Friday, June 09, 2006

Final Salute - The 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism

Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News
Tim Heisler/Rocky Mountain News

As an old photojournalist myself, I am always thrilled to see the work of the recipients of the Pultizer Prize for photography. This year brought us a real treasure.

As the Pentagon has clamped down on the photographing of the returning caskets from Iraq and Afghanistan of our boys, this particular work came as something of a surprise, but we should have been expecting it, if not demanding it sooner.

Once upon a time, LIFE Magazine would have been the vehicle for the presentation of a story of this sort; now it's left to independent hometown newspapers, if they have the motivation, patience, and skill; in this case, the online photography magazine Digital Journalist links us to the The Rocky Mountain News, who had everything that it took: the story, the reporter and the photographer, and a publisher that gave them a year to do the story right.

It was worth the wait. Please, go take a look; it will be well worth your time.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Overlooked in Iraq - Internal displacement

While US forces managed to kill al-Qaedas's main man in Iraq finally, the internal affairs of Iraq continue to deteriorate. A quote pulled at random:

"There is total chaos and I don't think Zarqawi's death will change anything. It is more complicated than that," said Saadallah al-Fathi, a former senior Iraqi oil official.

"Tomorrow there will be another person (to take his place), or another group trying to push a certain agenda," he added. - Reuters AlertNet

But one of the biggest problems facing a return to normalcy in that strife-torn country is the problem of internal displacement. As civil war continues to mount, civilians are moving as fast and as far away from the bombings and shooting as they can. This is giving the humanitarion NGOs in Iraq fits, and rightly so.

The Norwegian Refugee Council reports:

An estimated 81,000 people were forced to flee their homes in a matter of two months by sectarian violence sparked by an attack on the Al-Ashkari shrine in Samarra in February. These newly-displaced people are in addition to more than one million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq, the majority forced out by conflict and human rights violations under the former regime.

Sectarian displacements received much attention in the mainstream world media in April 2006, yet equally large-scale population displacements caused by multiple military operations across the country have been largely unreported. Several hundred thousand people were displaced by military operations during 2005.

The security situation is tense and new displacements continued to be reported in early May. The potential for further displacement is high, particularly in Baghdad, and other areas of the country with mixed communities. The provinces that are the most affected by new in-flows of displaced people include Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Najaf and Karbala.a, Najaf and Karbala.

See here and here.

Cafferty rips Specter a new one

I watched this on CNN the other day; Cafferty seemed a bit down.

From "The Situation Room" Tuesday:

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, on May the 11th on THE SITUATION ROOM, in the wake of news the government was secretly collecting the telephone call records of millions of Americans, I went on the air and said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 11) CAFFERTY: We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that is standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country.

He's vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records and yours and tens of millions of other Americans.


CAFFERTY: What an idiot I am. I actually thought at the time Senator Specter was going to exercise his responsibility to provide some congressional oversight of the executive branch, you know, see if the White House is playing by the rules. Silly me.

In the end, Senator Specter has turned out to be yet another gutless Republican worm cowering in the face of pressure from the administration and fellow Republicans. There are not going to be any hearings. Americans won't find out if their privacy is being illegally invaded.

You know what the Senate Judiciary Committee settled for instead? Senator Orrin Hatch said he has won assurances from Vice President Dick Cheney that the White House will review proposed changes to the law that would restrict certain aspects of the NSA program.

Dick Cheney is going to decide if it's OK to spy on American citizens without a warrant. And this worthless bunch of senators has agreed to let him do it. It's a disgrace.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Billions for offence, and still no oversight

It seems like only a couple of days ago that Congress gave the Pentagon about $80 billion or so to continue the civil war funding Our Troops in Iraq (this is way over and beyond the $493 billion in the regular defense budget - which is itself more than the rest of the entire world COMBINED spends on guns and ammo, and, as the White House itself has pointed out, is "... a 7-percent increase over 2006 and a 48-percent increase [!!!] over 2001 ..."), so I was a little taken aback to see that not only did Congress approve an additional $50 billion for Iraq today, they did it even after the White House had canceled a briefing on the status of the war in Iraq this morning!

What's up with that? A couple or four Senators (Dems, of course) are wondering when Bush is going to let them in on how the war's going, cause they're, like, concerned.

Raw Story has the rest of the story.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Matrix wants you

Head hurting from all the bad news coming out of the East Coast or the Middle East, or Dafur or the Congo?

For a break, click on over to marching morons, and check out what the Matrix is really all about.

Atrocities sell newspapers - and TV time

Why are we hearing about Haditha at all? Lots of people are getting wiped out in Iraq everyday; "It's a war," they have been telling us for years. Like Rumsfeld told us, "Stuff happens."

Well, I have a couple of thoughts on that.

First of all, it is the sworn duty of corporations to deliver profits to their owners; operating big media costs big money, so big media must deliver big viewership numbers.

Most folks don't like to hear bad news, and as it tends to drive ratings down, the producers and managing editors of the MSM have been reluctant to depict the real violence in Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter). Who is winning or losing isn't the point; viewership is.

But every once in awhile, a big enough story breaks through the runaway bride smokescreen despite the diligent efforts of management to massage the real news; Haditha is such a case, and with the newly-installed Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, screaming bloody murder about the daily atrocities - "This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces," the prime minister said. "No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It's unacceptable." - (al Maliki's words), this story's surfacing was basically inevitable.

So, reluctantly, the MSM allows us to become privy to some tiny glimpse of what in actuality has been a brutal and comprehensive Nazi-like occupation of this Middle Eastern country, which never did anything to us except sit on some oil that certain parties would like to put their greedy hands on.

Having said that, not every corporate executive (or managing owner) is a complete greedhead, or unable to gauge which way the wind is blowing. Right now, the wind is definitely blowing in a donkey-wize direction.

We may in fact be seeing big media taking tentative steps toward regaining some of the trust (and viewership) that they lost to that part of Middle America which has stopped reading newspapers and made Fox News the most trusted news scource in the US (!) - always with an eye on the bottom line, of course.

Check out this Wall Street Journal piece:

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military has cut the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. checkpoints or shot by U.S. convoys to about one a week today from about seven a week in July, according to U.S. defense officials in Iraq.

The reduction in civilian casualties shows that months before the killing of 24 Iraqis in the western Iraqi town of Haditha came to light, the military was pushing to reduce the number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded at the hands of U.S. forces. The drop since July, however, suggests that hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed at U.S. checkpoints or on Iraqi highways during the first two years of the war. (my emphasis)


Or maybe letting this particular cat (Haditha) out of the bag was an accident; oops, too late, can't bury this one, so we'll just shock the monkey until America gets bored, and then it's back to Aruba.