Sunday, April 29, 2007


"Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach's 'St. Matthew's Passion' on a ukulele."
~ Ben Bagdikian.

For your Sunday evening reading, I'm going to point out a few items I've noticed from the past week and have not had the chance to write about due to the death of my hard drive. The good news about that is that it finally prodded me into changing operating systems. I'm now using the Linux Kubuntu OS and it is sweet.

I figured that since the nice people at Ubuntu went all the way to Turkish-occupied Kurdistan to do a demo of the Kurdish-language version of their distro for Abdullah Demirbas, then it had to be the only distro for me. There's even a Kurdish-language Ubuntu page. Cool. For information on the very friendly, and now very feisty, Kubuntu, see this page.

Please note that there's a new blog out about human rights in Turkey, Hasankeyf, Kurdish rights, and American involvement in the whole mess, at Insulting Turkishness, a name that seems to target the stupidity of the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

There's also a not-to-be-missed discussion of the Ilisu Dam fiasco by Goran at Zanetî.

Early last week, The Guardian published an article by Naomi Wolf in which she described how America was turning into a fascist state. The PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act are two of the more well-known pieces of legislation that serve as signposts to the place America is headed. There was another piece of legislation that kinda slipped under the radar, called the Defense Authorization Act. There's something on that at The American Conservative. The bottom line on the DFA is that the president can declare martial law at any time he takes a fancy to do so.

While Naomi Wolf does a pretty good job of outlining the ten steps of the slippery slope into fascism on which we're all sliding, Lenin, over at Lenin's Tomb notes something that I've been trying to point out for some time: The Democrats are no different than the Republicans. As Lenin says:

Naomi Wolf, a Clintonite feminist, on Bush's ten steps toward fascism. I don't doubt the existence of fascist potencies in the United States, but to speak of it as a clear and present danger is misleading, to put it blandly. If you ask me, it's part of this 'Anyone But Bush' politics that is destroying the American left and drawing the antiwar movement into the frigid Democratic Party graveyard. The politics of, Howard Dean's fan club, and such alignments, are to divert mass disaffection with Bush's wars into the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Wolf rightly criticises Bush's openly repressive measures, including the Patriot Act. However, there is no mention Democratic complicity.

Well said, comrade. In a related item, you can read how illegal immigration to the US is being used to reinforce the Department of Homeland Security police state:

The programs described above, combined with two recent changes in US law, make the reality of a full police-state in the US increasingly more feasible. The Military Commissions Act, signed in October of 2006, suspends habeas corpus rights for any person deemed by the president to be an enemy combatant. Persons so designated could be imprisoned indefinitely without rights to legal counsel or a trial. And the Defense Authorization Act of 2007 allows the president to station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities. By revising the two-century-old Insurrection Act, the law, in effect, repeals the Posse Comitatus Act and gives the US government the legal authority to order the military onto the streets anywhere in America.

Threats of terrorism and illegal immigrants are being used to justify the implementation of police-state programs. But once started, enforcement can be rapidly deployed to any group of people in the US, and we all become endangered. Mass arrests, big brother in the sky and the loss of civil rights for everyone does not bode well for those who believe in democracy, free speech and the right to critically challenge our government without fear of reprisals.

Does anyone remember the Harrisonburg Kurds? Well, I finally figured out what they're called; they're called "terror trophies," and it looks like another US Attorney has been collecting his own "terror trophies" in New York state, but he's starting to come under attack for his poaching:

A small but increasingly vocal group of protesters is charging that a United States attorney in northern New York has pursued a series of terror-related "political prosecutions" to enhance his reputation as "a loyal Bushie" and thus avoid the fate of eight of his colleagues recently fired by Alberto Gonzales's Department of Justice.

[ . . . ]

Citizen pushback against overzealous prosecutors appears to be on the rise. It comes at a time when the controversy over the firings of US attorneys has become a contentious political issue that threatens to trigger the early departure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The DOJ's credibility has been further damaged by accounts of increasing departures of DOJ lawyers.

Maybe people are starting to wake up to the fact that they are sliding fast down that slippery slope . . . but I won't hold my breathe.

By coincidence, another Naomi left a free comment, also at The Guardian, but this Naomi is the Klein variety and her beef is with the World Bank and Wolfowitz:

The more serious lie at the centre of the [Wolfowitz-Riza] controversy is the implication that the World Bank was an institution that had impeccable ethical credentials - until, according to 42 former World Bank executives, its credibility was "fatally compromised" by Wolfowitz. (Many American liberals have seized on this fairytale, addicted to the fleeting rush that comes from forcing neocons to resign.)

The truth is that the bank's credibility was fatally compromised when it forced school fees on students in Ghana in exchange for a loan; when it demanded that Tanzania privatise its water system; when it made telecom privatisation a condition of aid for Hurricane Mitch; when it demanded labour "flexibility" in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami; when it pushed for eliminating food subsidies in post-invasion Iraq. Ecuadoreans care little about Wolfowitz's girlfriend; more pressing is that in 2005 the World Bank withheld a promised $100m after the country dared to spend a portion of its oil revenues on health and education. Some anti-poverty organisation.

[ . . . ]

Perhaps we should all laugh at the World Bank. What we should absolutely not do, however, is participate in the effort to cleanse the bank's ruinous history by repeating the absurd narrative that the reputation of an otherwise laudable anti-poverty organisation has been sullied by one man. The bank understandably wants to throw Wolfowitz overboard. I say: let the ship go down with the captain.

You go, girl.

Last Thursday, I posted something about the media and democracy, from an interview with American journalist Bill Moyers. It seems like the topic is suddenly sprouting up all over the Internet since then. The LA Times has an op/ed on the subject by another American journalist, this one working in the UK:

Again and again, I see this pattern repeated. Until there is some official investigation or allegation made by a politician, there is no story.

Or sometimes the media like to cover the controversy, not the substance, preferring an ambiguous and unsatisfying "he said, she said" report. Safe reporting, but not investigative.

I know some of the reasons why investigative reporting is on the decline. To begin with, investigations take time and money. A producer from "60 Minutes," watching my team's work on another voter purge list, said: "My God! You'd have to make hundreds of calls to make this case." In America's cash-short, instant-deadline world, there's not much room for that.

[ . . . ]

One of the biggest disincentives to doing investigative journalism is that it jeopardizes future access to politicians and corporate elite. During the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, the testimony of Judith Miller and other U.S. journalists about the confidences they were willing to keep in order to maintain access seemed to me sadly illuminating.

Expose the critters and the door is slammed. That's not a price many American journalists are willing to pay.

Exactly what I found out while pushing the Ralston conflict of interest facts, and something that people like Sibel Edmonds have found out, too.

Another item from the Journalism Department comes from Yahoo News describes how international journalists are becoming more anti-American--and this at a State Department conference on journalism:

The audience then asked questions of the panel. Many were hostile in tone. One journalist from Dubai asked, "Is it not a scandal for one country to invade another country?" Woodward answered that it was a legal war approved by Congress.

A young reporter from a former Soviet state asked, "How can the United States support authoritarian regimes who forbid any form of free press or democracy in their country." The panelists agreed that American foreign policy since 9/11 has become very hypocritical.

[ . . . ]

At lunch, I sat with several Moslem journalists from Pakistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka and India. They were all critical of the US and told me that they had great respect for Voice of America and the BBC but can't stand America's foreign policy and they no longer respect the American press. They favor Obama for President because he studied in a Moslem school and understands their culture. They all dislike President George Bush.

[ . . . ]

The audience was very angry with the American government policy toward the Middle East and toward foreign journalists. The audience criticized US reporters living abroad, not getting the real story and digging enough. Seib made an impassioned defense of American foreign correspondents and the risks they take to get a story and mentioned his close friend, Daniel Pearl.

[ . . . ]

It was an interesting day and there has clearly been a shift in attitude toward the United States and the American journalists by the foreign press. It's not just the Bush White House that overseas reporters are critical of but the whole American press corps for not being tougher and more critical of the Administration. We must remember these 187 young journalists were nominated for the Edward R. Murrow Fellowships by the local US Ambassador. I would assume that they are more pro-American than some other local reporters who were not nominated.

Last Wednesday, Blogian had a very interesting post about how a mass grave of some 200 Armenians had been tampered with by Turkish authorities. Apparently, the grave had been discovered by local Kurds in a village near Nisêbin in 2006. I won't spoil the rest of the story; go ahead and read the whole thing at Blogian.

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that the latest round of harassment against DTP mayors has to do with their call for independent medical examinations of Abdullah Ocalan, in the wake of the hair sample analyses that were conducted in Europe:

A Turkish prosecutor is investigating whether 54 Kurdish mayors broke the law by claiming last month that rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan was being poisoned in his prison cell, the government-run Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.

Last month, mayors belonging to the Kurdish Democratic Society Party asked for an independent group of doctors to examine Ocalan to establish whether he was being poisoned. Turkish authorities said tests on Ocalan showed no signs that he was being poisoned and called the allegations "complete lies."

Of course, the "tests" referred to were conducted by the Turkish government and not by an independent medical team, so we can take the state-sponsored "tests" to be more state-sponsored bullshit. That, along with the continued harassment of DTP politicians, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And remember--these same 54 DTP mayors are still on trial for sending a letter to Danish PM Rasmussen on behalf of RojTV.

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