Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Other Items

By great good luck, the day after Christmas, the New York Times produced an absolutely perfect specimen of the editorial genre. Devoted to the elections in Iraq held on December 15, it should be carted off at once to the Museum of Natural History, and put in the "journalism" diorama next to the green eyeshade.A word here about technical terms. Many newspaper readers describe opinion articles such as this one as "editorials". Within the newspaper business this is a "column", not an editorial, which refers solely to the unsigned expression of opinion usually appearing on the left hand side of the page, below the masthead. The editorial reflects the position of the newspaper, therefore, in the first analysis, of the owner of that newspaper.
On local issues a strong editorial can still make a bureaucrat or department czar tremble. Political endorsements in contests for judgeships and the like also count. The New York Times could call for Bush's impeachment tomorrow. But would even that makes waves? In the main, the editorial thunderbolt, hurled from on high with stately and effective violence is a thing of the past. Newspapers, as institutions, simply lack the credibility to be seen as tribunes of the people. The Eighties and nineties took their toll. What respect can be granted to newspaper publishers mostly preoccupied with monopolizing cities and ensuring themselves a 20 per cent rate of return?

Well it's about the New York Times. The above is from Alexander Cockburn's "A New York Times Editorial Contemplates Iraq" (CounterPunch) and Brandon e-mailed to note it. Going through the e-mails this morning, I assumed the focus was this site (where are the entries!) because of the delays the year-in-review caused. Flipping through the paper to find something to note (since members weren't noting it), I saw that wasn't the case.

Robert Pear writes about Medicare and your interest in that article probably depends on your trust of Pear to handle it. (In this community that trust is nil.) Eric Lipton writes of the government grasping something many, many years to late in "New Rules Set for Giving Out Antiterror Aid." Let's all be proud that Homeland Security has a policy in place, years after the fact, wherein they will award grants based on the likelihood of a terrorist threat.

Lipton notes:

Set up after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Homeland Security Department's local and state grant programs have drawn repeated criticism from members of Congress and budget watchdog groups because the early emphasis on spreading the money around resulted in tens of millions of dollars going to some communities where, critics said, the terrorist threat was not as urgent as elsewhere.
Examples cited in recent testimony to Congress include $557,400 awarded to North Pole, Alaska, a city of about 1,700 residents, to buy rescue and communications equipment, and $500,000 to Outagamie County, Wis., population 165,000, to buy chemical suits, rescue saws, disaster-response trailers, emergency lighting and a bomb disposal vehicle.

What else is there? I think Janet Maslin is having flashbacks to what we'll politely term her days as a reporter for the rock scene. She's reviewing Ana Marie Cox's new novel. (Cox is Wonkette.) Wade through Maslin if you must.

Holbert notes that he didn't weigh in for the year-in-review but wished he had because he would have noted Robert Fisk. (I'll see it as a postive sign that so many e-mails have come in from members since the year-in-review went up naming a voice they wish they had written in about. It's great that so many strong voices are out there.) Holbert notes Robert Fisk's "War Without End" (The Independent via Common Dreams):

And how are we supposed to "win" this war by ignoring all the injustices we are inflicting on that part of the world from which the hijackers of September 11 originally came? How many times have Messrs Bush and Blair talked about "democracy"? How few times have they talked about "justice", the righting of historic wrongs, the ending of torture? Our principal victims of the "war on terror", of course, have been in Iraq (where we have done quite a bit of torturing ourselves).
But, strange to say, we are silent about the horrors the people of Iraq are now enduring. We do not even know - are not allowed to know - how many of them have died. We know that 1,100 Iraqis died by violence in Baghdad in July alone. That's terror.
But how many died in the other cities of Iraq, in Mosul and Kirkuk and Irbil, and in Amara and Fallujah and Ramadi and Najaf and Kerbala and Basra? Three thousand in July? Or four thousand? And if those projections are accurate, we are talking about 36,000 or 48,000 over the year - which makes that projected post-April 2003 figure of 100,000 dead, which Blair ridiculed, rather conservative, doesn't it?
It's not so long ago, I recall, that Bush explained to us that all the Arabs would one day wish to have the freedoms of Iraq. I cannot think of an Arab today who would wish to contemplate such ill fortune, not least because of the increasingly sectarian nature of the authorities, elected though they are.
The year did allow Ariel Sharon to achieve his aim of turning his colonial war into part of the "war on terror". It also allowed al-Qa'ida's violence to embrace more Arab countries. Jordan was added to Egypt. Woe betide those of us who are now locked into the huge military machine that embraces the Middle East. Why, Iraqis sometimes ask me, are American forces - aerial or land - in Uzbekistan? And Kazakhstan and Afghanistan, in Turkey and Jordan (and Iraq) and in Kuwait and Qatar and Bahrain and Oman and Yemen and Egypt and Algeria (there is a US special forces unit based near Tamanrasset, co-operating with the same Algerian army that was involved in the massacre of civilians the 1990s)?
In fact, just look at the map and you can see the Americans in Greenland and Iceland and Britain and Germany and ex-Yugoslavia and Greece - where we join up with Turkey. How did this iron curtain from the ice cap to the borders of Sudan emerge? What is its purpose?
These are the key questions that should engage anyone trying to understand the "war on terror".

For the news that matters check out Democracy Now! today.