Thursday, May 04, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 9

I’ve always had my doubts about the Department of Homeland Security. After all, there’s the name. Homeland Security? Smacks of the Russian “Motherland.” Smacks of the German “Fatherland.” Smacks of fascism and communism, things we red-blooded Americans are raised to hate (though communism does sound pretty good, if only it worked in reality). Sometimes I really do think the terrorists won. Shortly after September 11th, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was hastily created. Maybe it’s because I was an employee of the relatively old Department of Veterans Affairs, but I never liked that new upstart Department. It seemed redundant. It seemed like a ploy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency still exist, those agencies which, some accuse, allowed the September 11th, 2001 attacks to occur. They’re still there, just under a new umbrella. No major shake-ups occurred. Just a new name. But it made us all feel warm and fuzzy, right?

Obviously, I never much trusted the Department of Homeland Security. And now I feel justified. CNN reports that its former spokesman was recently released on bail after being arrested for attempting to sexually solicit a 14-year-old (played by a police officer) online. A spokesman. Who regularly goes out in public to speak to, well, the public. Presumably he was occasionally the guest of honor at some school assembly. One can only marvel at the stupidity of this man. Then again, it’s not really that surprising, look at how many people Perverted Justice has nabbed.

The war on terror. That lovely little war, which seems to have only made the world a worse place, with this man as its figurehead. I scoffed when our new attorney general announced that his big focus was on pornography, but maybe now he’s a bit justified.

The story of Brian Doyle is rather disgusting. His defense attorney laments that he is “very depressed.” Cry me a river. The man wanted to screw a 14 year old girl, and we’re supposed to be concerned that he needs some Prozac? Doyle even went so far as to thank the judge and prosecutor for their guidance and understanding. Sounds like he could have used guidance long before he tried to sexually solicit a minor. Doyle’s attorney claims that Doyle wants to “face up to what has happened.” What has happened? Those are the words of a victim, not of someone who chose his fate.

The real victim? The American public. We are not protected, and with men like Doyle at the Department of Homeland Security, we can’t even really fool ourselves into thinking we’re protected.

UH 330 Media Review No. 8

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller

It wasn’t the Jews first. Or perhaps it was, depending on how far back you go. Then there were the Armenians. And the Jews. And the Cambodians. And the Vietnamese (oops, that was us, my bad). And the Tutsis. And now it is the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa.

After World War II, we declared, “Never again.” After Cambodia, we declared, “Never again.” After Rwanda, we declared, “Never again.” And here we are in Darfur. And it’s happening again. We failed.

The Sudanese government wants the Americans to solve the problem. The European Union and the United Kingdom want the rebels to solve the problem. CNN quotes Ian Pearson, the Foreign Affairs Minister for the United Kingdom, as stating that the international community would not understand if the rebels didn’t resolve the situation.

I don’t understand why the international community has not solved the problem. We can get so-called coalition support, from the United Kingdom, even, for our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But yet, we tip-toed around Rwanda, and we tip-toe around the Sudan. Nearly two hundred thousand people have been brutally murdered in Darfur, it is estimated that millions have been displaced, and yet, the best we can do is to come up with a treaty that will be quickly rendered meaningless. We are culpable. We have not taken responsibility. We must take responsibility, instead of simply taking passive, utterly useless, actions, which look good but accomplish nothing.

Al Jazeera has more details of the proposed agreement. Oh yes, and it’s a brilliant agreement. It would increase the number of rebels in the military. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Let’s give the people committing the genocide official, legitimate power.

People criticized George Clooney for having the spine to say that we need to do more in Darfur. Perhaps we should listen to him more often.

UH 330 Media Review No. 7

Sometimes the things left unsaid ring the loudest. I’ve noticed many times over the past several years that some media outlets will carry a story that seems important while others ignore it completely, as though it never happened. Sometimes it’s because the story isn’t really news at all, like when a local FOX affiliate ran a story on how Playboy had come to town, not a single other local news station covered that particular story.

CNN ran a story about one of the latest tapes released by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Presumably the video was some sort of recruiting video, but CNN tried to turn it into some sort of Iraq’s Funniest Home Videos. The article calls various scenes from the video “outtakes,” as though it were some sort of movie production, with actors cracking up as they tried to deliver their lines. But there’s no Robin Williams here. Major General Rick Lynch, who is presumably somehow connected with the raid that netted the video, calls al-Zarqawi “supposedly competent.” Of course, al-Zarqawi didn’t have US military training.

CNN lists, nearly ad nauseum, various problems al-Zarqawi and his cohorts had while making the video. Al-Zarqawi’s “trusted advisors” burn themselves after grabbing the barrel of a freshly fired machine gun. Al-Zarqawi is unable to get his automatic machine gun to shoot more than a single round at a time.

The article is apparently written by a former fluff reporter, with the writer gushing that al-Zarqawi was wearing white New Balance sneakers. Oh yes. Very important. Was he also wearing the latest Vera Wang? The reporter also astutely notes that the video that was released was probably meant to increase confidence in the anti-American cause. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Did the reporter expect al-Zarqawi to release a video proclaiming that America is the promised land?

But it’s not just the reporter who spouts tripe. Lynch rather sarcastically ponders how al-Zarqawi could be a leader with his gun skills. Because, as we all know, a leader must be able to competently perform all of the duties that his underlings must perform. I’m sure President Bush could accurately fire all the weapons that Major General Lynch can fire.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 6

I remember watching the President’s State of the Union address with a sense of impending doom. Bush spoke of the spread of democracy, and specifically singled out several nations which were not yet democratic, including Iran. Bush accused the Iranian government of essentially terrorizing its citizens, and told its citizens that America wishes to be their closest friend. Of course, Bush also accused the government of Iran of defying the wishes of the rest of the world with its “nuclear ambitions,” implying that any use of nuclear technology by Iran must necessarily involve the production of nuclear weapons, something which has been vehemently denied by the Iranian government. Given the snafu after Bush accused Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction, one can’t help but give Iran the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how our government isn’t too accurate in its accusations. The sense of impeding doom I felt was the same feeling I had when Colin Powell gave his famous PowerPoint presentation to the United Nations, that feeling that we would soon be going to war, and for all the same reasons.

Are we going to war again? It sure seems like it. The build-up to the war in Iraq included seemingly countless accusations by our government that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. There were also the occasional claims that we would be liberating Iraq. It seems a parallel situation now. Just switch a letter, and Iraq becomes Iran. The weapons of mass destruction in question are no longer biological or chemical, but nuclear. The dictator in power is no longer Saddam Hussein but Ali Khamanei. One can’t help but wonder if the Supreme Leader of Iran has giant statues of himself so that a well-orchestrated media stunt can convince Americans that they really are doing the correct thing. But it’s not Colin Powell this time. This time it’s the infinitely less photogenic John Bolton, ambassador to the United Nations. It’s not a PowerPoint presentation, it’s a draft of a Security Council resolution. CNN quotes Bolton as stating that the resolution, drafted in accordance with Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter and only able to mete out sanctions or the use of force, “will not deal with sanctions.” There it is, plain and simple. If the resolution passes, there will be no sanctions, simply the use of force. CNN even notes that Bolton has said in the past that force would not be used, but it’s hard to swallow anything the administration says these days.

The article on the issue over at Al Jazeera is most interesting. Bolton manages to not only threaten Iran, but Russia as well. In an attempt to argue that Russia (and presumably China as well) should not use its veto power against the resolution, Bolton states that it would be undesirable for Russian “to be within the range of another nuclear power.” Apparently Bolton has forgotten that America is in possession of nuclear weapons which could easily target Russia. And Bolton also seems to have forgotten that Iran would be much more likely to attack America than Russia, particularly since it has been rumored that Iran has obtained at least some of its nuclear technology from Russia.

UH 330 Media Review No. 5

An episode of the Boondocks summed it up perfectly. In the episode “The Real,” Riley convinces a reality show to pimp his grandfather’s ride, proclaiming at the end, “For 9/11!” It’s a phrase that has come to be used nearly constantly, justifying practically everything.

Today, Zacarius Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the September 11th, 2001 attacks. CNN notes that Moussaoui’s conviction was the first related to September 11th, 2001. How far have we come? Nearly five years later, and we have one conviction. CNN notes that Moussaoui’s predictably asked the jury to avoid giving the death penalty, with the creative reason that Moussaoui would then become an al Qaeda martyr. The CNN article also dwells in depth on Moussaoui’s alleged mental illness, and various epithets he threw at those in the courtroom during his sentencing, such as “America, you lost. I won.” It also notes how Moussaoui wished the attacks had lasted for days, saying We can go on and on. Like they say, no pain, no gain.”

The article at Al Jazeera, while attempting to maintain neutrality on its face, seems to view the American government rather unfavorably. The article refers to the September 11th, 2001 attacks as “suicide jetliner hijackings,” and implies that the jury was rebellious when determining its sentence, “rebuffing” the American government and its pleas for the death penalty. The article also notes that the judge, who must officially dole out the verdict, is bound by the jury’s decision, almost implying that the judge might decide differently if he were allowed. Al Jazeera points out that this was the sixth case since the death penalty was restored in that particular courthouse which resulted in a sentence other than death when the prosecution sought it. The motivation? Perhaps to, once again, paint an American jury as rebelling against its government. Or perhaps to show Americans as weak, which seems reasonable considering that capital punishment is allowed in many Middle Eastern nations. They went on to note, unlike CNN, how the defense brought up the mishandling of information by the FBI and other agencies that might well have prevented the attacks in the first place.

And then there is Fark. When news of Moussaoui’s life sentence was released to its main page, readers of Fark went nuts, so to speak. The headline read “Jury sentences Moussaoui to life in prison without the possibility of martyrdom”. The first response? “What a joke.” A quick skimming of the comments shows just how strongly people still feel about the September 11th, 2001 attacks. “Let him rot. It’s better than killing him now.” “No virgins for you biznatch!” “The rest of his life will be funded by the American Taxpayer. Stupid.” “I say stab him once for every person that died on 9/11, then dip him in acid.” Others claimed that Moussaoui used reverse psychology, telling jurors that he wanted to die and in effect securing his continued life. The discussion quickly degenerates into a flamewar, with people suggesting all sorts of unconstitutional things in order to secure our freedom. For 9/11, indeed.

Monday, April 17, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 4

CNN and the Beeb felt the need to put a picture of a first-responder, his white coveralls covered in several large splotches of blood, on the front page of their respective webpages. What happened? A car bombing in a market in the town of Mahmoudiya (alternately spelled Mahmudiya), killing perhaps eight people (CNN and Al Jazeera or ten people (BBC).

Eight people dead. If eight Americans were killed on our own soil, perhaps by a crazed teenager at a high school, or a disgruntled postal worker, it would make the evening news for days. Experts would be featured on broadcasts, it would be the talk of the watercooler at the next day’s coffee break. All three articles about the Mahmoudiya car bombing mention the car bombing and then go on to other events in Iraq such as American raids and other incidences of insurgent violence. The CNN article devotes two sentences to the car bombing, the BBC and Al Jazeera one sentence each.

What a disconnect. The loss of eight (or ten) lives is not insignificant. All three websites featured articles about the car bombing on their front pages. CNN and the BBC showed a gruesome image, a blood-covered man and a person shrouded in black cloth on a stretcher. And yet, each website only devoted one or two sentences to the event.

Why? Why show a gruesome picture and not have any significant details of the event? Ratings, of course. Or, rather, in the case of the web, page-views. One should not be surprised by an American news-source stooping to such lows, but we traditionally view the BBC with respect. Surely if they were to cover a story, they would actually cover it in some depth. And we might expect Al Jazeera to have more details, if only because of their intimate relationship with Iraq and much of the Middle East. But no, we get a single image and a sentence.

If not even the BBC or Al Jazeera will cover an event where several presumably innocent people were cut down, what does it say about the nature of the occupation? Death has become commonplace in Iraq, a car bombing is a non-story. Fashionistas like to say that pink is the new black this season, perhaps this decade will bring the saying that Iraq is the new Israel (or perhaps the new Ireland), with car bombings and other acts of terrorism become common, even ubiquitous.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 3

More and more, I’ve come to realize that it’s all a matter of spin. Three articles on the United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran’s nuclear program have vastly different takes on the issue. This shouldn’t be surprising, of course. We all know that there is no such thing as one truth, every person or entity involved in an issue will have their own versions of truth. Some will, naturally, be outright lies. Someone will be subtle twists on the truth. But many are simply the truth, just viewed in a different light than what we are used to.

The first article, from CNN, is perhaps the most blatantly anti-Iranian. At first glance, it seems relatively balanced, but after comparing it to articles from international sources, the bias is quite evident. All three articles have more or less the same details when it comes to what has occurred thus far, the real stories are in the quotes. The CNN article has a seemingly damning quote from Javad Vaeedi, the deputy head of international affairs for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. “The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain but it is also susceptible to harm and pain … So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll.” While Vaeedi’s comment ostensibly requires action on the part of the United States before any retaliation from Iran, it is certainly an aggressive and hostile comment to include in the article, probably one included to make Iran seem a worthy enemy, as it seems nearly inevitable that they will be the next invaded by our military. While the article quite clearly states that Iran is enriching uranium in only 10 centrifuges, not the thousands required for weapons production, it goes on to quote Greg Schulte, United States ambassador to the IAEA, as saying “their behavior has only contributed to mounting international concerns about its pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Again, no lies, but that quote is definitely misleading in light of how little uranium is being enriched.

The BBC article takes a much more neutral stance. It notes a lack of cooperation on the part of Iran, quoting Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, as saying the Iranians are “doing nothing to enable the problem to be examined calmly and professionally.” Lavrov also notes that “[the IAEA has] a thorough knowledge of all the technical details of Iran’s nuclear programme and without those technical details it’s extremely difficult to take the right decisions,” arguing that the matter should not be referred to the Security Council. Alluding to potential action from the United States, Condoleeza Rice is quoted as saying that “we may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” apparently forgetting those pesky terrorists in Afghanistian and Iraq. Ambassador John Bolton is even more ominous, warning that “the president has said repeatedly that no options are off the table,” which seems yet another way to prepare for the American public for an invasion of Iran.

The Al Jazeera article is particularly damning of America. And they even manage to do it by using more complete quotes than the BBC, but not entirely different ones. That little quote from Rice about Iran being a threat? It continues, “ … whose policies are directed at developing a Middle East that would be 180 degrees different than the Middle East we would like to see developed.” Of course, Bush’s first campaign promised that we would not be in the business of nation building. But he never did mention region building. Sneaky, that Bush. The Al Jazeera article also makes the Russian Foreign Minister seem a bit more sinister, adding in this quotation: “We aren’t reminding who was right and who was not in Iraq, although the answer is obvious.” Even the Russians know we’re fishing for a reason to invade Iran, and it’s just as obvious to them as it should be to us that it’s a ridiculous reason.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Knitting Update: Lady Eleanor and Misty Garden

Well then, it's been a while since I've updated. These two are from the book Scarf Style, which is awesome, though I really dislike the pictures. It makes the photographer in me cringe.

On the left is Lady Eleanor, and on the right is Misty Garden, both draped oh so artfully over my Japanese Maple. Misty Garden is done, though I have not blocked it or woven in the ends. The camera made the colours on both slightly washed out, they're both a little more vibrant, but you get the idea.

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Lady Eleanor is made out of Berocco's "Foliage." It's a thick-and-thin yarn, though not much so. It's also nicely fuzzy, but not overly so. If you look closely at the detail, you can see how my stitches are lopsided. Don't know why that happens, they're not twisted, just lopsided. It's a really fun project, the ever-changing colours and constantly working on new squares satisfies the ADD kid in me. I made mine quite a bit narrower than the pattern called for, wanted more of a scarf than a shawl.When this is done, it'll go to my grandma Betty, who loves red.

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Misty Garden is made out of Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Kidmo, in the Marbles colourway. It's very soft, though also rather fuzzy. I was expecting the colours to end up more like the one in the book, but I actually ended up liking the stripiness of mine. When I block it, I'm hoping to stretch it out so it's longer and narrower. I messed up when I was doing my first few rows on this, and I discovered that ripping this yarn is nearly impossible. There were also a few times when I did too many yarn overs or too many knit two togethers, so I just corrected it by compensating in the next pattern row. Again, it's a pain to frog. This'll be a gift for my aunt Allison.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 2

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The words “cartoon” and “comic” are not synonymous. Sure, it’s a nitpicky thing, but given the rise of adult-oriented cartoons and comics in the US, as well as the ever-increasing popularity of anime and manga, one would think the media could get such a simple distinction right. I suppose it shouldn’t be surpising, then, that the various media sources can’t get other things right, either. Just as the media goes around incorrectly calling the comics published depicting Mohammed “cartoons,” so do they go around implying that the protests about those comics are nearly universally violent and pervasive throughout the Islamic world. Sure, some of the protests have been violent. But the controversy isn’t truly about violence, nor, in many cases, is it about the abhorrence to Muslims of depcting the prophet Mohammed. It is a controversy about a troubling double standard, in which hypocrisy seems to reign among various publishers.

In France, a Muslim group sued to prevent the republication of the offensive comics. The French satirical paper, Charlie-Hebdo, published a new comic along with the old, featuring Mohammed lamenting that “[i]t’s hard to be loved by fools” (CNN. Perhaps in an attempt to defray any allegations of discrimination, Charlie-Hebdo even decided to publish comics that poke fun at Christianity and Judaism. (Incidentally, CNN, in an attempt to remain objective, refuses to publish the comics on their website.)

On the other side of the spectrum, AlterNet reports that Jyllands-Posten, the paper that started the whole controversy, had previously declined to publish comics poking fun at Christianity. The artist behind the comics mocking Jesus, Christoffer Zieler, noted that at the time they were rejected, the newspaper’s publisher claimed they were too offensive. Now, however, the publisher’s story has changed, claiming instead that he didn’t have the heart to tell Zieler that the comics were bad, and let him down easy by saying they were too controversial. Which is it? Were they actually that bad, or is the publisher too scared to face the heat for not publishing comics depicting Jesus when he went ahead and published comics depicting Mohammed? The same paper now is claiming that when the Iranian paper Hamshahri publishes comics making light of the Holocaust, it plans on reprinting them, presumably to show that it really can play with the big boys.
And then there is the question of how big this controversy really is. All the estimates put the protesters’ numbers in the “tens of thousands,” and Islam’s adherents at approximately 1.4 billion. Which means that those who are protesting really represent a maximum of 0.00007% of the Muslim population. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of protesters who have turned violent, which would be even smaller. So why the controversy? Yes, the comics were offensive. But why are the protests getting the air-time they are? That’s the million dollar question. Literally, perhaps. It’s easy to say that the comics are causing Muslims to be violent. It was easy to say that the Civil War was all about slavery, too. But a closer look reveals some startling things.

Sure, the comics are offensive. But perhaps the manner in which they were published, who published them, is the core issue. According to Mother Jones, a root issue is the capitalist countries that have been involved in the controversy. It is not merely that the comics are an affront to Islamic society, but that the very societies which condoned those comics are an affront. An acknowledgement of that simple fact is only the first step to healing, and certainly a better one than publishing more offensive comics, whether they be about Muslims, Christians, or Jews.

Monday, January 16, 2006

UH 330 Media Review No. 1

Since the beginning of the current war in Iraq, at least 31 journalists have been kidnapped. Most have gone unreported in the American media, likely because many were not Americans. Last week, Jill Carroll was kidnapped while in western Baghdad. Her translator, Allan Enwiyah, was murdered, and her driver, unnamed by virtually every source, was not harmed.

On internet sites such as, readers often joke about how mainstream media only cares about young, rich, blonde, pretty women, paying no attention to those who are older, poor or middle-class, and unattractive. Perhaps there is some truth to this, Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway were the subject of countless hours of programming on various televised news programs, and yet, Jill Carroll received barely a mention. Carroll may be young and attractive, but she is a brunette who wears glasses, and chose to wear a modest headscarf while in Iraq. A week after her kidnapping, there is no mention of her on the front page of either CNN’s or the BBC’s webpages.

Both those sites ran brief articles on Carroll’s abduction last week. While similar, there were some notable differences. CNN felt the need to point out that The Christian Science Monitor is a secular paper, a factoid that went unmentioned by the BBC. Neither news site mentioned the name of Carroll’s driver, but CNN did mention that he wished to remain anonymous. The BBC went into much more detail about the abduction itself. They even went to the point of stating that the area of Baghdad which Carroll and her crew were in was considered very dangerous, particularly for those in media, three journalists had been lost in the area recently. The CNN coverage of the actual abduction implies that it may have been a planned ambush, whereas the BBC site states the abduction was an ambush in no unclear terms.

Both the BBC and CNN carry some biographical information about Carroll, information that was disseminated in a press release by the Monitor. None was offered about Carroll’s driver, the only information given about Enwiyah was that he was 32 years old when he was killed. Where the BBC and CNN left off, the blog Baghdad Burning picked up. The author of Baghdad Burning, self-identified only as R., offers little detail about the abduction or Carroll, these items had already been covered, though not very thoroughly, by the BBC, CNN, and the Monitor. R. instead offers a very different look at the event with a sort of euology for Enwiyah.

By some twist of fate, R. was something of a friend to Enwiyah. Enwiyah was a Christian Iraqi, a tidbit not mentioned at all by the BBC or CNN. Perhaps it is an unimportant bit of information, or perhaps it explains why he was killed and the driver spared. Enwiyah was no random, anonymous citizen. During peacetime, he ran a store called “Alan’s Melody,” a music shop where Iraqis stuck in Baghdad, with only sporadic electricity with which to watch the television or surf the web, were able to get exposure to Western music. If Carroll’s ambushers had done their research and had known of Enwiyah’s identity, they may have known he was not Muslim, perhaps that was some motive for his killing.

R.’s site, while perhaps not as chock full of dry “facts” as the BBC and CNN, provides a much more human perspective on this event. Enwiyah had a wife and small children, his shop was a gathering place. While the kidnapping of Carroll and the killing of Enwiyah are certainly a tragedy, knowing so much about Enwiyah, knowing that he could be like any of our neighbors, makes the tragedy so much more real, makes it hit home so much more. Every article on sites like R.’s and those of others that allows us to see the more human, personal side of those involved, in one way or another, in this war, allows us all to be more deeply affected by it.