June 1, 2004

Father logic sometimes gets cosmic, you know

* From an interview of Bruce Cockburn, published in this months issue of The Sun.

Interviewer: Officials at the World Bank and the IMF also say, "We're lifting countries out of poverty. We're helping them to join the world market."

Cockburn: The short answer to that is: "Bullshit." The longer, more truthful answer is that there are some benefits for some people. It's just being done the wrong way. People's choices are being taken away. The issue is not whether business is being conducted in Third World countries, but how it's being conducted. At the moment, corporations control everything: scientific research, the movement of populations, political choices -- and this is in supposedly free countries. Through pollutants and genetic manipulation of food, corporations control what we eat and the hormonal structure of our bodies. It's all about greed. It's a scam, yet it's making some people comfortable, so they get away with it. Nations that take exception to it are made very uncomfortable for as long as it takes to get them to play ball.

* "Each instant is a place we've never been." -- Mark Strand

* A note from an American journalist in Baghdad. excerpt:

"This is not to engender sympathy for me specifically but to increase your understanding of how journalists have to work here. You can’t just call up a source — unless you know them well. And even then, there’s a good chance the phone won’t work. The threat of capture or worse is very real. Two Japanese journalists were killed yesterday trying to do their job. An NBC crew was captured in Fallujah earlier this week but — mercifully — released unharmed. There are a lot of kidnappings and detention going on that aren’t reported for very valid reasons: If journalists are captured, there needs to be some time to allow the negotiations to work, and also, no one knows what story the journalists have told their captors. If they say they are Canadian, and it’s all over the news that they’re Americans, it will go very badly for them.

"So to the people who think they’re being fed a stream of lies from the press corps here, I’m going to disagree. To those who think the reporters aren’t aggressive enough in sticking it to The Man and reporting on the abuses, you have no idea what it’s like trying to get accurate and verifiable information here. Often it just doesn’t exist, and you can’t just take Iraqis’ words for it. They’re very passionate and have very strong opinions about the current life in Iraq and frankly, they’ll exaggerate, repeat and amplify gossip until it’s conventional wisdom, even though it has only a fleeting resemblance to the truth.

"To those who think that reporters aren’t supporting the war effort enough and 'refuse' to report good news, well, here’s a shocker: There isn’t much good news to report. The security situation is growing worse. The power is still bad (three hours on, three hours off, or so.) Major U.S. contractors are bypassing Iraqi companies, leading to growing resentment. What kinda sorta good news there is is being pretty well covered. The (maybe) truce between Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and U.S. forces in the south, the coming together, however shakily, of a caretaker government. I refuse to reprint the press releases that pour out of the CPA on any given day. Most of the “good news” they release has to do with passing out free soccer balls to kids. Is this what should be reported when U.S. troops and Iraqis are dying every day?
"My point in all of this is that the reporters I’ve met so far are smart, talented and very good at what they do. Many of them most emphatically do not stay in the Green Zone. Most live and run around Baghdad in constant fear for their lives. All of us are trying to a do a job and stay safe at the same time, which is the same thing Iraqis are trying to do every day. And like Iraqis, the journalists I’ve met are frustrated with the security situation."


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