Naomi Klein

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Financial Times Diary: Smoke and Memories in Buenos Aires

We are circling over Buenos Aires. The airspace is crowded with other planes, all of them holding like ours. The pilot explains that it is the fault of the humo, or smoke, a word I will hear a great deal in the coming week.

An hour and a half later I am on the ground, head pounding, breathing in the humo. The cover of the Clarín newspaper shows someone gagging and declares: "The Worst Atmospheric Contamination in History."

Some things, such as slight overstatement, haven't changed in Buenos Aires. Still, it's hard not to think of the first time I came here. It was January 2002. The economy had just crashed, the banks had locked out their customers and Argentines had thrown out five presidents in three weeks. There was smoke in the air then, too, but it was from the bonfires in the streets.

An Essay by Tom Englehardt: 12 Reasons to Get Out of Iraq

Written by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, April 20, 2008

Can there be any question that, since the invasion of 2003, Iraq has been unraveling? And here's the curious thing: Despite a lack of decent information and analysis on crucial aspects of the Iraqi catastrophe, despite the way much of the Iraq story fell off newspaper front pages and out of the TV news in the last year, despite so many reports on the "success" of the President's surge strategy, Americans sense this perfectly well. In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 56% of Americans "say the United States should withdraw its military forces to avoid further casualties" and this has, as the Post notes, been a majority position since January 2007, the month that the surge was first announced. Imagine what might happen if the American public knew more about the actual state of affairs in Iraq -- and of thinking in Washington. So, here, in an attempt to unravel the situation in ever-unraveling Iraq are twelve answers to questions which should be asked far more often in this country:

Players, Not Cheerleaders

"So?"

So said Dick Cheney when asked last week about public opinion being overwhelming against the war in Iraq. "You can't be blown off course by polls."

His attitude about the the fact that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq has reached 4,000 displayed similar levels of sympathy. They "voluntarily put on the uniform," the Vice-President told ABC news. This brick wall of indifference helps explain the paradox in which we in the anti-war camp find ourselves five years into the occupation of Iraq: anti-war sentiment is as strong as ever, but our movement seems to be dwindling.

Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you'd never know it from the thin turnout at recent anniversary rallies and vigils.

When asked why they aren't expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet five years on, U.S. leaders are still shrugging: "So?"

Obama, Being Called a Muslim Is Not a Smear

Hillary Clinton denied leaking the photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban, but her campaign manager says that even if she had, it would be no big deal. "Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely."

Sure she did. And George W. Bush put on a fetching Chamato poncho in Santiago, while Paul Wolfowitz burned up YouTube with his antimalarial African dance routines when he was World Bank prez. The obvious difference is this: when white politicians go ethnic, they just look funny. When a black presidential contender does it, he looks foreign. And when the ethnic apparel in question is vaguely reminiscent of the clothing worn by Iraqi and Afghan fighters (at least to many Fox viewers, who think any headdress other than a baseball cap is a declaration of war on America), the image is downright frightening.

Police and Tasers: Hooked on Shock

The past couple of weeks have been rocky on the stock market, but one company that hasn’t been suffering too much is Taser International. At the end of January, its stock jumped by an impressive 8 per cent, and it’s even higher today.

Matthew McKay, a stock analyst at Jeffries & Co. in San Francisco, cites a simple cause: news that the Toronto Police Services Board plans to buy 3,000 new Taser electroshock weapons, at a cost of $8.6 million for gear and training. If the deal goes ahead, tasers would become standard issue weaponry for all of Toronto’s frontline officers, right next to their handcuffs and batons.

On Wednesday night, I participated in a public forum about the prospect of a fully taser-armed police force, organized by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition. One speaker, who had a history of psychiatric illness, told the room: “We’re worried because we’re the people who are going to get shocked.”

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