Tuesday, January 15, 2008

“Whatever constraints you placed on your government, they’re off.”

On wings of profiteers

January 15, 2008

John Young
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2008

At every year’s end, in a spectacle akin to lemmings doing a group plunge into the surf, America’s media sum up the top news stories.

The drill: Here were the most overexposed stories. Let’s go over them again.

Bimbo explosions? O.J.’s latest arrest? That still-missing blonde victim? Well, who can get enough of that?

By contrast, at every year’s end a media research group at Sonoma State University compiles a list of the most important and least reported stories — you know, the stuff that affects your life.

It’s called Project Censored. See its list at projectcensored.org/censored_2008/index.htm.

The same suspects keep popping up in these reports. No. 2 on last year’s list was a report that sources in Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s former firm, said it sold components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian company. Quite a charge, but not so outlandish. After all, while Cheney was urging war with Iraq post 9/11, Halliburton subsidiaries were making billions helping prop up Saddam Hussein’s economy.

Not surprisingly, much of what made the new top-25 least reported stories per significance in 2007 had to do with the “war on terror.” Basically, those three words mean, “Whatever constraints you placed on your government, they’re off.”

The No. 1 story is about how the Military Commissions Act could deny habeas corpus protections to any U.S. citizen.

No. 2 is about the Defense Authorization Act. Quietly signed the same day as the law above, it lets the president station troops “anywhere in the United States and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to ‘suppress public disorder.’ ”

You ask, what amounts to “public disorder,” triggering this de facto form of martial law? Don’t bother your pretty little head. In any case, you won’t be consulted.

As much as these matters should trouble anyone who supports a nation of laws, not men, the most interesting ingredient of this year’s Project Censored list is the trademark of the Bush era: privatization and corporate profiteering at the public trough.

Inevitably this seems to result in (1) dubious benefits; (2) lack of public accountability; (3) enormous riches for the best connected.

Big winners, of course: Halliburton and Blackwater Security, the latter swimming in taxpayer dollars with a 20,000-mercenary army fighting our wars overseas.

A story cited by Project Censored reports on the “undeclared surge” of private, cost-plus warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is pursuant to an initiative pushed by Cheney when he was defense secretary under Bush’s father.

But the privatizing story most likely to hit home, at least among Texans, is No. 9 — “Privatization of America’s infrastructure.”

It points to the under-reported administration quest to establish a NAFTA superhighway by selling rights to highways. People in Texas have sought information in vain about Gov. Rick Perry’s dealings with Spanish firm Cintra-Zachary in contracting the Trans-Texas Corridor. They would be interested to read of a similar deal in Indiana between a Cintra-led consortium and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (Bush’s former budget director.)

“States are selling off our nation’s enormous, and aging, infrastructure to private investors,” writes Human Events’ Jerome R. Corsi in a report cited by Project Censored. “Proponents are celebrating these transactions as a no-pain, all-gain way to off-load maintenance expenses and increase highway-building funds without raising taxes,” Corsi writes.

War without broad-based sacrifice. Homeland security without checks and balances. Infrastructure without public investment.

This sounds like the perfect government for a corporation to run.

All we had to do was turn over the keys.

Is that blonde still missing?

John Young’s column appears Thursday, Sunday and occasionally Tuesday. E-mail: jyoung@wacotrib.com.

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