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Archive for February 2008

Media Confuses Obama, Osama Once Again

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Is it that difficult to differentiate between the name of a presidential candidate and that of the terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans?

I guess everything gets confusing when the current President is a terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.

Once again, a major news source has made a mistake confusing Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden. The media as an institution is making this mistake a lot. CNN has done it twice. As a matter of fact, it seems the only time we ever see bin Laden on the TV these days is when somebody puts up his video when they’re talking about Obama. Hardball was presenting a story on the recent finnickiness among Democratic candidates as to the origin of their campaign rhetoric, but the presentation included a video clip showing Osama bin Laden.

This wasn’t a subject that came up incidentally in the conversation, forcing an editor to put images on-screen at the last minute, making the mistake more understandable. This was a situation where they had a finished presentation ready to broadcast. News broadcasts are done on a tight schedule and under a lot of pressure, but that doesn’t excuse not taking the time to at least watch the opening presentation of a news broadcast before putting it on the air.

It’s a bit suspicious when this sort of thing keeps happening. It couldn’t have looked good for John Kerry when Fox put a story online after the first debate with George W. Bush quoting Kerry as saying he “looked good” during the debate and that he was a metrosexual. Later Fox claimed this had been a “joke” article that somebody in the office wrote and left laying around, and someone else published it by accident.

Perhaps Fox is another matter. There is no shortage of evidence that Fox is little more than a propaganda machine for the right, or at least a niche market newscast for conservative viewers. The Obama campaign downplayed the recent NBC mistake, and regardless of whether this is some big business conspiracy to threaten a candidate or subliminally reinforce a mental connection between Obama and Osama in the minds of the viewers, this is a good way to make it disappear from the media and minimize the potential damage Obama’s campaign would suffer if he made himself look like a crazy conspiracy theorist for thinking this was done on purpose.

It could be a simple mistake. For example, an editor compiling clips for the broadcast could have accidentally opened something along the lines of /clips/osama/183726593 when they wanted to open /clips/obama/183726593. But how could they not watch the clip, see it in the segment before broadcasting, or broadcast it without some kind of supervisor approving the segment for broadcast?

This kind of thing could be a reflection of the current state of the economy. Big businesses are cutting costs everywhere they can; they generally like to look flashy anyway, because it sells, and are willing to pay for it, but big corporations which not only have to compete for our business but also have to compete for investors by having a higher growth rate and profit margen than other corporations are sometimes willing to cut costs even when it lowers the quality of the final product.

This on its own is cause for concern. Journalism is extremely important, but business is business and what counts are numbers. This kind of mistake really demonstrates the way news providers have put profit before journalistic responsibility. We saw it during the leadup to the Iraq war and the amount and quality of actual investigative reporting seems to lower all the time. And this trend will continue. News providers are now asking for their viewers, armed with cell phone cameras, to take their own footage of news events and send it to them for free. There was a time when this footage was paid for. Bloggers are also providing free or cheap investigative journalism that news providers take advantage of.

News providers are dependent on news wires, papers, and press statements, and the job of the television reporter is to stand in front of a camera reading compilations, sometimes with little personal understanding of the subject at hand. The people who said Osama instead of Obama on the news a few years ago may never have even heard of Obama. Now that he’s in the running for the Presidency, they don’t have the same excuse.

The bottom line, the ever-expanding profit margin, will always come first for a corporation. They need to sell on one hand, and attract investors on the other. Better journalism can make better sales, but better graphics and videoclips can too. The most important objective is to get as many viewers as possible, be ad-friendly, synergize, and keep an investor-friendly growth rate. Jobs and journalistic integrity will always be the first things to go when it’s time to cut down the budget.


Written by Alex (Capitalocracy)

February 20, 2008 at 3:36 am

Public Figures Forgiven for Drug Use, Private Citizens Persecuted

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I was checking out other WordPress blogs, and I happened upon a post with a link to this article from The New Yorker. To sum up the basic news item here, the New York Times ran an article under the headline Old Friends Say Drugs Played Bit Part in Obama’s Young Life. Apparently, a few readers were confused. Did that say Bit Part or Big Part? This is an interesting question, and calls to the memory another recent news item. Remember when the newscaster accidentally said Obama bin Laden? Barack Osama?

So according to this story, Obama claims to have used marijuana in his last years of high school and first years of college, along with occasional cocaine use. People who knew him at the time seem to think it didn’t show. Nothing new; this is a recycled story, but it’s election time and nobody’s going to go digging through the microfilm at their local library to dig this stuff up. This revelation will, however, be enough to make a few voters change their minds about their candidate, or stay home. Who knows? Obama might gain more voters for this than he loses.

Clinton didn’t inhale (and I still don’t know what record Hillary has on the drug issue), Obama did it, several Democrats experimented, and Bush… well, Bush doesn’t like to talk about it. It’s all in the past and he’s a good Christian now, anyway, so don’t worry about THAT. Can you be convicted of crimes you committed before you were Born Again, or do you have a new legal identity? Maybe we could make a law. It would drive the credit card companies crazy.

So here we have a list of politicians who have used illegal drugs and, honestly, I don’t have a problem with that. I do believe in second chances, and, well, I honestly don’t see any problem with using marijuana recreationally. It should be legal, and not just for extreme medical situations.

So what reason do I have to complain that these politicians have used marijuana or cocaine (which I DO think needs some form of nonpunitive regulation) when I have no problem with the use of marijuana? The reason is this: They are using their confessions as a method of diffusing any claims that might show up in the media from witnesses of their past indiscretions, but they are NOT, in the longrun, attempting to do anything to change the wasteful and honestly horrifying persecution of marginalized recreational drug users or addicts who need help. They try to pick up the dazed among the voting populace by saying they’ll legalize medical marijuana, and act like this is progressive, but it isn’t. It’s amazing that, if marijuana serves a medical purpose, there would even be a debate as to whether or not its use be allowed among those who need it. We don’t even have such restrictions on injected opiates. Even when doctors could be thrown in jail for not checking carefully enough whether the patients they gave opiates to were really sick or if they were junkies faking it, there was never any question as to whether the medicine itself should be taken off the market.

These politicians expect us to look past their personal drug use and vote for them, and I would be more than happy to vote for someone who admits having used drugs, but I hate voting for someone who has used drugs, gotten away with it, and now has no problem throwing someone in jail just for having a bag of grass. This is a hypocrite of the worst kind. If they want to move on, if they want to be Born Again, if they want their drug use to be forgiven, why can they not forgive the same behavior among the citizens they wish to represent?

They act like there’s a difference because they were young, they don’t do that anymore, ad nauseum. If drug use is OK for the young but not for adults, why don’t we legalize drug use until you’re 30? If you’re willing to imprison people for using drugs, when you go admitting that you took drugs, why don’t you spend 20 years in jail yourself before running for President? You’d earn some street cred. Or if you expect us to pardon you, use your power as President to pardon those who have committed similar crimes. If all it takes is a little reform and the promise that they won’t do it again, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of applicants willing to accept the terms.

This is not the behavior we see in mainstream politics. Politicians expect us to forgive their past, but at the same time, they try to get our votes by being tough on crime and giving people longer jail sentences, only further marginalizing them, increasing crime and drug addiction rates, diverting taxpayer money to privately-owned prisons, and allowing a permissive attitude toward discrimination against people with drug or addiction problems or who just have a differing outlook on life.

Unfortunately there is no major party to vote for with an open and honest drug policy. Either purge your party of all drug users and prosecute them and put them in prison as you are willing and eager to do to your constituents, or work toward a more tolerant society in general that will excuse your own former drug use. Don’t ask Americans to forgive you for “experimenting” with drugs while you’re throwing Americans in jail for doing the same.

Written by Alex (Capitalocracy)

February 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Outsourcing War: American Mercenary Forces Exploit Remnants of Old Dictatorships

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A subject that has always interested me is the continuing effects on society of having lived through a dictatorship or totalitarian rule. This is an important topic for the United States, because we live in a society that has supported dictatorships for many years, and as nations are emerging from the turmoil inflicted upon them by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War, we’re starting to see the long-term effects. We need to pay attention, and avoid continuing to cause these problems for future generations.

One obviously can point out that today we reap what we sewed; World War II fractured the Middle East, because of its oil, the U.S.S.R. tried to take advantage of it, we armed the militant fundamentalists to fight them, and then we tried to gain control of the oil for ourselves. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard the arguments.

What I’d like to focus on now is the condition in South America, where the U.S. took similar action against the spread of, in most cases, democratically-elected governments which we considered a little too pinkish. The military dictatorships we helped financially and in some cases militarily tortured and killed thousands in the name of fighting terrorism. An entire generation in several nations were in very real danger. The crimes punishable by death in clandestine torture chambers varied from being a militant revolutionary, being a communist or socialist, or simply going to college or helping the poor.

I’ll save my comparison of the long-term effects this has had on society and the adamant human rights organizations that came out of this to what may happen in the future due to the new U.S. torture and detainment policies for a later date, but you can expect an article on it. For now I want to address the issue of the stagnant throwbacks which remain sympathetic to an overthrown dictatorship.

In Argentina, where current leadership has reflected a social viewpoint which has completely turned against the “neoliberal” (right) power which held the nation under military rule, you can still find traces of the old way. You still find people who say, “Sure, they killed a lot of people, but those people were expendible, and at least there were jobs back then.”

The most famous example of Kissinger’s proxy wars in South America, however, is Chile, where to this day there are very strong elements sympathizing with Pinochet, the state terrorism poster boy who enjoyed wealth, status and freedom until his death at a ripe age. And to this day, Kissinger continues to meet occasionally with the President to share his wisdom, and the controversial mercenary army Blackwater is finding cheap hired guns left over from the military dictatorships of old.

According to Pagina/12, an Argentine newspaper, Blackwater affiliate Red Tactica (Tactical Web) recruited retired Chilean military officers to join Blackwater personnel in Iraq. Red Tactica president Jose Miguel Pizarro is wanted by the Chilean justice system and the United Nations, and the commercial relations manager in Santiago, Chile is Hermany Brady, the son of Minister of Defense under Augusto Pinochet.

What’s very interesting about this is that Blackwater is exploiting both the bellicose attitude residing in Pinochet sympathizers and the bad economic situation South America has suffered because of the long U.S.-supported democratic hiatus. This is classic outsourcing. You may have heard that mercenary soldiers are costing the U.S. treasury much more than normal military recruits, but you may not have known that the mercenaries themselves, at least those from third-world nations, are actually receiving lower pay. According to Pagina/12, the 2200 Chilean Blackwater personnel are not paid more than $1200 a month each. Many of them have come back complaining about mistreatment and lack of compensation. Like in other outsourced jobs, the U.S. is hiring cheap labor, underpaying and mistreating the workers, and pocketing the profits.

One can’t help but question the true motives of Operation Iraqi Freedom when we recruited former foreign military officers sympathetic to one dictatorship to fight another dictatorship.

Written by Alex (Capitalocracy)

February 17, 2008 at 10:07 am