Notes January 19, 2008
January 19, 2008 § Leave a comment
From Informed Comment
Tom Engelhardt examines the rhetoric of “progress” and “hope” that are now being deploying against the Iraqis by the Washington press corps.
What can we do about the fact that when government officials repeat the same wrong idea, and the press merely reports it, add up to an uneducated public?
We know this but it is good to see NYT on it.
NYT – Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.
This is the other oil shock. From India to Indiana, shortages and soaring prices for palm oil, soybean oil and many other types of vegetable oils are the latest, most striking example of a developing global problem: costly food.
The food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based on export prices for 60 internationally traded foodstuffs, climbed 37 percent last year. That was on top of a 14 percent increase in 2006, and the trend has accelerated this winter.
Talking to some people last night, the depth of crisis around prices IN THE US is causing widespread but mostly unseen pain. Their question was, how log can this continue without major violence? Like boiling water, it simmers till destabilizing events lead to columns of bubbles seeking the surface.
Scott Horton reports, Blackwater and the Administration of Justice by Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine)
I spent the better part of the last year looking in some detail into a series of legal policy issues surrounding private security contractors, a process that culminated in the issuance of a report last week entitled Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity.(4 MB PDF)
Blackwater is anything but a “normal” security contractor. Its relationship with the Bush Administration is truly extraordinary in many respects. Blackwater is an unabashedly political entity, which aligns itself fully, and ideologically with the Republican Party. Its founder and owner, Erik Prince, who has been profiled very effectively by Jeremy Scahill in his comprehensive book, Blackwater, was born to wealth and privilege in the family of an automobile parts magnate with a long track record of involvement in Republican and Religious Right politics.
Prince steered the family’s fortune away from the automobile parts business and towards a new genre of business. It may be a bit simplistic to call Blackwater a mercenary outfit, because its functions are more diverse, but its self-understanding is close to the plain English understanding of that term. That is, they sell their services to governments for money. Blackwater is an outfit of contract soldiers. And it has achieved something which would at earlier points in our history been unthinkable: it has assembled an enormous private army with modernized mechanized support, attack helicopters, aircraft and even the beginnings of a navy. And until very recently, all of this was occurring under the surface, with the full collaboration of the Bush Administration, and without the sort of Congressional oversight which occurs routinely with respect to the United States military.
The focus of Blackwater’s current business lies in a contract relationship with the United States, but perhaps sensing the limited potential of that market, Blackwater has developed a very substantial international clientele. I recently examined their relationships with two governments—Azerbaijan and Jordan. What struck me most about these relationships was how they were secured and developed. In both cases, local government officials described to me extensive marketing efforts on Blackwater’s behalf by seniormost officials of the Bush Administration, who pressured and cajoled the local officials to use Blackwater and offered substantial incentives in the process.
Read the whole article and the report at Blackwater and the Administration of Justice by Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine)