This is not something you could generally say about politicians, most of whose Twitter feeds read like those of a failing yoga studio. There’s the forced enthusiasm that seems to apply to even the most unenthusiastic topics; the constant notification about events you’ll never attend; the nonsensical retweets; and, of course, the hashtags. The hashtags! So many hashtags!
They are already awful and then you get the #stultifying #hashtag #spam, which when combined with the overuse of abbreviations (“Prez sz nw #hc regs hlp fr USA”) make reading politicians’ tweets like watching the news when your fritzy satellite dish is alternately skipping or pausing the broadcast.
That tendency is abating somewhat, but what’s gotten worse is the blandness: at least when members of Congress were tweeting manically from the floor we were getting their legitimate take on things. Now we’re just getting links to their official statements, with little color or personality.
Members of the Torres family in the hamlet of La Morena in Tiearra Caliente region of the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The area is a hotbed of marijuana and poppy growth, as well as pockets of leftist guerrillas. We filmed an episode of Fault Lines in the area earlier this year. Torres family members told us they feel trapped between the local drug kingpin Rogaciano Alba and the military, who they claim are in collusion. Members of the Torres family have been arrested by the military and others killed by both the military and local drug forces. (Photo by Josh Rushing)
Fault Lines: On the Pulse of the Pentagon
The US announced a new military strategy today at a Pentagon briefing. Much of the discussion concerned what could be read as predictable—and cyclic—budget cuts of a post-war drawdown. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also took pains to mention what wouldn’t feel the fiscal pinch: offensive and defensive cyber security and unmanned systems.
We at Fault Lines have covered and predicted both of these trends.
First with an episode called Cyberwar.
A growing fear of computer hackers—a term encompassing a broad range of entities from digital spy rings to information thieves to cyberarmies of kids, criminals and terrorists (some backed by nation states)—and their potentially massive threat to national security has Washington maneuvering into position to defend its assets from a new style of warfare: one without foot soldiers, guns or missiles. Crucial national infrastructure, high value commercial secrets, tens of billions of dollars in defense contracts—as well as values like privacy and freedom of expression—are at stake.
In this episode of Fault Lines, I enter the domain of “cyber” and speak to a former US national security official turned cybersecurity consultant, a Silicon Valley CEO, a hacker, and those who warn of a growing arms race in cyberspace.
Is the US contributing to the militarisation of cyberspace? Are the reports of cyber threats being distorted by a burgeoning security industry? And are the battles being waged in cyberspace interfering with the Internet as we know it?
Then last week we filed a report titled Robot Wars.
Over the past decade, the US military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more unmanned systems in the battlefield than ever before.
Today there are more than 7,000 drones and 12,000 ground robots in use by all branches of the military.
These systems mean less American deaths and also less political risk for the US when it takes acts of lethal force – often outside of official war zones.
But US lethal drone strikes in countries like Pakistan have brought up serious questions about the legal and political implications of using these systems.
Fault Lines looks at how these new weapons of choice are allowing the US to stretch the international laws of war and what it could mean when more and more autonomy is developed for these lethal machines.
Politics, Religion and the Tea Party: What role does religion play in the US presidential elections?
With a powerful Tea Party movement framing Republican policy in Washington and across the US, Fault Lines looks into the links between the Tea Party movement, the Christian conservative movement and Republican politics ahead of the GOP primaries.
As the race for the Republican presidential nomination for the 2012 elections heats up, Fault Lines follows the Iowa campaign trail to investigate the underlying forces shaping candidates’ strategies.
How have politics, religion and the far-right conservative movement reshaped the political landscape of the US?
Thanks! We are always thrilled to find posts and comments on our episodes.
This Fault Lines episode first aired on Al Jazeera English 12 December 2011 at 2230 GMT.
With a powerful Tea Party movement framing Republican policy in Washington and across the United States, Fault Lines looks into the links between the Tea Party movement, the Christian conservative movement, and Republican politics ahead of the GOP primaries.
As the race to be the Republican nominee in the 2012 Presidential election heats up, Fault lines follows the Iowa campaign trail, to understand how the far-right conservative movement is reshaping the American political debate, and to open a window onto the political landscape of the United States, its religious sensibilities, its fears, and possibly its future.
With the Iowa caucuses tonight, we are reblogging our episode from December 12th on how religion may shape political decisions in the 99 Iowa conventions.
Here’s the new episode that just aired on Al Jazeera English. Description below.
Chilean students have taken over schools and city streets in the largest protests the country has seen in decades.
These actions are causing a political crisis for the country’s billionaire President, Sebastian Piñera.
The students are demanding free education, and an end to the privatization of their schools and universities. The free-market based approach to education was implemented by the military dictator Augusto Pinochet in his last days in power.
As the demonstrations in Chile coincide with protests erupting globally, Fault Lines follows the Chilean student movement during their fight in a country that is among the most unequal in the world.
This episode of Fault Lines first aired on Al Jazeera English on January 2, 2012 at 2230 GMT.
‘Every brigade has its own drone’
Major General Jeff Buchanan, chief spokesman for the Unites States Forces in Iraq (USFI), spoke to the Bureau last month about the role that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have played in the Iraq War. A veteran of three tours in Iraq, he argues that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are the fields that have benefited the most from drone technology.
Could we start first by talking broadly about how the US’ use of UAVs in Iraq has changed over the years? Use of UAVs has increased quite dramatically since they were introduced back in 2007, but particularly in the last year. To what extent is this an indication of their effectiveness?
Remotely piloted aircraft [RPAs] have been very useful here over the years and their use has, like any system over almost nine years of use – across all our nine years of experience in Iraq, many of our systems have changed as the conditions have changed. I think this is broadly reflecting the fact that the military really works hard to be a learning organisation. We look at our tactics, how we use the systems we employ, the nature of our joint and inter-agency coordination – all of these things have changed over the last nine or ten years as we’ve learned from other nations, from our inter-agency partners, from our own forces and from the Iraqis that we’ve dealt with.
So we’ve changed our use of all things, and I think that RPAs are just one of those. And technology has evolved over time as well, so what started out as a system that was only available in few numbers and controlled at the highest levels has now made it down. Every one of our brigades has its own RPA. That’s part of our structure, so we have the tools that these aircraft provide available at a much lower level than before.
I think that the dominant use in Iraq has not been for providing ground attack or things like that. It’s really all been about intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as a tool for commanders to help better understand what’s going on.
Here’s our new episode from tonight on labor, unions, and the Occupy movement that aired today 2230 GMT/ 5:30p EST on Al Jazeera English. All our livetweets are on our Twitter account, @ajfaultlines. Join us next week at the same time for a new episode on drone journalism.
For decades, labor unions in the United States have been on the decline. While they are widely credited with boosting safety standards and worker pay, many have received blame for wanting too much in the struggling economy. Unemployment is at 9% and people are clamoring for jobs, unionized or not. And their greatest political ally, the Democratic party, has taken its’ support for granted weakening its’ pull on the strings of power in Washington, DC.
A new battle has emerged in 2011 as Republican governors have taken on public sector unions, in some cases stripping them of rights that have been in place for 50 years. It’s part of a trend that is happening in key swing states and may weaken democratic voting strength in next year’s presidential election. But organized labor has fought back hard. In Wisconsin unions occupied the state capitol as 100,000 protesters took to the streets. In Ohio, voters overturned a law that was intended to greatly reduce the right that unions have in that state to bargain collectively.
Now as Occupy Wall Street galvanizes Americans to take action against financial institutions and big corporations, Labor has a new ally. But can organized labor harness the anger that everyday Americans are emitting or will this opportunity pass it by? Do Labor unions still have the strength to organize or has their power waned to the point that they will no longer be a major player in American politics?