Anya Schiffrin, author of the just-published book Global Muckraking, begins her startling post on the state and fate of investigative reporting this way: “In our world, the news about the news is often grim.  Newspapers are shrinking, folding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies.  Layoffs are up and staffs are down.  That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore.  Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well.  But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.
“Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing. 
“And I’m not the only one to notice.  ‘We are in a golden age of investigative journalism,’ says Sheila Coronel.  And she should know.  Now the academic dean at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Coronel was the director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, whose coverage of the real estate holdings of former President Joseph Estrada — including identical houses built for his mistresses — contributed to his removal from office in 2001.”
In the rest of her vivid report, Schiffrin takes us on a tour de force spin around a world of investigative journalism you may have missed — as well as the various new and often experimental ways it supports itself and the new and experimental organizations often doing the muckraking.  It gives you a new sense of the emerging (rather than dying) power of journalism in the world of the Internet and social media.  It’s a genuinely hopeful piece and distinctly an eye-opener. 
Don’t miss it! 
In her first piece for TomDispatch, Aviva Chomsky begins this way:
“Call it irony or call it a nightmare, but the “crisis” of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, which lasted for months amid fervent and angry debate, is now fading from the news.  The media stories have been legion, the words expended many.  And yet, as the ‘crisis’ leaves town, as the sound and fury die down and attention shifts elsewhere (even though the children continue to arrive), the real factors that would have made sense of what’s been happening remain essentially untouched and largely unmentioned.  It couldn’t be stranger — or sadder.
“Since late June 2014, the ‘surge’ of those thousands of desperate children entering this country has been in the news.  Sensational stories were followed by fervent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations with emotions running high.  And it’s not a debate that stayed near the southern border either.  In my home state, Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick tearfully offered to detain some of the children — and that was somehow turned into a humanitarian gesture that liberals applauded and anti-immigrant activists decried.  Meanwhile the mayor of Lynn, a city north of Boston, echoed nativists on the border, announcing that her town didn’t want any more immigrants.  The months of this sort of emotion, partisanship, and one-upmanship have, however, diverted attention from the real issues.  As so often is the case, there is so much more to the story than what we’ve been hearing in the news.”
In the rest of Chomsky’s piece, she lays out how the children’s “invasion” became a front-page story and a national “debate” — and just why that debate, no matter which side you considered, was so limited.  In the process, she explores what was left out of the debate, including the fact that all those “Central American” children crossing the border came from three countries where the U.S. had been deeply involved in creating conditions that proved disastrous in the long run; the way a U.S. need for undocumented labor is splitting up families and creating a basis for children to head for this country; and finally, the way in which both parties, Democrats and Republicans, have had a major hand in ensuring that today’s crisis would come about. 
She concludes, “Of course, that’s not how the story is being told.  Instead, our politicians, the media, and various organizations have simply been posturing.  Arguments that take the “humanitarian” position and those that use the “crisis” to try to undermine the administration’s flimsy gestures towards relief for undocumented youth, as well as those that protest the potential impact on communities like Lynn, are sadly incomplete.  We are in the midst of a series of crises that are perfectly real.  They just aren’t the ones that either side is talking about.”
Our terror is delivered to the wretched of the earth with industrial weapons. It is, to us, invisible. We do not stand over the decapitated and eviscerated bodies left behind on city and village streets by our missiles, drones and fighter jets. We do not listen to the wails and shrieks of parents embracing the shattered bodies of their children. We do not see the survivors of air attacks bury their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We are not conscious of the long night of collective humiliation, repression and powerlessness that characterizes existence in Israel’s occupied territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not see the boiling anger that war and injustice turn into a caldron of hate over time. We are not aware of the very natural lust for revenge against those who carry out or symbolize this oppression. We see only the final pyrotechnics of terror, the shocking moment when the rage erupts into an inchoate fury and the murder of innocents. And, willfully ignorant, we do not understand our own complicity. We self-righteously condemn the killers as subhuman savages who deserve more of the violence that created them. This is a recipe for endless terror.
I usually start this section of the TD “alert” with the first paragraphs of the piece just posted.  Today, however, I want to offer you the last paragraphs of Patrick Cockburn’s remarkable look at how, for 13 years, two American administrations have turned the “war on terror” into a disaster in the Greater Middle East:
“The ‘war on terror’ has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.
“The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa‘ida and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the U.S., closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.
“In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qa‘ida-type groups were numerous and powerful.
“In other words, the ‘war on terror,’ the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.”
Now, check out the rest of Cockburn’s piece.  It’s a must read.
TomDispatch regular William Astore begins his remarkable exploration of the American cult of bombing this way:
“When you do something again and again, placing great faith in it, investing enormous amounts of money in it, only to see indifferent or even negative results, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised if a neutral observer questioned your sanity or asked you if you were part of some cult.  Yet few Americans question the sanity or cult-like behavior of American presidents as they continue to seek solutions to complex issues by bombing Iraq (as well as numerous other countries across the globe).
“Poor Iraq. From Operation Desert Shield/Storm under George H.W. Bush to enforcing no-fly zones under Bill Clinton to Operation Iraqi Freedom under George W. Bush to the latest ‘humanitarian’ bombing under Barack Obama, the one constant is American bombs bursting in Iraqi desert air.  Yet despite this bombing — or rather in part because of it — Iraq is a devastated and destabilized country, slowly falling apart at seams that have been unraveling under almost a quarter-century of steady, at times relentless, pounding.  ‘Shock and awe,’ anyone?
“Well, I confess to being shocked: that U.S. airpower assets, including strategic bombers like B-52s and B-1s, built during the Cold War to deter and, if necessary, attack that second planetary superpower, the Soviet Union, have routinely been used to attack countries that are essentially helpless to defend themselves from bombing.”
In the rest of his piece, Astore offers a little history of the bomber, of his own Air Force experiences in the age of ever more pricey bombers, and then considers just what lies behind the American (and presidential) “cult” of bombing. 
Astore concludes, “In other words, fund it, build it, and, as promised in the second half of my equation, the bomber will always get used.  Mock him all you want, but John McCain was on to something.  It’s bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb if not (yet) Iran… then Iraq, or Pakistan, or Libya, or Yemen, or (insert intransigent foreign country/peoples here).  And like cults everywhere, it’s best not to question the core belief and practices of its leaders — after all, bombs bursting in air is now as American as the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’”
Eduardo Galeano is a force of nature.  There’s no way to adequately describe what he does or how he writes — a fascinating mix of the best of journalism, history, and fiction (stylistically speaking).  Here are two of the briefer episodes in today’s post from his book Mirrors to give you a feel for “Century of Disaster”:
Photograph: Saddest Eye in the World
Princeton, New Jersey, May 1947.
Photographer Philippe Halsman asks him: “Do you think there will be peace?”
And while the shutter clicks, Albert Einstein says, or rather mutters: “No.”
People believe that Einstein got the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity, that he was the originator of the saying “Everything is relative,” and that he was the inventor of the atom bomb.
The truth is they did not give him a Nobel for his theory of relativity and he never uttered those words. Neither did he invent the bomb, although Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have been possible if he had not discovered what he did.
He knew all too well that his findings, born of a celebration of life, had been used to annihilate it.
He was butterfly and bee. In the ring, he floated and stung.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, refused to put on a uniform.
“Got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said. “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”
They called him a traitor. They sentenced him to a five-year jail term, and barred him from boxing. They stripped him of his title as champion of the world.
The punishment became his trophy. By taking away his crown, they anointed him king.
Years later, a few college students asked him to recite something. And for them he improvised the shortest poem in world literature:
“Me, we.”
In his latest post, after recounting how a Tampa Bay homeowner died in a hail of gunfire from a SWAT team breaking into his house, TomDispatch regular Matthew Harwood writes:  
“Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.”
He then focuses on the proliferation of those SWAT teams nationwide, the militarization of police uniforms, and the way programs overseen by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Justice Department are supplying police departments across the country with ever more militarized surplus weaponry, armored vehicles, and the like.  In the process, he explores just how the idea of “community policing” has, in the post-9/11 era, turned into a thoroughly militarized mentality of protecting the police, above all, rather than the citizenry, and of occupying communities, not working with them.
Harwood offers a startling vision of a new kind of blowback — the way America’s wars, and the mentality and equipment that goes with them has quietly been coming home to roost.  He ends on rare figures from within the world of policing who have criticized this development, concluding this way:
“These former policemen and law enforcement officials understand that police officers shouldn’t be breaking down any citizen’s door at 3 a.m. armed with AR-15s and flashbang grenades in search of a small amount of drugs, while an MRAP idles in the driveway. The anti-militarists, however, are in the minority right now. And until that changes, violent paramilitary police raids will continue to break down the doors of nearly 1,000 American households a week.
“War, once started, can rarely be contained.”
Here’s how TomDispatch regular Sandy Tolan begins his latest tour de force look back at how the chance for peace in Gaza was repeated ignored or rejected in both Tel Aviv and Washington:
“Alongside the toll of death and broken lives, perhaps the saddest reality of the latest Gaza war, like the Gaza wars before it, is how easy it would have been to avoid. For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. have had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza. Each time, they have chosen war, with all the devastating consequences for the families of Gaza.
“Let’s begin in June 2006, when the University of Maryland’s Jerome Segal, founder of the Jewish Peace Lobby, carried a high-level private message from Gaza to Washington. Segal had just returned from a meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, whose Hamas faction had recently won free and fair elections and taken power in Gaza. Hamas was seeking a unity government with the rival Fatah faction overseen by Mahmoud Abbas.”
In the rest of his piece, Tolan explores the sorry record of missed opportunities in Gaza from 2006 on, and offers a compelling explanation of why this has been so in Israel — a combination of a deeply traumatized society and the cold-eyed calculations of its recent leaders.  It’s a grim and powerful tale of what might have been and wasn’t. 
Tolan concludes, “At this writing, the outcome of indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel is impossible to predict.  Hamas’s hand was strengthened, however, by calls within Israel for direct talks with the Islamic organization and by increasing international calls for an end to Israel’s blockade.  Fatah leaders, meanwhile, have spoken out recently in support of the unity agreement, thus strengthening prospects for long-time reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah — the very condition Israel went to such lengths to destroy.  In other words, Hamas could end up “winning” the Gaza war of 2014, though the losers, as always, are the people of Gaza.”
Here’s how Nick Turse starts his vivid account of the coming famine in South Sudan, which will signal the disastrous end of Washington’s great experiment in African nation building:
“The soft glow of the dancing white lights is a dead giveaway.  It’s Christmas in July at the U.S. Embassy compound.  Behind high walls topped with fierce-looking metal impediments meant to discourage climbers, there’s a party under way.
“Close your eyes and you could be at a stateside summer barbeque or a holiday office party.  Even with them open, the local realities of dirt roads and dirty water, civil war, mass graves, and nightly shoot-to-kill curfews seem foreign.  These walls, it turns out, are even higher than they look. 
“Out by the swimming pool and the well-stocked bar, every table is packed with people.  Slightly bleary-eyed men and sun-kissed women wear Santa hats and decorations in their hair.  One festive fellow is dressed as Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation complete with a white sweater, black dickey, and bright white loafers.  Another is straddling an inflatable killer whale that he’s borrowed from the collection of playthings around the pool and is using as improvised chair while he stuffs his face from an all-American smorgasbord.  We’re all eating well tonight.  Mac and cheese, barbequed ribs, beef tenderloin, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and for desert, peach cobbler.  The drinks are flowing, too: wine, whisky, and fine Tusker beer.”
In the rest of this piece, on visits to U.N. military bases holding thousands of South Sudanese refugees and Médecins Sans Frontières hospitals in the field, Turse explores how U.S. nation building crashed and burned in Africa and how, in the process, a famine was created without the help of nature.  It’s an extraordinary tale of foreign policy disaster and also of human catastrophe. 
Whatever you do, don’t miss it!
I begin my latest post this way:
“As every schoolchild knows, there are three check-and-balance branches of the U.S. government: the executive, Congress, and the judiciary.  That’s bedrock Americanism and the most basic high school civics material.  Only one problem: it’s just not so.
“During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach.  Admittedly, it still lacks certain formal prerogatives of governmental power.  Nonetheless, at a time when Congress and the presidency are in a check-and-balance ballet of inactivity that would have been unimaginable to Americans of earlier eras, the Fourth Branch is an ever more unchecked and unbalanced power center in Washington.  Curtained off from accountability by a penumbra of secrecy, its leaders increasingly are making nitty-gritty policy decisions and largely doing what they want, a situation illuminated by a recent controversy over the possible release of a Senate report on CIA rendition and torture practices.
“All of this is or should be obvious, but remains surprisingly unacknowledged in our American world…”
In the rest of the post, I explore the rise of the national security state from World War II to late last night and then consider the recent imbroglio over the Senate Intelligence Committee’s still unreleased “torture report” – and what it tells us about the power of the Fourth Branch (and its limitations). 
This is a subject that should be part of our everyday conversation, but isn’t.  I conclude this way:
“The fact is that, for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity.  Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise.  No matter what setbacks it experiences along the way, its urge to expand and control seems, at the moment, beyond staunching.  In the context of the Senate’s torture report, the question at hand remains: Who rules Washington?”