Over ten years later, the PR flak behind a story that helped bring a nation to war is STILL lying about it.
She was the 15-year old Kuwaiti girl who testified before Congress in 1990 that, while volunteering at a hospital, invading Iraqi soldiers had stormed in, torn newborn babies out of incubators, thrown the babies onto the floor to die, and shipped the incubators back to Baghdad. The story helped win support for the US war on Iraq that still hasn't really ended.
Funny thing is that Nayirah had never been to that hospital in her life. And she happened to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. And she'd been coached to say what she did by a PR firm that had been hired by the exiled Kuwaiti royal familly.
The PR industry news site O'Dwyer's PR Daily recently ran a story about the PR exec who coached Nayirah, Lauri Fitz-Pegado and a new PR account that she is working on. But the article heavily focused on Fitz-Pegado's role in the fraudulent Nayirah testimony.
Surprisingly, Fitz-Pegado responded to the article (must be in her PR blood to fight off negative perceptions) that the Iraqis had indeed stolen the incubators, as proven in a report by Kroll and Associates. She concludes her letter:
"I have always found it mind boggling that more attention has been paid to discrediting the observations of Nayirah Al-Sabah, simply because of her connection to the invaded Government of Kuwait in 1990, than to the Iraqi atrocities she and others described, which in the ensuing decade have been widely substantiated.
"I would hope that your publication, O'Dwyer's, would see fit, over ten years later, to discontinue the perpetuation of misinformation about these events, my role, or my mindset or intentions. In fairness, I hope you publish this letter in full or at least correct the public record in your next issue."
Which makes it all the more galling when you read a counter-reply posted by PR Watch's Sheldon Rampton. According to Rampton, the Kroll study was commissioned by the Kuwaiti government, implying a bias or false conclusions to that report. He then follows up by citing thorough reports by ABC News, Amnesty International, and human rights group Middle East Watch which concluded that there was no evidence to support the incubator story, or that it was a hoax altogether.
And in other nauseating PR news, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has hired a PR firm which has also done work for Enron, Dr. Laura, and Riverside county after Riverside police killed Tyisha Miller by shooting her 27 times.
The world is a nice place, but I wouldn't want to live there.
I'm not making this up.
Nico Water- the bottled water that's spiked with nicotine.
When you get over being stunned by that, you can read this fun debate about the pros and cons. Remember, it's not a drug, it's a "supplement."
I noticed yesterday that several news websites had picked up a story with a strange mathematical formula at the top:
I ignored it till a friend forwarded me the whole story. The above formula is new equation by ecconomist professor Ian Walker, of Warick Univeristy in England. The "W"= your hourly wage, the "t"= your tax rate, and the "C"= your local cost of living. Plug in the numbers and you can calculate "V", how much an hour of your time is worth in hard currency. Gleeful news editors could now print this press release verbatim, with cute headlines like "Time Really Is Money".
This whole story baffled me. First of all, the formula doesn't exactly work (it presumes that all money paid in taxes is lost, when most folks do receive some return on their tax money in the form of public services). But more importantly, why was this story getting printed at all? This is not new scholarship, it's a simple economic principle called "opportunity cost." I learned about it in junior high school. At any given moment, you could be out making money, or doing something that won't make you money. Simple as that. So why is this news?
After a bit of digging (especially in non-American sources), I found out another angle on this formula. If you read the CNN article above, you'll notice a "How much is your time worth?" link. The link takes you to a simple web form that will calculate how much your time is worth per hour and per minute, how much it "costs" you to brush your teeth and make dinner.
And of course, the telling thing is where the calculation site is located: the website for Barclaycard, a UK-based credit card line offered by financial conglomerate the Barclays Group. And if we look at our UK news coverage, we learn that Barclaycard commissioned Prof. Walker to come up with the formula in the first place.
The whole thing appears to be a news hook for a new Barclaycard ad campaign that focuses on "helping you make the most of your time." Like I've said, half the job of public relations is to disguise advertising as news.
And the other half is to make "unpleasant" news disappear altogether.
In what is surely one of the signs of Armageddon, something unthinkable happened this morning: a major American TV news station interviewed Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is world-famous, his books are best-sellers, and he is one of the most cited authors on planet Earth. But most Americans have never even heard of the guy. Why? Because his main body of work consists of scathing assaults on corporations and the US government, backed up by libraries full of evidence.
Well, that, and because he's not good on television.
So this morning, at 8:33am EST, CNN's "American Morning with Paula Zahn" aired a short debate between the anarchist Noam Chomsky and the far-right Bill Bennett.
Go ahead and give it a look for its historical significance, but as debates go, it's not particularly interesting.
I have finally gotten my newsletter/column Stray Bulletins off the ground. While I enjoy LMB and the freedom it gives me to rant and rave, Stray Bulletins is about facts and analysis. It's my attempt to cover neglected news stories, critique mainstream media reporting, and to give some much needed context to important stories. For those of you who are familiar with my work, it's basically the extension (and hopefully refinement) of my old e-zine NewsWatch.
So you can go read my first installment of Stray Bulletins, Venezuela and the Micro-Coup. I finished writing the story weeks ago, but held back on posting it until I could fix up the design on the SB website. But much time passed, and I'm still muddling my way through html and SSI and php and other techno-drudgery, and finally said "fuck it! I'm putting it up!" The site will soon include multiple news articles, essays, interviews (from the LMB show), book reviews, and maybe another weblog.
And finally, I'm going to have a weekly e-mailing with important news clippings (links and brief summaries to them, anyway). If you want to sign up for that, drop an email to email@example.com.
Just putting a quick link here to an interview with musician, actor, and eccentric storyteller Tom Waits. Even if you've never heard of the guy, I think you'll find the interview to be good fun. It's full of questionable answers and random thoughts that Tom whips out, seemingly to throw his interviewer off-balance.
Found a whole heap of important news stories already today, and I've only been awake for two hours. Let's get started.
The True Purpose of Welfare Reform- a NY Times article which actually bothers to look at the failings of 1996's Welfare Reform Act. Cynical as I am, I read the title and assumed that the article would be about the hidden agendas, politicking, and exploitation which were the real goals of welfare reform. But it's not. The title refers to the author's conclusions about what must really be done to make welfare help people. It's not the muckraking article I wanted, but it's still good.
U.S. Tells Teen Girls Worldwide to Just Say No- another attempt by the Bush administration to push conservative Christian sexual values on the whole planet. The White House is refusing to pay its promised amount to the UN Population Fund, demanding that the UN's family planning education efforts teach abstinence. Despite research that shows that teaching birth control does more to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy. That's some good thinking there, fellas.
The Judi Bari Bombshell- In 1990, two Earth First! environmental activists were injured when a bomb blew up their car. With no evidence, local police announced that the two had probably blown themselves up. The two activists took the Oakland police and FBI to court, and that case has recently been shining light on the dirty tricks of the two "law enforcement" organizations.
Trash for Cash- Bill Black was one of the people who helped expose the largely forgotten S&L scandals of the 1980s (which cost American taxpayers literally hundreds of billions of dollars), and helped prosecute the offenders. Here is an interview with this corporate crime expert about the Enron scandal.
And just to take the edge off, got a couple of amusing stories to add:
Startled Marines Find Afghan Men All Made Up to See Them- "British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat - being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers."
BUSHS ALLGEMEINBILDUNG: Gibt es Schwarze in Brasilien?- a German news article (explained in English here, skip down near the bottom where Carville says "Now it's time for a look") which claims that during the recent European summit, George W. Bush asked Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, "do you have blacks, too?" National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice had to "remind" George W. that Brazil not only does have a black population, but probably has more blacks than any nation outside of Africa.
Who says political activism can't be fun?
A group known as the Yes Men has pulled off another hoax which makes me kinda tingly. The joys of mischief.
The Yes Men are primarily known for their website, www.GATT.org. GATT is the name of the treaty that preceded the WTO, and GATT.org is an incredibly sly parody of the WTO's website. So sly that it has fooled many into thinking that it was the real WTO site. Which is where the fun begins.
On several different occassions, trade groups and the media have confused the parody with the real thing, and contacted the site, asking WTO representatives to speak on camera or to give lectures. The Yes Men were happy to oblige, and attended several conferences on trade, giving satirical speeches highlighting the destructive nature of "free trade" through gross exaggeration. Sometimes it took months for the conference organizers to realize that they'd been tricked.
Which brings us to the latest prank. The Yes Men posted a new press release to the fake WTO site, announcing that the WTO was disbanding. It claimed that after rigorous study, that the WTO found that it did more harm than good, and would reconstitute itself as the TRO (Trade Regulation Organization). The TRO would not organize itself along the principles of global trade, but along the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
There was no widespread duping this time, as with the lectures, but the press release did fool one member of the Canadian Parliament. MP John Duncan asked his fellow parliamentarians about what effects the transformation from WTO to TRO would have on Canadian lumber exports. When it was pointed out that he had been asking questions based on a pointed fraud, he presumably felt like an ass.
Honestly, I'm starting to feel that parody, satire and humor are more effective means of persuasion than facts these days. Maybe I ought to give up on journalism and let my inner Loki run wild.
Two more reasons to fear for your life:
1) India-Pakistan-Kashmir crisis. According to columnist Eric Margolis (one of the few reporter/columnist/pundit types I trust), India and Pakistan are on the verge of war, possibly of the nuclear variety. And this column here reminds us that any warfare between the two nations could easily draw in both Russia and China, both nuclear powers themselves. Meaning that about 3 billion of the world's roughly 6 billion people could be trying to kill each other (or be transformed into human slag) in the near future.
There's a decent recap of the Kashmir conflict here. But my understanding of the conflict is as follows. Pakistan claims that most Kashmiris do not want to be part of India, and they are right. And India claims that Pakistan is inciting Kashmiri militants to attack India, and they are right. Ain't no good guys, just a bunch of crazy people with guns.
2) Mini-Nukes. Geroge W. and company are looking to create smaller (about 1/3 the power of Hiroshima) nuclear weapons, ones that wouldn't destroy a whole city and could "feasibly" be used in a military conflict. Bush's 2003 budget sets aside $15 million for the creation of a "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator"; basically, a bomb that could burrow under the ground and then explode. These are called "bunker busters," and would allegedly be used to destroy underground "hardened bunkers."
All sorts of fun problems with that. First and foremost, who the hell is Bush planning to use those on? The current US enemy seems to be "international terrorism," and those folks seem to hang out in apartments, desert tents, and US flight schools. Doesn't seem like nukes are really necessary there.
Such weapons are also illegal under US law. The US agreed not to use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear countries back in 1978, and Congress banned research on these sorts of weapons back in 1994. No worries, all that can be circumvented with clever wording. Weapons manufacturers aren't doing new research, they're modifying and re-packaging old weapons. Brilliant.
And the third is that pesky "deadly radiation" thing. To contain the nuclear fallout, the bomb would have to get down to a depth of around 300 feet-- and the current generation of burrowing bombs only get down about 12. But even then, I can't imagine that patches of nuked dirt will be entirely safe either.
"President Bush, facing television cameras at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, announced that the two would meet with media representatives as part of his effort to convince Russia of 'the important role of the free press in building a working democracy.'"
"When the meeting happened a while later, it was a Kremlin gathering of a few news media figures who were given four minutes to make presentations to the presidents: two minutes for an American newspaper owner and two minutes for a Russian journalist. Participants said Bush and Putin thanked them without responding to the issues they raised. Although the event was meant to highlight support for a free press, news media coverage was not permitted."
(emphasis mine, thanks to Blowback)
The TiVo is a popular brand of DVR (Digital Video Recorder) that is hoping to replace the VCR as the consumer standard. They automatically record TV programs to a hard drive rather than to a cassette tape. However, as time passes, the device and its corporate creators seem increasingly devious.
All of which leads us to the current story: the TiVo company is now accepting money from sponsors to make a user's TiVo device record specific programs and advertisements. Amusingly, TiVo's slogan "TV, your way" is turned on its head. Doesn't matter if you asked to record these shows or not, they're being saved to your TiVo's hard drive, and you can't delete them until a week later.
Angry TiVo users are calling this "spam television," which seems a really good analogy. TiVo defends its actions by saying that if you don't want to watch the sponsored programs, you don't have to. Email spammers say the same thing. It's true, but that doesn't make it any less irritating.
What's really going on here is TiVo's attempt to make itself into a quasi-network. When a TV network plans a night of television programming, they try to choose shows that will keep viewers tuned in for a whole night. With the invention of TV remotes and hundreds of cable channels, viewers rarely do so. But if TiVo users trust that their recorder is going ahead and recording shows that they will like, it can slip in sponsored shows that fit the sponsor's favored demographics.
I'll probably write a long essay someday about new media technologies and the changing business strategies that accompany them, but I imagine that it will put a lot of you to sleep. I find it all fascinating, but I'm a geek.
The Donnas- Gimme My Radio
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead- It Was There That I Saw You
Crispin Glover- Clowny Clown Clown
Alkaline Trio- I Lied My Face Off
Plastilina Mosh- Mr. P. Mosh
Bad Religion- Pessimistic Lines
The Minibosses- Legend of Zelda (acoustic)
Meg Lee Chin- Scarecrow
Tomahawk- God Hates a Coward
"The Great Ka-Boom, Part One" mix:
Words- Jello Biafra
Music- Augustus Pablo, DJ Spooky, RZA, & SubVersion
The Distillers- I Am a Revenant
Atari Teenage Riot- Revolution Action
Rapture- House of Jealous Lovers
Nas- One Mic
El-P- Deep Space 9MM (Filthy)
Sleater-Kinney- You're No Rock & Roll Fun
PJ Harvey- Dress
Anti-Flag- Stars & Stripes
Evolution Control Committee- Rebel Without a Pause
Billy Idol- Dancing with Myself
On today's LMB radio show I will be playing the new release by punk/activist/lecturer Jello Biafra, The Big Ka-Boom Part One. It was recorded back in November 2001, and is a collage of Jello's thoughts and reactions to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent "war on terrorism."
The show will also feature my usual mix of punk, hiphop, and various alternative musics, as well as a healthy dose of my own weekly commentary.
Tune in, 2-4pm PST at KillRadio.org
Without warning, without asking, individuals comandeer a piece of public space and alter it, hoping that their environmental edit will impact some human brains.
The image above is a guerilla art project by four people who go by the psuedonym P4. Their goal is specific: to get people to actually talk about the issue of rape, and to get them to do something about it.
On April 16, they created 100 of these signs and placed each one in a Portland neighborhood where a rape had occurred. One sign for each rape. Although P4 admits that the placement and dates are not 100% accurate due to imprecise crime data, community response to the action seems fairly positive.
P4 plans to put up 200 such signs this coming Monday. Their actions will continue to escalate, and they hope that others will do similar art actions in their own towns.
Lots of folks simply watch the world go by, leaning on the "what can one person do?" crutch to maintain their comfortable sense of impotence. Maybe one person can't change anything. But maybe four people can.
Have you got three friends?
Grabbing the major headlines today was the nuclear disarmament treaty signed by George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. Unfortunately, most media outlets failed to remark upon how useless the treaty actually is.
The Christian Science Monitor got the story right with its article "Little Fine Print, and Lots of Loopholes". Basically, the treaty says that both the US and Russia will each have a maximum of 2200 long-range missiles with attached nuclear warheads by December 31, 2012 (down from the roughly 7000 that each currently has).
The first thing to note is how skimpy the treaty is. 475 words, 2-3 typed pages. I think I've had longer grocery lists. Seems a little too brief to plan, well, much of anything.
My biggest concern is that there is no timetable other than that final due date. Meaning that both countries could keep the exact same amount of active nuclear missiles up until maybe a month before the deadline, and then go on a mad warhead-removal spree (or however long it would take to remove the warheads. I'd try to estimate better, but I imagine that a Yahoo search for "how long will it take to removal a warhead from a nuclear missile" is going to have Secret Service men knocking on my door in the morning). And since the treaty is up for termination or removal on December 31, 2012, the Christian Science Monitor points out that techinically, the treaty only calls for each country to have cut their armed missiles back to 2200 for a single day.
Perhaps the most misleading aspect of the treaty is that it does not call for the destruction of nuclear warheads. Both nations could detach the warheads, and keep thousands in storage "just in case." Which, note members of the disarmament group Peace Action, would make it much easier for terrorists to get their hands on a nuclear device. Seems a reasonable point: warheads sitting on a shelf in storage are much easier to steal than warheads attached to the top of tall missiles hidden in secure silos.
And finally, either nation can withdraw from the treaty altogether just by giving 90 days notice.
But, the LA Times, NY Times, and CNN make little to no mention of the huge and obvious flaws in this treaty (although all of them took time to note that the pact was signed in a "ornate," "golden," "silk-bedecked" throne room at the Kremlin). Both the NY Times and CNN have a single paragraph repeating a criticism along the lines of Peace Action's, and the Washington Post article seemed slightly more skeptical of the treaty and of the whole Bush-Putin meeting.
I imagine that the story carries such weight because of its symbolic nature. The two former superpowered enemies, sitting down at a table to sign a disarmament pact, pacts that have become synonymous with peace. If viewed right, it is a lovely moment to think about the end of the Cold War, and the beginnings of world peace.
In reality, it is just another PR move in the name of global politicking. Bush wants his National Missile Defense shield, but was criticized for the potential violation of the US' Anti-Balistic Missile treaty with the USSR/Russia. Putin gave the thumbs-up to the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty in return for a sham disarmament treaty, and hopes to curry favor with the US. Which could result in, perhaps, US sponsorship in Russia joining the World Trade Organization, or the removal of various US restraints on Russian imports.
Just your average, everyday mutual back-scratching under a dovish camouflage.
"By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself."
- Bill Hicks
The clever folks at Sumaato Advertising are using Denver's homeless population as billboards.
Sumaato has printed out a bunch of "humorous" laminated signs for homeless people to hold while panhandling, each with the slogan "Sumaato Advertising Works" printed at the bottom.
Yes humor. Nothing like making light of destitution, hunger, exposure and mental illness by tagging it with wit like "I'm a little short on my Porsche payment. Can you spare a dollar?" and "Last Year I was a Dot.Com CEO."
On the plus side, this advertising campaign seems destined to fail. Sumaato is looking for businesses that will hire them for their marketing services. And what businessman even looks at a homeless person these days?
Man, the "Bush Knew" controversy has really rattled the White House.
FBI chief Robert Mueller says that "there will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it."
Dick Cheney says that another terror attack on the US is "not a matter of if, but when" (while taking a break from voting down a bill to offer low-interest loans to displaced workers trying to make their mortgage payments. Way to go, Dick!).
Donald Rumsfeld says that it is inevitable that terrorists are going to get their hands on nuclear weapons.
It's inevitable? We can't stop it? Well fuck it! If there's nothing we can do, I say we liquidate the whole US military budget and buy cookies! Let's buy cookies for all 6 billion human beings on this planet. If we're going out, we're going out with the taste of chocolate chips fading on our tongues!
And how is George W. responding to this crisis? By calling North Korea's Kim Jong Il a "pygmy" at a closed-door session of Republican senators.
So what's with all the craziness? We can buy into the explanation of former Secretary of State Madeliene Albright, who claims that Bush's foreign policy team suffers from "untreated bipolar disorder". Or we can read the explanation from Ari Fleischer buried deep into a few of the articles that the warnings are simply to "avert complacency" on the part of the public. Which explains the situation much better. Except for that "pygmy" comment.
But I don't even buy Ari's complacency explanation. Seems to me that this is just the cheap version of the "wag the dog" phenomenon. Back when Clinton faced scrutiny for his affair with his intern, he launched a few dozen cruise missiles at Afghanistan and the Sudan. Many people thought that he did so solely to draw attention away from his own political controversy. Is it so hard to believe that the Bush administration would try to scare Americans with fictional terrorist threats to accomplish the same goal?
But what's even crazier is the way that the US has chosen to fight against terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic explicitly designed to strike blows at enemies that you couldn't defeat in a typical army vs. army battle. Tradicional military systems are vulnerable to terrorism because of the ways that both armies and terrorist actions are structured. Terrorism is like attacking a man wearing a bullet-proof vest by hitting him in the head. The vest doesn't protect the head.
So how does the US choose to fight a battle in which traditional militaries are vulnerable and ineffective? By spending billions of dollars on the traditional military.
Local television news is nearly always bad. Really, really bad.
First, they were going to do a segment about "prince of darkness" Ozzy Osbourne, and the popularity of his (decidedly un-dark) MTV reality sitcom "The Osbournes."
Then, they would do a piece on "what it's really like to be a rock groupie."
Then, in a vague attempt to link it to the previous stories, an exclusive interview with "Satan-inspired" serial killer David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz.
Then finally, a puff piece about a stuntwoman for the action series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
All of which left me wondering "did anything happen in Los Angeles today?"
But after a bit of thought, it all made sense.
1) May is a "sweeps month." During May (and, I think, November), TV networks check their ratings, and calculate how much to charge advertisers based upon that month's ratings. So they tend to show the most sensationalistic programs they can, to artificially inflate viewership and ad revenue.
2) The show which directly preceded the newscast was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." The show frequently features supernatural or demonic creatures, and the focus on Ozzy as "prince of darkness" seems keyed into that. Obviously the program directors thought that they could retain some of the Buffy viewers by manufacturing a connection between the two shows. It also helped promote Ozzy's show, which airs on MTV. The same corporation owns both MTV and UPN.
3) Rock groupies, sex & sensationalism, self-explanatory.
4) Son of Sam, claims the devil made him do it, and I guess tries to link back to the Buffy/Ozzy/demons & darkness thing. Not news in any way shape or form, Berkowitz is in prison and hasn't killed anyone in 25 years.
5) And the interview with the Buffy stuntwoman is also self-explanatory. Local news stations, starved for funding and content, will often do "news" pieces about other shows and personalities on their network.
Shoddy journalism or clever business? You decide.
(Special thanks to this chart)
The media watch group FAIR frequently examines guestlists for major news programs on TV. Their latest study (well, actually, they just commissioned the report. The study was done by a German media analysis company called Media Tenor International), "Power Sources" looks at the race, gender and political persuasion of the guests on the Big Three TV networks' nightly newscasts.
(ou might want to look at the easy-to-read charts for the study)
Some of the main findings:
And since this study was done by independent analysts, you can't really blame the results on FAIR's left-wing bias.
Obviously, those numbers look mighty skewed.
Let's look at the racial breakdown with the help of a handy little graph I stole:
(US Census 2000)
Compare those stats to the results of the FAIR/Media Tenor study:
Native American: 0.008%
Given the fact that white Americans are pretty ignorant of the way that other people in the country live (check this excellent article on the subject, "Misperceptions Cloud Whites' View of Blacks"), one must wonder whether or not white-dominated news coverage causes or is caused by such ignorance.
So the interesting question to ask is why these biases exist. While the folks at FAIR would usually argue that it's about corporate or conservative bias, Media Tenor suggests a different reason: cuz these are the people in power.
They make this claim first regarding the Republican dominance of interviews; since the current administration is Republican, it makes sense that interviews with governmental officials would result in more Republican interviews than Democratic ones. Of course, to verify this argument, we'd have to look at an identical study done during the Clinton administration.
But overall, that argument makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the media aren't biased, they're just interviewing the people who control the society. And those people are conservative white men, many of whom work for big business.
See, it's not the media who are racist, sexist and classist. It's society.
You ever get tired of conservative colleagues bitching about the "liberal media?" Here's a way to stop that.
Conservative: The media is liberal
You: Could you hand me the "Labor" section of the newspaper?
Y: Every newspaper has a business section. If the media is so liberal, why isn't there a labor section?
C: YARGH! I am defeated!
Or something like that. Every newspaper has a whole section devoted to stocks and bonds and corporate takeovers, but no sections about unions or strikes.
So to rectify this situation, I have decided that I'm going to try to devote one day's worth of entries each week for labor news. But one better, check out this site- www.labourstart.org. LabourStart (American readers, note the extra "u") is a great site about labor struggles all over the world. If you want news about a strike or a union or a boycott, this is where you should start.
Another good news source for the non-conservative side of the economy is a magazine called Dollars and Sense ("the magazine of economic justice"). Basically, it's like your newspaper's business section, but from a more progressive, pro-worker point of view.
I was happily surprised to discover that their website is now current (they used to publish their back issues like 7 months after the fact), with articles from their current issue online. Including the latest episode of a comic that D&S calls "Primer," but who's author Nick Thorkelson calls "The Comic Strip of Neoliberalism".
"Neoliberalism" is the fancy-pants, yet more precise term, for what many folks call "globalization": the attempt to remove all laws and regulations which inhibit corporate profits.
Thorkelson's strips are brief, dense examinations of the ways in which neoliberalism harms average people from many nations, and the movements which fight back against the globalizers. I highly recommend checking them out.
On today's Lying Media Bastards webcast, I'll be interviewing activist and educator Leah Wells, from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. We'll be talking about the US sanctions (and upcoming war) on Iraq. Leah has seen the effects of the sanctions with her own eyes during her visit to Iraq in the summer of 2001. Should be a good, interesting show.
Hope you'll tune in.
Monday, May 20, 2002
The release of the latest Star Wars movie makes for a groovy excuse to post a link that is otherwise not "newsworthy."
United Space Command Vision for 2020 (you'll need Adobe Acrobat to read it).
It's a pamphlet by the Space Command branch of the US armed forces (bet you didn't know we had one of those, did you?). Basically, it is a proposal for how the US should use outer space as a military tool. The authors of the pamphlet hope that these ideas can be implemented by the year 2020. The pamphlet was released in 1997, so you can't blame any of it's craziness on right-wing warhawks currently in the White House.
It makes for interesting reading and word games as you try to puzzle out military jargon. Jump ahead to page 11, "Global Engagement." It calls for "limited space-based Earth strike weapons." Yes, the US armed forces want to be able to shoot missiles or lasers or something from orbit and hit any location they choose on the globe. That's the kind of shit that James Bond villains strive for (note the cute little pamphlet cover, depicting lightning bolts raining down Zeus-like onto enemies).
And it makes sense, if you buy into the whole "we can only protect America if we control everyone and everything on planet Earth" logic employed by the US military.
"After a teenager in Covington, Washington, turned his father in for growing marijuana, local TV news reporters and daily newspapers fell all over themselves calling him a hero."
So begins "Dope", a nice bit of media and social commentary by journalist and sex columnist Dan Savage.
Savage points out many flaws in the "druggies bad, cops good" coverage (for example, the very real possibility that the pot-smoking father was using the drugs for his numerous medical conditions), but then shifts from the specific to the general. How does the media cover drug-related issues? What are the realities of drugs, addiction and drug-prevention programs?
For the record, I don't smoke pot, do drugs, or even drink alcohol. It's easy to imagine that anyone who criticizes US drug policy is doing so for self-serving reasons, that they want to get high in peace. I'm not one of those people. I've got no problem with folks using any controlled substances, provided that they don't harm other people in the process (and frankly, nearly any form of drug addiction is bound to harm someone you're close to).
Savage discusses D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a program that tries to teach kids not to use drugs. I had it when I was in school. It was basically a bunch of anti-drug propaganda mixed with role-playing exercises that kinda/sorta/didn't teach kids how to resist peer-pressure. At my schools, DARE was always taught by a police officer who came to campus. The most amusing aspect of DARE to me was that the most hardcore stoners on campus would always befriend the DARE officer, who was always amazingly oblivious to the fact that his new pals weren't taking his lessons to heart.
What always bothered me about DARE is that they weren't honest. They didn't just say "this drug makes you feel these things, but does this damage to your body, so think carefully." That method treats kids like human beings with brains in their heads, so we can't be having that. Instead, they try to sell fishy-sounding exaggerations about how one puff on a joint will inevitably turn you into a crack whore; and when you suspect that someone's trying to trick you, you don't pay much attention to what they have to say.
Here is something that most of the non-drug-using folks in America don't seem to realize: people who use drugs are usually very aware of the negative effects of what they are doing, and choose to do it anyway. Just like some folks eat fatty foods, skydive, or play professional football. There is potential health danger in all of these activities, but for whatever personal reasons, some people choose to do them just the same.
There's a lot of ground to cover on this topic, and I won't do it here. Read Savage's article, it's long and covers many of the important points.
In an interview with a non-American news program (the UK's BBC Newsnight), CBS news anchor (guy who reads teleprompter) basically admitted what we all know: US reporters practiced the art of "self-censorship" following the terrorist attacks for fear of being attacked for being unpatriotic.
He argued "It's unpatriotic not to stand up, look them in the eye, and ask the questions they don't want to hear - they being those who have the responsibility, the ultimate responsibility - of sending our sons and daughters, our husbands, wives, our blood, to face death."
Of course, no one can remember Dan Rather being very patriotic.
On another fun note, I just heard the term "milatainment" for the first time.
And on a potentially positive note, Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz argues that "in a single day, the capital's media climate has been transformed". He claims that reporters have abruptly recovered from their bout with timidity and are asking Washington officials the tough questions again since the "Bush Knew" story hit.
Of course, reporters almost never ask the tough questions (if you want to see a guy who really asks government officials the tough questions, check out Russell Mokhiber's "Ari & I" column, documenting his brutally blunt questions posed to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer).
So after months of lethargic and fawning coverage of the US government, the media are roused from their stupor by the only phenomenon that could work such astounding magic: a scandal.
Man, conspiracy theorists are gonna go apeshit over this.
As it's now been widely reported, George W. Bush was warned about plane hijackings a month before the September 11 terrorist attacks. There are tons of articles on the subject, so I'll just link to this one from Reuters (via Common Dreams). Just look at that headline: "White House Admits: Bush Knew of Hijacking Threat Before Sept 11". They knew something! And they admit it! They're evil! Right?
Well, let's look and see exactly what we've got here.
This appears to be one of those occassions where the headline promises but does not deliver. If we trust the words of Ari Fleischer (and we can't), the president had been informed that "Osama bin Laden could be plotting to hijack U.S. aircraft," "hijackings in the traditional sense, not suicide bombers, not using planes as missiles."
So that's it. All we have is a claim that the president received an intelligence briefing that there might be an attempted hijacking. Does the story go deeper? Who knows? Right now, that's all the info we've got.
There are those, of course, who feel that the plot goes much deeper. It wasn't al-Qaeda who planned this attack, it was the Bush administration itself! His presidency was a joke and his poll numbers were atrocious, so he staged the whole attack because it would rally the American people behind him!! Or maybe it was Israeli's secret service, the Mossad, staging the attack to increase US support for Israel against Palestinian terrorism!! Or maybe both of them working in tandem!! With the Mole People and the Reverse Vampires!!
I know many radical political activists who are quick to believe accusations against the usual evil-doers, even if there isn't much evidence to support the newest accusations. Let's face it, the US government has and does do evil things to people all around the world on a regular basis. US corporations rape and pillage the planet in the name of profit. US politicians lie and cheat and shovel our tax money into the pockets of the rich. But the fact that they're capable of committing such treachery doesn't mean that they are necessarily guilty of each act of treachery that comes along.
I'm a skeptic. That means that I pretty much only believe in things I have reasonable evidence to support. So while I'm sure there are some who are interpretting this new "revelation" about Bush's foreknowledge of hijacking possiblities as proof positive that he was invovled in the grisly plot, I won't believe it unless you've got evidence.
Welcome to the Information War- columnist states the obvious, that the US media is simply parrotting the lies and misleading tales told by US military officials instead of doing investigations themselves. Good stuff.
Heresies in Pursuit of Peace: Thoughts on Israel/Palestine- article by Starhawk, a figure who's become fairly influential among lefty activists. Excellent article which examines the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Jewish support for Israel's actions, through the lenses of religion and Jewish history.
Okay, as more news becomes available, it looks like the simpler theories win out over the more complex ones.
Yesterday, I theorized that the White House's claims that Cuba had biological weapons was part of simple business competition between the US and Cuban biotechnology industries. But today, it looks like the simple "charged rhetoric for domestic politicla reasons" might have been the right answer all along.
Note the title of this article, "Bush Plans to Tighten Sanctions on Cuba, Not Ease Them" (note: this is a NY Times article, reprinted on the Common Dreams website. I would've linked to the original, but nytimes.com requires that you register with their service to view their articles. Registration is free, but...). The article states quite plainly that GW Bush is going to speak at a fundraiser on Monday, where he will outline his tough stance on Cuba. The fundraiser is for the re-election campaign of W's brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush.
It's also fun to note that the "we have evidence that Cuba's got bioweapons" has been downgraded by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to "we have concerns."
Just ran across these anti-war trading cards. "American Crusade 2001+ Trading Cards" are a parody of the scarily patriotic "Enduring Freedom/Desert Storm" trading cards put out by the Topps company. I'll just give you a warning: if you have even the tiniest bit of respect for elected leaders, the media, or the US anti-terror efforts, you will at some point be offended by these cards. But if that were the case, I'm not sure why you would be visiting my site in the first place.
A brief article about contracts of network news anchors gives a couple of interesting facts. Mainly, that these anchors like Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings make about $7 million a year. Which, by the author's math, works out to a wage of $3,365 an hour to read news off a teleprompter.
And Tom Brokaw can't even pronounce shit properly.
At a recent appearace at Cambridge Union (some sort of high-fallutin' debate society, nears as I can tell), actor John Malkovich announced that he wanted to shoot (and presumably kill) journalist Robert Fisk. Despite the fact that Fisk is a very talented and knowledgable journalist, he's come to be known for his criticism of Israel's occupation. Or, according to his hate mail, for his "dangerous" "psychotic" "hate-peddling" "anti-semitism."
I'm certainly hoping that it stops here, that venomous letters and irreverant, off-the-cuff death threats are where it ends. But I do have a seed of fear that it will only escalate.
After a bit more research, I have a new theory on the "Cuba's got bioweapons" charges by the US (fun fact: the US made the same allegations back in 1999, but didn't seem very panicky about it).
First of all, it seem fairly likely that this announcement was timed to undermine the efforts of Jimmy Carter's visit to Cuba. Not a grand theory, but it's got potential.
Let me slowly ramble my way towards a theory.
The Asst. Secretary of State who made the allegations about Cuba claimed that "Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states". "Dual-use" is an insidious term. It means that some item, object or product can be used for both military and non-military purposes. A sharp knife can be used to chop vegetables, or to stab your neighbor in the eye. Chlorine can be used to purify water, or as a poisonous gas. Doing a search for "dual-use technology," I also found out that a "switch" for device that treats people with kidney stones can also be used as a "trigger" for a nuclear bomb.
I did a little research, I was surprised to learn that Cuba has a thriving biotech industry. Virtually any device or chemical used to treat or study diseases can also likely be used to create biological weapons. After all, a petri dish full of anthrax spores can be considered a biological weapon. Meaning that if anyone in Cuba sold anyone in a "rogue state" virtually anything related to biology or pharmaceuticals, then they probably did sell "dual use biotechnology." But I don't know how worried we should be about that.
So, the theory: the US, which also has a powerful biotechnology industry, made these claims as part of a plan to dominate its business rival. The US government has now linked the Cuban biotech industry to terrorism. This might result in still more sanctions against Cuba or Cuban biotech, or might be just enough slander to cause other nations to not do business with Cuban biotech.
Just a theory.
Last week, the US tried to add Cuba to its "naughty" list, with claims that Cuba has biological weapons. It's a little maddening, this constant barrage of "Yes, we have evidence. No, you can't see it" announcements made by the US government. As investigative reporter I.F. Stone was fond of saying, "governments lie." Which means that when the US government makes these kinds of claims, we should be skeptical. And when the target government, in this case Cuba's Fidel Castro, denies that the charges are true, we should also be skeptical.
I am not an expert on Cuba, but I am very skeptical that they are developing bioweapons. They are a tiny country that is still struggling mightily to overcome the deacades-long US embargo. I'm not trying to paint them as noble Communist superheroes, it just seems to me that their priorities lie elsewhere. It seems more likely to me that these statements were made for political reasons, possibly domestic. It is well-known that there is a valuable voting bloc of Cuban-Americans (mainly in Florida), most of whom are rabidly, insanely, sometimes violently anti-Castro. My official guess is that someone in the administration is sucking up to Cuban-American voters in anticipation of November's elections there, or is trying to prevent any relaxation of sanctions against Cuba (I am not sure is such legislation is pending or not).
So as the US hides its evidence that Cuba has biological weapons, evidence that the United States is developing biological weapons is coming to light. Citing newly declassified documents, the Sunshine Project (an anti-bioweapons group) has found that the US Naval Research Laboratory proposed to create bacteria and fungi that could eat and destroy "matériel" (which near as I can figure, means "stuff": roads, machines, fuel), and that a lab at a Texas Air Force base is proposing the same thing (You can see .pdf scans of the above documents here and here). While these devices aren't directly harmful to people (although it's not hard to imagine indirect harm or even death caused by such weapons), they are easily illegal, both under international laws (treaties signed by the US back in the early 1970s) and under US federal law. Meaning that if either of these projects got funding, anyone who worked on them could face life in prison.
So invisible evidence that US "enemies" are developing bioweapons is cause for concern, but mounting, tangible evidence that the US is developing such things is no big deal. Because America is Good®.
I'm not usually the type to read the New Republic magazine, but I did stumble upon a pretty decent piece on their site that was a critique of the nightly news on the three main American TV networks, NBC, ABC and CBS.
Author Rob Walker doesn't critique them from a political point of view, but more from a quality point of view. Walker watched 3 weeks' worth of coverage on the Big Three, and finds that they are pretty uninformative. He concludes that the main goal of these news broadcasts seems to be to pile on the melodrama and inform viewers just enough that they feel outraged in some way. The coverage doesn't have to be accurate or detailed, just imply that members of the audience should be filled with righteous indignation about... something or other.
Don't know if anyone heard it because we were having streaming problems, but...
Ministry- Hero (live Gaswerk, Hamburg)
400 Blows- Beat the Devil
The Smiths- Handsome Devil
Justin Sane- The Consumers' Song
Damon Albarn- 4am at Toumanis
The White Stripes- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Lauryn Hill- I Find It Hard to Say (live unplugged)
Dead Kennedys- Halloween
Desparecidos- Happiest Place on Earth
Sonic Youth- JC
Frontline Assembly- Modus Operandi (live)
The Distillers- Sick of it All
Damon Albarn- Le Relax
Propellerheads- You Want It Back
Rage Against the Machine- Mic Check
Christian Parenti- Lockdown America
Alice in Chains- Man in the Box (live)
Refused- Crusader of Hopelessness
Damon Albarn- Spoons
Jurassic 5- Action Satisfaction
Bad Religion- You Are the Government
International Noise Conspiracy- Weighing War on Coma
Next week's show will feature an interview with activist, peace educator and journalist Leah Wells. Leah was visited Iraq last year with the anti-sanctions group Voices in the Wilderness and will be telling us about her experiences. She will also be part of VitW's delegation to Iraq this coming summer as well.
Our friends at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) have published a report on the same topic as my own regarding the assault on Jenin, but they have done it in a much more thorough and concrete way. It's called What Happened in Jenin?, and looks at the media's examination of "was it a massacre?" and compares it to human rights groups' examinations of "were human rights violated?" As there is no agreed upon definition of "massacre," the second question seems to be the wiser one to ask.
They've also put a new article on their website about Fox News talkshow host Bill O'Reilly and how he plays fast and loose with facts (and figures) on his show.
I should mention that I interned at FAIR one summer back in 1999. And FAIR's Peter Hart has agreed to come chat with me on the Lying Media Bastards show sometime in the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted.
Media sun-god-of-the-moment Ozzy Osbourne will be headlining a heavy metal rock tour this summer featuring many forgettable hard rock acts. It will be immensely popular, and I am playing a part in transforming a small portion of it from album sales and teen-oriented marketing ploys into a haven for radical grassroots political activism. Even though it's the worst of the many titles I suggested, it will most likely be called the "Axis of Justice," and each tour stop will feature different local organizations fighting the good fight on such issues as racism, corporate globalization, sweatshops, independent media, political prisoners, and the environment. The plan was originally envisioned by myself and former Ozzfest-participants The Unnamed Chris Cornell and Rage Against the Machine project, and the dream is being kept alive by current Ozzfest headliners System of a Down.
And who's footing the bill for this tiny activist carnival? Ozzfest, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and media conglomerate Clear Channel.
Subversion is one of my great joys in life.
"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again."
Finally, the US has a KGB of its very own.*
The Office of Homeland Security is a newly created "agency" (more on that term later) which is dedicated to protecting the US from foreign/terrorist attacks. On one hand, if you are trying to stop enemies from successful attacks, the highly secrective nature of the OHS makes sense. On the other hand, I do not trust these motherfuckers one bit. People have to earn my trust, and conducting your activity in the shadows, hidden from sight while shrouded in scraps of Constitution will not endear you to my heart.
Even the title of the office puts me off, sets terms like gulag and lebensraum running through my head like a horde of writhing insects.
The Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC), sort of a computer-oriented version of the ACLU, recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting information about the Office of Homeland Security's plans for a national identification system. EPIC then filed a lawsuit against the OHS, seeking "expedited release" of the documents in question.
The Justice Department (apparently on intimate terms with the works of Franz Kafka) is arguing that the OHS is not subject to FOIA requests because it is not an "agency". What is it then? No one seems to know, or if they do, they're keeping quiet about it.
The DOJ is also arguing that the OHS is like the National Security Council (top secret advisors to the president on "security issues"). The NSC has been found legally exempt from FOIA requests in the past, and therefore the OHS is too, goes the argument. EPIC plans to continue its fight, claiming that freeing this information is important because "every aspect of daily life is going to be influenced in some way by the policies emanating from that office."
Well, I know I'm going to bed feeling safer tonight because a top-secret group of super-powerful patriots are around to "protect" the "homeland."
* Now I must respond to those of you who cynically answered the question that began this entry with replies of "what about the FBI?" or "what about the CIA?"
1) The FBI is just not as efficient as the KGB. Once the FBI has more of those secret wiretaps in place and has the laws on "coerced confessions" relaxed, then they can give those Rooskies a run for their money.
2) The CIA is (technically) not allowed to act on American soil. The USA PATRIOT Act untied their hands a bit, and now they are allowed to share information and plans with the FBI. But it still seems that the CIA is too busy forging alliances with dictators, military strongmen, and drug lords in Third World countries to focus its attentions on the American people.
3) The police vary from location to location, running the gamut from somewhat helpful to corrupt bastards to oppressive motherfuckers. But I don't think they have the national unity to challenge the KGB.
4) If you said something about FEMA, the ATF or black helicopters, nothing that I say or do is going to frighten you. Just hunker down in your mud-encrusted wilderness shack and clench that hunting rifle tight.
I hope this will be the last post I make about Vanilla Coke. If it isn't, y'all might want to think about an intervention.
An earlier article I linked to implied that Coca-Cola had failed in its attempt to get the Today Show to help promote its new product by broadcasting live from the site of the first vendor to receive a shipment of Vanilla Coka. But apparently, Coca-Cola was completely successful. They even managed to get chipper Katie Couric to take a sip and say "I like it." Amusingly, the article notes that Today co-stars Matt Lauer and Ann Curry also took sips, but made no comment about the flavor.
I'm just going to steal this off of PR Watch's site. It's about pro-business propagandist and "journalist" John Stossel. He's been caught lying, manipulating facts, and outright making shit up to create "controversial" "people who aren't conservatives are wrong"-type news segments and specials for the ABC network. But ABC keeps his ass on the payroll and keeps putting him on the air.
Organic Foods Vindicated, But So What?
Last year ABC-TV's John Stossel got caught inventing nonexistent scientific studies so he could pretend that organic foods contain as many pesticides as conventionally-grown produce. Now Consumers Union has done a real scientific study, published in a peer-reviewed journal, which shows (surprise, surprise) that Stossel was dead wrong and organic foods contain substantially fewer pesticide residues. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a long-time apologist for agribusiness, is pooh-poohing the result. "So what?" says ACSH's Gilbert Ross. "The health risks associated with pesticide residues on food are not at all established." The Associated Press put its own bizarre spin on the story, headlining its report, "One-quarter of organic produce contains pesticides". AP's lead paragraph warns, "Think organic fruits and vegetables are free of pesticides? Think again." The story waits until the third paragraph before mentioning that 75 percent of conventionally-grown produce contain pesticide residues, as compared to only 23 percent for organic produce. Source: New York Times, May 8, 2002
If you'll remember, I threw a fit some weeks back when an announcement that new "Vanilla Coke" was only one month away from its debut was considered "news" on CNN Headline News. Well, more on that.
According to my favorite source about the mindwarping industry, Coca-Cola will begin its PR blitz about Vanilla Coke tomorrow, May 8. They're trying to trick people into thinking that the arrival of a new flavor of carbonated sugar water is an historic event that they should give a shit about. They've picked out a little cafe in Pomfret, Conneticut called the Vanilla Bean Cafe, to be the first recipient of the new flavor. Coca-Cola tried to get the Today show's spunky Katie Couric to broadcast the show live from there. That's half the PR industry in a nutshell, attempting to turn news into advertising. And that's the nice half of the PR industry.
The article also prognosticates further, telling of PepsiCo's challenge to Vanilla Coke: Pepsi Blue. It tastes like berries or something.
And I finally found some information that I couldn't find back when I wrote my entry about Coca-Cola vs. water (and man, it was killing me that I couldn't find it). Pepsi, Coke's main rival, does indeed have its own brand of bottled water: Aquafina.
Remember how the US showed that it cared for the Afghan people it was bombing by dropping care packages of food to them? Remember the ludicrous, tragic irony you felt when it turned out that the food drop packages looked just like the cluster bombs the US was dropping? Well, it's time for you to get re-acquainted with that feeling.
It turns out that the food was more of a danger than an aid. When the packages hit the ground from such a high altitude, the plastic wrapping frequently ruptured, and the food inside spoiled. Meaning that if Afghans ate the food from the ruptured packages, it would make them sick. About 63% of 500 food packages examined in an informal study contained spoiled food.
So not only was the US bombing Afghanistan, not only was it dropping bombs in the guise of food, but they were apparently also dropping food poisoning in the guise of food as well.
That's just one example in the article above of how the US humanitarian aid drop was a colossal failure--a clusterfuck, if you will. Of course, that's kind of the point, as the goal of the airdrop was never to feed the Afghans, but to give the illusion that the US was handling the potential starvation crisis facing the nation due to US attacks.
YK & The Seatbelts- Tank! (live)
Justin Sane- These Are the Days We Will Never Forget
100 Songs for Kids- I'm a Little Teapot
The Coup- Fat Cats, Bigga Fish
Ministry- Thieves (live in Seattle)
Beastie Boys- Shadrach
Outkast- Land of a Million Drums
The Distillers- I Am a Revenant
Nikka Costa- Master Blaster
Timbaland & Twista- Who Am I?
System of a Down- Bounce
Skinny Puppy- Tin Omen
Robert Plant & Jimmy Page- Lullaby (live Cure cover)
AFI- Hanging Garden (Cure cover)
2 Pump Louie- We're Only Gonna Die (Bad Religion cover)
Refused- This Trust Will Kill Again
Against Me!- What We Worked For
The X-ecutioners- The Turntablist Anthem
The Vandals- Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)
Sleater Kinney- You're No Rock & Roll Fun
Your Enemies Friends- A Figure of Speech
Betty Blowtorch- Shut Up and Fuck
The excellent Seattle zine/newspaper Eat the State! just printed one of my articles. I was surpised to discover this, because I wrote the article back in the fall of 2001. I suppose that since the article wasn't particularly time-sensitive that they held off on printing till they had the space.
[Jake notices that Eat the State is not over in the links section to the left and rectifies the error]
Anyhow, the article is called "The Golbalization of Censorship" and is about corporate bastards trying to shut down important investigative journalists.
I've actually written a number of articles for ETS over the years. ETS does some damn excellent work, and I highly recommend them. Editors Geov Parrish, Maria Tomchick and Troy Skeels (and a large volunteer cast) deserve all the kudos you can throw their way.
Hell, while I'm at it, I may as well link to my article archive. I wrote/editted a zine/newsletter called NewsWatch for about 3 years back in the late 1990s. A lot of the articles were quite good, some were merely okay, and there are probably a few that were downright bad. Overall I'm pretty proud of that work, and should be reviving it in a new, better-titled publication later this week.
Well, that title doesn't exactly work, but I can't think of a better (well, cleverer) one.
Trying to make an analogy between the Catholic Church's refusal to accept Galileo's theory that the Earth revolved around the sun, and conservative capitalists' refusal to consider the idea that the "free market" might not be perfect. This analogy falls apart a bit, because the Church's refusal was reasonable. If you look up in the sky, you see what clearly appears to be the sun moving in an arc from horizon to horizon; using one's own experience, believing that the sun is stationary while the earth cruises around it is stupid. But using your own experience, it is stupid to think that "free market capitalism" is perfection achieved.
Last week I linked to an article called Log Cabin to White House? Not Any More by a fellow named Will Hutton. It is evidently the first of a series of articles based upon his new book "The World We're In" (I'd post a link, but I think it's only available in Britain right now).
This latest article is called "What Europe can teach Uncle Sam". While last week's article was about the illusion of success and class mobility in the United States, this week's article is about how the illusion of American-style corporate success. Essentially, Hutton argues that while many think that the predatory, profits-first-and-only strategem of most American corporations is proving to be less successful than the more future-oriented, principle-driven of corporations of Europe. Makes sense, in a way. How can you expect your company to be "the best" when your absolute only concern is maximizing profits for shareholders? Doesn't that mean that you neglect every other aspect of the business?
Interesting points, but they're all based on the idea of corporate reform, which is kind of like putting a band-aid on a train wreck.
Recent Israel-Palestine events have reminded me about words, about the maintenance and drift of meaning. Words can shape thought, thought shapes action, and action shapes the world. So it is inevitable that people will fight to control words.
The first incident was just a reminder to me. You may have heard about it, Texas Congressman Dick Armey said that he believes that "the Palestinians should leave" Palestine.
First of all, as this entry is about words, I have to snicker at the Congressman's name. "Dick Armey." Heh. Sorry.
Okay, Rep. Armey said in the interview linked to above that, basically, he thought that the Israelis should keep all the land they currently control (he didn't specify if that meant the areas that Israel "officially" controls, or all of the Occupied Territories which it controls in reality) and that they shouldn't give any of it up for peace. He then commented that maybe a Palestinian state could be carved out of some other Arab nation(s) to give to the Palestinians.
First, a the minor point: this is what Britain did for the Jews, carved out a piece of land to give to them, and it resulted in more tha 50 years of war and conflict. Repeating the process with the Palestinians is perhaps not a good idea.
But here's the larger point: forcing a racial group to migrate out of your country is ethnic cleansing! A violation of the Geneva Convention! A war crime!
That's where my introduction about words and language fits in. Most people, well, American people anyway, have come to think that the term "ethnic cleansing" means "genocide." We think of the Holocaust, or race-based slaughter, or rape camps. But forced migration can be just as effective at "cleansing" your region of a particular ethnicity. That forced migration is a method of ethnic cleansing can either heighten your digust for Armey's plan, or decrease your horror of ethnic cleansing if it includes actions as "tame" as making people move away from their homes.
In Armey's defense (did I really just say that?), he issued a retraction/apology/excuse on his website. He claims that he meant that Israel shouldn't give up any territory to the Palestinians until the terrorist attacks on Israel end. Go ahead and read the interview transcript and see if you get that message.
On to item #2, the Jenin "massacre." War of words again. During the Israeli seige on Jenin, the media was barred from entry, but eyewitnesses claimed that a "massacre" was going on, that the Israeli army was knee-deep in slaughter. Now that Jenin is kind of open to the public again, everyone is asking the question "was there really a massacre in Jenin?" Israelis say there was no massacre. Palestinians insist there was. Journalists count bodies and weigh evidence. Human rights organizations try to piece together history. But all in the name of seeing if that one word applies.
How many people do you have to kill before it's a "massacre"? The number killed in Jenin seems to jump around every day. Tuesday it's 200, the next week it's 40, the next day it's 50. Hell, the Boston Massacre which helped launch the American Revolution only resulted in 5 deaths. But I suppose the great strides made in our death technology, has had an inflationary effect on our lexicons of the macabre. What makes a massacre these days?
Who cares? It seems clear that Israeli soldiers killed dozens of innocent Palestinians and destroyed the homes of hundreds. I'm just fine with journalists telling me what happened and not bothering to give the events a proper "title."
But of course, this isn't about journalism or titles, it's a political battle. If the world thinks that Israel massacred Palestinians, there might be an increase of pressure against the Israeli government. If the world thinks that Palestinians made false claims about a massacre, the world might side more with Israel.
Again, who cares? Israel has clearly killed hundreds in its recent incursion, increased Palestinian hatred of Israelis, decreased its own security, destroyed the Palestinian infrastructure, and has proven that it is not interested in a fair, peaceful settlement. Both Sharon and much of the Israeli populace actually favor Dick Armey's plan.
"Massacre." "Incursion." "Terror." A rose by any other name would smell as much of corpse rot and bone dust.
I'm working my way through an article titled "A Tale Of Two 'Massacres' - Jenin And Racak". However, the article seems to be less about these two mass murders and more about the media itself. There's a very good quote about eight paragraphs in which really sums up the way that the mainstream media cover war and military action. It refers to the "game" inherent in the relationship between the media and the government:
One of the most important rules of the game is that the media present the U.S. and British governments as fundamentally benign and well-intentioned, so freeing them to wage war for 'humanitarian' reasons. This is a kind of fixed canvas on which world events must be painted. The illusion is maintained by overlooking crimes committed by us and our allies; by taking a moral motivation for granted, ignoring any possibility that corporate power might play a role in driving foreign policy; by presenting crimes as 'mistakes'; by demonising enemies as lethal threats and then justifying massive violence against them as regrettable but unavoidable; by employing language that softens and blurs the emotional impact of our atrocities on the public mind. The last is extremely important - in politics, as in everyday life, our emotional reaction to events largely depends on how we label them: the phrase 'genocidal massacre' fills us with horror in a way that 'human rights abuses' does not.
I read the article on the Znet website, but the article seems to be affiliated with Media Lens. However, I couldn't find it on the Media Lens site. So if you want to read the piece, check Znet, if you want to read more Media Lens, or give them props, go to the ML site.
Just a brief item here. Enron is trying to reorganize itself as a small company with a new name. I really can't wait to find out the new name. They'll probably follow the corporate trend of choosing names that don't really mean anything, but sound cutting edge and classy, something like Fleetan, or Xector or Naltic. I'm kinda hoping they go with a "truth in advertising" type name, like Pyramid Scam Inc., You Are All Our Bitches Co., or Legalized Criminal Enterprises, Int'l.
As it mentions over on the left-hand side there, I have an internet radio show. Well, all of internet radio is currently in jeopardy thanks to some fun new Congressional legislation. This is allegedly an issue about paying proper royalties to artists and record companies, but it seems to me that the goal is for record companies to wipe out all internet radio that is not a) huge or b) owned by them.
The short version is that the US Copyright Office is trying to figure out how much internet broadcasters should have to pay artists, composers and record labels in royalties for playing their songs. The proposal that the USCO will be deciding on (by May 21) will effectively bankrupt most internet broadcasters. These rates are very high, due to the fact that webcasters are expected to pay royalties to the record companies (not just the artists), something that radio broadcasters do not. This is based upon the lie that webcasts are "perfect copies" of the record labels' recordings, and that the labels need to be compensated for that because people could "steal" the songs. You ever listen to a webcast? Most are done via RealPlayer, and the sound quality is poor. No one pirates from streams, especially when getting free music off the internet in other ways is so incredibly easy.
And if this law goes into effect, webcasters will owe royalties retroactive to 1998. And since internet radio doesn't make much (well, any) money, most stations will go under as soon as they are forced to pay.
If you wanna help out, you American folks can easily send a fax to your Congressmen by filling out your name and address here. If you're an American and want to go the extra mile, you can find out all the ways you can fight the power here. Or learn about the situation and figure out your own action plan here.
I'd appreciate it if you did me the favor of at least clicking on that first link and sending the quick fax. Honestly, Kill Radio has a small enough listener base that we can probably survive a detrimental decision, but it won't be pretty. And knowing my fellow DJs, they'll probably want to rebel against the copyright law until we get shut down in a raid by the FCC, or a SWAT team from Sony Music or something.
What Is A Terrorist?- media critic Jeff Cohen points out that the US has deemed many men who fit the dictionary definition of "terrorist" to be, well, not terrorists.
Onto the next outrage.
Israel has been blocking UN attempts to send investigators into Jenin to see if there was indeed a massacre there. No real surprise there, Israel is trying to maintain its image internationally, and evidence that they were executing civilians might harm that. Not surprising, just evil. Israel presented a list of requirements to the UN before it would allow any investigators in. The crazy demand:
"The investigation should not reach any conclusions"
Go back and make sure you read that right. I know I had to.
Yes, before Israel will allow the UN to investigate, the UN must promise that it's investigation will not have any findings. After that, I imagine Israel will throw the UN a big party where no one will be allowed to eat the food, and all of the presents will be empty.
What a bunch of motherfuckers. Just say "no." Don't make up bullshit requirements and hope that the UN will go away. Act like a human being and accept the consequences of your actions. But I guess I can't expect that much, because these decisions were made by politicians, not human beings.
Unfortunately, no words or character strings are going to express how flabbergasted, disgusted and outraged these following news bits have made me.
The article summary on that page reads "Propaganda czar Charlotte Beers wants $600 million for research to figure out why the perception of the U.S. is 'misunderstood' or 'skewed' in the Muslim world, focus groups in Russia, and a probe of Europeans about anti-Americanism and their views about missile defense."
Okay, to give a little context, Charlotte Beers is a public relations executive who has taken on the US campaign to try to counter anti-American sentiment around the world, particularly in the Middle East, through advertising campaigns. A fool's errand basically. It's one of those "what are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?" things. No amount of slick magazine ads or television commercials are going to cause Afghans to forget that their nation is a bombed-out husk thanks to the US, Iraqis to forget that they're starving under US sanctions, Palestinians to forget that they're occupied by US-supported Israelis, or other Middle Easterners to forget that they live under repressive, corrupt regimes that the US supports because their desert home swims on a sea of petroleum.
So now, Beers wants an even larger amount of US taxpayer money to poll "disaffected populations" in the Middle East and South Asia to find out why they dislike Americans. Open a fucking history book, Charlotte, cost ya maybe $30 at a local bookstore. They don't hate the US because of "misperceptions" or "ineffectively targetted messages," they hate the US because its policies have caused or increased their suffering!! And now I'm so angry that I'm using exclamation points!! I hate exclamation points!!
Bottom line: the US is going to spend around $600 million to tell lies that no one is going to believe anyway. Maybe if that money was used to feed or house the suffering people in these areas they might be more willing to believe that the US has goodwill towards them.
"Public diplomacy." "Public relations." "Propaganda." All the same thing, self-serving lies which keep the wool over your eyes.
On my other Lying Media Bastards website I have a link to the website Media Whores Online. Granted, they have a great site name and great slogan ("The site that set out to bring the media to their knees-- but found they were already there"), but I can't wholeheartedly endorse them. So I'm putting a bit of a disclaimer here, and I may go ahead and remove the link to them altogether in the near future.
They often have good material, uncovering acts of journalistic negligence, immorality, spin and distortion. But ideologically, they seem to basically be a hit squad for the Democratic party. They criticize Republicans mercilessly, cheer liberals when they can, and then bash anyone further to the left of Clinton (lately that's meant attacks on Ralph Nader and Michael Moore). But just as bad as their support for liberals is their homemade jargon. Whenever possible, MWO (and a large number of other weblog authors, by the way) replace the names of actual people/shows/organizations with derogatory soundalike nicknames. If you're not familiar with their nicknames, the website becomes increasingly opaque and insane. Examples include: Tucker Carlson = Tucker "the Sucker"; William Safire = William Safliar; Fox News = Faux News.
Of course, I wouldn't mind so much if the nicknames were funnier. That's just the type of guy I am.
Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.
Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.
All brought to you by Jake Sexton, The Most Beloved Man in America ®.
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