publicly, and favorably about massive law-breaking by the US government. As long as you can pretend you are doing something for national security, you are apparently above the law. Think I’ll start stealing cars to protect America from terror.

Also, according to the last portion of the article linked to above, McConnell has personal financial connections with the telecom companies he’s trying to protect from justice. Which is perfectly okay, because nothing says Security like Filthy, Filthy Money.


There is some news coverage floating around about Canadian police using undercover agents posing as protesters to try to provoke riots at a North American summit meeting in Quebec this week. Three cops joined the labor union faction of a protest, dressed up as “anarchists” (cuz they’re wearing black and have bandanas over their faces, see) armed themselves with rocks, and shoved fellow protesters. When people started accusing them of being police provacateurs, the guys sort of saunter over to the police line, slip in with them, and then are “arrested” (although their arrests are mysteriously missing from the police statistics). The provacateurs were also videotaped wearing boots of the same make of boot as the cops arresting them. A tad… suspicious. Watch the video for yourselves, ongoing coverage here.


Quebec police now admit that they had officers undercover as protesters, but deny they were trying to instigate violence. Of course, this comes shortly after Quebec police denied ever posing as protesters, so they’re obviously not the most reliable of sources.


This is, of course, nothing new. Cops love to end the chaos of peaceful protests by fabricating or provoking a “violent” incident, which then gives them justification for the tear gas, billy clubs, and mass arrests. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “protesters threw a water bottle at police in full riot gear armor” being used as an excuse to disrupt a gathering of thousands of nonviolent dissenters.


Naomi Klein writes about other repressive tactics at that same protest event. In another common tactic, protesters were prevented from being anywhere near the summit meeting, kept in a type of “Free Speech Zone”, or whatever Orwellian word-dance the Canadian government is using. But in a new twist, the Zone is being (allegedly) filmed and broadcast on televisions inside the hotel where the summit meeting is taking place:

“Leaders were not able to see the protesters in person, but they could watch the protesters on TV monitors inside the hotel…. Cameramen hired to ensure that demonstrators would be able to pass along their messages to the three leaders sat idly in a tent full of audio and video equipment…. A sign on the outside of the tent said, ‘Our cameras are here today providing your right to be seen and heard. Please let us help you get your message out. Thank You.’”

The spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper explained that although protesters were herded into empty fields, the video-link meant that their right to political speech was protected. “Under the law, they need to be seen and heard, and they will be.”

So rest easy, Canadians, Your Voices Are Being Heard (if anyone is watching any of those televisions, if those televisions are turned on, if any of that video footage is being sent to those televisions, if those televisions exist…)

Klein teases the argument out, tongue somewhat in cheek, and says that if “being videotaped” means “free speech”, then security cameras, intercepted emails, and wiretapped phones are signs of ever-increasing Freedom and Democracy.


But I haven’t even gotten to the most important aspect of this story: what the protesters were protesting.

It’s called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), an “‘ambitious’ plan to ‘keep our borders closed to terrorism yet open to trade.’”

And as we know from recent history

- “open trade” means “no workers’ rights, jobs to the lowest bidder, ruined environments, copyrights protected at all costs, race to the bottom”
- “fighting terrorism” means “crack down on civil rights and bomb whoever we want”
- and “closed borders” means “hate on the Mexicans, and people who look like they might be Mexican”

So the SPP is NAFTA/corporate globalization, with a sizeable dose of militarization and racism. Klein’s article gives a brief overview, and then starts pointing out the increased surveillance that is set to be instituted, and the corporations who’ve been outsourced to do the surveilling, raking in billions of your American, Canadian, and Mexican dollars (or pesos, as the case may be).

Why would anyone want to protest that?

[As a sidenote, the SPP has been in effect since March 2005]

Good articles about the SPP here and here. It’s obviously a hugely important issue, so I’ll be doing more research on it. I’d like to link to some organizations involved in fighting it, but so far the only ones I’ve seen are more anti-immigrant and “new world order”-style conspiracy theorists. If anyone’s got a good link, post it in the comments.


I’m late to mention it, but seven members of the US 82nd Airborne Division just wrapping up a 15-month tour of Iraq wrote this op-ed to the NY Times, saying what almost any honest person is saying about Iraq. Things are bad, and anyone who says otherwise is likely a sucker or a huckster. Clearly these guys are putting their jobs at risk (well, maybe not the one of them who was shot in the head during the weeks the soldiers were collaborating on this article. They say he’ll “survive”, no idea in what sort of condition). Hard to say if the military is going to want to ignore this altogether, or try to punish and silence these guys.


And in the final bit of news on repression and protest, we’ve got the somewhat mysterious visit to the US by Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (for those of you who have forgotten, URO is the corrupt Mexican governor who’s presided over a wave of police terror and murder in Oaxaca in the past year and a half). I say “mysterious” because although it was announced that Ortiz would be visiting several cities across the nation, he seems to vanish every time protesters show up. Or perhaps he never showed up in the first place, I just can’t tell. But we’ve got some nice photos of the anti-URO protests in NYC, Chicago, and Dallas.

Posted by Jake on August 23, 2007 3:27 pm

August 21, 2007


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A few weeks back, I wrote about the years-long stall tactics used by American politicians and opinion-spinners to extend the US occupation of Iraq. At the time, I neglected to ask the “why” question. Why do these bastards want the US to continue hemorraging money and explosives for little to no tangible result?

I ran across several articles today which point towards even more “stay the course” madness. A new ad campaign aimed at convincing Americans that things are improving in Iraq (funded by a group fronted by former White House lie machine Ari Fleischer). Democrats starting to lean more towards the “give the Surge more time” side. General Petraeus to give his long-awaited speech about the Surge to take place on 9/11.


Then it hit me. The oil law.

One of the key “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government, the oil law is allegedly about the reconciliation of Iraq’s Shia and Sunni; the law would create an equitable distribution of the country’s petroleum revenue, which would ease a major bone of contention between the two sects. Of course, it would also but as much as 80% of Iraq’s oil under the control of foreign corporations.

Needless to say, this law is highly unpopular with the Iraqi people. Yet another example of America’s Committment to Democracy: “we don’t care if your people hate it, pass the damn law!” (it does boggle the mind that the US keeps telling its allies in foreign governments to take action that could get those allies deposed and lynched)

So that’s what I think is going on here. We “need” to stay in Iraq because the Iraqi government hasn’t passed the oil law yet. And until they do, the bastards have to keep stalling for time. And with the law being so incredibly unpopular, it might not be passed for a long time, if at all.

Now, there are many factions even within the US pro-war set with their own goals and agendas, but I think that this is a pretty widely held goal among American elites– Democrats as well. Once the oil law is passed, I think these folks will be willing to draw down the number of US troops to a much smaller number, just the amount necessary to guard the oil infrastructure and stop what passes for an Iraqi government from being overthrown.

Posted by Jake on August 21, 2007 10:40 pm

August 14, 2007

Poke with a Stick

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Uh oh.

“The United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a ’specially designated global terrorist,’ according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.”

So with this scribble of the pen, the US grants itself the right to set economic sanctions not against the whole of Iran (yet), but just against the Revolutionary Guard. I’m no expert on the Guard, but my understanding is that they are sort of a combination parallel Iranian army, border patrol, FBI, and secret police. Good guys they’re not. However, they are so intertwined with important aspects of Iranian society, any attempt to strangle them financially seems destined to anger and destablize large chunks of Iran. And while the American neocons seem to think that threatening a corrupt dictatorship means that the people will rise against their government and replace it with a new, US-friendly regime, it usually means that the people will get scared and throw their support behind the corrupt dictatorship.

Also, the US frequently uses economic sanctions not as a means of persuading other nations to change their behavior, but as a PR move to clear the path for war. “See, we tried all the peaceful methods of resolving this, and they didn’t work. Airstrikes ho!”

So, in conclusion, things ain’t good.

Posted by Jake on August 14, 2007 10:10 pm

August 13, 2007

Exit the Turd

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And out of nowhere, Karl Rove resigns.

Well, he’s not gone yet. He’ll remain Bush’s loyal sneaky, lying, nut-kicking scumbag till August 31. I suppose it’s possible that between now and then Rove will come out with a brilliant new propaganda campaign that encourages Americans to eat babies, or turn the government over to Satanic Vampire Lords, or make Tim Allen America’s Comedian Laureate. So let’s stay frosty, people.

Of course, you’ve got to wonder what the backstory here is. Is a Rove scandal about to break? Is he departing in hopes that the news will cover up another, pending White House mess? Is he just looking down to a quiet life of smearing innocent people, turning lies into truth, and beating the hell out of cute puppies in his spare time? This columnist makes a good point, will any of us feel safe know that Karl Rove is out there walking the streets?

Posted by Jake on August 13, 2007 9:52 pm

August 12, 2007

Rudy Can Fail

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There’s been a lot of talk on the blogs this week about former New York mayor and would-be Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Apparently deciding that he hasn’t milked 9/11 quite enough, he basically claimed that he is just like the 9/11 rescue workers, because he visited Ground Zero so often. Just like them, y’know, except for actually doing any rescue work. In his defense, Giuliani has since recanted the statement. Of course, he only recanted because it looked like the statement was going to come back and bite him in the ass, so fuck him.

While taking credit for someone else’s hard work and heroism is pretty sleazy, it misses the fact that Giuliani is a thoroughly awful person, a liar and a bully who never hesitated to fuck over his whole city when it suited his purposes. This man shouldn’t be let anywhere near another position of power. So let’s remind everybody what the fuss should be about.

We’ll start with Rudy!, a recent article Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Chronicle, billed as “What New Yorkers know about Rudy Giuliani that Coloradans should”. And why shouldn’t we turn to New Yorkers for the info? They lived under him for years (during which time, I should mention, you could find “Fuck Giuliani” t-shirts for sale on every street corner). This one focuses on Giuliani as a fowl fascist fuck-up. Power-hungry, petty, corrupt, vain, and mean. Giuliani’s notable successes are frequently spin, taking credit for things that he actually screwed up, or have negative consequences that got swept under the rug. Also reminds us that after 9/11, Giuliani made several attempts to circumvent the state constitution in order to extend his tenure as mayor.

Since Giuliani’s national claim to fame is his “heroic” “leadership” after the attacks on the World Trade Center, we should make sure to remember Rudy Giuliani’s Five Big Lies About 9/11. He currently makes millions of dollars a years in speaking engagements, comprised mostly of boasts about his magical terror-fighting powers. But as the article shows, Giuliani is full of shit on this score. He was not a big fighter of terrorism in his days as a prosecutor. His policies as mayor actually helped make NYC less safe from terrorist attacks. A few weeks of brave speeches and photo ops at the right time helped turn Giuliani into a mythical hero, and rarely does anyone take the time to tear him back down to bite-sized pieces.

And finally, let’s remember Matt Taibbi’s slam, Giuliani: Worse Than Bush. Mostly about the way that Giuliani shamelessly plays on 9/11 for his own political and financial gain, and the ways he tries to fuck his opponents. Hopefully we can get Giuliani branded with this accurate summary:

Yes, Rudy is smarter than Bush. But his political strength — and he knows it — comes from America’s unrelenting passion for never bothering to take that extra step to figure shit out. If you think you know it all already, Rudy agrees with you. And if anyone tries to tell you differently, they’re probably traitors, and Rudy, well, he’ll keep an eye on ‘em for you. Just like Bush, Rudy appeals to the couch-bound bully in all of us, and part of the allure of his campaign is the promise to put the Pentagon and the power of the White House at that bully’s disposal.

Or, in Giuliani’s own appalling words:

“Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

The next elections are a long, long way off, so we don’t have to worry about it yet. But now, and in the future, ruthless Rudy-bashing will be fun, justified, and governmentally nutritious.

Posted by Jake on August 12, 2007 9:29 pm

August 10, 2007

Cash Is the Fourth Branch of Government

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Congratulations to Congressman Don Young of Alaska for breaking new ground in serving his monied masters.

1) Don Young receives $40,000 campaign contribution from real estate developer
2) House and Senate pass transportation bill
3) After bill is passed, yet before the president signs it, Don Young inserts a $10 million earmark that will help said real estate developer
4) President signs bill

First of all, we see that campaign contributions to Congress are quite an investment. Pay $40,000 and get $10 million back? What’s that, a 2500% return? Congressmen are fucking cheap to buy.

Second, we see that this Congressman isn’t just taking money for his vote, he’s taking money to illegally re-write laws after they’ve been passed!

Third, this $10 million earmark was aimed at a real estate property in Florida, when Don Young is a Congressman for Alaska!

And, near as I can figure, Young is still a member of Congress and has faced no penalty for his bullshit.

Posted by Jake on August 10, 2007 3:14 pm

August 9, 2007

Six Months 4evah!

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Iraq, Washington, and MediaLand apparently all run on Moebius time, a perpetual loop where everything changes yet remains the same.

What am I talking about? See this timeline for Exhibit A. You can see politicians and pundits saying again and again and again and again and again that we have to be patient, that the Iraq crisis will be solved in just a few more months, or that the next few months will be “crucial”, or that we can’t tell if our actions have been successful for another few months. And once those few months are up, someone will say the same thing, with no one noticing the repetition. Never has poor memory killed so many.

In my mind, the indisputable star of that timeline is NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Like a man with Tourette’s, Friedman seems unable to stop himself from repeatedly shouting that “six months”. “The next six months in Iraq are the most important.” “It might be over in six months.” “The next six or nine months are going to tell.” According to the timeline, Friedman has spouted this sort of prediction at least eight times since the start of the occupation (which led sarcastic blogger Atrios to create the term “Friedman Unit”, defined as “a unit of time lasting six months”). And every time the six months is up, he makes another six-month prediction, oblivious to the fact that his previous prediction was proven utterly wrong. And then he does it again, six months later.

It’s possible that one of those times Friedman was right, and that during one of these “crucial” six months, the war was lost for good, in which case there is no victory to be had,the US ought to pack it’s bags, and Friedman ought to stop it with his “six month” dance. Or Friedman is completely wrong and should be fired for his incredibly poor political forecasting skills.

Of course, Friedman is not alone. The timeline is populated with several dozen politicians, journalists, and generals, all with very similar soundbites. Sadly, that rhetoric that has seemed very reasonable to many Americans, most of whom really don’t know much about the situation in Iraq (thanks American media!). Americans seem very aware that things aren’t good in Iraq, want the US to pull out, but then hear a government official or military officer saying that things are changing for the better, it’ll just take a few more months. “I suppose that’s reasonable,” says America, and puts the situation out of their minds for a while. And the occupation and violence continue without much protest from Americans. For six months, when it’s time for another application of the same claims.

I think that Americans have become wise to this strategy (or at least tired of the war to the point where it’s not very effective), so the administration has changed it up slightly. Lately it’s been “we’ve got a whole new strategy that we’re sure will work! Give it some time to work”, “if we pull out, things will get even worse”, or most recently “actually, we’re winning!” Depressingly, the conflicting messages, lousy news coverage, and spineless political “opposition” has led many Americans to simply throw up their hands. Tragically, I think the unspoken consensus among the public is that there is no way to convince Bush to end the war, and that we’ll simply have to wait until the next president. That sense of helplessness is going to get a lot of Iraqis killed.

Posted by Jake on August 9, 2007 3:48 pm

August 8, 2007

Murder in Context

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This week, 24 different alt-weeklies across the US will be running the investigative piece, “Who Killed Brad Will?”, about the activist and journalist who was assassinated in Oaxaca, Mexico last year.

The article’s title is misleading, implying that there is a mystery here to be solved. But the “mystery” is put to bed by paragraph six; we know who Brad’s killers are, they were caught on film, their images captured by their victim. We know their names, their identities, where they live, etc. However they have not been arrested, charged, or imprisoned. They roam free, untroubled– as do the killers of dozens of other Oaxacans who dared to speak out against the rotten regime.

The article then tells the “beginning” of Brad’s tale, moves on to his travels through Latin America, and then gives background on Oaxaca, its recent rebellion, and the crackdown. But then begins to paint another picture, one that tells of Brad’s killers going free, and the broader context of abused power, fear, and impunity that is common in Mexico.

Finally, the article goes even broader, explaining how the corruption, the crackdown, and in a way, Brad’s death, is about oil. The new president of Mexico wants to privatize Mexico’s oil company (PEMEX). One of the nation’s larger (and notoriously dirty) political parties, the PRI, was willing to endorse the president’s privatization, but only in return for favors. And one of those favors was to rescue the PRI governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. And Ortiz’s removal was the goal of the Oaxacan protesters. So Mexico’s president was able to bring the hammer down on the people of Oaxaca in the name of petroleum and pesos.

And of course, the privatization and selling off of PEMEX assets could be of great profit to oil entities like Exxon and Halliburton. Which ties the murder of one man, and the struggle of one community, into the global conflict for ultimate power and resource dominance.

Posted by Jake on August 8, 2007 3:41 pm

August 5, 2007

Rights on Vacation

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Maybe you heard about the government giving itself broad new spying powers over the weekend. In a way, it doesn’t matter, because the government was doing this for at least the past several years, before this new law was ever written. Illegally, yes. This spying actually violates criminal law, and to my understanding, for each violation of it, a person could be sentenced to 10 years in jail. No wonder Attorney General Gonzales is willing to lie and look like an idiot in front of Congress and the world; better that than a prison cell.

Anyone who says that this law was needed to “modernize” the spying laws is a fool or a liar. The reason this law was “needed” was to keep Bush and his cronies out of jail. That is the sole reason. As I’ve said many, many times now, under current laws, American intelligence agencies are allowed to tap phones and eavesdrop and whatnot, as long as they can get a warrant to do so, up to three days after they’ve already eavesdropped on you. And the warrants are issued by a special court that almost never says no to a warrant request. This new law lifts even that miniscule bit of oversight; now the attorney general or the director of national intelligence can approve the spying.

The only, tiny bright side here is that the law expires in six months. In other words, BushCo can continue doing illegal stuff legally for the next six months. At which point the Democrats will cave again and make it permanent, draft a “compromise” bill that gives Bush most of what he wants, or push for the Constitutional crisis that has been upon us for most of the current regime.

Posted by Jake on August 5, 2007 8:55 pm

August 1, 2007

Always and Forever

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Recently heard about and have taken an interest in the blog Death of a Nation? Freelance journalist David Enders reports on the daily crises faced by Iraqis, and filmmaker Richard Rowley posts haunting poems about what he sees there. The site is only a few weeks old, but I already read two of Enders’ pieces that I thought raised some good points that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else.

The first was in an about the process of “embedding”, where journalists typically attach themselves to a US military unit and do their best to report the story while heavily swathed inside the military’s point of view. While Enders claims that embedding with troops is a good method of getting the story of what’s going on with the military, he basically claims that Iraq is so dangerous that it has become necessary to “embed” with somebody. A few weeks ago, Enders and Rowley were embedded with the US military. Last week, to get to Najaf from Baghad, they were essentially embedded with “Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council in a convoy of Iraqi police, military and the party’s guards.” This week, he expects that they will be embedded with a political party in Basra. “We are always embedded”, he says. If they wanted to survive and avoid embedding, they would need to hire their own private security guards, which would be its own form of embedding, bringing its own constraints and biases with it. Perhaps it is possible for some journalists to report from Iraq without military escort, political connections, or armed guards, but it seems like that would be a small number. It also sounds as though Iraq is increasingly a place where cities and neighborhoods are shutting themselves off from each other so that their local security force/militia can protect from attacks by outsiders.

And his second point is about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although it is frequently abbreviated as PTSD, Enders calls it TSD, pointing out that for many, there is nothing “post” about it, facing fresh traumas every day. And while some folks here in the US are outspoken in their concern over US troops being stricken with P/TSD from their experiences in Iraq, Enders reminds us that the many Iraqis who have clearly developed P/TSD by now do not get the same attention. With the first Gulf War, we gave the Iraqi people cancer, caused by the use of carcinogenic depleted uranium ammunition. With the second one, we gave them much of the same, with a side order of mental illness. America has got to get out of the war business.

Posted by Jake on August 1, 2007 11:30 pm

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