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Friday, 11 February 2005
Now Playing: But you'll never hear it at the Press Club.
Topic: News You Can't Count On
Information Clearing House
These are the spoils for which George W. Bush has killed more than 100,000 human beings.
By Chris Floyd
02/11/05 "Moscow Times" - - The hoary adage that "there are none so blind as those who will not see" should be carved in stone at the National Press Club in Washington. Surely there can be no better motto for the cozy clubhouse of America's media mavens, who seem preternaturally incapable of recognizing the truth -- even when it stands before them, monstrous and unavoidable, like a giant Cyclops smeared with blood.
For just as they botched the most important story of our time -- the Bush Administration's transparently deceptive campaign to launch a war of aggression against Iraq -- the clubby mavens are now missing the crowning achievement of this vast crime: the mother of all backroom deals, a cynical pact sealed by murder, unfolding before our eyes.
The Administration's true objective in Iraq is brutally simple: U.S. domination of Middle East oil. This is no secret. Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz began writing about this "strategic necessity" in 1992, as Alternet reminds us; and in September 2000, a group led by Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld openly called for a U.S. military takeover of Iraq -- even if the regime of Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. At every point in their savaging of Iraq, the Bushists have pressed relentlessly toward this oily goal.
The objective was revealed -- yet again -- in a recent Washington appearance by Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi. Standing alongside a top State Department official, Abdel-Mahdi announced that Iraq's government wants to open the nation's oil fields to foreign investment -- not only the pumped product flowing through the pipes, but the very oil in the ground, the common patrimony of the Iraqi people. The minister said plainly that this sweet deal -- placing the world's second-largest oil reserves in a few private hands -- would be "very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies," InterPress reports. These are the spoils for which George W. Bush has killed more than 100,000 human beings.
The American media completely ignored Abdel-Mahdi's declaration, but this is not surprising. After all, it occurred in the most obscure venue imaginable: an appearance before oil barons and journalists at the, er, National Press Club. Where better to hide open confessions of war crimes than in the very midst of the Washington hack pack? Yet here was a story of immense importance. For Abdel-Mahdi is not only a functionary in the discredited collaborationist government now in its last days. He is also one of the leading figures in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite faction that has been swept to somewhat more legitimate power by the national election that was forced on George W. Bush by Islamic fundamentalist Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In fact, Abdel-Mahdi is frequently mentioned as a leading choice for prime minister in the new government; whatever happens, he will certainly play a primary role.
So we have a top official -- perhaps the top official -- in the incoming government offering American oilmen ownership rights in Iraqi oil. We have top American officials -- such as Cheney and Rumsfeld this week -- taking a benign view of the UIA's demand that the new Iraqi state be based solely on Islamic law, with crippling restrictions on women's rights, free expression, free association, plus, if Sistani has his way, Talibanic bans on music, dancing and even playing chess, Newsweek reports.
What we have, in other words, is the making of a monstrous, Cyclopean deal: not just "Blood for Oil," as the anti-war critics have said all along, but also "God for Oil." The Shiite clerics -- who eschew direct control but whose precepts can be translated into state power by secular representatives like Abdel-Mahdi -- seem willing to trade a goodly portion of Iraq's oil wealth in exchange for establishing a de facto "Islamic Republic" in the conquered land, with tacit American approval.
Sistani's word could move millions into the street to hamstring U.S. forces; but despite his notional disapproval of the occupation, he has stayed his hand, waiting for power to fall like a ripe fruit into the Shiite basket. Like Bush, he is apparently willing to countenance mass slaughter by the U.S.-led "Coalition" to achieve his objectives; but then, like Bush, Sistani is not an Iraqi either: He's an Iranian. Now these two foreigners are rolling dice to settle the nation's fate.
But there's yet another glaring truth that's escaped the media mavens, and most of the war's opponents as well. Even if the grand objective of oil control slips away somehow -- through a falling-out with Sistani, say, or civil war -- Bush has already won the game. The war has transferred billions of dollars from the public treasuries of the United States and Iraq into the coffers of an elite clique of oilmen, arms dealers, investment firms, construction giants and political operatives associated with the Bush family. And this goes beyond the official, guaranteed-profit contracts to favored firms; Bush's own inspector general reported this month that $8.8 billion in unaccounted "reconstruction" funds have simply vanished -- much of it in bribes for Bush officials and corporate kickbacks, the BBC reported.
This blood money will further entrench the Bushist clique in unassailable power and privilege for decades to come, regardless of the bloody chaos they cause, or even the occasional loss of political office. The American power structure has been permanently altered by the war -- just as American society has been immeasurably corrupted by Bush's proud embrace of aggression, torture, lawlessness and militarism as national values.
Bush lied. He stole. He murdered. In broad daylight. And he got away with it. That's the story. But you'll never hear it at the Press Club.
Copyright © 2005 The Moscow Times. All rights reserved
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)
Posted by Arthur Ruger at 7:46 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post
Friday, 4 February 2005
Reporters falsely claim that private accounts will address Social Security's solvency problem
Topic: News You Can't Count On
From Media Matters For America
Following President Bush's State of the Union address, in which he described his plan to let workers divert a portion of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts, reporters and commentators have repeatedly and falsely claimed that private accounts are an attempt to address Social Security's long-term revenue shortfall, which the Social Security trustees estimate at $3.7 trillion over the next 75 years.
In fact, even the White House has admitted that private accounts will do nothing to address this shortfall. Rather, Bush's plan will likely address the solvency of the program through substantial cuts in guaranteed benefits.
On the February 3 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Roll Call executive editor and FOX News contributor Morton M. Kondracke accurately pointed out that even administration officials have admitted that private accounts will do nothing to address the solvency problem, contrary to Bush's public statements. But Hume insisted, "The president, as a matter of fact, is correct about that," and abruptly cut off Kondracke when he tried to respond:
KONDRACKE: Well, I think the Democrats actually got a little bit of an assist today when it was reported that a senior White House -- senior administration official at a briefing yesterday said that there was no way that individual accounts would help solve the solvency problem of the Social Security system. And yesterday the president was, in effect, arguing that private accounts were a way of solving the solvency problem. Or at least that's what --
HUME: The president, as a matter of fact, is correct about that.
KONDRACKE: Well, but -- but it won't, in fact. You're going to have to cut --
HUME: Mort, we're not going to argue that tonight.
On the February 3 edition of CNN's American Morning, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said of Bush's speech: "[T]he centerpiece of his domestic agenda was reforming Social Security to allow younger workers to actually divert some of their payroll taxes into private accounts to make the system solvent."
Later, on CNN Live Today, she explained: "[O]f course, really the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, reforming Social Security, a big item last night. The president saying that he believes that creating for younger retirees, younger workers, these private investment accounts is the way to go for the Social Security system to be solvent in the future."
But in a pre-speech briefing, an unnamed "senior administration official" admitted that private accounts will do nothing to address Social Security's long-term revenue shortfall. From the February 2 White House background briefing:
QUESTION: Can you give us a second ten-year estimate on the revenue effect? Can you tell us how you would pay for that, in the first ten years' revenue loss? And am I right in assuming that in the way you describe this, because it's a wash in terms of the net effect on Social Security from the accounts by themselves, that it would be fair to describe this as having -- the personal accounts by themselves as having no effect whatsoever on the solvency issue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the second point, that's a fair inference.
Apart from the administration's admission, some in the media have pointed out this basic fact about the effect of private accounts on the solvency of Social Security. The Washington Post reported on February 4:
It is still not clear how Bush's retooled system would work in total. The White House this week has chosen to discuss only a part of it, the private accounts. But those accounts will not close the projected $3.7 trillion gap between Social Security benefits promised over the next 75 years and taxes expected to be collected. That gap would have to be closed through benefit cuts that have yet to be detailed.
Even conservative Weekly Standard editor and FOX News contributor William Kristol admitted on FOX News' February 2 post-speech coverage, which Hume anchored, that private accounts are, at best, irrelevant to the solvency issue:
KRISTOL: But the Democrats really dislike the following, which they may have some truth to: The president is using an unquestionable fact, which is that there's a solvency problem with Social Security -- too many retirees, not enough workers to justify individual accounts --
HUME: He's using it to justify --
KRISTOL: Right. Which may be desirable, but are not necessarily implied by the solvency crises. You could solve that by simply raising taxes, decreasing benefits, increasing the retirement age, etc. Now, the president is entitled to say, "Let's do both things at once, let's deal with solvency and improve the system, as he sees it, by having individual accounts." The Democrats want to split these apart.
Posted by Arthur Ruger at 9:13 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post
Sunday, 30 January 2005
News Broadcasts Helping Republicans Pretend
Now Playing: Frankd Rich - Sunday NY Times
Topic: News You Can't Count On
Forget Armor. All You Need Is Love
Published: January 30, 2005
JAN. 30 is here at last, and the light is at the end of the tunnel, again. By my estimate, Iraq's election day is the fifth time that American troops have been almost on their way home from an about-to-be pacified Iraq. The four other incipient V-I days were the liberation of Baghdad (April 9, 2003), President Bush's declaration that "major combat operations have ended" (May 1, 2003), the arrest of Saddam Hussein (Dec. 14, 2003) and the handover of sovereignty to our puppet of choice, Ayad Allawi (June 28, 2004). And this isn't even counting the two "decisive" battles for our nouveau Tet, Falluja. Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span.
But in at least one way we are not back in Vietnam. Iraq hawks, like Vietnam hawks before them, often take the line that to criticize America's mission in Iraq is to attack the troops. That paradigm just doesn't hold. Americans, including those opposed to the war, love the troops (Lynndie England always excepted). Not even the most unhinged Bush hater is calling our all-volunteer army "baby killers." This time, paradoxically enough, it is often those who claim to love the troops the most - and who have the political power to help alleviate their sacrifice - who turn out to be the troops' false friends.
There was, for instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, "nary a mention" of the Iraq war or "the prices paid by American soldiers and their families" at the lavish Inauguration bash thrown for the grandees of the Christian right by the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition at Washington's Ritz-Carlton. This crowd cares about the troops much the way the Fifth Avenue swells in the 1936 Hollywood classic "My Man Godfrey" cared about the "forgotten men" of the Depression - as fashion ornaments and rhetorical conveniences. In that screwball comedy, a socialite on a scavenger hunt collects a genuine squatter from the shantytown along the East River. "All you have to do is go to the Waldorf-Ritz Hotel with me," she tells her recruit, "and I'll show you to a few people and then I'll send you right back."
In this same vein, television's ceremonial coverage of the Inauguration, much of which resembled the martial pageantry broadcast by state-owned networks in banana republics, made a dutiful show out of the White House's claim that the four-day bacchanal was a salute to the troops. The only commentator to rudely call attention to the disconnect between that fictional pretense and the reality was Judy Bachrach, a writer for Vanity Fair, who dared say on Fox News that the inaugural's military ball and prayer service would not keep troops "safe and warm" in their "flimsy" Humvees in Iraq. She was promptly given the hook. (The riveting three-minute clip, labeled "Fair and Balanced Inauguration," can be found at ifilm.com, where it has seized the "most popular" slot once owned by Jon Stewart's slapdown of Tucker Carlson.)
Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal "salute" to the troops, the "Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball" attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising "operational security" by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an "overpaid" reporter was tantamount to that of an "underpaid hero" in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with "deafening silence," reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics "Clap your hands, hoo!" and "Dance to the beat" to "a group of soldiers missing hands and legs."
All the TV time eaten up by the Inaugural froufrou - including "the most boring parade in America," as one network news producer covering it described it to me - would have been better spent broadcasting a true tribute to the American troops in Iraq: a new documentary titled "Gunner Palace." This movie, which opens in theaters March 4, is currently on an advance tour through towns near military bases like Colorado Springs, Colo. (Fort Carson), Killeen, Tex. (Fort Hood) and Columbus, Ga. (Fort Benning). Its directors, Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, found that American troops in Iraq often see their lives as real-life approximations of "M*A*S*H," "Platoon," "Full Metal Jacket," and, given the many 21st-century teenagers among the troops, " 'Jackass' Goes to War." But their film's tone is original. This sweet yet utterly unsentimental movie synthesizes the contradictions of a war that is at once Vietnam redux and the un-Vietnam.
Watching "Gunner Palace" - the title refers to the 2-3 Field Artillery's headquarters, the gutted former Uday Hussein palace in Baghdad - you realize the American mission is probably doomed even as you admire the men and women who volunteered to execute it. Here, at last, are the promised scenes of our troops pursuing a humanitarian agenda. Delighted kids follow the soldiers like pied pipers; schools re-open; a fledgling local government council receives a genial and unobtrusive helping American hand. In one moving scene, Specialist James Moats tenderly cradles a tiny baby at an Iraqi orphanage while talking about the birth of his own first son back home: "I've seen pictures but I haven't got to hold him yet." He's not complaining, just explaining. He is living in the moment, offering his heart fully to the vulnerable infant in the crook of his arm.
These scenes are set against others in which the troops, many of them from small towns "that read like an atlas of forgotten America," have to make do with substandard support from their own government. "It'll probably slow down the shrapnel so that it stays in your body instead of going straight through," says one soldier as he tries to find humor in the frail scrap metal with which he must armor his vehicle. Eventually many of his peers, however proud to serve, are daunted by what they see around them: the futility of snuffing out a growing insurgency, the fecklessness of the Iraqi troops they earnestly try to train, the impracticality of bestowing democracy on a populace that often regards Americans either indifferently or as occupiers. When "The Ride of the Valkyries" is heard in "Gunner Palace," it does not signal a rip-roaring campaign as it did in "Apocalypse Now" but, fittingly for this war, a perilous but often fruitless door-to-door search for insurgents in an urban neighborhood.
It says much about the distance between the homefront and these troops that the Motion Picture Association of America this month blithely awarded "Gunner Palace" an "R" rating - which means that it cannot be seen without parental supervision by 16-year-old high-school kids soon to be targeted by military recruiters. (The filmmakers are appealing this verdict.) The reason for the "R" is not violence - there is virtually none on screen - but language, since some of the troops chronicle their Iraq experience by transposing it into occasionally scatological hip-hop verse.
The Bush administration's National Endowment for the Arts, eager to demonstrate that it, too, loves the troops, announced with much self-congratulatory fanfare that it will publish its own anthology of returning veterans' writings about their wartime experience ("Operation Homecoming") - by spring 2006. In "Gunner Palace," you can sample this art right now, unexpurgated - if you're over 16. Here's one freestyle lyric from Sgt. Nick Moncrief, a 24-year-old father of two: "I noticed that my face is aging so quickly/ Cuz I've seen more than your average man in his 50's." True, he does go on to use a four-letter word - to accentuate his evocation of metal ripping through skin and bones. The Traditional Values Coalition would no doubt lobby to shut down the endowment were it to disseminate such filth.
Another of the movie's soldiers, Robert Beatty, a 33-year-old Army lifer with three children back home, wonders whether Americans who "don't have any direct family members in the military" regard the war as anything other than "just entertainment" and guesses that they lost interest once "major combat" had given way to the far deadlier minor combat that followed. A Gallup poll last year showed that most Americans might fall into that group, since two-thirds of those surveyed had no relative, friend or co-worker serving in Iraq. Does that vast unconnected majority understand what's going on there? Sergeant Beatty gives his answer in one of the film's most poignant passages: "If you watch this, you're going to go get your popcorn out of the microwave and talk about what I say. You'll forget me by the end. ..."
The words land so hard because we are already forgetting, or at least turning our backs. In Washington the gears are shifting to all Social Security all the time. A fast growing plurality of the country wants troops withdrawn from Iraq, but being so detached from the war they are unlikely to make a stink about it. The civilian leaders who conceived this adventure are clever at maintaining the false illusion that the end is just around the corner anyway.
They do this by moving the goal posts for "mission accomplished" as frequently as they have changed the rationale for us entering this war in the first place. In the walk-up to the Inauguration, even Iraq's Election Day was quietly downsized in importance so a sixth V-I Day further off in the future could be substituted. Dick Cheney told Don Imus on Inauguration morning that "we can bring our boys home" and that "our mission is complete" once the Iraqis "can defend themselves." What that means, and when exactly that might be is, shall we say, unclear. President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi told the press in unison last September that there were "nearly 100,000 fully trained and equipped" Iraqi security forces ready to carry out that self-defense. Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month that there are 120,000. Time magazine says this week that the actual figure of fully trained ground soldiers is 14,000, but hey: in patriotism as it's been redefined for this war, loving the troops means never having to say you're sorry - or even having to say the word Iraq in an Inaugural address.
Posted by Arthur Ruger at 3:48 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post
Thursday, 27 January 2005
Now Playing: Opportunity
Topic: News You Can't Count On
freepress.net - The Media IS The News free press basics Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates, and to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector. We believe that a more democratic US media system will lead to better public policies — at home and abroad. As our world becomes more and more interconnected, it is imperative that any kind of development takes into account basic environment, economic, and human rights, while defining corporate and personal responsibilities. Free Press considers information to be among the most important resources to any society. We strive to open up the media system to allow more diversity of opinion to be expressed, to present a broader perspective, and to increase the caliber of information available to everyday people. This, in turn, will lead to a more participatory and accountable government and to more sustainable policies and practices regarding national and global development. Please explore this website to learn more about our programs and projects. As a 501(c)(3)-designated organization, contributions to Free Press are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please click here to receive information about making a grant or contribution. More than just Free Press The Free Press Action Fund is a social welfare organization advocating for changes in public policy that will lead to a more diverse and public service-oriented media system. The Free Press Action Fund uses creative communications to link specific legislative proposals with aggressive field organizing to mobilize people to take action when it is most needed. The Free Press Action Fund is primarily supported through contributions from members. Click here to learn about member benefits and to join. Want to get involved? Free Press is a small, dynamic organization working hard to change the media landscape. Interested in working with us as an employee, intern or volunteer? Click here for the lowdown on the kind of people we're looking to help us fulfill our mission. Have something to say? Free Press encourages feedback about what we do and how we do it. If you'd like to send us praise, constructive criticism, or any other comments, please visit the contact us page.
Posted by Arthur Ruger at 3:56 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post
Who Do You Trust?
Topic: News You Can't Count On
TwinCities.com Pioneeer Press 01/13/05 For all their flaws, mainstream (institutional) journalists are accountable where others are not. When they mess up, consequences are real and ruthless, as Williams and the CBS folks can attest. That much consumers can rely upon. DenverPost.com 01/13/05 Radio pundit and author Hugh Hewitt, author of "Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World," writes that people are looking for "new ways to communicate ideas because the old media simply can't be trusted anymore."
Posted by Arthur Ruger at 2:08 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post
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