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MSNBC: Cherry Picking News & Issues to Make Toxic Democrats Look Good

MSNBCshame_on_repubs

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

For the last couple weeks and several more to come, Chris Christie will get more air time on MSNBC than drone murders, gentrification, NSA spying, and network neutrality put together. Why not? He’s a Republican, and Democrats are only fighting it out between the 40 yard lines.

Why are some stories “news” and not others? Why will New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s antics make the top of MSNBC news broadcasts for weeks to come, while the poisoning of 300,000 people by corporate greed and government abandonment on a scale not seen since Katrina dips below the radar as soon as corrupt officials declare there’s nothing to see here, nothing at all? Why do Chris Christie’s follies get more air time than drone murders, the revocation of network neutrality,

The answer is that some news stories make it easy to poke fun at racist, homophobic Republicans… the venal Chris Christies, the militantly ignorant Sarah Palins, and Michelle Bachmans, the craven Eric Cantors of the world, while others point inconveniently at the systemic evils of capitalism for which gender and ethnically diverse liberal Democrats are just as eager to front as Republicans.

The death toll for government abandonment of people in West Virginia isn’t nearly as high as that in Katrina, partly because pollutants and carcinogens kill and cripple slowly, but the principle is the same. Like New Orleans residents left to get out of town the best way they could, West Virginians were left to their own devices to do what their government was supposed to do for them – to figure out where, when, whether and how badly corporations were poisoning them. Nobody in government on any level lifted a finger to protect those people till hundreds of households simultaneously complained to local officials that their tap water stank of hydrocarbons. When government officials finally swung into action, they still held back full accounts of which chemicals they detected, in an apparent effort to safeguard the rights of “customers” as EPA likes to call the corporations it supposedly regulates.

The problem is that Democrats run West Virginia from top to bottom. Like Katrina, the evil forces on display in West Virginia implicate the core system of capitalism itself, not just the table manners of one out of the two capitalist parties. That makes the mass poisoning of West Virginia barely newsworthy, whether the carrier is Fox News, or CNN or MSNBC. All the news and cable networks, just like both the capitalist parties have to drink from that trough.

Whether it’s urban black Democrat regimes in our big cities or the white Democrat establishment in West Virginia the mechanism is the same. Black big city urban Democrat mayors won’t come out against gentrification or privatization or resist the federal initiatives that are privatizing public education because they are just as much the eager servants of capital as their Republican opponents. White West Virginia Democrat honchos won’t rein in the rapacious corporations that have made Appalachia a toxic wasteland either, for the same reason [2].

In the realms of actual policy, of reining in corporate privilege, the creeping prison and military state, Democrats will do very little to distinguish themselves from Republicans.

Nobody said it better than Democrat-in-chief Barack Obama to the Wall Street Journal [3]‘s CEO Council [3] late last year

“People call me a socialist sometimes. But, no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. You’ll have a sense of what a socialist is,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health-care reform is based on the private marketplace. The stock market is looking pretty good last time I checked… Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans — we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines,”When fighting inside those 40 yard lines, Democrats need to foster strategic delusions, to deploy tactical distractions and effective branding that preserve the illusions needed to hold Democratic voters in the herd. That’s why the Christ Christie follies will get more air time this month than the revocation of network neutrality, drone murders, NSA spying, and administration lies about Syria and Afghanistan put together. All these are things the Obama administration could turn around tomorrow, and none of them are things he or we can blame on Republicans. So they aren’t news. Clamping down on toxic polluters is way outside those 40 yard lines.

It’s time to stop letting major media and Democratic party operatives tell us what the issues are. MSNBC, just like Moral Monday, is about keeping the political game between those 50 yard lines where the two capitalist parties want it, We need a political game played out in the red zone. We need to come up with urban development strategies apart from gentrification. We need to raise social security, roll back the prison state, anchor the minimum wage to the cost of living and re-legalize real unions. We need to halt the privatization of public education and put it in the hands of teachers, parents and communities. We need to bring all the troops home, stop US imperial wars in every part of the globe, and pass a single payer health care plan.

We won’t find any of those things mentioned during Moral Monday street theater, [4] or explained on MSNBC, because all of them implicate Democrats at least as deeply as they do Republicans. And Democrats need to keep the political fight, as President Obama put it, between the 40 yard lines.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the GA Green party. Contact him via this site’s contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.


Source URL: http://blackagendareport.com/content/msnbc-cherry-picking-news-issues-make-toxic-democrats-look-good



TOO MUCH—Chronicles of Inequality [Jan. 20, 2014]

SPECIAL
Too Much January 20, 2014
THIS WEEK
We’ve been having plenty of speechifying the last few days — and last few years for that matter — about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. With Barack Obama in the White House, some posit, we are now living Dr. King’s dream.Phoenix tax analyst Bob Lord begs to differ. We may actually, he suggested last week, be living Dr. King’s nightmare: America’s 400 richest billionaires now hold as much wealth — $2 trillion — as all the nation’s 14 million African-American households combined.Dr. King, Lord reminds us, “stood not only for social justice, but for economic justice as well,” and economist Gar Alperovitz makes the same point in a newly published reflection on his work with Dr. King in the 1960s. We cannot understand why we have so many poor in America, King taught, without raising more fundamental questions about our “broader distribution of wealth.”That distribution mattered to Martin Luther King. That distribution ought to matter to us. Much more on it in this week’s Too Much. About Too Much, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common GoodSubscribe to Too MuchJoin us on Facebook
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GREED AT A GLANCE
The peasants with pitchforks are coming, or so some of America’s wealthiest seem absolutely convinced. Deep-pocket outlays for home security, Forbesreports, have “increased markedly over the last five years.” California’s American Saferoom Door Company is now selling over 50 kevlar-lined, bullet-resistant doors a year, at $20,000 apiece. Another West Coast firm, Strategically Armored & Fortified Environments, is building multi-million-dollar bunkers deep underground that come with their own geothermal power and sustainable food supplies. A wealthy family, notes Forbes, could survive in the best-planned of “these luxurious strongholds for up to three generations.”Mike GattoSixteen-year-old Ethan Couch, a psychologist told a Texas judge last month, “never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way.” Couch grew up in a wealthy family that lavished him with cars, money, and “freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.” Couch certainly couldn’t. Driving drunk outside Fort Worth, he killed four people busy helping a distressed motorist. At sentencing, Couch’s lawyer declared his client a victim of “affluenza.” The judge agreed, sentenced Couch to probation, and let him flee to a Newport Beach rehab center that will set his folks back $450,000. Last week, to help “ensure that people who come from privileged backgrounds will not get a different type of justice,” state lawmaker Mike Gatto introduced a bill that bans the “affluenza” defense in California’s courtrooms . . .One final prediction for the new year: The Travel Weekly trade journal is forecasting that 2014 “might well go down as a year of limitless luxury.” Travel companies, gushes marketer JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, are rolling out more and more “over-the-top products” — “and people are booking them.” At hefty prices. A $1.5 million per-person ticket, for instance, for an eight-seat private jet around-the-world tour. In well-heeled circles, agrees luxury auto dealer Ken Gorin of Florida’s Coral Gables, squeamishness about luxury spending has just about disappeared. Early on in the Great Recession, he notes, rich consumers would “come in and buy, but it would be the same color and the same model so no one knew they got a new car.” And now? Says Gorin: “Doesn’t matter. Yellow cars, blue cars, red cars, white cars, people are feeling better.” Quote of the Week“The greatest myth of our time is the notion that extreme policies harm a small subset of people, such as people of color. These policies harm us all. What we’ve seen in North Carolina and other parts of the country are wealthy extremists playing on the fears of working class and white people.”
Rev. William Barber
, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement, State of the Dream 2014, January 16, 2014 
PETULANT PLUTOCRAT OF THE WEEK
Howard SchultzStarbucks CEO Howard Schultz can’t seem to find the love — in anyplace but the Starbucks board of directors. That board last January moved to make Schultz the highest-paid CEO in the Pacific Northwest for the fourth straight year. But Schultz remains deeply despised in Seattle for selling away the city’s pro hoops team after taxpayers refused to build him a new arena. And in San Jose activists are now blasting Starbucks for seeking an exemption from having to pay the city’s $15.78 hourly living wage. Schultz, NerdWallet calculated last month, makes $9,637 an hour, 1,096 times the Starbucks average hourly rate. Looking for a Schultz take on all this? You’ll find one in his 2011 memoir: “I love Starbucks because everything we’ve tried to do is steeped in humanity.” Take Action
on InequalityTell the San Jose city council that billionaire Howard Schultz and Starbucks can afford to pay baristas a living wage. Urge the council not to exempt Starbucks from the $15.78 San Jose living wage requirement for vendors at the city’s convention center.
IMAGES OF INEQUALITY
Chateau de FleursA surviving manse from France’s royal golden age? Not exactly. This nearly completed new abode, the Chateau des Fleurs, sits in Bel Air, a deep-pocket haunt in Los Angeles County. The owner, an L.A. lawyer and real-estate magnate, has spent five years on the home’s construction. The current value: $100 million. The 60,000-square-foot home features “husband-and-wife wings, with communal rooms where the couple will meet in the middle,” says local realtor Jeffrey Hyland. The typical American home occupies 2,500 square feet.  

Web Gem

The Economy Hub/ This blog from Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Timesbusiness columnist Michael Hiltzik regularly spotlightsthe games plutocrats play — and the price the rest of us pay.

PROGRESS AND PROMISE
More potholes in your neighborhood lately? Fewer teachers? Local and state governments have axed over 700,000 jobs since the Great Recession took hold in 2008. The most effective pushback against these austerity budget cuts? Public employee unions and allied community groups, notes an acute new analysis fromLabor Notes director Mark Brenner, are realizing that advocates for decent public services “win when they preach ‘tax the rich.’” In both California in 2012 and in Minnesota last May, activists won significant revenue-generating tax increases on incomes over $250,000. In both states, anti-austerity campaigns stressed that those who’ve “benefited from the policies that sparked the financial meltdown — corporations and the rich — must pay for the public deficits it produced.” Like Too Much?
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INEQUALITY BY THE NUMBERS
State wealth Stat of the WeekSince 1960, the average income of households in America’s top 1 percent has more than tripled, after inflation. If the nation’s minimum wage had kept pace with that increase, a New York Times breakdown points out, America’s lowest-paid workers would now be laboring at no less than $22.62 per hour.

 

IN FOCUS
Defining a Bold New Standard for Fair PayA new Toronto-based campaign is aiming to change the global conversation on CEOs, workers, and the real value of their labor.The 32,400 employees at Goldman Sachs averaged $383,374 each last year, the Wall Street banking giant disclosed last week.Typical employees at Goldman, of course, didn’t take home anything near that $383,374. How much do typical Goldman employees actually make? We don’t know. U.S. banks and corporations don’t have to reveal how much they pay their workers. They do have to reveal how much they pay their top execs.

In 2012, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein took home $26 million. Bank clerks nationally, the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center reported last month, only average $24,100 a year. Lloyd Blankfein last year likely took home somewhere close to 1,000 times the pay of his bank’s lowest-paid workers.

Elsewhere in America, CEOs at major financial and corporate enterprises are pulling down over 350 times average U.S. worker pay. No other nation sports a pay gap that wide. But other nations are catching up. Canadian CEOs took home 105 times average Canadian pay in 1998. They’re taking home 171 times today.

What can we do to reverse these widening gaps? Toronto-based public policy analyst Peter MacLeod has one idea. We need, he says, to start “naming and normalizing” a more rational and equitable standard for who gets what.

We need, in effect, to start honoring enterprises that practice fair pay and stop rewarding — with our consumer and tax dollars — those enterprises that are making our societies ever more unequal.

Last summer, with support from the Canadian foundation world, MacLeod founded a new international effort to put this new standard in place. His new initiative — Wagemark — has already begun certifying those enterprises that pay “competitive, responsible and sustainable wages.”

Wagemark logoTo gain this Wagemark certification, enterprises must pay their top earner no more than eight times the pay of their workforce’s lowest-paid 10 percent.

This eight-times standard may seem hopelessly utopian in a world where corporations routinely pay executives hundreds of times what they pay workers. But at least 90 percent of all businesses, MacLeod last week told Too Much, are currently operating “in a 15-to-1 or better universe.”

The “most conspicuously equitable” of these small- and medium-sized employers make up the initial core of Wagemark-certified organizations. Some of them — like the Bellwoods Brewery — already enjoy wide name recognition, and this spring Wagemark will be announcing many more such enterprises.

Wagemark-certified companies, nonprofits, and public agencies have all had an independent accountant or auditor confirm that their organization meets the Wagemark eight-times pay standard.

The word about Wagemark’s certification process is beginning to spread. News stories on it have so far appeared in most all the major Canadian news outlets, and last month Upworthy introduced Wagemark to a broader online audience.

“This could have huge possibilities,” the Upworthy piece noted, “for folks who want to spend their dollars with companies who actually treat people well.”

Some international outreach has begun as well. In Denmark, the nation’s largest newspaper gave Wagemark a front-page coverage that sparked a week of national dialogue, in the press and talk-radio, about equity and pay.

In Scandinavia, MacLeod would learn from this discussion, “people don’t find the eight-to-one ratio particularly radical.” And Americans back in the middle of the 20th century, he adds, wouldn’t have considered an eight-times standard all that radical either.

Back then, even the largest American corporations seldom had pay divides between top executives and workers that went wider than 30-to-1 — and America prospered. With a relatively narrow corporate pay gap in place, a mass middle class, the world’s first and finest, took root.

The American CEO-worker pay gap today is running over 10 times wider than that 30-to-1 of the mid 20th century, and MacLeod regularly runs into apologists for this wider divide.

“Are you saying,” he like to ask them, “that executive talent today has become ten times scarcer or ten times more productive than executive talent back then?”

No evidence, MacLeod points out, supports that contention. What has changed over the past half-century? Our cultural pay paradigm, how we value workers and their work. Pay differentials that would have seemed unconscionable only a few decades ago now seem business as usual.

Wagemark is aiming at nothing less than challenging today’s suffocating sense that pay excess at the top reflects some inalterable market inevitability.

But efforts like Wagemark, MacLeod stresses, can never succeed in isolation.

“Our executive pay problem,” he explains, “has been growing for decades, and it’s going to take pressure from a lot of different directions to change course.”

The folks involved with Wagemark see their work as a complement to campaigns for minimum and living wages and drives to make tax systems more progressive. And they’re also building for the long run. They’ve designed their certification process to be completely self-sustaining.

Enterprises seeking the right to showcase their Wagemark status will pay a small fee to go through the certification process. The Wagemark Foundation will be devoting this fee income to maintaining a registry of certified fair-pay employers and commissioning original research on how pay disparities impact the effectiveness of our enterprises.

Coordinating all this will be a small Wagemark paid staff.

“We’re as much about building a conversation,” Wagemark chairman MacLeod explains, “as an organization.”

The Wagemark team has no illusions about Fortune 500 companies getting on line anytime soon to apply for eight-to-one ratio certification. But they do see Wagemark making concrete contributions to a process that gradually ups the heat on corporations that continue to brazenly manufacture inequality.

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Wagemark hopes to work with city officials, for instance, on incorporating pay ratios into the government procurement process, by giving firms that meet the Wagemark pay ratio standard a leg up in the contract bidding process.

“We’re really excited about starting small at the municipal level and then expanding,” says MacLeod. “Check back with us in five years!”

Interested in learning more about Wagemark and how your company, nonprofit, or public agency can apply for Wagemark certification? You’ll find completebackground and application information online. And a video, too!

New Wisdom
on WealthThomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen,How Big Money Keeps Populism at BayNaked Capitalism, January 14, 2014. Absurdly top-heavy campaign contributions are reducing politics to a contest between different wings of the top 1 percent.John Atlas and Peter Dreier,The Real Chris Christie ScandalTPM, January 15, 2014. Enriching the rich. The governor has three times vetoed an income tax hike for New Jersey millionaires.Harold Meyerson, More free trade means more inequalityWashington Post, January 15, 2014. A primer on just how.

Dean Baker, David Brooks’ Primitive Defense of the Rich, Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 17, 2014. A demolition of the latest high-profile case for ignoring inequality.

Sam Polkjan, For the Love of MoneyNew York Times, January 19, 2014. A must-read insider look at wealth addiction on Wall Street.

Alyssa Battistoni, Alive in the SunshineJacobin, January 2014. How the rich ruin the environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class cover

Learn more about Too Mucheditor Sam Pizzigati’s new history of the forgotten triumph over America’s original plutocracy.

NEW AND NOTABLE
Real Estate and Our Global Really RichReal estate report coverSavills World Research 2014, Around the World in Dollars and Cents: How Private Money Moves Around the Real Estate World, January 2014, 22 pp.This glossy new research paper looks at how the world’s “ultra high net worth individuals” — folks with at least $30 million worth of assets — are transforming the global real estate market.The paper speaks to a private wealth manager audience. But the authors have some tantalizing stats for the rest of us on just how mammoth the real estate holdings of the global ultra rich have become.

Among these numbers: The world’s 200,000 ultras hold over $5 trillion in real estate, about 3 percent of all the world’s real estate value. Not too shabby for a cohort that makes up only 0.003 percent of the world’s population.

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ABOUT TOO MUCH
Too Much, an online weekly publication of the Institute for Policy Studies | 1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036 | (202) 234-9382 | Editor: Sam Pizzigati. | E-mail: editor@toomuchonline.org | Unsubscribe. Subscribe to Too MuchForward to a Friend



The Kellers and cancer

By Barry Grey, wsws.org

“If they’d rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”—Ebenezer Scrooge

Golden Boy Bill Keller: Life is good at the top.

NYT’s Golden Boy Bill Keller: Life is good at the top. Typical of today’s bankrupt corporate liberalism.

A controversy has enveloped Bill Keller, columnist and former executive editor of the New York Times, and his wife Emma Gilbey Keller, who writes for the British Guardian newspaper. It has to do with separate columns published by each within a few days of one another, both of them expressing a callous and haughty indifference to human suffering and an aversion to ordinary people receiving life-extending medical care.

The controversy sheds light on the outlook of a definite social type personified by Bill Keller and reflected in the pages of the Times—highly privileged, contemptuous of the general population and, despite “liberal” affectations, ferociously right-wing. This social layer, generally aligned with the Democratic Party, has moved ever further to the right over the past four decades and today pursues an elitist political agenda that is deeply hostile to the interests of the broad mass of working people.

In a Guardian column published January 8, Emma Keller took it upon herself to make a public issue of the activities of Lisa Bonchek Adams, a 44-year-old mother of three who is currently receiving treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for stage-four metastatic cancer. Adams has for seven years, since she was first diagnosed as having breast cancer, maintained a blog and a twitter feed in which she describes her treatment and the pain, fears and hopes that accompany her condition. Adams has attracted a following of more than 10,000 readers, some of whom are also cancer patients.

Adams is determined to live as long as possible, above all to see her children grow and develop. She sees her postings as an attempt to educate people about cancer and advances in treating it.

Emma Keller

Emma Keller

Emma Keller, who had exchanged emails with Adams, published her piece in the Guardian, quoting from their private correspondence, without first informing Adams. The title of her column—“Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?”—gives a sense of its cold and disparaging tone and content.

Keller, clearly annoyed, wrote that Adams had tweeted over 100,000 times about her health and “lately, she tweets dozens of times an hour.” Adams, Keller quipped, “is dying out loud.”

Describing the care Adams receives at Sloan-Kettering as “fantastic,” Keller noted critically that “there is no mention of the cost.”

Emma Keller’s commentary evoked a storm of angry protest, leading theGuardian to remove it from its web site and post a notice that it was conducting an investigation regarding the piece.

Five days later, Bill Keller devoted his own weekly column in the Times to Lisa Adams, publishing a piece that was even more repugnant than his wife’s. Keller’s political agenda was more transparent. He used the case of Lisa Adams to argue against the implementation of what he called “heroic measures”—the title of the piece—to extend the lives of terminally ill patients.

In language dripping with sarcasm, Keller wrote that Adams had “spent the last seven years in a fierce and very public cage fight with death.” Speaking of her frequent tweets, he said acidly, “she is a phenomenon.”

He compared Adams’ response to cancer unfavorably to that of his late father-in-law, who opted to halt treatment and accept death. He ignored the fact that Adams is still a young woman with three children, ages seven to 15, while Keller’s father-in-law was nearly 80 at the time of his death.

Adams: "Mind your own business!"

Adams: “Mind your own business!”

Very much on Keller’s mind was the question of money. He called his father-in-law’s death a “humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.” Further on, he said of the aggressive treatment and premium care afforded Adams, “Neither Adams nor Sloan-Kettering would tell me what all this costs or whether it is covered by insurance.”

One’s first response to such heartless and unsolicited opinionating is to demand: “Who asked you? Mind your own business!”

In a tweet from her hospital bed, Adams replied to Bill Keller’s article: “The main thing is that I am alive. Do not write me off and make statements about how my life ends TIL IT DOES, SIR.”

Many others have written to the Times protesting against Keller’s article.

Keller evidently could not help himself. Adams’ story touched a nerve.

His misanthropic piece illuminates the New York Times ’ avid support for President Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, for which the newspaper campaigned aggressively while Keller was executive editor (2003-2011). This reactionary anti-reform is being rapidly exposed as a scheme to cut costs for corporations and the government and boost profits for the insurance and health industry by slashing benefits and raising out-of-pocket expenses for working people.

The heart of Obamacare is the rationing of health care along class lines, where ordinary people will be deprived of access to more expensive tests, procedures and drugs. The Times has crusaded for cost-cutting at the expense of the general public, running an endless series of articles, op-ed pieces and editorials arguing for more restricted access to everything from mammograms to pap smears to prostate tests and the use of stents.

Keller is a determined advocate of such a health care counterrevolution. That this is bound up with a calculated policy of the American ruling class to lower life expectancy for the general public—and hence the cost of keeping alive older people who are no longer a source of profit—has been shown in articles published by the highly influential Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic & International Studies. (See: “Obamacare and the ‘crisis’ of an aging population”)

The Kellers react with hostility to the case of Lisa Adams because her struggle to live embodies what the privileged and reactionary social layer to which they belong considers an intolerable diversion of wealth from their own personal bank accounts.

This ever-widening social and class divide in America must inevitably lead to social upheavals of revolutionary proportions, which is why Bill Keller and theTimes collaborate with the capitalist state and its military/intelligence agencies, and provide political cover for their police state preparations.




When Iraq Unravels

Can Obama Save Face?
by ANDREW LEVINE< Counterpunch
obamaSyria

There is always a chance that Barack Obama’s luck will hold and therefore that the face saving way he concocted for getting U.S. combat troops, and not much else, out of Iraq won’t unravel while he is still in office.

But events on the ground portend otherwise.  Now is therefore a good time to reflect on the importance of saving face, and on what losing face can mean.

Military might is indispensible for superintending a global empire.  But being able to fight several wars at once and to annihilate the planet thousands of times over is not enough.  America needs “credibility.”

It has commitments to honor – to the global capitalist order and to national elites.   And, from time to time, it has rebellions to quell.  It doesn’t always have to prevail in fact.  But it cannot seem to have been bested in a way that makes it look weak.  Above all, it must never lose face.

It can be instructive to think of a superpower as a criminal organization writ large.  For both, strength matters.  But the appearance of strength matters more.

It was this way too when the Soviet Union existed, and it will be this way again if and when China assumes superpower status.  It has been this way for all empires at all times.

Saving face has always been deemed crucial.  There is no American exceptionalism here.

The consequences can be, and often are, horrendous.

For example, if the story Robert Dallek tells in Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (2013) is even remotely on track, events in Berlin and Cuba got blown up into such proportions that the world almost came to an end because whatever else moved Kennedy and his advisors, losing face was out of the question.

Similar considerations explain why they got the Vietnam War going.

Dallek accepts, as best he can, the standard view of Kennedy’s presidency.  His Kennedy therefore comes off as a rather statesmanlike figure (with a little brother for an attack dog); and while many of Kennedy’s top military and intelligence advisors are depicted like the Neanderthals they were, the civilians in Camelot’s “ministry of talent” seem almost benign.

But the evidence he presents tells a different story – “the brightest and the best” were clueless and, for the most part, irrationally anti-Communist.  They were also divided among themselves.

By the time the Kennedys ratcheted up America’s involvement in Vietnam, both the President and the Attorney General had come to doubt the advice they were getting from the military and the CIA.  And they seem to have had more than an inkling of what would happen if he let them have their war.

Why then did Kennedy move forward anyway?  Domestic political considerations played a role.  But the main reason was that, in his mind and in his brother’s, credibility was all; he could not appear to back down or otherwise lose face.

That was more than a half century ago, but it is how our leaders still think.  Caroline Kennedy was on to something in the 2008 electoral campaign when she very publically likened Barack Obama to her father.

Lyndon Johnson seems to have been more of a true believer than his predecessor, though it must have been clear to him, by 1966 if not before, that he was ratcheting up a lost war.  It was certainly clear to Richard Nixon.

But they felt stuck – “ankle deep…, waist deep…, shoulder deep in the big muddy,” as Pete Seeger put it.  And like “the big fool” in Seeger’s song, they saw no way out but to push on.

They did have a choice, of course; they could have withdrawn.  But then the empire’s credibility would be shot.  This they could not permit – no matter how much death and destruction they had to cause.

The American people would have been better off had the empire taken the hit and been humiliated sooner, but the Vietnam War was never about the American people – just as it was never about “saving” the Vietnamese.  It was about the welfare and security of the economic and political elites for whose benefit the empire exists.

As it turned out, Johnson and Nixon could only postpone the inevitable; they were powerless to prevent it.  After perpetrating a decade long series of gratuitous horrors, the United States ultimately did lose face.

The picture of helicopters evacuating the American embassy in Saigon on April 30, 1975, as the city was liberated – or “fell,” as our media still say – lingers to this day.

This is why Ronald Reagan fought his wars in Central America through proxies, and why, to overcome the “Vietnam Syndrome,” he and then Bush the Father found it expedient to pick fights with such mighty foes as Grenada and Panama.

But who really won the Vietnam War?  Decades ago, the answer seemed obvious.  It is not obvious anymore.

According to Dallek, among the Kennedy advisors who stayed on with Lyndon Johnson, Walt Rostow stands out for never later expressing regrets.   Rostow, it seems, thought the war was a success because the dominoes never fell – and that, he insisted, had been the goal all along.

Rostow’s moral and intellectual judgment may be even more abysmal than, say, Robert McNamara’s.  But, for several decades now, it has looked like he was right.  Notwithstanding its humiliating defeat, the U.S. did wreak so much devastation upon the victor that Vietnam would never serve as an example that other countries could emulate.

And what other purpose did all the death and devastation serve?

America “lost” Vietnam but got what it was after anyway.  It is telling that victorious Vietnam has long been more or less in the American ambit.  Would it have been any different if America had “won?”

This example, along with countless others that could be adduced, shows that, because time and perspective are crucial determinants, maintaining credibility and saving face have more to do with how outcomes and events seem to people at the time than with inalterable matters of fact.

Johnson and Nixon — and also Gerald Ford, whose misfortune was to inherit the presidency and therefore the Vietnam War after Nixon resigned — fell afoul of this basic truth.

They did do their part to assure that the United States would get what it was fighting for.  But, at the time and for many years thereafter, it looked like they caused the United States to suffer an ignominious defeat.

In Kennedy’s defense, he and his advisors did not have a clear view of what the future would be like if America’s involvement in Vietnam intensified, though some of them had a pretty good idea.  But, by the middle of the decade, the “quagmire” was already obvious.

From then on, if not before, winning was not an option, but saving face was an imperative.

Four decades later, Barack Obama entered the White House at a time when both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars had already been in face saving phases for several years.

In the early days of the Bush-Cheney presidency, overthrowing Afghanistan’s Taliban government was easy, and so was killing lots of Afghanis – in revenge for what fifteen Saudis and four other Al Qaeda hijackers, none of them Afghani, did on 9/11.

But anyone who knew anything about Afghanistan could have told Bush even before he launched that still unfolding war that he would soon find that he had put the United States shoulder deep or worse in a muddy even more inescapable than Vietnam.

This was not quite as obvious in the case of Iraq, at least in the first months.  But by the time Bush declared the “mission accomplished,” there was little doubt.  Several “surges” later, there was no doubt at all.

The voters who elected Obama were confident that he would end both wars in short order.

He would certainly have liked to end the Iraq War, the one he called “dumb.”  It is not clear what he and Democrats more “liberal” than he  – Howard Dean, for example – thought about Afghanistan.

But the evidence is not encouraging. Maybe they never understood the Greek tragedies they read in college that dealt with connections between revenge and moral progress.   Or maybe, as Democrats fearful of being thought “weak,” they were only hanging tough.

It hardly matters.  An emperor cannot just cut and run; not if it means losing face.

Obama’s problem therefore was to assure voters that he was doing his best to end the wars he inherited while, at the same time, making sure that the taint of defeat would not fall upon the American superpower.

Temperamentally, Obama seems more like Dallek’s Kennedy than like Johnson or Nixon.  He does not shed his ambivalences easily, and he is not one to rush headlong into the abyss.

But he came on the scene too late to abort Bush’s wars without the empire he stewards losing face.  In this respect, the situation he inherited was more like Johnson’s and Nixon’s than Kennedy’s.

However, like Kennedy and unlike the other two, Obama seems to know enough to be wary of his advisors.  But again like Kennedy, he can’t – or won’t – do anything about it.

In this respect, they are two of a kind.  When it comes to “profiles in courage” or displays of “audacity” that might do some good, all they do is publish books about it.

Obama, like Kennedy, is also in the thrall of disabling ideological assumptions.

In Kennedy’s case, it was Cold War anti-Communism, a “bipartisan” disorder, emblematic of liberalism and conservatism alike.

Now, terrorism is the new Communism.  And, although he should know better, Obama buys into it.  After more than a decade of TSA checks at airports and similar efforts to scare the hell out of everybody, so does nearly everyone else.

However, the further idea that, to keep (islamist) terrorists at bay, it made sense to make war on Afghanistan and Iraq – for starters — is peculiar to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party.

Remarkably, they are still at it.  Having done so well with their starter-wars, they now have Iran in their sights.  This is not just admirable stubbornness; it is dumb incorrigibility.

Fortunately, now that Dick Cheney can no longer help them, their influence is waning – even in Republican ranks.

Democrats have long been keen to seem at least as bellicose as the chicken hawks on the other side.   Nevertheless, they never quite bought into the idiocy – not even in the aftermath of 9/11, when they shamelessly embraced its consequences.

Bush’s military and intelligence advisors – not just David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, but the vast majority of them — were as inept as any in recent history and, for sheer cluelessness, his neocon civilian advisors more than rivaled anything Camelot had to offer.

The neocons considered themselves experts on the Middle East, though their ignorance was risible.  And since they took the Israeli right’s world-view for granted, their determination to advance Israel’s interests clouded their judgment further.

At least the advisors Kennedy relied upon served only one master.

It didn’t help either that Middle Eastern politics is complicated and disorderly, or that the  participants are moved as much by (extra-rational) “passions,” as the late Albert Hirschman called them, as by rational self-interest.

Contrary to what is widely assumed by those who shape public opinion in the West, those passions are not religious only – or even mainly.  They also involve yearnings for recognition and self-assertion by peoples whom the West disparages and relegates to a subaltern status.

In contrast, the Cold war imposed an intelligible structure upon political affairs that even the a Henry Kissinger could discern.  There was nothing remotely comparable in the world into which George Bush inserted his wars.

When Kennedy was out of his depth, as he often was, he knew it.  Being an outright ignoramus, Bush was always out of his depth, and didn’t know it at all.  This is why his shenanigans gave rise to so many more untoward unintended consequences than Kennedy’s – or any other president’s in modern history.

Bush set chains of events in motion that gave rise to unforeseen and fatally ironic outcomes.  That this would happen in Afghanistan was, again, a foregone conclusion.  That Iraq would be torn asunder was not quite so clear.

However, by the time it became impossible to deny that “the mission,” whatever it was, had by no means been “accomplished,” a staggering array of political maelstroms had already erupted — accompanied by successive waves of sectarian violence.

Thanks to a massive American military presence – and strategic restraint on the part of some of the principals — a semblance of national unity and order was nevertheless achieved.

But, as the several sides fought each other to exhaustion, what emerged was a national government dominated by Shiites with strong ties to Iran – America’s enemy, and Israel’s “existential threat,” du jour.

This is now unraveling.  Sunnis, some with Al Qaeda connections, are back with a vengeance.  They have even retaken control of Fallujah, the Guernica of the Iraq War, and they are reportedly active throughout Al Anbar province – reigniting fears of a resumption of the civil wars that raged before Obama took office.

Even if there were a Lyndon Johnson or a Richard Nixon at the ready, primed to escalate America’s involvement, and even if that could still effectively postpone the inevitable, everyone nowadays understands that the American public will have none of it.

Despite the best efforts of Ronald Reagan and every president after him, there is still too much Vietnam Syndrome left in the body politic.

And so, Obama’s repackaging of the last phases of George Bush’s Iraq War could soon fall apart.

If it does, will Obama find that he has brought down upon himself the worst of both worlds: that, like the presidents who followed JFK, he will have failed to save face; but that, unlike them, he will not even have bought the empire enough time to conceal its losses?

This is a public relations issue, not a question about reality.  The reality is that the empire long ago lost both Bush wars and much else besides.  This was obvious even before Obama moved onto the national stage.

Whoever controls mainstream discourse controls history — for a while.  There must be some fit with the facts on the ground, but the connections can be and often are tenuous.

But, in the end, politically driven confabulations have their limits: the real story usually does come out.

Saving – and losing – face follows a different time line.  In its effects on real world politics, this typically matters more than the eventual judgment of history.

That was how it was with Vietnam.  How it will be with Iraq remains to be seen.

It now seems likely, though, that Obama’s temporarily successful repackaging of the Iraq War will soon unravel.  Were that to happen, the consequences could be horrific.

Even so, there could be good that comes of it — if Obama’s fix unravels in ways that underscore how wrong-headed Bush’s wars were.  The Vietnam Syndrome – or rather a contemporary equivalent – might then revive.

The facts are what they are, but whether or not Obama can save face, if and when his efforts unravel, depends on how the story is presented and received.  So does what will follow from the unraveling.

It is taking a long time for the consequences of Kennedy’s face saving efforts to become apparent.  To this day, his role in bringing on the Vietnam War is widely misunderstood, and his culpability goes largely unrecognized.

In the case of Obama’s machinations in Iraq, events are unfolding rapidly, and he is not likely to be so lucky.  The Afghanistan War, which he did so much to revive and refashion, may not be the only Bush war he tried to make the best of for the empire’s sake that comes back to bite him.

It is bound to happen in the fullness of time.  Too bad for him, if not for the rest of us, that it is likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).




A Journalist’s Death in Oaxaca

The Murder of Crime Reporter Alberto López Bello
by LUIS CARDONA

Translated by Patrick Timmons

Retrieving corpses of 3 journalists killed in Veracruz, including Guillermo Luna.

Grim task: Retrieving the bodies of 3 journalists killed in Veracruz, including Guillermo Luna.

Translator’s Note: According to freedom of expression organizations, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas to practice journalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented 29 “work related” murders of journalists in Mexico since 1992, with the murders of 40 other journalists as yet unconfirmed. Investigations are stalled in most cases. A recent murder still considered unrelated to journalism is that of Oaxacan crime reporter, Alberto López Bello. But investigative journalist Luis Cardona reports that López Bello’s murder could be related to his profession. – PT

***

At ten past seven in the morning on Wednesday 17 July 2013, officers from the Oaxaca State Attorney General’s office discovered two bodies on Sabino Street in La Humedad around a place called Trinidad de Viguera. One of the corpses was that of the journalist Alberto López Bello, crime reporter for the newspaper El Imparcial. According to the Attorney General’s office, Bello was discovered with the body of Arturo Alejandro Franco Rojas, “a municipal police informant.”

At the time of his murder, López Bello worked for El Imparcial of Oaxaca. Colleagues called him, “El Chamaco” (the Kid). His colleagues wrote on the newspaper website that, “We lament and condemn the loss of our colleague, a contributor to the crime section.” El Imparcial demanded the authorities offer a clarification “that shows how communicators are exposed to vulnerabilities as they carry out their daily work of faithfully and appropriately informing the citizenry.”

Oaxaca’s state governor, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, said in a press release that he instructed the State Attorney General, Manuel de Jesús López López, ”to pursue the murder as a high impact crime, directed by” a special investigatory committee.

The State Attorney General, Manuel de Jesús López López, reassured that the inquiry would not ignore any investigative lines. He publicly stated his commitment to use the powers of his office to clarify the murder and bring those responsible to justice. The state’s top prosecutor had analyzed the aggressions previously suffered by the journalist, giving some credence to media workers’ suspicions that police officers participated in López Bello’s murder.

Previous Threats Against López Bello

At a press conference last May, Alberto López Bello and Jacobo Robles, both crime reporters at El Imparcial held the State Secretary of Public Safety, Marco Tulio López Escamilla, and police officers responsible for an arbitrary detention occurring almost exactly a month before his murder. On Saturday 18 May, State Police detained the reporters as they covered the appearance of a narco-banner on a pedestrian overpass at the CONALEP Bridge in the township of San Antonio de la Cal.

Unidentified people had placed a printed message on a banner, the same one photographed by the journalists. Minutes later, the State Police arrived in a patrol car bearing the number 1514. The officers questioned the reporters, identifying them as responsible for placing the banner. At the press conference to denounce their detention held in front of the Palacio de Gobierno, the reporters confirmed that they did identify themselves. But the order the officers received on the “matra” — the radio system used by the State Police — instructed them to take them to police headquarters.

At headquarters, they were fingerprinted and, after five hours, ordered to appear at the Federal Attorney General’s Office. Both journalists maintained that because no officials were available at the Attorney General’s office, they were not processed. The reporters filed a complaint that directly accused the State Secretary of Public Safety of having given the order. When challenged, the state official took to Twitter to deny the facts. The journalists had also indicated that the State Police officers showed special concern about securing the immediate removal of the banner. During a telephone conversation, the officers reported the narco-banner’s message to their superiors.

The reporters remembered that the “narco-banner” made references to various State Police chiefs, asking them to fulfill previously negotiated agreements.

“They were trying to make us say who had told us about the banner, saying that we should not publish the photographs,” López Bello said at his press conference with his colleague.

“The State Police officers never recorded our detention.” López Bello added that when they arrived at the Federal Attorney General’s Office, one of the State Police chiefs asked over the “matra” communications system if “there was any possibility that they could be returned to the Police Headquarters.” But since they had already been taken to the Federal Attorney General’s office in Oaxaca, the state police officers were powerless to act.

Sub-delegate Elba Alicia Sánchez Domínguez of the Federal Attorney General’s Office in Oaxaca confirmed that no information existed about those events. A complaint detailing which crimes needed to be investigated did not exist, so the official said that she did not know the reason why the state police had detained the journalists, or why they had been transferred to the federal prosecutor’s local office.

As a result of these events, both reporters received assurances that their professional security would be respected and that they could work without interference. However, work colleagues (who requested guarantees of anonymity in fear of their safety) said that since their arrest the reporters asked to be accompanied, and communicated their whereabouts to their superiors and friends. However, on 17 July 2013, César Alfaro, Oaxaca’s State Police Commissioner announced that López Bello had been found dead in a place called Las Humedades.

On discovery of the bodies, it could be seen that both had been attacked in the head with large pieces of paving stone, like those used for posts in rural areas.

The victims had been gagged, and bound hands and feet. Blows to the head had destroyed their faces, complicating the process of identification.

Discovery of the Victims’ Motorcycles

The State Prosecutor recognized that around two o’clock in the afternoon the same Wednesday the victims’ motorcycles, their usual form of transport, had been found in front of a bar between Porfirio Díaz and Morelos streets. He assumed that the night before both had been drinking inside the establishment.

The body found beside that of the journalists was Arturo Alejandro Franco Rojas. The State Attorney General said he worked as a municipal police informant. One of the journalist’s friends confirmed that he was one of López Bello’s sources.

The Attorney General said that the State Police investigated these events and assumed that when the men left the bar they were captured. However, there are no known witnesses to corroborate the state prosecutor’s version of events.

The battered old model motorbikes that belonged to the two men were parked on the sidewalk in front of the bar.

Oaxaca’s prosecutor added that owing “to the fight against organized crime, there is an ever-present risk that these types of organizations want to influence the editorial line of certain newspapers.”

“I cannot confirm if the killings’ motive is connected to freedom of expression. There exists, however, a 2009 precedent when a truck belonging to El Imparcial del Istmo was attacked, and three workers were killed,” he said.

The Federal Attorney General asked the State Governor to be aware of these facts and that Oaxaca’s state prosecutors should work with counterparts in the Federal Special Prosecutor of Crimes against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE, according to its Spanish acronym).

Oaxaca Fails to Investigate While Federal Investigation Underway

The Oaxaca State Prosecutor’s office admitted the existence of an inquiry (401/PGR/2013) conducted by the Fourth Investigative Division into the detention of López Bello and his colleague. But it could not confirm the motive for their May 2013 arrest.

At López Bello’s press conference the journalist said that state authorities had not conducted a preliminary investigation into their detention. Furthermore, the Federal Attorney General’s representative recognized the journalists had been transferred without a criminal complaint, just an order for detention, which is why they had been released.

Article 19, a press freedom organization dedicated to the protection of at risk journalists, said: “The reporters’ detention by state police sends a message criminalizing the practice of journalism. In the context of violence against the press their detention not only violates the state’s international responsibility to prevent and protect journalists from any type of aggression but also increases the vulnerability of those exercising their right to freedom of expression. Their detention undermines the promotion of a freedom essential to democracy.”

The arbitrary detention of López Bello and Jacobo Robles occurred just two weeks after death threats against two other journalists in the state, Pedro Matías and Giovanni Vásquez. In Oaxaca in 2013, 11 threats were made against journalists and reporters. When added to the 22 threats documented in 2012, of Mexico’s 32 states and the Federal District, Oaxaca registers one of the highest numbers of attacks against freedom of expression.

López Bello gave an interview to Article 19 in which he discussed his arbitrary arrest: ”After we photographed the banner, two state police officers arrived on the scene and they asked us to identify ourselves. We identified ourselves and showed them our press passes. But the still detained us. They took our equipment from us, including our phones and money. Then they transferred us to the Federal Attorney General’s office, where we were then released.”

During their detention, state police deprived journalists of contact with the outside world and fingerprinted them. Finally they took them to the prosecutor at the Federal Attorney General’s Office. But the now murdered López Bello confirmed that once the federal prosecutor had taken their statements, “he said that there was no crime to investigate and that the police had acted incorrectly.”

Laura Borbolla, Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression Concluded that the Journalist’s Death “Was Not Work Related”

The Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression, Laura Borbolla, reported publicly on 6 November 2013 that Alberto López Bello’s murder was not work related. Instead, she said that it was connected to his relationship with his murderers, who belong to a gang. Borbolla criminalized his relationship to his murderers and ended her office’s investigation.

But nobody has reviewed the statements López Bello made when he protested his arbitrary detention in May 2013.

Oaxaca’s Attorney General has indicated that gang members Julián Ramírez Benítez, Gerardo García Flores, Rafael Martínez González and Aldo José Luis Tenorio Benítez, all from Verarcuz, were arrested for the murders of López Bello and his companion, a city police officer, Alejandro Franco Rojas.

The State’s top prosecutor said the four culprits in custody for López Bello’s murder could be identified because last June they had participated in murders at two bars, La Farola the Casa de Mezcal.

An analysis of the murder conducted by the late Mike O’Connor, Mexico Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that during 2013 no murders of journalists occurred for work-related reasons. O’Connor added that this was the first time in a decade CPJ had been unable to confirm a work-related journalist’s death in Mexico, saying also that the country has always been a difficult place to pinpoint the motive behind the murderof journalists.

Other Murdered Journalists in Mexico in 2013 

– 24 April 2013: the mutilated body of Daniel Alejandro Martínez Bazaldúa was found in Saltillo, Coahuila. He was a photojournalist for the society section of Vanguardia. He had worked for the newspaper about a month.

– Jaime Guadalupe González Domínguez, reporter and editor of Ojinaga Noticias, was killed on 3 March 2013 in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, on the border with Presidio, Texas. Rival organized crime groups are fighting to control the trafficking routes to the United States. He was shot while eating at a taco stand.

– On 15 April 2013 Alonso de la Colina Sordo, 50 years old, was fatally shot the moment he exited a bank in Puebla. He had been the long-term presenter of a news show in Guerrero, a state brought low by organized crime. The Zetas, the Beltrán Leyva Oragnization (BLO), the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) are all fighting for control of drug trafficking routes in Guerrero. De la Colina Sordo retired from his job in February 2013.

Mexican Journalists Killed In 2012

At least 16 journalists were assassinated or disappeared in Mexico in 2012 under circumstances which authorities believe was connected to their work:

– In November 2012, freelance journalist Adrián Silva and his assistant, Misrael López González were killed minutes before covering an army operation near the city of Puebla. In that operation, soldiers secured a warehouse filled with quantities of gasoline stolen from Mexico’s state-owned oil company, PEMEX. Both men were shot.

– In August 2012, photojournalists Arturo Barajas and José Antonio Aguilar Mota were killed in Michoacán. Their bodies were found in the boot of a car. Both had been shot in the head.

– Also in August 2012, Mario Segura, editor of the Tamaulipas newspaper Sol del Sur was kidnapped and then released. Today he lives outside the state.

– In June 2012, Victor Manuel Baez Chino, crime reporter for national newspaper Milenio was murdered in Xalapa, Veracruz. According to the police, two Zetas hit men are suspected of murdering Báez, who was writing articles about organized crime that angered the leaders of the Zetas.

– Also in Veracruz, in May 2012, Guillermo Luna, a photojournalist with veracruznews.com was found dead beside the body of Gabriel Huge, a photojournalist with Notiver, and Esteban Rodríguez, a photojournalist who left the profession in 2011. Their bodies showed signs of torture.

– In May 2012, Marco Antonio Ávila García was shot and killed while working in Sonora.

– Also in May 2012, the body of René Orta Salgado, reporter for El Sol de Cuernavaca was found in the trunk of a car in the state of Morelos.

– Again in May, the body of journalist Marco Antonio Ávila García was found on an unpaved road in Sonora. He was working as a reporter for El Regional de Sonora. Some armed men kidnapped Ávila García in Ciudad Obregón, about 65 miles from where his body was discovered.

– In April, Proceso magazine investigative journalist Regina Martínez was beaten and strangled in her home in Xalapa, Veracruz.

– In January, Raúl Regolo Garza, a reporter for Última was killed by gunshots in Sonora.

Analysts’ Conclusions

“Attacks on journalists continue because criminal groups insist on coverage of their acts in order to keep their turf warm,” commented Gerardo Rodríguez, security analyst for Seguridad Mexico.

For Vicente Sánchez, analyst at the Colegio de la Frontera, violence against journalists serves as a warning so that they do not publish specific information on certain subjects about organized crime, making the gang members liable to attack or prosecution by the Federal Government.

Journalists are under constant threat in Mexico because nobody really wants to protect them. According to José Pérez-Espino, author of several books about journalists, journalism, and press state relations, journalists always work at their own risk, and neither media outlets, nor the authorities provide security against the threat from organized crime.

Luis Cardona is an investigative reporter based in Mexico; translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. This story first appeared in Spanish in Diario19.com at http://diario19.com/?p=299

Patrick Timmons is a writer, human rights journalist, and language teacher with a PhD (2004) in Latin American History from the University of Texas at Austin. From 2011 to 2012 he was the Human Rights, Migration, and Security Policy Officer at the British Embassy in Mexico City where he reported for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office on a wave of killings of journalists in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz. He is finishing his first book Plucking the Plumed Serpent: A Memoir of Madness and Sensibility in North America. He divides his time between Mexico City and Colchester, England.