Five years into the war on terror, American military contractors have finally lost some of their immunity from prosecution for dirty deeds done on the federal dime. In a post over on DefenseTech, the Brookings Institution's Peter Singer reports on a quiet insertion into the 2007 Pentagon budget that means "contractors' 'get out of jail free' card may have been torn to shreds." Basically, contractors are now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which means they can be court martialed:
This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed (as in, Corporate Warriors, meet A Few Good Men). On face value, this appears to be a step forward for realistic accountability. Military contractor conduct can now be checked by the military investigation and court system, which unlike civilian courts, is actually ready and able both to understand the peculiarities of life and work in a warzone and kick into action when things go wrong.
The scope of new law is not entirely clear; it may include embedded journalists, too. (Not that they go around playing soldierJudy Miller aside.) But overall, says Singer, this move brings a bit of much-needed oversight to a largely unregulated industry. "Last month," he writes , "DOJ reported to Congress that it has sat on over 20 investigations of suspected contractor crimes without action in the last year." Sounds like a good place to begin.
This could be cool. A new site, Wikileaks, is setting up an open-source, online repository for leaked information. Using a wiki interface, it will allow anonymous whistleblowers to upload confidential info—but unlike Wikipedia, unhappy bosses and government agencies won't be able to edit or delete the entries. The site already claims to have received 1.1 million documents and plans "to numerically eclipse the content the English Wikipedia with leaked documents." Sounds like a potentially great source for activists and journalists. Not everyone is excited, though. Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, who often passes on leaked or declassified documents from the U.S. government, writes: "In the absence of accountable editorial oversight, publication can more easily become an act of aggression or an incitement to violence, not to mention an invasion of privacy or an offense against good taste." Which gets to the heart of the wiki issue—unfettered authorship versus the demands of accuracy. Let's see what happens here.
Exhibit presents a snapshot of a single topic with a collection of stats, trivia, and factual found objects.This time's theme: advertising.
Worldwide product placement in all media was worth $3.5 billion in 2004, a 200% increase from 1994.
In 2005, there were 108,000 instances of product placement in television programming—up 30% from 2004.
Due to TiVo and other ad-skipping digital video recorders (DVRs), TV networks could lose up to 10% of their ad sales by next year.
The ceo of Turner Broadcasting told Cable World that using DVRs to fast-forward through ads is "actually stealing the programming." But, he conceded, "[t]here's a certain amount of tolerance for going to the bathroom."
"Make your patriotism pay off." That?s the pitch at Why-Buy-Dinar.com, one of dozens of websites that challenge stay-the-course Americans to put their money where their mouths are by buying up Iraqi banknotes on the cheap. Ten bucks gets you a "Patriot Pack" containing a crisp new 1,000-dinar note. Okay, it's only worth about 68 cents, but as soon as Iraq becomes a well-oiled capitalist democracy, the website claims, that banknote's value could increase a whopping 4,412 times to $3,000. Dinar dealer Darren Chabluk, a.k.a. "Dr. Dinar," says dinar speculation is booming despite the "dream stealers" covering up good news from Baghdad. "As long as there's no nuclear war in Iraq," he says, "I believe over the next five to ten years that a doubling of your money is highly possible." As Why-Buy-Dinar's president, Matthew Yonan, who personally owns around 50 million dinars, explains, "Iraq doesn't have to have peace in order to have prosperity."
"Independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman just stepped out of his time capsule and penned an op-ed on his nostalgic trip to 2003:
I've just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.
Apparently, Lieberman never got the memo that said Iraq no longer has anything to do with 9/11 or the war on terror or exporting democracy or making Iran quake in its boots. No matter. Lieberman goes on to say that the crisis there is the result of a "conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran" to throw the country into "full-scale civil war." Never mind the whole al-Qaeda=Sunni, Iran=Shiite thing; apparently opposing extremists agree on the shared goal of total chaos. The only answer, of course, is to send in more troops. Which brings us back to 2003, back when more U.S. boots on the ground could have secured Baghdad and the rest of the country, possibly averting the mess we're in 3 years later. Lieberman seems to get this. He writes, "In nearly four years of war, there have never been sufficient troops dispatched to accomplish our vital mission." However, that just means that now is the time for a big do-over: "The troop surge should be militarily meaningful in size, with a clearly defined mission." Clearly defined mission? You mean like linking Iraq to 9/11? Fire up the Wayback Machine...