Znet has printed an absolutely excellent article about Argentina since its economic meltdown last December, Micropolitics and the Cooking-Pot Revolution in Argentina. Even if you know little or nothing about the country, it’s worth a look.
First of all, the article paints a pretty vivid picture of the street protests that broke out when things reached their boiling point, and also of the current situation in which most Argentinians find themselves. Second, it gives a thorough history of the country’s political and economic breakdown. And third, it does what many news articles about modern Argentina don’t: talk about the new “micropolitics” out in the streets.
This last bit is a fascinating development, and a cause for hope or fear, depending on your outlook. The Argentinian people, with nothing but white-hot scorn for their government, have spontaneously organized their own neighborhood councils, doing the work that needs to get done without waiting for higher powers to do it, or waiting for official approval from the powers that be.
“Survival dictates new forms of sociability. In many areas it is the assemblies that carry out communal buying of essential goods, run crèches, maintain canteens in schools, prevent evictions of non paying tenants or mortgage holders, negotiate with electricity and gas companies and run vegetable gardens. Staying at home is not a good option. Formerly unknown neighbours act as kind of proxy family, intervening constantly to help the worse-off to overcome ‘limit situations’ such as the suspension of electricity or not having enough coins to take a bus to the hospital. In my neighbourhood, an occupied house plays the role of social centre, Saturday night disco and even cinema. The only real cinema in the area has long been sold and turned into an evangelical church, while the “multiplexes” of the shoppings are now out of reach. The need to travel on foot or on bicycle has meant the forced discovery of neighbourhoods that were previously little more than dormitories for their inhabitants.
“The very geography of Buenos Aires seems to have been transformed by the events of December. Groups of people are huddled together on every street corner. The variations of work-shopping-blockbusters-home have been replaced by variants of home-assembly-canteen-march-party.
Perhaps to speculate as to the ultimate outcome of the movement is to miss the point, given its almost conscious rejection of final aims or goals, and the lack of any impulse to form stable political institutions or parties.”
In some ways it’s not pretty, and it’s certainly not guaranteed to succeed. But unlike a lot of other social structures, it seems pretty damn human.
The European Union and the United States have been fighting a legal battle inside the courts of the WTO. The EU claims that a certain US tax break for American businesses is a violation of the spirit of free trade, and wants the right to retaliate with economic sanctions. And the WTO agrees, probably to the tune of about $4 billion. Thank Bill Clinton and George W. for that.
I wrote about this conflict about a year ago as part of a larger article on the US’ relation to “free trade.” For all its preaching about free trade, the US violates it on a pretty regular basis. I think the concluding paragraphs of my article sum it up pretty well:
The US does not care about free trade. Never has. The only thing the US has cared about is winning. And under the US-defined version of free trade, it usually does win. And when the US finds that it (or corporations within its borders) may lose out, they simply ignore the rules.
I’m not writing this to say “the US should stop the hypocrisy and follow its own rules.” I’m writing this to say that the US does not have rules.
This nation sees rules as sets of restrictions that we can sometimes trick other countries into following. Nothing more, nothing less. All of the talk of “free trade” and globalization are just schemes, attempts to trick other nations into following rules that will deluge the coffers of US corporations with money.
In 1984, a Union Carbide (now Dow) pesticide factory in Bhopal, India had a deadly gas leak, which killed 3000 people outright, and led to the eventual deaths of as many as 10,000 more. 120,000 people from the region still have serious health problems due to the toxic exposure.
Actually, those numbers fluctuate wildly, depending on who’s figures you look at (although they’re always in the thousands or tens of thousands). Some discussion of that here.
The Indian government charged then-Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson with “culpable homicide,” blaming the massive death on Anderson’s cost-cutting measures which decreased plant safetey. But Anderson jumped bail and fled to the United States, where he’s been hiding out for nearly two decades.
Then, for reasons unknown, the Indian government took Anderson’s case back to court, arguing that the charge should be downgraded from “culpable homicide” to “negligence.” And since the US-India extradition treaty does not cover negligence, Anderson would never legally have to face the Indian court.
A number of Indians and several American women began a hunger strike to oppose any change in the charge (a daily diary of American hunger strikers Jodie Evans and Diane Wilson can be found here. To raise awareness of the issue, Wilson snuck onto a Dow chemical plant in Texas, hung a large banner reading “Dow: Responsible for Bhopal” on the side of a tall smokestack, and then chained herself to that same smokestack. Wilson was dragged off the tower by a SWAT team, and might face a year in prison. Police also arrested a photojournalist outside the plant for taking pictures of Wilson’s action, because those pictures contained Dow’s “proprietory technology.”
Bhopal.net claims that more than 1000 others worldwide joined in the hunger strike.
Our tale ends with two bits of good news:
1) The Indian court upheld Anderson’s culpable homicide charges, meaning that he can still be legally extradited.
2) Greenpeace and The Daily Mirror UK actually tracked Anderson down at his home in The Hamptons, and handed him a copy of the arrest warrant. (Read The Mirror’s account here. Check the fun photo). India claims that they never filed for extradition because they couldn’t find Anderson’s address. Now they have it. If extradited and convicted, Anderson could face 10-20 years in prison. Might not sound like much for that many deaths, but he’s 80 years old, and he’d spend the rest of his life in jail.
Obviously, none of this brings the dead back to life or breathes health back into the sick. But human beings seem to have a strong drive for, or maybe even need for, justice. Look at how many people went to these great lengths to try to achieve it in this case, to make a man face the consequences of his actions. Hopefully this man will be tried and convicted, and the people of Bhopal can feel the relief of justice served.
Ethnic Cleansing by Starvation- a new report by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), finds that “one in five Palestinian children under the age of five now suffers from chronic or acute malnutrition,” which actually “surpasses rates of child malnutrition in Somalia and Bangladesh.”
Investor Tax Cut Push Becomes Campaign Tactic- intriguing backroom political dealing. Republicans in Congress have introduced a tax cut bill that will greatly favor the rich (no surprise there). But they know that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. And the Republicans admit that this doomed bill is part of a larger strategy for the upcoming Congressional election campaigns in November. The Republicans can campaign as the Men Who Tried to Cut Your Taxes, and demonize the Democrats as the Men Who Stole Your Money. Clever fellows, those Republican devils.
‘The Green al-Qaeda?’- article about anti-environmental organizations’ attempts to link environmentalists to terrorists, both in the public mind and in federal law. For more info on ploys by anti-environmental folks, check out the CLearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR) and their monthly newsletter CLEAR View.
It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World- Lengthy, thorough Time Magazine article about new, sneaky advertising practices. “As conventional methods lose their punch, more marketers are going undercover to reach consumers.” Keep your wits about you, ladies and gentlemen.
Lobsters, Caviar and Brandy for MPs at Summit on Starvation- this article is simultaneously one of those cute/indignant pieces about hypocrisy, and a character assassination attempt. With sensationalistic verve, the article jarringly compares the opulent accomodations for the delegates of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, with the grinding poverty of the rest of South Africa. And while I appreciate the author pointing out an injustice, I have to wonder if the whole article is not just one big ideologically-based attack on environmentalists and the UN. The article is from Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid newspaper, and Murdoch is well-known for pushing his conservative views through his media properties (e.g. Fox News Channel). And as you might imagine, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch might not be a fan of the sustainable development and other attempts to save the environment.
Actually, that last bit is worth some reflection. Ad hominem attacks really piss me off (e.g. “I think abortion should be legal.” “Oh yeah, well you smell like poop!”). A person’s inner qualities and the merits of that person’s arguments have nothing in common. The fact that delegates to this UN summit are acting hypocritical has nothing to do with the idea that the humankind should probably revamp its agricultural, technological and consumer practices in such a way that we don’t suck the planet dry of all its resources. The best analogy I’ve come up with to point out the goofiness of ad hominem attacks is this one:
- Jake publicly states that you shouldn’t eat arsenic.
- Newsweek publishes secret photos of Jake eating a big ol’ arsenic sandwich.
Does this mean that eating arsenic is okay? No. My dietary habits have nothing to do with the biochemical interaction between certain poisons and the human body.
But then again, if we lived in a world without ad hominem attacks, Rush Limbaugh would never have gotten on the radio, and he would’ve died in the gutter years ago.
Project Censored is the name of an organization and the yearly report it produces about American news media. PC sifts through huge amounts of American news media looking for articles about vitallly important issues that got very little attention. PC implies that these “underreported” stories have been “censored,” presumably by pressure from elite business, media and political players. PC picks out 25 of these to create the Top 25 Censored News Stories of the year.
The yearly PC report has become something of an event among lefty folks. On the one hand, it serves to both publicize works of important journalism. But on the other, it almost celebrates the futility of such journalistic efforts. Why not recognize the most important journalistic stories that successfully crossed over from the alternative press to the mainstream instead?
In addition, how the hell do you decide what stories go on this list? How do you decide which topics are more important than others? How “censored” does something have to be to make the list? Isn’t all of this highly subjective?
Anyhow, flaws and all, the Project Censored list is always worth a look to learn about important stories and trends that you may not have otherwise read about. The entire list is here, with the top ten stories summarized thoroughly and the remaining 15 just listed. If you want to read the actualy stories, the San Francisco Bay Guardian has links to most of them here. And finally, the SFBG also compiled a list of top censored story from the Bay Area as well.
As you must be aware if you’ve read LMB for any length of time, I do not put much faith in the accuracy of polls and surveys. Apart from my disbelief that the opinions of 1000 people can be representative of another 290 million, I also know how easy it is to manipulate data, question phrasing, and sample selection to pretty much make a poll say whatever you want. But today on CNN’s Headline News channel, I heard a news story about a poll that was just plain wrong.
The real, accurate story is here. It is about a poll taken by the Automobile Association of America, asking American travelers how confident they are that airline travel is safe. When the poll was taken on October 25, 2001, 33% of the people were “confident.” The most recent version of the poll, taken just days ago, found that 75% of the respondents were “confident.”
But that’s not the story Headline News told. Headline News told us over and over and over again that this new poll showed that “people were confident that new airline security measures were keeping them safe.”
No, it didn’t.
If we go ahead and assume that the poll results are valid, the poll simply tells us that more Americans feel that airlines are safe then did a year ago. The poll has no data to explain why they feel this way. Perhaps it is because of the security measures, perhaps it’s because they feel that the “war on terrorism” has eliminated those pesky terrorists, perhaps they’re just more relaxed about everything because they’ve started drinking heavily. Or perhaps it’s because of another reason entirely.
Personally, I’d guess that Americans feel safer on airplanes these days because, unlike the time of the first poll, no one has hijacked a plane and flown it into a national landmark in the past several weeks.
The point is that the poll tells us –AT BEST– about the number of people who feel safe on planes, and NOTHING ELSE. If AAA wants to know why people feel safer, they’ll have to ask that question on a subsequent poll.
And let’s keep in mind that besides providing emergency automotive services, AAA also makes money via it’s travel agency, and therefore might have a vested interest in the public thinking that the public thinks traveling is safe.
I finally figured out who will benefit most from the US war on Iraq.
God bless America.
Frankly, I think that number is a little low.
God bless the pranksters.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the RIAA and its inreasingly intrusive attempts to prevent folks from trading mp3s of popular songs on the internet.
This morning, anonymous hackers broke into the RIAA’s website and replaced it with a sly parody. The new, altered page announced a new stance by the RIAA that now accepted the free trading of mp3s. In fact, the hackers even uploaded a number of mp3 files for users to download themselves, from the RIAA’s own website. Pretty sweet.
Also saw a number of great satirical news articles today:
So Dick Cheney is laying down the law about Iraq. In a recent speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cheney argued that Saddam Hussein constituted a “mortal threat” to the United States, that “risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action” (”action” meaning “attack,” of course), and that waiting to attack Hussein will just increase the chances that he will have nuclear weapons when the US does decide to attack.
Of course, the one thing he didn’t do was provide the tiniest shred of proof that Iraq is a threat to the United States, let alone a “mortal” one that would destroy the nation.
He also tells the audience that he disagrees with grim predictions that an attack on Iraq would destabilize the region and impede the war on terrorism:
“Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace. As for the reaction of the Arab “street,” the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are “sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.” Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.”
Cheney then stops his prognosticating, but I presume he would’ve gone on to talk about rainbows and kittens and gumdrops and beautiful fairy princesses and the children of the world holding hands, singing tra la la la la.
While major public figures are now speaking out against the war (like Brent Scowcroft and Norman Schwarzkopf), their opposition is fairly specific; if the Bush administration can “sell” the Iraqi threat to the American people, or come up with a battle plan that will incur fewer US casualties, then this opposition will lift. But the unreasonable rationale for attack is only one of my concerns. I’m afraid that a war on Iraq will kill many Iraqis, some Americans, and profoundly fuck up southern and central Asia.
Successfully deposing Saddam Hussein could cause a secession by the Kurds of northern Iraq, potentially inviting a civil war between the Turks and it’s Kurdish population that would also want to secede (check this map). And since the US is an ally of Turkey, the US could get drawn into a Turkish civil war. The Shi’a Arabs in southern Iraq might also secede, or maintain their quasi-autonomous status. Shi’ites are generally more fundamentalist and militant than other Muslims, which could result in more religious terrorism in the region, and against the United States. On top of this chaos, the US is still trying to hold Afghanistan together, and does not seem to be that successful. Does the US really want to be an occupying force in two nations simultaneously?
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here. The ideal outcome would be one where Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and a peaceful democratic coalition government were put in its place with little need for US involvement. However, I’m not an optimist. I feel it more likely that the US would occupy Iraq for an extended period of time, and give control over the country to any Iraqi who would sign lucrative oil deals with US petroleum companies, and generally carry out the US’ will. Either the US could tie the nation together through brute force, or have it’s little puppet regime in Baghdad while the rest of the country struggles on its own.
I’m planning on writing a Stray Bulletins article summing up the reasons I think this war on Iraq is a bad idea, including an examination of the war hawks’ rationale. But for the most part, I’ve given up on that line of questioning. I don’t think that the Bush administration is actually worried about Saddam Hussein attacking the US with WMD. I think that is a fictional cover story they have created to distract us all. No one with any knowledge of Iraq is concerned about these weapons, including the CIA and FBI. Unless Bush and Rumsfeld have access to intelligence that the CIA can’t access, there’s no good reason to fear these weapons.
So what is the real reason that the US is attacking Iraq? I’ve heard many explanations: to gain Republican political advantage for the November Congressional elections; to get Iraq’s oil; because Israel wants us to; to break the spirit of the “Islamists”; to demonstrate American strength; to distract everyone from the failures of the war on terrorism; as a personal vendetta by W. to avenge his father; or because the White House is filled with fucking loonies. Bush & co. want this war, and they’ll make up any old cover story to get it.
Unfortunately, Bush has an awful lot riding on this war. After so much tough talk and bluster, he would look very foolish if he were forced to back down. So he might not, despite the opposition of nearly every nation on Earth, despite the lack of public support, despite the lack of support from his own political party, despite the breach of international law, despite the carnage it will cause.
Now I’ll leave you with three sound clips I really think you should listen to.
In 1964, Congress voted on the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that would authorize the president to use military force in Vietnam. At the time, the government claimed that US ships had been attacked by Vietnamese ships, and that our nation needed to retaliate. Congress lined up to vote their support.
Two senators spoke out against this resolution, and the following are audio recordings of the fiesty Sen. Wayne Morse, who was one of the few Congressional voices of wisdom that preceded a bloody and terrible war. As the current White House demands similar unquestioning support for Congress in another complex war with only flimsy allegations as evidence, I think it’s mandatory that we take a listen to these:
The LA Times printed this article yesterday about Radio Sawa. Radio Sawa, AKA the Middle East Radio Network, is essentially a mild US propaganda effort aimed at making young Muslims and Arabs like the United States.
You can give Radio Sawa a listen yourself at the link above. Frankly, it sounds almost no different from American pop radio, except that most of the songs are in Arabic. I was unable to make myself listen to more than 3 songs in a row before having to shut it off (Madonna’s “True Blue.” Yuck). About 25% of Radio Sawa’s broadcast is dedicated to news programming, which Sawa’s DJs insist is unbiased, non-propagandistic, and based solely on facts.
The LAT article is aimed at pointing out Radio Sawa’s successes, and to give lip service to the station’s critics.
I became pretty suspicious of the article’s claims about Radio Sawa when I noticed that one sign of Sawa’s popularity was a poll of 100 kids living in Amman, Jordan (42%, or 42 of them, said that Sawa is the station they listen to most). Polling 100 people in one city is meaningless. So if we can’t rely on that data, who can we find out what Arabs and Muslims really think of Radio Sawa?
I figured a good way to find out would be to look at how the Arab and Muslim press covered Radio Sawa.
And to a large extent, they don’t.
One article from the Jerusalem Post that is pretty thorough, pointing out that the brains behind this operation is Norman Pattiz who runs Westwood One, one of the nation’s largest radio networks. However, the Post article seems to take at face value Sawa’s claims that it is unbiased.
Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly has an article which looks at Sawa in broader terms of propaganda efforts, and brings up a concern expressed in several of the articles: the US is making a huge effort to make the Arabs know about the United States and its people, but makes no effort to get to know these same Arabs.
The Star of Jordan has an article a bit more critical of Sawa, focusing on its propaganda goals. Specifically, it points out that Radio Sawa’s news uses the point of view that Palestinians fighting Israel are terrorists, rather than the more common view that they are resisting oppression.
The closest thing we have to an examination of Sawa’s potential news bias is an analysis by one of the founders of Electronic Intifada, which obviously has a teensy bit of bias itself. The author compares one day’s news coverage on Radio Sawa with one day’s coverage on the BBC, and he concludes that Sawa is indeed biased. Read the article and decide for yourself.
Beyond those articles, I had trouble finding any mention of Radio Sawa in the Arab press at all. Which leads me to theorize that Radio Sawa is not as popular as it would like us to think it is.
Good thing it only cost $35 million to set up. And could cost another $160 million if the government decides it wants Sawa to compete with Al-Jazeera.
New “reality” TV show called “Celebrity Boot Camp,” where “former military drill instructors will put several famous faces through a version of military training.”
So who are these “celebrities”?
What is it with Americans? Why do they love to see their former celebrities humiliated?
CNN is coming under a bit of fire these days. First of all, it has for months been losing audience to the Fox News Channel. Second, there is a bit of controversy about it’s airing of the al-Qaeda tapes. Third, it’s been (perhaps unknowingly) broadcasting interviews with celebrities that are actually ads for the pharmaceutical industry.
The first bit is well-documented. The Fox News Channel is gaining ground on CNN, and may surpass it. Which does link a bit into the next item.
CNN spent $30,000 to buy 250 hours of video of what are allegedly al-Qaeda training exercises. I haven’t seen any of the footage, so I can’t judge their validity. It just makes me think that a wave of people are going to try to sell fake al-Qaeda tapes to the media in the wake of the CNN coverage.
Originally, CNN claimed that they hadn’t paid money for the tapes, but then said that they had, “blaming an interntal miscommunication” for the error. In response, Fox News took out a full-page ad in the NY Times to bash CNN’s credibility, based upon this change of story. And this is perhaps in response to a series of ads that CNN took out in media and journalism trade mags “citing a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in which Americans rated CNN the most believable TV news source. The ad declares ‘America decided’ that CNN was the most trusted name in news, tweaking Fox’s ‘we report, you decide’ slogan.”
And finally, recent stories tell that a number of celebrities have gone on TV interviews to talk about their personal lives, mentioning their medical problems and the treatments that cured them. But they were actually getting paid by the companies that manufactured those treatments. The NY Times claims to have broken the story this week, but today’s Cursor points out that Salon broke the story about a month ago.
Anyhow, one of the media outlets that showed some of these interviews was, you guessed it, CNN (unfortunately for them, the same day they broadcast an interview with actress Kathleen Turner, it was reported by the NY Times that she was being paid by Amgen and Wyeth to talk about her bouts with arthritis). So, CNN has publicly announced its new policy “will tell viewers about the stars’ financial ties to corporations”. Self-serving or not, I think that’s great. The policy seems to only be in relation to medical issues, but I’d love it if they had a disclaimer down at the bottom listing all their corporate ties: “endorses Pepsi, makes films for Paramount, owns stock in AOL-Time Warner, owns a Porsche dealership” etc.
George W. was in Portland today to give a speech about how Saddam Hussein is the devil and forest fires can be elimintated by eliminating forests. And to raise $1 million for Oregon senator Gordon Smith.
Protesters were on hand to oppose him (the reported numbers varied from “hundreds” by the AP to “2000-4000″ by the protesters. Take it all with a grain of salt). And, as is often the case in these things, cops let loose with their batons, pepper spray and rubber bullets. The police always claim that someone threw something at them, and instead of trying to apprehend that evil-doer, they decide that the crowd needs to be dispersed.
Now, plenty of multimedia:
News reports at Portland Independent Media Center- note: DO NOT click on any of the stories in all capitals on the right-hand side of the screen. Some jerk has posted a bunch of crazy html that will crash your system with an overload of dirty pictures. But trolls aside, this is a good example of what the Indymedia sites are good at: up-to-the-minute coverage of protests.
Slideshow of protest pics from AP/Yahoo
Watch a Quicktime movie of protesters getting gassed.
“Some will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.”
- Woody Guthrie
The LPC Group is a company that distributes books published by small, independent publishers. LPC more or less sells these books on consignment; bookstores take the books, and when the books are sold, the store and the consigner (okay, I don’t know the technical term) split the money (it’s a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea). LPC performed this service for around 100 small publishers.
In the spring of 2002, LPC had a large outstanding loan with Bank One, owing the bank $2.7 million. LPC received a $1.2 million consignment check, $1 million of which belonged to some 85 of its publisher clients.
To repay LPC’s debt, Bank One took $1 million that did not even belong to LPC.
And it gets worse.
According to See Sharp Press, Bank One (and several other LPC creditors) are claiming that they deserve legal ownership of the independent publishers’ inventories of books. These publishers did not take out any loans, and do not owe any money to Bank One or these other creditors, yet the creditors are trying to take their property.
I am familiar with two of these 85 publishers, See Sharp Press and Common Courage Press. Both publish a wide variety of radical political commentary; if you’ve read a book by Noam Chomsky, it was probably a Common Courage book.
Or if you’re one of those impatient types, you can email the president of Bank One by clicking here (remember, these things tend to be more effective if you are polite in tone. But if you can’t handle that, remember that “scumfuck” is one word).
Another report from Garrick today.
Earlier this month, the US military played some wargames to test out some new military tactics, keep their senses sharp, etc., costing around $253 million and involving 13,000 troops.
The fellow who played the part of Saddam Hussein, I mean, “commander of the enemy forces,” has told the Army Times that the game was rigged. Although you’d think the military would want their opponent to be as tough and wily as possible, to make sure that US tactics and training were indeed effective, the “enemy commander” says “‘We were directed… to move air defences so that the army and marine units could successfully land,’ he said. ‘We were simply directed to turn [air defence systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.’”
And, according to the article above, he still managed to beat a lot of US ass.
But okay, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this wasn’t meant to be a realisitic simulation, maybe it was meant as an experiment to see if certain types of tactics would work in certain situations, and that’s why they dictated what the “enemy” would do.
I’d feel a lot more comfortable with that version of events if the US didn’t engage in rigged tests in other arenas. For example, missile defense.
In January 2002, the US Navy tested an anti-missile weapon of the kind that could one day be used in Bush’s prized National Missile Defense. It hit it’s target, but the target was rigged. Instead of the target missile being the same size and shape of commonly used missiles, it was five times longer and one-third wider than normal missiles. And the anti-missile still managed to miss the warhead, it’s real target.
When America pretends, it kicks ass! Bush just has to hope that his enemies play along…
Another new report from Garrick from the Occupied Territories. He calls it “Reflections on Peace.”
Last time Garrick reported, I emailed him a few questions I had about the wording he used, and a couple of minor points about Palestine. Our exchange follows. The parts with the “>” are me, the rest are Garrick.
> a few questions from your latest report.
> 1) when you say ‘martyr,’ what exactly do you mean? do you mean anyone
> killed by israelis, people fighting the israelis who’ve been killed, or
> something else?
When I say martyr I mean anyone who has died either in struggle with the
Israelis or been killed by the Israelis. This is how Palestinians use it so it
could be someone actively fighting or someone who was assassinated or someone killed or someone who engaged in a “martyr operation” or suicide bombing.
> 2) ‘fighter’ means someone a palestinian who is fighting the occupation,
Yes, by this I mean someone who is engaged in armed struggle against the IDF.
> 3) i’ve seen u.s. and israeli poll data which claims that the majority of
> palestinians support suicide bombing attacks on israel. that seems to run
> counter to the first-hand experience of you and tamara. what is your take
> on that?
I think its difficult to say. My experience is that the majority of people
don’t actively support suicide bombings but almost everyone understands why
they happen. I think most people are just trying to survive.
I’m not even sure where to start with this article. It’s biased, misleading, and written so badly that it’s confusing.
The article is titled “Latinos Give Bush High Job Approval Rating, Poll Shows” with the tagline “Politics: Support could boost GOP in the fall elections, national survey indicates.”
The article then gives poll statistics, not about the president’s approval rating mentioned in the title, but about whether or not, if given the chance to vote again, Latinos would vote for Gore or Bush. So we’re slightly confused before we’ve gotten anywhere. Even stranger, although the headline implies that people favor Bush, these numbers in this poll indicate that fewer Latinos would vote for Bush today than would have a year ago (from 54% to 50%), and more would vote for Gore (from 28% to 35%).
When we get down to the fourth paragraph, we finally get to see the job approval ratings mentioned in the title, 68%. Then it says that approval ratings for Republican Congressmen is 42%, while approval for Democratic Congressmen was 54%. So the article’s tagline, “Support could boost GOP in the fall elections, national survey indicates,” also seems incorrect. The survey indicates that Latinos prefer the Democratic candidates to the Republican ones.
Now factor into all this that the poll was taken by the “business-backed Latino Coalition,” which “is trying to position itself as a more conservative alternative to traditional, Democratic-leaning Latino civil rights organizations.”
So what does that leave us with? Frankly, nothing.
” target=”_new”>This VA memo orders directors to stop publicizing VA services. The fewer veterans that know that they are entitled to health care, the fewer veterans will make use of the service, and the more money the government will save.
Being a pacifist, I have no love for soldiers. But I am also against people being used, tricked or exploited, and I feel that a lot of US soldiers are people who are being duped. Many are folks who legitimately love their country and want to protect it, but are misled by the government into thinking that blowing up target A and killing “enemy” B will serve that goal (or, of course, they join the military because they’re poor and need the money). As the chickenhawk database shows us, folks who never have–and never will–face bombs or bullets order these folks into battle, sometimes for the flimsiest or most immoral of reasons.
And this article here is an example of these folks in the military being exploited even further. Let me try to summarize:
US soldiers have their travel expenses paid by the military. In the olden days, soldiers were able to apply for vouchers or cash up front to pay for their trips, but in 1998, the military instituted a new system. All of a soldier’s travel purchases must now be charged on a Government Travel Card (GTC), an interest-free charge card issued by Bank of America to each and every soldier. Applying for these cards has been made mandatory by the military. After charging their purchases, soldiers must apply for reimbursements by the government. And what is happening is that these reimbursements are coming late (or error-ridden, or not at all), soldiers are unable to pay off their GTCs on time, and their credit ratings are being destroyed. To avoid credit damage, some of these soldiers are taking on other, non-interest-free credit cards to pay off their GTC bills, going into real debt to pay off their government-incurred debts.
The article above describes the problems with this system, and points out that it might actually be unconstitutional in two different ways. And remember, you can’t pin this one on Bush. It’s a late 90s thing, making this one squarely a Clinton deal.
GlaxoSmithKline Must Remove Ad Claim- GlaxoSmithKline is a giant pharmaceutical company that manufacturers (and markets. Don’t forget marketing) the anti-depressant drug Paxil (not to be confused with Prozac. Or Effexor, Serzone or Celexa). Recently a number of Paxil users took GSK to court because its advertisements state “Paxil is non-habit-forming.” The judge in the case has ruled against GSK, demanding that the company remove the phrase from all its advertising. In other words, Paxil is addictive.
Unsurprisingly, advertisers bitched about the decision, arguing that it was a somehow a betrayal of the American people or something.
As a completely unrelated aside, recent studies show that around 80% of the effects of anti-depressant medication are completely illusory.
Cox Launches Ad-Supported Video-On-Demand Service- I’ll admit I don’t completely understand this article. Near as I can figure, Cox Communications, the fifth-largest cable company in the US, has decided to create a Video On Demand (VOD) service. Usually this term is used to mean a service that would allow a viewer at home to choose to watch any program or movie they want, on their television, at any time. This sounds wonderful, no having to adjust your schedule to that of a television programmer, no need to limit your entertainment choices to the few options selected by a cable company.
But it appears that this Cox service is actually going to deliver nothing but infomercials and long-form ads disguised as entertainment: “Coke’s Diet Coke will use FreeZone to launch a series of five-minute vignettes about a 20-year-old woman’s experience as a production assistant on an independent film. Sony’s Epic label will highlight new artists such as Good Charlotte and Howie Day, showcase new projects by established artists such as Tori Amos, as well as video biographies, music videos and other content.”
At this point, I feel it would be irresponsible not to point out that the band mentioned above, Good Charlotte, sucks.
Journalists Behaving Badly- The sneering sensationalists of Fox News Channel are upset with the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Back in December, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera filed some reports from Afghanistan that were factually inaccurate and self-serving. BS (interesting initials) columnist David Folkenflik pointed this out (Folkenflik actually won a journalism prize for his story pointing out that Geraldo was full of shit. Talk about setting your standards low). Ever since, Fox News is refusing to give any information or access to the Baltimore Sun because “the Baltimore Sun does not want to be fair to Fox News.” Waah waah. Take your ball and go home, you babies.
CNN Chief Claims US Media ‘Censored’ War- Executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International Rena Golden says “Anyone who claims the US media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It wasn’t a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticise anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people.”
And finally, I am utterly baffled by the existence of “Business Reform” magazine, “the premiere Christian business magazine in the country.” For those of you who enjoy Fortune and the Economist, but are frustrated by the lack of references to the crucifixion, I suppose. This issue’s cover story: Enron: A Biblical Look at the Largest Bankruptcy in U.S. History
I’m no Biblical scholar, but in my mind, this one passage eliminates the need for any Christian business mags at all: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
As ever, more contradictory news about Iraq.
International relations analysts Stratfor argue that the propagandize Western Europe and the Middle East in an effort to “build international support among foreign opinion leaders for a war against Iraq.” That doesn’t sound like a change of policy, that sounds like a postponement.
And Rumsfeld continues to talk up the war, by, sigh, comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler. Guess he’s never heard of Godwin’s Law, “the law that states that once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over.”
Hey, you wanna do me a favor? For months now I’ve been referring to Donald Rumsfeld (in my mind, anyway) as “Skeletor,” after the skull-faced villain on the old He-Man cartoon.
See the resemblance? I’m sure it’s the cheekbones.
And the penchant for evil.
Anyhow, if you want to plant a little ray of demented sunshine into the life of Jake Sexton, at some point during the next couple of days, refer to Donald Rumsfeld as “Skeletor Rumsfeld,” or “Donald ‘Skeletor’ Rumsfeld,” or “Secretary of Defense Skeletor.” Just randomly toss it into a conversation, or an email, or a blog entry. I’d like to make the nickname stick.
Israeli Court Bans Use of ‘Human Shields’- talked about this last week. Step in the right direction.
A moment of deep hope- Geov Parrish interviews food, water and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva.
Cry For Peace- article that takes on the complexity of the conflict in Colombia, but somehow manages to explain the intricacies simply and succintly.
Candypants- Monkey Boy
The Adicts- Viva La Revolucion
Teengenerate- My GTO
Squirrel Nut Zippers- Got My Own Thing Now
Slowrider- Pobre Bueno
Bill Hicks- Dinosaurs in the Bible
Johnny Cash- Folsom Prison Blues
Pistol Grip- L.A. City Jinx
Ani Difranco- Superhero
System of a Down- Metro
Scapegoat Wax- Aisle 10 (Hello Alison)
Blackalicious- Make You Feel That Way
Living Colour- Nothingness
Kulisch and Vana- Veli Malrae
Los Villains- Pyramid Eyes
White Zombie- I’m Your Boogieman
The Liars- The Garden Was Crowded and Outside
The Quadrajets- All My Rowdy Friends Are Dead
Raputina- Hunter’s Kiss
Plus monologues about Iraq, Richard Perle, the recent LMB poll, the Camp David accords, and the El Vez concert I saw on Friday.
The LA based alt-weekly New Times has been on a crusade* this past year to expose the pedophile priests in Los Angeles, and to crucify* LA Cardinal Roger Mahony for covering up this abuse for decades. They’ve given Mahony so much coverage, it almost seems like a vendetta. But their acusations are usually backed up with evidence, so it looks like they are fighting the good fight.
How widespread was the problem of church child abuse? So bad that the Roman Catholic church had established a sort of pedophile priest treatment center in New Mexico, near the town of Jemez Springs. The New Times story about this “retreat” is very thorough, and very damning.
Even worse, it seems that this “therapy” camp for pedophile priests was a sham. The NT article basically accuses the Roman Catholic Church of using the Jemez Springs center as a place to store corrupt priests after they’d been accused of molesting young boys before shipping them off to minister to a new flock. Needless to say, these priests do not leave “cured” of their desires, and often move to a new, unsuspected church, and assault and ruin the lives of more young people. Wonder what Jesus would have to say about that.
Near as I can figure, the Jemez Springs camp opened in 1947 as a ministry to help troubled priests. The founder seems (emphasis on “seems”) to have intended it as a place to help priests who found their faith crumbling after viewing the grim face of war. I don’t know at what point it became a sexual predator waiting cavalcade, but the NT article cites pedophile priest James Porter to the camp in 1967 (after he had molested at least 30-40 children). Meaning that the Roman Catholic church in the US has been aware of a problem of priests molesting children for at least 35 years.
Possibly the most disturbing passage from the article: “The retreat used to invite the local kids to come use the pool during the summer,” recalls Jay Nelson, 50, of Albuquerque, who spent summers as a child at his family’s vacation cabin near Jemez Springs. “They’d tell the parents, “Send them down. We’ll watch them.’”
*religious puns only midly intended.
This isn’t news. But it could be helpful.
You’re walking down the street, and you come to a busy intersection. You want to cross the street, so you push one of those little buttons mounted on the traffic light pole. The button presumably tells the traffic signal that a pedestrian wants to cross the street, so it throws a red light up to stop opposing traffic, the little “Walk/Don’t Walk” display changes in your favor, and you cross the street.
Today, a fellow named Joe asked me “do you think it matters how many times you press the button?” Which is a good question. I know that when I want to cross a street, I hit this button like 50 times, figuring that I can “trick” the light into thinking that there’s a huge mob of pedestrians desperate to cross the street, and that that will make the light change faster. But this strategy is based on no knowledge. I don’t know how street lights work. Will pushing the button more frequently make the light change quicker? How about pushing it harder? Or holding it down?
So I took it upon myself to find the answer, and share it with the masses.
And I found it in an old issue of the Christian Science Monitor:
“Press the button as many times as you want,” Boston’s [director of transportation Chuck] Morelli says. “It doesn’t do any good to press a lot of times. It just takes one firm press.”
Crosswalk lights run on a cycle. When the button is pressed, it signals the mechanism that pedestrians want to cross. So the next time it reaches the end of the traffic-light cycle (but not before), it will light the “walk” signal.
City transportation departments determine how long pedestrians must wait. At intersections with lots of traffic but few pedestrians, the crosswalk may be programmed to light every two or three cycles. If pedestrian traffic is heavy, the crosswalk may light after each cycle, and stay on longer.
In other words, crosswalk buttons are not vulnerable to repeated presses, or harder presses. It’s almost more like a switch than a button. Push it once, and your own your way to fame and fortune (well, however much fame and fortune you’re going to find on the other side of the street).
Funny that you’ve received this information from a guy in Los Angeles, the most anti-pedestrian city on Earth.
Another installment of Reports from Palestine from Garrick. Tamara has returned to the States and, unless she feels like writing up some memoirs or concluding thoughts, we probably won’t have any additional reports from her. I will, however, try to post any announcements about presentations and media appearances she may be giving as I hear about them.
I also emailed Garrick a few clarification questions. He uses the term “martyr” a few times during this email, which I infer means “Palestinian who has been killed by Israelis,” but I’m not 100% sure if that’s what he means; normally when I think of the word “martyr,” I think of someone who intentionally died for a cause, while for Garrick (and possibly the Palestinians) intent does not seem to be a factor.
He also uses the term “fighter,” which I infer from Tamara’s recent presentation here in L.A. means “someone involved in the Palestinian resistance movement.”
Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a media-fabricated fear trend. Last summer, Americans were warned that we would be eaten by sharks if we went to the beach. However there were actually fewer international shark attacks in 2001 than there were in 2000, while the number of US shark attacks was roughly the same. But sensationalistic news coverage of shark attacks increased, and so did fear of sharks.
This summer we see a similiar trend with regards to kidnapping. The fear is that a parent will turn their attention away from their child for a moment, and an evil stranger will grab the kid and run off (even though the vast, vast majority of abductions are committed by one of the child’s parents). George W. Bush recently claimed that 58,000 kids are kidnapped by non-family members every year. However, the National District Attorneys Association claims that there are only 4000 kids are kidnapped by non-family members every year, and of those, only 200 are kidnapped by strangers. And a 1999 FBI report claims that between 3200-4600 kids are abducted by non-family members every year. I’m real curious where Bush got his numbers.
Obviously, that is too high a number for anyone to feel comfortable with. But by my fumbly calculations that puts the odds at around 1 in 18,000 that your kid would be kidnapped by a non-family member in the US, and around 1 in 370,000 that a child would be kidnapped by a stranger (simply using 2000 census data, there are around 74 million Americans under the age of 18).
But for some reason, mounds of statistics don’t seem very convincing to parents afraid that they might forever lose their little Johnny or Suzie. Fear is the mindkiller.
[Most of these links stolen from Busy Busy Busy]
I have travelled three weeks into the future to bring you this Fortune magazine article from September 2, 2002. Fear my spooky powers!
Fortune mag did a study comparing the gains and losses of investors regarding the recent stock market crash. They found that most investors lost 70-90% of their stock value. But the top execs from the failing companies? They made “obscene” amounts. Yes, a magazine called “Fortune,” about getting rich by investing, actually used the word “obscene” to describe the wealth these people were making.
Using very specific parameters, Fortune found that these execs made “roughly $66 billion. Of that amount, a total haul of $23 billion went to 466 insiders at the 25 corporations where the executives cashed out the most.”
Stockholders should take note. It’s generally assumed that CEOs are hired by stockholders to protect their interests. But now it looks like CEOs and stockholders might have the same goals (getting rich), but that their means of achieving these goals may conflict with each other. Instead of seeing CEOs as strong workhorses, plowing the fields for their benefit, shareholders might want to look at CEOS more like live cobras, held at arm’s length.
I found this article at the PR Watch website. They just added a new messageboard to their site, and it seems as though the PR Watch researchers are very involved with it. Meaning that if you have questions about the PR industry you’d like answered, you have pretty direct access to two experts, if you want it.
Infuriating quote from warhawk Richard Perle regarding a US invasion of Iraq:
“The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.”
Gives us a little insight into the conservative mind. Single-minded dedication is strength, changing your mind is weakness. Weakness invites attack and defeat. Therefore we must go forward with our initial plan, even if it turns out to be a terrible idea.
Therefore we should never question the president, because it could possibly create a “collapse of confidence,” leading to weakness and inevitable destruction. Democracy is weakness, obedience is strength.
Actually, that whole article I linked to above is pretty good, about many Republicans coming out to oppose Bush’s Iraq invasion. Including Henry “Let’s Bomb the Living Fuck Out of Southeast Asia to Beat the Commies” Kissinger. When Kissinger tells you your war campaign is going to be too destructive, that’s saying something.
Okay, this has got to be the most blatantly pre-staged, self-serving, propagandistic photo-op in the history of mankind:
Courtesy of the Associated Press, but I found it at FoxNews.com, of course.
Notice how it’s taken from a low angle, making Bush appear larger and more powerful? And how his head his nearly in line with the heads of the other presidents, as though he too were a great historical figure? And how the stone head of George Washington seems to be looking down at W. with solemn agreement?
On the Fox News site, that pic was accompanied by the headline “‘I Don’t Want Our Hands Tied’”, and the tagline “Bush urges Congress to pass Homeland Security bill without bureaucratic strings attached.”
I did a little poking around the ‘net, and found that this particular photo was taken by Ken Lambert of the Associated Press, formerly of the Washington Times. Interestingly, I found an essay by him about photojournalism and politicians, with this interesting quote:
“By far, the worst thing photographers can do is get lazy and accept a ‘photo op,’ capturing only what is spoon-fed to them by a political staff. Regardless of which party is in the White House, this happens often, because political events there can be like Hollywood productions.”
You got lazy, Ken, you got played.
Some of my fellow Kill Radio DJs are part of a comedy troop called “The People Who Do That.” They have a live act– part skit, part play– called “National Corporate Radio” that parodies NPR. It’s scathing. I saw them perform it several months ago, going in with moderate expectations, and coming out reallly, really impressed. Mocks NPR, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Christians, Tolkien-fans, the media, the internet, but mostly the “war on terror.”
They are back for a 3rd (I think) run at the tiny New Stage Theatre in Hollywood. Here’s what they’ve got to say:
Here it comes: it’s the premiere of The People Who Do That’s New and
Improved National Corporate Radio, the one-hour one-act that lambasts NPR and
confronts the so-called “War on Terror.” We’ve updated much of the script to
address recent developments, such as the implosion of the economy, the joy of
spying on your neighbors, and the imminent invasion of the rogue nation of
Iceland. Risk appearing on one of Ashcroft’s lists and attend:
Saturday, August 17, 24, 31; September 7
at The Next Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea #208
(upstairs above the Lava Lounge)
Tickets are $7.00.
Make your reservation now through our Info Hotline, (818)502-2804.
Good stuff folks, check it out.
Mideast Immigrants’ Effect Weighed- the Center for Immigration Studies, an American anti-immigration think-tank, is trying to drum up support for limitations on immigration by issuing reports about how many Arabs and Muslims have been moving to the US in recent years. Then they’re letting racism and fear of terrorism do the rest.
The article isn’t that bad, looking at many sides of the issue, but the headline and opening paragraphs look at the CIS report as if it were an objective scientific study. For people just skimming through their morning paper and might not read the whole article, the damage has been done.
The War We Couldn’t Report- Canadian journalists Mike Vernon and David Common describe the barriers to reporting on the Afghan war erected by the US military.
Group Accuses U.S. Justice Official of Securities Fraud- “The U.S. Justice Department official in charge of cracking down on corporate corruption was sued on Wednesday for alleged securities fraud.” Sweet.
Fox Cancels Visit with Bush to Protest Mexican’s Execution- “President Vicente Fox called off a visit due later this month to US President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch in protest at the execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of killing a Texas police officer. The cancellation is ‘a show of unequivocal repudiation of the execution of Mexican Javier Suarez Medina,’ said a statement read to the press late Wednesday by presidential spokesman Rodolfo Elizondo.”
Heard about this story on KPFK earlier this week. As a Mexican citizen, Medina had the legal right to aid by the Mexican consulate in the US. When the consulate heard that a man who was possibly a Mexican citizen had been arrested in Texas, they called the police station to find out for sure. Apparently, the officers there lied to the consulate 3 or 4 times, claiming that the man had no ID, that he was Cuban, or that he was Colombian. Appeals filed arguing that Medina’s rights had been violated and that he deserved a new trial were denied, and Medina was executed.
It’s frustrating that the only way the US has to “punish” cops who violate people’s rights is to let the suspect go free. This leads to cases in which the guilty are released, and then everyone blames “the system” in which criminals get off on technicalities. Why can’t we just punish the cops who break the rules?
I imagine you’ll be as baffled as I was by this headline:
Wait, that country the US is desperate to bomb? Are we trying to line up the aid groups first so that weapons manufacturers can make sure that their cluster bombs look more like the food packages? What’s going on?
Basically, the US is offering up 5 grants totaling $6.6 million to US-based international aid organizations to “cover areas such as medical care, relief for refugees, shelter, water supply, sanitation, as well as longer-term issues, such as education and landmines.”
Two other interesting points:
“A US official said he believed the State Department’s proposal was the first time the government had offered money to humanitarian agencies working in Iraq and that it was part of a new push to set up relief networks within Iraq, working in co-operation with the Iraqi opposition, who are key to Washington’s plans for regime change.”
“One former government official with experience of working in humanitarian operations insisted the proposals should not be seen as linked to the war planning, but rather as a State Department decision to allow US organisations to help the Iraqi people.”
That article is quickly followed by this one, Aid Agencies Wary of US Aid for Iraq.
“US humanitarian agencies this week were divided over whether to accept US government funds to set up relief networks inside Iraq, fearing that they might be facilitating a US military attack.”
Remember when I wrote about “human shields” this weekend?
“Palestinian witnesses said 19-year-old Nidal Abumuhsein was forced at gunpoint [by Israeli sodliers] to try and get the senior Hamas militant to surrender. They said the Israeli army gave him a protective flack jacket and a sniffer dog. When he knocked on the door he was killed by a burst of bullets.”
And if that wasn’t disturbing enough, that quote above ends with claims by the witnesses that the bullets “came from the soldiers, not the house.” As usual, I can’t verify that one way or the other.
I have finally read the first reasonable sounding explanation for a US attack on Iraq, via Stratfor:
“Despite the divisions it is causing, the Bush administration is not abandoning its strategy because it sees a successful campaign against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a prime way to shatter the psychological advantage within the Islamist movement and demonstrate U.S. power.”
(presumably with the broader goal of defeating Islamic terrorism against the United States)
There’s no way of telling if Stratfor is correctly reading the minds of the Bush administration, but this explanation certainly makes more sense than the “Iraq might have chemcial and biological weapons” explanation. Unfortunately that’s as much info as I can get from Stratfor without paying to subscribe to their site. Which, sigh, I might have to do one of these days.
So there you go.
Ask yourself, is “shatter[ing] the psychological advantage within the Islamist movement and demonstrat[ing] U.S. power” a desirable goal? Would a US invasion of Iraq be the best way to accomplish that goal? Would potential blowback from the attack offset the benefits? Discuss.
Remember “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla? Looks like he never actually had a dirty bomb plot, and there isn’t much evidence against him for anything. All we’ve got is intelligence allegations that he met with two al-Qaida members back in March. But he’s still in prison. Cuz he’s a “material witness,” or an “enemy combatant,” or “because Bush said-so” or something.
A federal judge claims that the US has “mistreated a U.S. citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi, by detaining him for months without charges or access to a lawyer.” Cuz he’s an “enemy combatant” or “material witness” or “dirty A-rab” or something.
And don’t think they’ll be the last ones. Attorney General John Ashcroft has quietly announced that he’d like to build “camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be ‘enemy combatants’”. Of course, there is no legal definition for “enemy combatants.” It’s a term that the Bush administration created to justify their shady treatment of terror suspects. Could you be an enemy combatant? Sure, why not?
But not every views the police state with fear. For some, it is a lucrative business opportunity! Just ask Dick Cheney’s Halliburton corporation, will receive $37.3 million to build new prison cells at Guantanamo Bay, where the Afghan “enemy combatants” are held. And increased detention of immigrants is like money in the bank for private prison companies like Wackenhut and the Corrections Corporation of America.
Cheer up, America! You’ll be rich or in jail in no time!
A couple of pervasive factual errors are passing through the mainstream media these days, and FAIR has written a couple of articles about them.
The first is the myth that Saddam Hussein threw the UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq back in 1998. Actually, the inspectors left voluntarily because it looked as though the US military was planning to throw a cluster bomb party, and everyone on the ground in Iraq was invited.
Might seem like a minor point, but the error helps support the “can’t trust Saddam, weapons inspections don’t work, we’ve gotta bomb Iraq” point of view. There is also apparently a bit of snide allusions to Saddam accusing the UN inspectors of being spies, which most Americans would assume are just lies by the Iraqi leader. They’re not. The UN inspectors were actually spying for the US. If this fact were more widely known, maybe Iraq’s reluctance to let inspectors into the country would make more sense.
The second error going around is the Myth of the Generous Offer, discussed by FAIR’s Seth Ackerman. This is the story that at the Camp David peace negotiations, Israel’s Ehud Barak had offered Yassir Arafat a wonderful deal that would give the Palestinians virtually everything they wanted, and Arafat had refused and broken off negotiations. I had long heard comments from lefty folks that Barak’s offer was not nearly so wonderful as it looked on the surface, and this article simply explains what the offer really was. To summarize:
Kill the Corporation- “In his influential work on injustice and revolt, Barrington Moore pointed out that criticism of oppressive systems most often targets individual elites who violate approved standards. Criticism of the entire class of elites come less often. But ‘only the most radical forms of criticism have raised the question whether kings, capitalists, priests, generals, bureaucrats, etc., serve any useful social purpose at all.’”
Dow Action Diary: Day 25- “On July 17, activist Diane Wilson began a hunger strike in front of the gates of the Dow Chemical/Union Carbide corporation in Seadrift, Texas. She hopes to call attention to the plight of victims of 1984’s industrial accident in Bhopal, India where, to date, Dow has still not cleaned up the derelict factory or adequately compensated the victims and survivors. Supporting Diane are Jodie Evans and other members of the group UnReasonable Women. What follows are excerpts from the daily emails Jodie and others send to the hundreds of supporters also on hunger strikes around the world in support of the victims of Bhopal.”
Jesus, what balls!
There’s a mildly humorous saying that “the definition of chutzpah is a child who murders his parents and then pleads for the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.”
These ex-Enron execs also define the word. The company went bankrupt because they ran it into the ground. They were fired for their actions, and now they want to collect their multi-million dollar severance packages (a federal investigation also revealed today that, as we’ve all known for a while, Enron manipulated energy prices for profit).
It’s times like these when I wonder why we don’t tar and feather these motherfuckers.
That probably sounds like I’m kidding. I’m not. These men don’t fear the law. Let them fear angry mob justice. Let them realize that despite their money and power, that they can feel the force of a fist just like any other man. And let them realize that there are many, many fists that would love to prove that fact, time and time again.
Instead, they walk around with impunity, flaunting the riches they’ve gained through clever, “legal” theft.
They should FEAR us.
They should spend every waking moment drenched in cold sweat, knowing that we are much more powerful than they are, and we could take back what’s ours without warning.
We could eat them alive.
[Jake takes off ‘revolutionary zealot’ hat, puts on sly, good-natured Mark Twain mustache]
And if we tar and feather these corporate bastards instead of beating or lynching them, they walk away humiliated, but physically unharmed. Mostly.
This was America’s birth. About a year ago, I read a good book called A People’s History of the American Revolution (no, not the Zinn book, but one inspired by it). What amazed me was how rebellious and militant these American colonists were against those who abused their economic or political power. When these abuses were too much to bear, throngs of people would go to the home of a politician, scare him half to death with threats and burning effigies, and force him to resign. When merchants raised prices past the breaking point, the masses would break in, take what they needed, sometimes leaving what they considered a fair price for the goods they had taken. And of course, those seen as traitors would sometimes be brushed with warm tar and sprinkled with goose feathers.
Yeah, I know, the idea of mob justice raises just as many problems as it could potentially solve. But you’ve got to admit, there is something attractive about the idea.
She claims that it got up to 140 degrees Farenheit at one point, but that just doesn’t seem possible.
The article is not about chemical weapons, it’s not about Saddam Hussein, it’s about the people of Iraq and how they try to live their lives under oppression and deprivation. I interviewed Leah on my radio show some months back on this very topic, and the jerks who’s show followed mine managed to erase the only recording I had of it. Okay, I’m still bitter about that, but much of the material she spoke of in the interview shows up here in her editorial. Give it a read.
This issue has been getting a lot of coverage in left-wing media like Pacifica radio or Z magazine, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else otherwise.
First of all, this article is by David Bacon, an excellent reporter and photojournalist. He usually writes about labor issues from the point of view of the workers, painting them in vivid colors so that the reader sees them as real people.
But the story at hand is troubling. West coast dockworkers (”longshoremen”) from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is in difficult negotiations with their employers. It is possible that the workers will strike en masse, shutting down imports into much of the United States. Might sound severe, but it’s about the only power that workers have when dealing with employers.
Enter George W. He has threatened to:
In other words, the Bush administration is willing to go to great lengths to deprive the longshoremen of their rights to strike, and therefore negotiate contracts. I imagine they’ll try to blame it on terrorism, somehow.
A Traitor To Their Class- on one hand, this article is a dull analysis of a recent editorial by Al Gore. On the other hand, it looks at an interesting journalistic phenomenon, noting that “whenever the media is united in disapproval of something, you can be sure that its consensus reveals more about the press than the subject of its disapproval.”
Found this news snippet very interesting. You kind of have to work your way backwards to find the interesting part.
1) An advertising agency (Ogilvy and Mather) has hired a lobbying firm (Hill and Knowlton) to oppose a new bill in Congress
2) Bill would prevent this specific ad agency from handling the $150 million a year White House anti-drug ad campaign.
3) Bill was proposed in Congress because this ad agency has, in the past, defrauded the White House anti-drug campaign (they paid a settlement of $1.8 million to avoid a civil suit).
In other words, a company that stole money from the US government has hired lobbyists to pressure the US government into giving the thieves another crack at it. And actually, since both the ad agency and their new lobbying partners are owned by the same company, you could say that the theives’ accomplice is trying to talk the government into giving the thieves another chance. Business as usual, I suppose.
The only other information I can find on this topic at all is a 2-year old CNN article when these allegations against O&M first surfaced.
On the other hand, we see the W. may have received new attack plans from Gen. Tommy Franks that would involve fewer troops, EMP weapons, psychological warfare and a whole lot of luck. And a strong column here that argues quite persuasively that the US will invade Iraq in early November.
“Why shouldn’t I work for the N.S.A.? That’s a tough one, but I’ll give it a shot.
“Say I’m working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. So I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I’m real happy with myself, cuz I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never had a problem with get killed.
“Now the politicians are sayin’, ‘Send in the marines to secure the area’ cuz they don’t give a shit. It won’t be their kid over there, gettin’ shot, just like it wasn’t them when their number was called, ’cause they were pullin’ a tour in the National Guard. It’ll be some guy from Southie takin’ shrapnel in the ass.
“And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, cuz he’ll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile my buddy from Southie realizes the only reason he was over there was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish to scare up oil prices so they could turn a quick buck. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain’t helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And naturally they’re takin’ their sweet time bringin’ the oil back, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain’t too long ’til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic.
“So my buddy’s out of work and he can’t afford to drive, so he’s got to walk to the job interviews, which sucks ’cause the schrapnel in his ass is givin’ him chronic hemorroids. And meanwhile he’s starvin’ ’cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they’re servin’ is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what do I think? I’m holdin’ out for somethin’ better.
“Why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.”
-Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting
U.S. Ties Military Aid to Peacekeepers’ Immunity- “The Bush administration, making use of a provision of the new antiterrorism law, warned foreign diplomats this week that their nations could lose all American military assistance if they became members of the International Criminal Court without pledging to protect Americans serving in their countries from its reach.”
U.S.: ‘Hague Invasion Act’ Becomes Law- I referred to this law proposed in Congress back in June, the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002. It contains one interesting clause which grants the US military the “right” to invade the Netherlands to free any American servicemen that might be held for trial in the International Criminal Court.
On August 3, President W. signed the bill into law.
Bush Calls Iraq an ‘Enemy Until Proven Otherwise’- Does this guy live on a golf course? During yet another impromptu press conference during a golf game, Bush claimed that there were no immediate plans and was no timetable for attacking Iraq. If true, it’s a good sign that this war isn’t necessarily going to happen. But of course, it could just as easily be a blatant lie.
Actually, I am a bit heartened lately. Major US newspaper editorials have come out against the attack on Iraq, or at least call for the president to explain why such an attack is necessary. Nearly all letters to the editors of these papers also oppose a war on Iraq. And, of course, most military members of the Bush administration also oppose the war on Iraq (for strategic, not moral reasons, of course).
One of the more insidious parts of the program was to recruit people like cable repairmen and utility employees, people who often enter individual’s homes when they’re not there, to do some snooping; this was a clever way to get around the need to, y’know, obey the 4th Amendment. Why should the police gather evidence to get a search warrant when you can send in Joe the plumber? Anyhow, it looks as though the new version of TIPS will probably eliminate this portion due to public outcry.
Granted, TIPS still looks to be a government-organized network of domestic spies and informants who are supposed to keep an eye on their fellow Americans. What do all those bumper stickers say, “United We Stand”?
New email report from Garrick, in the West Bank town of Qalqilia. Among other things, he writes about Israeli soldiers using Palestinians as “human shields” (well, perhaps more accurately, “involuntary negotiators”), a practice I heard about during the massive invasion of Jenin earlier in the year. Basically, when attempting to confront or capture Palestinian #1, Israeli soldiers threaten Palestinian #2 into going into #1’s house or wherever and bring him out. If #1 was indeed dangerous, #2 could be killed. More likely, #1 reacts more favorably to #2 than he would to Israelis with rifles at the ready, and possibly #1 comes out peacefully.
While that may sound like a better situation than Israelis bursting in and causing violence, in Garrick’s tale 1) the soldiers threatened to demolish #2’s house if he didn’t act as their representative, and 2) once #1 came out peacefully, the soldiers shot him.
Garrick’s report reminded me of a previous article I’d written about that term back in the 1990s about “human shields.” Garrick’s report refers to the “forced point-man” version of human shields, and mine referred to a political spin used to describe bombing deaths.
During the US/NATO war on Yugoslavia/Serbia, the US crafted the devious “human shield” story. It would go something like this:
1) US/NATO planes bomb what appears to be a civilian area and kill innocent civilians. This makes their army look negligent at best.
2) US/NATO, without supplying evidence to back up their claims, states that the area was not a civilian area, but a “legitimate military target.”
3) US/NATO, without supplying evidence to back up their claims, states that if any civilians were killed in the bombing attack, that they must have been put there by enemy forces as “human shields.”
4) US/NATO now appear to be victims of an unjust PR ploy, while the enemy is both guilty of deception and responsible for the massacre.
If you can set your morals aside, this plan is a brilliant propaganda manuever. The US/NATO have somehow managed to not only dodge the appearance of incompetence, but to make their enemies look even more monstrous than before.
Anyhow, the story I wrote about this can be found here, second article down. It’s about how this “human shield” theory played out during a bombing raid gone wrong in the town of Korisa.
New page of Get Your War On cartoons.
Go read them NOW, at least strip #4. The last panel will rip out your heart and eat it with a spoon.
Might not be news to you if you keep an eye on Clear Channel, but here’s a new article by Eric Boehlert (wow, I spelled that right on the first try!) of Salon who’s been doing a great job tracking the radio behemoth.
Radio’s titan hits the skids- “After replacing a high-profile exec, Clear Channel, the 800-pound gorilla of the entertainment industry, suddenly faces a lot of banana peels.”
I was very pleased to see this billboard on La Cienega Blvd., near the monstrous Beverly Center shopping mall yesterday.
As that area of Los Angeles is so saturated with billboards, and it’s done in a style similar to many other fashion ads, it will probably be quickly forgotten by the Angelenos driving by. But it’s an ad for Sweatshop Watch, and the campaign to boycott the clothing company Forever 21. Long story short, workers for Forever 21 worked long hours in poor conditions and didn’t get paid what they were promised. So the workers, some of whom were fired for speaking out, are fighting back.
More info here.
From the Indianapolis Star:
“A photo that accompanied a story on Page B1 on July 31 misrepresented the truth. The photograph, of a boy said to be getting a vaccination at the Marion County Health Department, was staged. The nurse in the photograph did not give the boy a shot, as was depicted and written in the photo caption. The boy was there for a different procedure and was asked to be photographed as if he were getting a vaccination.”
“Such distortion of the truth is a violation of our policy on ethics and of our commitment to readers to always be honest in our delivery of the news. The Star apologizes for the misrepresentation and the bad judgment that led to it.”
Conspiracy-Free Conformity - How the Mainstream Smears Dissident Output- interesting piece by the folks at Media Lens in the UK. Examines book reviews by British journalist/book review types. Recent reviews of books by left-wing dissidents John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, and Harold Pinter have all received remarkable similar criticism from the reviewers: their worldviews are too “black and white,” and they are very angry. But do these criticism say more about the books’ authors, or more about the people writing the reviews…?
Fending Off The Threat Of Peace- media critic Norman Solomon on the media’s efforts to keep the war drum’s a-bangin’.
Murky Water for Clear Channel- final story in a Wired magazine series about radio giant Clear Channel. The first was about CC’s homogenization of national radio. The second was about CC’s efforts to maintain the illusion of local radio stations. And the third is about CC’s financial and legal troubles.
I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been organizing a small political activism section of the Ozzfest concert tour this year, on behalf of System of a Down and former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. Well, we finally got a small website up about the section, which we’ve been calling the “Axis of Justice,” a riff on George W’s “Axis of Evil.”
Mainly the page is just a list of contact info for the various groups that have/will work(ed) the booth. You can check it out at AxisOfJustice.org. I’d appreciate it if you did.
A few days back I wrote about the US State Dept.’s attempt to quash a human rights abuse lawsuit by Indonesians against Exxon-Mobil.
I found a copy of the State Department’s letter to the judge explaining why the case should not go forward. Some highlights:
“[the lawsuit] may also diminish our ability to work with the Government of Indonesia on … efforts to promote human rights in Indonesia.”
Right. We have to prevent lawsuits that would punish human rights abusers so that we can promote human rights. Gotcha.
“The litigation’s potential effects on Indonesia’s economy could in turn adversely affect important United States interests.”
If multinational corporations find out that they can be punished for violating human rights in Indonesia, they might pull out of Indonesia, harming its economy. And an unstable economy could lead to an unstable society, which could lead to an unstable government, which could utterly destabilize the entire south Pacific. This argument takes up a fairly large portion of the 6 page letter.
“A decision in favor of the plaintiffs might encourage secessionist activities in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia.”
Most revolutionary movements in world history have hung balanced upon the decisions of civil lawsuits.
“This lawsuit could potentially disrupt the on-going and extensive United States efforts to secure Indonesia’s cooperation in the fight against international terrorism.”
This is the only claim in the letter that really holds up. The lawsuit could embarass the Indonesian government, and make them hostile towards the US. And if the allegations of government torture or rape are proven true, the US is legally obligated to not cooperate with them militarily. I don’t think they’d restrain themselves that way, but allegedly the US government has laws which prevent it from providing military aid to nations that engage in human rights abuses. Which would probably mean that the international arms trade would have to stop completely.
“The United States is actively seeking to assist Indonesia in reform efforts aimed at ending the kinds of abuses alleged by this litigation. Through improved training and support of security personnel … these programs are designed to establish a higher degree of professionalism and respect for individual rights.”
American trained killers will teach Indonesian trained killers to be nice.
“An adverse effect on human rights objectives is also possible if the GOI [Government of Indonesia] were to turn down U.S. companies bidding for new contracts in response to the suit. Working side-by-side with U.S. firms, Indonesian companies and government agencies see the advantages of modern business practices, anti-corruption, efficiency and effectiveness.”
[wipes away tear]
“Increasing opportunities for U.S. business abroad is an important aspect of U.S. foreign policy … [this lawsuit] could prejudice the Government of Indonesia and Indonesian businesses against U.S. firms.”
Justice served is bad for business. And what’s bad for business is bad for US foreign policy.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has asked that all of this year’s incoming freshmen read “Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations”, a book about the Qur’an/Koran and the Islamic religion. Given that the US is embroiled in conflict with Muslim nations and cultures, and that 1/6 of the world’s population is Muslim, seems like a reasonable request.
Unless, of course, you’re a Christian fundamentalist or a right-wing ideologue.
Sadly, there has been a backlash against the book choice. The main charges: the book is biased; Islam is evil; “it’s the religion of our enemy.”
To appease these folks, UNC now asks the students to read the book and write a one-page paper about it, or to write a one-page paper explaining why they chose to not read the book. That’s a very fair and free way to handle the situation.
The debate sinks to disgustingly ignorant lows with our favorite right-wing gasbag, Bill O’Reilly, who compares the Qur’an to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.
Hell, even if you hate Muslims and the Qur’an, doesn’t it still make sense to read it? These aren’t soldiers going off to war, these are young people going to college, allegedly to learn and understand the world. And even if they were soldiers, how is it a bad idea to learn more about your “enemy”? Evidently ignorance and faith are the best weapons of war.
At this rate, parody will be extinct within just a few years.
Several years ago, there was a comedy skit on the TV show “Saturday Night Live” that paroided the popular “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” game show. In the skit, refugees in Kosovo competed for a meal in “Who Wants to Eat?” Satiric newspaper “The Onion” followed suit with their fictional Russian show “Who Wants to Eat a Meal?”
Back in reality, Argentina–the nation that has plunged into poverty because it did what the IMF told it to–has a TV gameshow that could be called “Who Wants a Job for Six Months?”:
“Broadcast five days a week, the hourlong program known as ‘Human Resources’ pits two unemployed people in a contest to win a guaranteed six-month work contract. They relate their life stories and answer questions that test their ability to perform the duties they are seeking. Then viewers vote by telephone to decide which of the two should get the coveted job.
“‘The audience’s behavior is predictable and always very human,’ said Mr. Ibarra, the host. ‘They automatically vote for the person who they think needs the job the most. So the man with a disabled child, the woman who has children but no husband, is preferred over the person who is not quite as bad off.’”
“On Monday, that proved to be the case. When the votes were tallied and displayed with a flourish on an electronic screen, Ms. Rueda, the single mother, had received 52 percent of the vote, to 48 percent for Ms. Bravo.”
“Crestfallen, Ms. Bravo was consoled by members of her family, who rushed from the audience to hug and kiss her, and then gamely walked over to congratulate the victor, who was holding her infant son and smiling broadly. The two young women embraced, and both began to cry.”
[Thanks to David34]
The British are coming!! The British are coming!!
Apparently Alastair Irvine, son of a British adviser to Tony Blair, is sitting in an southern California jail, awaiting trial on charges related to stalking. The British tabloid press has come out to cover the scandal, and they’re not fucking around.
Just got this urgent email from Garrick:
Below is a press release about 2 Palestinians and 9 internationals arrested today near Nablus. 4 of the internationals are from the International Solidarity Movement, the organization I’m working with. The number for the Israeli consulate in LA is:
(Sorry, don’t have the numbers for other locations but I got this one by entering “Los Angeles Israeli Consulate” in a search engine so I’m sure the same could be done elsewhere.)
I would suggest people call and demand that the two Palestinians and 9 internationals be released immediately. It’s looking like they are likely to be deported very quickly so if you can make the call today please do so. As always feel free to call if you want more info.
International Solidarity Movement
August 7, 2002
For immediate release
INTERNATIONALS BRUTALIZED AND ARRESTED BY MILITARY
FOLLOWING NON-VIOLENT DEMONSTRATION
[NABLUS] Internationals and Palestinians have been
brutalized and arrested following a non-violent
protest at the Huwara checkpoint near Nablus.
Adam Shapiro (USA) and an unknown Palestinian man
were being held in a jeep on a settler road. Half of the
demonstration group decided to stay and block the
jeep from leaving with the innocent civilians. Half
decided to march back peacefully chanting and singing.
Those that stayed where attacked by settlers and
settler police. The peace activists were thrown into
thorn bushes and Huwaida Arraf (USA) was thrown so
hard she hit her head and was left unconscious for a
The group, which retreated, was assured by the
military that they would be allowed to retreat but
then were attacked by the military and arrests were
made. At this time the soldiers focused in on
individuals and began beating and taking people from
the group. They have taken Palestinians Ahmad Omar
Abdel Aziz 19 and Walid Ata Baker 37 a glass factory
French nationals Pierre Coulon, Anne-Cecele Alligne,
Benoit Granet, Phillipe Armaug, Satuima
Armaug-Khimoum, Americans Adam Shapiro, Javier
Cortez, and Charles Williams, and Irish national Salah Afifi
have been taken to the Ariel settlement police
For more information in Nablus contact:
Huwaida (USA) 067 473 308
Susan (USA) 055 829 680
Jon (USA) 058 781 646 / 067 429 663
Sal (UK) 067 486 159
Alissandro (ITALY) 050 265 114
Thomas Sommer (FRANCE) 050 314 886
A new report from Garrick as he works with the Red Crescent in the West Bank. Includes an amazing account of the attempts of their ambulance to simply pick up a man with appendicitis and bring him to the hospital, while running the gauntlet of Israeli security checkpoints.
New Israeli Rules Adopted in Wake of More Attacks- Israel prohibits any Palestinians from leaving their own city. Meaning that if you work outside your hometown, you can’t work.
Israeli Court Upholds Right to Destroy Homes Without Warning- “The Israeli Supreme Court today upheld the military’s right to demolish the homes of Palestinian terror suspects without warning.”
Israel Faces Court Test of Deportation Plans- Israel is testing a new policy in which it deports the family members of suicide bombers, even if those relatives had nothing to do with the attacks.
It’s maddening. The concept of “justice” seems deeply ingrained into human beings, the idea that a person should be punished and rewarded in relation to the morality of their actions. If someone works hard, they should be paid well, or earn the respect of their peers. If someone exploits others, that person should be punished in some way. Punishing someone who has done nothing wrong is the definition of injustice. And that is what Israel is doing here, punishing the innocent.
Of course, I understand the Israeli point of view as well. They simply want security. Until they feel safe, “justice for the Palestinians” will rank much lower on their list of priorities than “not getting blown up while buying groceries.”
As I’ve said before, I don’t see any way out of this circle of violence and retaliation and repression except Israel’s withdrawl from the Palestinian territories. Israel has most of the power in this situation.
Eleven villagers from Aceh, Indonesia have filed a lawsuit against Exxon-Mobil, claiming that the company “paid and directed Indonesian security forces that carried out murder, torture and rape in the course of protecting the company’s operations in the 1990s.”
But, the US State Dept. is trying to block the suit because a decision against Exxon-Mobil “would . . . risk a potentially serious adverse impact on significant interests of the United States, including interests directly related to the on-going struggle against international terrorism”.
Right. In order to destroy terrorism, we must protect people who order murders, tortures and rapes (okay, people who are alleged to have…).
Basically, the argument is that this case would force the US court system to judge the actions of the Indonesian government, and US wants to make Indonesia an ally in the war on terrorism. This trial could strain relations between the two countries. In addition, the military ties that the White House wants to have with Indonesia are prohibited so long as the country violates human rights standards, and this court case would likely prove that Indonesia is still abusing human rights.
In Surreal Development, Bush Administration Routes TIPS Calls to TV Show “America’s Most Wanted”- headline kinda says it all. Operation TIPS, the Bush administration’s proposed spy-on-your-neighbors agency, is having its phone banks staffed by the people of the Fox TV network’s “America’s Most Wanted” TV show.
News Media’s Improved Image Proves Short-Lived- new poll shows that Americans distrust the mass media. Shocking. Startling. Of course, I don’t know how trustworthy any polls are.
‘Good Mornin’ (Your Town Here)’- second of three articles about Clear Channel.
George W. Bush tackled foreign policy while in the midst of a vigorous golfing session this Sunday:
“Before starting his game yesterday, Mr. Bush, his driver in his left gloved hand, took time to condemn an overnight suicide bombing of a bus in Israel that killed at least nine. ‘I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers,’ Mr. Bush said on the first green of Cape Arundel, at 6:15 a.m. ‘Thank you. Now watch this drive.’”
“Without the slightest pause, Mr. Bush turned to his game — and hit his first ball into the rough.”
[Thanks to Dack]
Detailed report about the US attack on the wedding party in Hajibirgit, Afghanistan several weeks ago. Seems likely to be true, but nearly all of reporter Robert Fisk’s facts for the story come from eyewitness testimony of villagers, and is therefore possibly suspect.
The cell phone company Sony Ericcson has launched an advertising campaign for their new phone/camera device that is really pushing the boundaries of deception and intrusion into everyday life.
The company has hired 120 actors and actresses to “play tourists and ask passers-by to take their picture” using the phone/camera.
Sony Ericcson’s director of Marketing Communications and Making Jake Wince Deparment said that these actors “won’t make any secret of the fact they work for the company, if asked.” Which is good, because any time a tourist asks me to take their picture, here in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area, I ask them what electronics company they work for.
I’m trying to decide whether it’s better or worse than the attempt to get London cabbies to insert plugs for Siemens brand phones into their conversations with their passengers back in the late 1990s (fourth article down).
And still in misleading, but much less scummy news: NBC’s fluffy mix of friendly news and interviews known as the Today Show managed to postpone airing its film critic’s negative review of the new Austin Powers movie until a week after it was released.
If you’re not already, get familiar with the term “material witness.” A material witness is a person who allgedly has important information about a crime, but might flee before investigators can obtain this information. According to US law, the police have the right to detain material witnesses without many rules or limitations.
For example, the Department of Justice rounded up and detained around 1200 immigrants after the 9/11 attacks. Instead of being held as criminals, or brought in for brief periods to be questioned, they were held as material witnesses. Which meant that many of these people were simply picked up off the street and thrown in a prison cell with no explanation, no access to legal counsel, and no contact with their families. Eventually some access was granted. Many of the detainees were deported. According to the DoJ, 147 still remain, 74 of whom are being held for violations of immigration law.
The level of secrecy surrounding the detentions was also disturbing, but that may be coming to an end. Nearly a year after these detentions began, a judge is ordering the DoJ to at least release a list of names of the people they detained.
Yes, yes, I understand that the US is in a scary situation and terrorists must be found to protect our safety. But people being captured by law enforcement and held in secret prisons is pretty scary too.
Along similar lines we have the case of James Ujaama, a Denver resident who was detained by police just last week. There isn’t too much information on his case because the authorities won’t release it. His home was searched by police, and the warrant claimed that Ujaama was conspiring to support international terrorism. But he has not been charged with any crimes, he is being held as a material witness. He has been shipped off to Virginia as for a federal grand jury investigation of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a suspected Al Qaeda recruiter in London.
Then, there were some sensationalist news reports that Ujaama was being investigated for a plot to poison a water supply, but the FBI has reported that he is not suspected of any such thing (thanks Fox News!).
And to help fuel this controversy a bit further, Ujaama was the webmaster for StopAmerica.org, a website dedicated to harsh criticism of American foreign policy. Surely some people will see this as proof of Ujaama’s guilt, and others will see it as proof that Ujaama is the victim of political repression.
And finally, we move to the UK. This article from the UK Observer shows a clever media ploy by MI5 (sort of the equivalent of the FBI) to circumvent its own laws.
1) Reporters ask the British government about its detention of Arabs without charges or trial
2) MI5 agents “talk to journalists on condition of anonymity.”
3) Reporters write stories using the anonymous interviews
4) “MI5 then uses the reports of its own briefings as independent corroboration of the need for internment.”
Thanks to Michael Novick, Statewatch and “Anonymous” for these leads.
Recently, the US Council on Foreign Relations met to discuss the US’ “public diplomacy” plan: its efforts to convince the rest of the world that the US is actually very nice. The report received some press attention, but O’Dwyer’s PR Daily points out that even this press coverage is a masterwork of PR: despite the news reports which politely mentioned that more work had to be done, the report basically said that all of the US propaganda efforts have failed. The fact that the press didn’t point this out was the PR genius.
The CFR report goes into great detail explaining what the US has done in public diplomacy, and outlines an extensive plan for future public diplomacy. Read the whole thing here.
Is it just me, or are these perceptions and attitudes highly accurate?
The CFR report calls for the illusion of “two way” communication between the US and other nations/peoples, and the creation of a huge public diplomacy apparatus including government, the private sector, diplomats, ambassadors, and a to-be-created non-profit Corporation for Public Diplomacy.
As I’ve said before, I don’t see how this can possibly work. It’s the “who are you gonna believe, me, or your own eyes?” syndrome. The world sees the US acting in ways counter to its stated principles. They’re supposed to pretend those things didn’t happen because they saw a clever ad on TV?
First, you market the disease… then you push the pills to treat it- typical coporate villainy from the pharmaceutical industry. Good quote:
The modus operandi of GlaxoSmithKline - marketing a disease rather than selling a drug - is typical of the post-Prozac era. “The strategy [companies] use - it’s almost mechanised by now,” says Dr Loren Mosher, a San Diego psychiatrist and former official at the national institute of mental health. Typically, a corporate-sponsored “disease awareness” campaign focuses on a mild psychiatric condition with a large pool of potential sufferers. Companies fund studies that prove the drug’s efficacy in treating the afiction, a necessary step in obtaining FDA approval for a new use, or “indication”. Prominent doctors are enlisted to publicly affirm the malady’s ubiquity, then public-relations firms launch campaigns to promote the new disease, using dramatic statistics from corporate-sponsored studies. Finally, patient groups are recruited to serve as the “public face” for the condition, supplying quotes and compelling stories for the media; many of the groups are heavily subsidised by drugmakers, and some operate directly out of the offices of drug companies’ PR firms.
In a related story, how drug companies try to extend their patents to postpone competing with generics.
The Corporate Scandal Sheet- I’ve been meaning to write a full-fledged article about the current corporate armageddon, but the story is so darned plain: companies lying to either hide their losses or to inflate their profits. That’s about the size of it. But still, this here’s a good chart explaining what companies are in trouble, and why.
The Loyal Opposition: Talking Iraq With The ‘Prince of Darkness’- The Nation magazine’s David Corn recounts a recent conversation with Bush warhawk (or chickenhawk) Richard Perle about the US invasion of Iraq. Perle, announcing that the military knows nothing about making war, describes his own war plan of taking Iraq with 40,000 troops by taking over northern and southern Iraq and cutting off Hussein’s access to oil; Hussein would then presuambly fall from power because he had no money to back it up. Corn then ran this proposal by some military strategists, who poked many a hole in it.
There’s been another murder at Ft. Bragg. This time a soldier was the victim, not the killer. There isn’t much information, but the police allege that the soldier was killed by a teenager, as part of a conspiracy with the soldier’s wife to get insurance money. The wife has been arrested, and the police are searching for the teen.
This makes the fifth murder involving US soldiers at Fort Bragg in 6 weeks. The most complete article I can find on the subject is from their local paper, Wife Deaths Set Alarms at Fort Bragg (although it doesn’t include this latest murder). The only explanation that anyone can offer for this is that perhaps perhaps the stress of military life/Special Operations/service in Afghanistan pushed them over the edge. I’m just starting to wonder if there’s something in the water.