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.