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12/27/2003 Archived Entry: "Leon's Political Almanac"

Leon's Almanac of Political History allows you to glimpse some of the important political events that happened on a specific day in history. For example, on December 27, 1979, "President Carter signs the JUSTICE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT ACT, which is a major step forward in making the prison business more profitable. Even Microsoft takes advantage of the low prisoner wages."

Announcing the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2003! " The P.U.-litzer Prizes were established more than a decade ago to give recognition to the stinkiest media performances of the year." Entertaining...even tho' the awards have a definite liberal slant.

Western journalists, if they wish to be published in mainstream media, list only Western victims in Iraq and look away from dead and injured Iraqis, showing the faces of common people only when there is a political advantage -- e.g. to show the Iraqi hatred of Saddam. The shining exception to this rule is Robert Fisk, correspondent for the UK Independent who reminds me of Bernard Fall -- the French journalist whose reports (and subsequent books) were, by far, the most perceptive accounts of the Vietnam War. (A three-part series I wrote on the Lessons of Vietnam will be published shortly by Jacob Hornberger's Freedom Daily and I draw heavily upon Fall's insights.) Like Fall, Fisk offers a sense of walking through the streets of Iraq and talking to the people about their suffer, their hopes, the everyday concerns of a merchant or a mother trying to protect her family. Without accusation or maudlin commentary, he captures the dialogue of Iraq...and we would do well to listen.

But the opposite is occurring. The concerted effort to close off sources of information and opinion continues at full speed in an attempt to control what the American public sees and hears. Part of the process involves "scrubbing" the information at government sites. The Washington Post (12/18) [sorry, free registration req.] reports, "Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, administration Web sites have been scrubbed for anything vaguely sensitive, and passwords are now required to access even much unclassified information. Though it is not clear whether the White House is directing the changes, several agencies have been following a similar pattern." Posted information and stories have been altered. For example..."After the insurrection in Iraq proved more stubborn than expected, the White House edited the original headline on its Web site of President Bush's May 1 speech, 'President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended,' to insert the word 'Major' before combat. With regard to a particularly egregious scrubbing (the purging of offending comments by U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Natsios from the agency's Web site, along with all offending links), Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said, "This smells like an attempt to revise the record, not just to withhold information but to alter the historical record in a self-interested way, and that is sleazier than usual."

Meanwhile, in Iraq, The Nation reports that reporters are "increasingly being blocked...by US soldiers, who frequently confiscate and destroy their film disks and videotapes." The destruction of property is not meant to preserve national security but to control information. "Our journalists in Iraq have been shoved to the ground, pushed out of the way, told to leave the scene of explosions; we've had camera disks and videotapes confiscated, reporters detained," says Sandy Johnson, Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. On November 12 Johnson sent a letter to the Pentagon, signed by thirty other media companies, which cited their concern at "a growing number of incidents in Iraq in which journalists are harassed by U.S. troops in the course of covering the news."

The paranoia is not restricted to Iraq. The LA Weekly recent ran the harrowing story of an Australian journalist who got a taste of Department of Homeland Security hospitality upon arriving at LAX. She came to conduct an interview on breast cancer with singer Olivia Newton John. Little did she know (and no one else in the media knew either) that journalists can be required to have a certain type of visa, at the immigration officer's sole discretion. This might seem like an isolated incident but there is a currently a crackdown on all foreign press entering the States. An article in The Village Voice opens, "Every day the U.S. looks more like a police state." And continues, "The most recent crackdown seems to be on the foreign press—the source of much of the substantial critique of its policies. U.S. immigration authorities are detaining foreign correspondents on grounds they have not obtained special visas permitting them to operate here, reports the Associated Press. True, there is a law stipulating a special visa for journalists, but few have ever heard of it and it is seldom enforced. No more. No one ever told the visiting journalists it had suddenly been revived. As a result, immigration officials aren't allowing reporters from abroad to come in under ordinary 90-day tourist visa waivers." Fortress America is trying to build a wall high and thick enough to keep out information and opinion. Thank God for the Internet.

On a brighter journalistic note: I was pleased to hear of the release, pending trial, of Islam Saleh, the director of al-Jazeera office in Khartoum, who was being detained for "misleading information, biased analysis and distorting the image of the country [Sudan]." I expect Amnesty International's condemnation of his arrest influenced the government's sudden clemency.

A movie review from unofficial co-McBlogger and good friend, Gordon P., who writes, "Just came back from seeing _Underground_. Very Dark, and visually =STUNNING= --- and not at all what I was expecting, plot-wise...I could say, _Blade_ meets _Wolf_ meets _The Matrix_ meets _Spartacus_meets "Romeo and Juliet" (as re-written for Goths), and still not come close to capturing this one...If it's still playing at a theatre anywhere near you, I'd recommend not waiting for it to migrate to video --- as in _Dark City_, video just does not have the dynamic contrast range necessary to allow one to see this film as it was _meant_ to be seen, to gain the full impact..." Gordon adds (pursuant to a conversation in which we wondered *why* would anyone want to redo "Peter Pan"), "Had a talk with my Sister, and she thinks we should perhaps not be so quick to dismiss the new _Peter Pan_ movie: A number of advance reviewers have pointed out that this is the _first_ "Peter Pan" movie that is actually _true to the book_, and does not censor the "darker elements" of the written story that the Disney cartoon and the Mary Martin TV version of the broadway play carefully "sanitized" for the Protection of Children..."

Best to all,

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