An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Jersey Uber Alles!

Read the NYT story about the town of Riverside, NJ and how it banned illegal immigrants. Then it's economy tanked. You would think they never even heard about the movie A Day without a Mexican. Or maybe they thought it only applied to California?

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

As quoted in the blog Bitch, Ph.D. "DUH." (Thanks, also to Bitch, Ph.D. for brining this one to my attention).

There's numerous laugh out loud bits in this article. It's worth a look. One last delicious quote from the mayor: "[the ordinance] put us on the national map in a bad way,” Mr. Conard said.

Well what did you think would happen?!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Disaster capitalism

There's an interesting interview with Naomi Klein in

In particular, this stood out:

There is a new level of integration between homeland security companies and media companies. General Electric, which owns NBC, has been in the weapons industry for some time but has become very active in the homeland security business. They recently purchased InVision, which provides bomb detection for airports. Since 9/11 InVision has received $15 billion in contracts from the Department of Homeland Security -- more such contracts than any other company. A company like that gains from the atmosphere of crisis and fear that is spread through media outlets. It's war against evil everywhere with no end. That's a war that can't be won, and you couldn't ask for a more profitable business plan. The only thing that threatens it is peace.

This reminds me of the media coverage of the Soviet Union and Nicaragua in the 1980s. No conflict of interest when the news and the arms producers are the same company. We trust them! Right.

I'm not sure how to verify this next passage, but I find the attempt to connect the dots between the events hard to dispute:

I look at torture in two ways in the book. The first is as an enforcement tool used by states that are trying to push through an economic transformation of a country that is so wildly unpopular that terror -- including torture -- must be used to control the population. Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the 1970s are classic examples of places where very real shocks to bodies were used to spread terror, making it possible to impose economic shocks. China is another example. And I argue that the use of torture by U.S. forces in Iraq was related to the huge social unrest sparked by Paul Bremer's attempt at an extreme country makeover. Many analysts agree that his decision to dissolve the army, to fire huge numbers of public sector workers, to push through investment rules that decimated Iraqi industry, and to cancel local elections all contributed to the rise of the armed resistance. And it was at that point that the war moved into the jails and torture spread.

The whole interview is worth a look, even if makes you sit through an ad first (sorry). I find Klein gives some concrete verifiable examples of the idea that the so-called "free market" relies on government intervention, bail-outs, and various tricks to "rig the game."

Friday, September 14, 2007


I just read several blog entries on This Modern World concerning the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the war. The posts discuss the Lancet study and its contested results, as well as a new study and its methodology. You can read the original posts here, and here.

But the most revealing part of the story comes from what no one mentions anymore: the U.S. military has actively interdicted attempts to count civilian casualties. In November of 2004 the assault on Fallujah started with the capture of the cities hospitals. According to the story at the time:

One unnamed senior American officer acknowledged that the hospital had become a "center of propaganda," reflecting the military's frustration at the high death tolls doctors frequently announce after American bombing raids.

The Pentagon does not report "collateral" casualties. The Iraqis can not. So what does that mean? If you do not count them, they're not dead?

I am not surprised by the attack on factual information. Truth is, after all, truly the first casualty of war. What surprises me is the success.

Cholera comes to Iraq

Yes, a disease unknown in the parts of the world with functioning public services has now arrived in the place the Bush Administration claims has improved lately. According to the Associated Press the epidemic remains only in Northern Iraq. This is a pre-20th Century disease that literally has not been a problem in the region for over a century.

From the AP story: "As of Sept. 10, 6,000 have been reported with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting in the province of Sulaimaniyah, another 7,000 in Tamim province, and 3,000 in Irbil province, the WHO said in a statement."