James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security’

‘Just say no’ to aliens: Fear of foreigners alive and well under Obama

Posted by James McPherson on March 24, 2009

The Obama administration announced today that it will increase funding for border security. The plan was announced by Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, who until recently was the governor of Arizona, which has seen Mexican drug violence spill over its border.

“The administration is trying to help the Mexican government break up drug cartels believed to be responsible for the killing of roughly 6,500 people in Mexico last year,” CNN reported. BBC went back two years, using a figure of 8,000 deaths.

Fox News was probably the most accurate in its characterization of the plan (now there’s a phrase I never expected to write), highlighting the fact that the funding is “aimed at stopping Mexico violence from entering the U.S.” The lead of the Fox story reads, “The Department of Homeland Security is doubling the number of law enforcement working along the Southwest border and could request border state governors to send National Guardsmen to help curtail spillover violence from Mexico.”

The plan will send $700 million to aid Mexico law enforcement, to be used in part for five new helicopters and “news surveillance aircraft for the Mexican navy.” (Mexican helicopters are apparently cheaper than U.S. ones.)

Mexico is the third-leading provider of imported oil for the United States, but the leading provider of illegal drugs. Oil companies tend to be much more refined than drug cartels in their use of violence, and to have bigger U.S.-backed armies, so in Mexico it’s the drugs, not the oil, fueling the war.

In return, Americans provide the money and the guns to keep the war going–pretty much as we do in the rest of the world, though in this case it’s not through major corporations with the endorsement of the U.S. government. Of course at the government level we are still continuing a failed decades-long “war on drugs” policy instead of taking the simpler, cheaper route of drug legalization.

At least Obama is discontinuing the Bush adminstration policy of overriding state medical marijuana laws, so perhaps fewer cancer patients will die blaming Republicans for their pain. But they and Lou Dobbs can go on blaming Mexicans and other “foreigners” for pretty much everything else, from lost jobs to leprosy.

April 12 follow-up: In the comments section of this post, I referred to legal citizens who were deported during the Great Depression. Apparently it’s happening again (or perhaps still).

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Homeland Insecurity: Need a passport quickly? Get a fake one

Posted by James McPherson on March 14, 2009

More than seven years after 9/11 introduced most Americans to Osama bin Laden, it apparently is still fairly easy to get a fake passport in this country. (By the way, news this week prompts the question of why is it that we can track thousands of pieces of  space junk, but apparently remain clueless about the whereabouts of “Osama bin Hidin,” who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Tuesday.) 

Unfortunately those of us who have spent much time dealing with bureaucrats are unlikely to be overly surprised by the fake passport findings, considering how many government employees are lackadaisical, incompetent or overworked.

What is surprising, however, is the speed with which a Government Accountability Office investigator was able to get fake passports in the latter months of the Bush administration–the same day that he presented phony supporting documents, in one case, and in all four cases less than nine days. Even the government website says you should expect to wait four weeks for “routine service” and two to three weeks for expedited service. It took months for my passport to arrive (a couple of years ago), and my situation seems to be all too common.

Also somewhat surprising about the fake passport investigation were these lines in the Associated Press story: “The State Department has known about this vulnerability for years. On February 26, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of passport services issued a memo to Passport Services directors across the country stating that the agency is reviewing its processes for issuing passports because of ‘recent events regarding several passport applications that were approved and issued in error.'”

Interestingly, the media seem to be in no rush to give us all of the details, perhaps because the government followed the time-honored tradition of releasing bad news on a Friday. The CNN story linked above doesn’t mention how quickly the passports were issued (less time than it takes to purchase a handgun, in some cases), and neither the New York Times nor Fox News–which devotes an entire web section to “Homeland Security“–seemed to have the story at all this morning (perhaps Fox is trying to figure out a way to retroactively blame the Obama administration).

The lead story of Fox’s Homeland Security section is more than two years old, and ironically is titled “High Tech Passports Arrive.” The third story on the list, from about a year ago, underscores my comment about bureaucratic issues: “Homeland Security Employees are Unhappy with their Jobs, Survey Shows.”

Hey, with this latest news appearing just days after a U.S. Senate committee concluded that the threat of domestic terrorism is increasing, I have something in common with those Homeland Security folks: I’m pretty unhappy with the job they’re doing, too.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »