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Friday, December 03, 2004

Bush, Saddam and Osama Share Worldviews

Jonathan Schwarz, a blogger found at A Tiny Revolution, has compiled links to his insightful series of posts titled, "Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein." He posted the compilation as a guest blogger at Under the Same Sun, another wonderful blog on the reality of world affairs.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More So-Called Family Values

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an insightful piece published recently that examines how the Bush administration wants to strip people of their rights to safety from harmful consumer products.

Bush is working to enact corporate America’s twin goals of replacing penalties and fines for breaking safety regulations with voluntary compliance, and of curtailing citizens’ rights to sue manufacturers of defectively made products.

Together, these goals remove government protection of people from greedy corporations and makes the option of suing in civil court less likely.

Dancing in the Streets

Gainesville city officials are finally talking about revamping the worthless anti-dancing law passed several years ago as a way to combat to so-called scourge of "raves".

At the time, I spent considerable political capital with city commissioners I considered my allies in a failed effort to prevent this law from being enacted. Essentially, the law says that any place that serves alcohol must make people leave at 2 p.m., when the legal drinking time ends. This was meant to cut the feet off of dance clubs that remained opened much later, even all night, so young people could dance and have fun together.

Yes, some of these dancers were using drugs, such as ecstasy, and no doubt some club owners were well aware of this and even booked DJs whose music played to the altered mindsets of such folks. But to believe that outlawing dance clubs after 2 a.m. would reduce drug use was ignorant. Possession of drugs is already a felony and can land you in prison, not to mention the possible societal repercussions, so if that doesn't stop someone, then why would a law banning dance clubs after 2 a.m.?

The answer: it won't, and it didn't. The use of X is determined by supply and demand. Simple as that.

So while drug use was not impacted, the bottom line of many clubs was. And worse, club owners noticed a negative side effect from the new law – huge crowds of people forced onto the streets simultaneously at 2 a.m. There are many tales of fights, car accidents, and other problems caused by these crowds, who previously had been able to trickle out of clubs. The 2 a.m. law also prevented clubs from letting drunks sober up before heading home.

Now it seems that even the more conservative members of the City Commission feel a repeal, or at least a compromise, is needed.

“If you shut off drinking at 2 a.m. and the bars are able to stay open until 4 a.m., it’s clear you won’t have the same number of people hitting the streets at the same time,” Commissioner Tony Domenech told The Independent Florida Alligator.

I'll drink to that.

The Anatomy of a Lie

Is the irony thick or what? Pentagon officials are investigating the use of "misinformation" when a US Marine spokesman "gave CNN misleading information about an attack on the Iraqi city of Falluja."

The accusation surely rings true, but what one has to wonder why this is considered such a big deal considering the systemic, persistent use of misinformation by the government and military for the past three years. President Bush and his top military and diplomatic leaders lied about the threat Saddam Hussein posed to America to get people to support last year's invasion; and after deposing Hussein, our government and military began a propaganda campaign to turn ordinary Iraqis who want to rule their own nation into "insurgents," "terrorists" and "dead-enders" who we must now massacre.

Such propaganda techniques are necessary to justify the killing of people we just "liberated." Otherwise people would be rightly horrified to learn that our liberation of Iraq is nothing of the sort, that the puppet government we installed is an iron-fisted regime that mirrors the authoritarianism of Hussein's dictatorship, and that we are killing many more innocent women and children than "foreign fighters."

Let's return to the current investigation into the use of misinformation. Here is what CNN is reporting:

In an October 14 interview from Iraq, 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert announced that a major U.S. military operation was under way in Falluja -- three weeks before the offensive that eventually recaptured the city began.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN that Gilbert's remarks were "technically true but misleading." It was an attempt to get CNN "to report something not true," the official said.

CNN management has asked the Pentagon for an official response to a report in the Los Angeles Times that identified Gilbert's comments as a possible case of deliberate misinformation of news outlets. The newspaper reported that the interview was part of a broader effort to manipulate the media to achieve U.S. goals in Iraq.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said U.S. personnel are never allowed to deceive reporters, and he said he is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the Gilbert interview.

"We are looking into reports where people may have gotten more creative than they should have," he said.
They certainly are creative. But to focus on this one case of deceit is to obscure the larger picture. The US government has been a pioneer in the use of public relations as a tool of war, sometimes against its own citizens but almost always to fool Americans into supporting something it otherwise would not.

Read Bitter Fruit, the seminal story about the US government's covert overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guatemala in the 1950s. It details how a maven of the Madison Avenue PR industry was employed by the government to make Guatemala's government appear to be overrun by communists bent on turning our hemisphere into a commie kingdom, thereby making it easy for the media to look the other way when the coup happened.

The book is a bitter insight into our government leader's disdain for the average American, which is feels it must deceive in order to rule.

President Reagan, who employed many of the same sham artists that now work for Bush, was also effective at this technique. You might not recall that Reagan declared a war on terrorism during his reign, and in the mid-80s Islamic radical terror was once Time magazine's story of the year. Reagan had Americans believing that Libyan hit men were roaming our streets, lying in wait to kill the president. He said that Nicaragua was a commie nation that could invade America, and that the tiny island of Grenada was such a threat that the US had to invade.

These anecdotes, like the CNN story, are mere drops in the propaganda bucket. Books have been written on this subject. Here is another and another that are good.

But Bush would make even Joseph Goebbels proud. Bush has transformed propaganda from a tactic into a way of life. His presidency and his recent political campaign are textbook examples of the Machiavellian style of rule. After the 9-11 attacks, the Pentagon formed the Office of Strategic Influence, which was "intended to plant false news stories in the international media" and to plant sources in such media to influence the world's understanding and perception of our invasion of Iraq. Here is a good story about that.

The Center for American Progress has been tracking the deception of the Bush administration and has a handy database you can use to browse the list. Nevertheless, the Nov. 2 victory for the Bush presidency is proof that propaganda is an effective tool for ruling those who would otherwise impeach you or at least vote you out of office.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Pre-K Plan Not OK

Jeb and Co. are planning to trivialize a major pro-child initiative passed in 2002 that mandated free pre-kindergarten for Florida children.

Big surprise. When the initiative takes money out of the elite's pork-dealing hands and spends it on the needs of people and not special interests, then the elites always find a way to subvert it. The elites, which now happen to be mostly Republicans, prefer to dole out tax dollars to the people who got them in office, namely the rich special interests that represent big business.

Newspapers reported today that the GOP-led legislature has hammered out a deal with Jeb to fund three hours a day only of pre-K, and mostly in private day care centers run by people not required to have formal education training. In other words, three hours of free day care.

While better than nothing, the proposal is far short of what voters expected when they overwhelmingly passed the initiative two years ago. Other states have enacted model programs, but Jeb and Co. have elected to lower the bar.

It is easy to see why. If the voters require them to spend money on education, it takes away money they could use to build bridges and roads in areas where special interests want development and growth to occur. This is why Jeb hated the bullet train, which was an expensive project destined to draw money needed for pork projects. It is also the reason the legislature fooled the citizens into making it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot – fewer initiatives, thanks to the constitutional amendment passed Nov. 2 making it more difficult to do, means fewer projects siphoning off their pork money.

Call your lawmakers and tell them to fund pre-K so that it is more than glorified day care.

The Hostess with the Mostess

Below is a letter I sent to The Gainesville Sun on Sunday. We'll see if it runs. --CW

Editor: Timothy Austin (Nov. 28) and other letter writers are correct – Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan should have been at President Bush’s campaign event at the Gainesville airport.

However, the reason for her appearance has nothing to do with officially welcoming the president to town, as these writers claim the mayor should have done.

Mrs. Hanrahan was not elected by the people to be a hostess. She was elected to look after our health, safety and welfare. Check the city’s charter if you doubt me.

The mayor indeed should have been at the airport when Bush arrived, flanked by a contingent of Gainesville police officers there to arrest Bush for the many war crimes and violations of international law that he has committed in the past three years.

His guilt in these crimes is incontrovertible. Bush attacked a country that was not threatening ours, which violates the United Nations charter. The military and intelligence officers tortured and murdered prisoners of war, which violates the Geneva conventions. And we’ve killed more than 14,000 innocent civilians, including many babies, and we’ve injured many more, using war tactics specifically outlawed in international laws.

If Bush visits Gainesville again, let’s send the mayor to arrest the baby killer. It would be in the best interests of our city, as having a psychopathic war criminal in charge of the country is not good for anyone.

Besides, a Republican sheriff runs our local jail, so Bush would be quite comfy there, I’m sure. The mayor could visit him there as well.

Sincerely,

Colin Whitworth

Another Moral "Victory"

The decisions by CBS and NBC not to run an ad from the United Church of Christ lauding its own inclusiveness of gays and lesbians is of course censorship, but I suspect it actually paid huge dividends to the church.

I doubt I would have seen the ad, which was reported to be a $1.7 million ad buy. Sounds like a lot of money until you try to reach across America, and suddenly it’s small change. But CBS and NBC’s decisions not to show the ad – which is being run on other stations, such as TBS – is quickly becoming a national news story that will reach far more people than the ad buy could, and for no charge.

It happens so often – opposition to rap music makes it more popular; Piss Christ, an otherwise obscure art involving the crucifixion suspended in a jar or urine, becomes a worldwide known piece of art; Janet Jackson’s millisecond strip tease and Nichol Sheridan’s bare back overtake the debacle known as the Iraq War on the 24-hour news stations. The outcries to ban music, movies and art that push our sensibility envelopes only fall into the same trap and become national and international advertisements for said content.

The ad shows a large bouncer preventing people from entering a church while the UCC across the streets invites them in. Because CBS and NBC felt it was a slam against President Bush’s anti-gay marriage stance, they refused to run it.

Apparently Americans are not allowed to buy advertisements that might be considered offensive to Our Leader. No dissent in any form allowed.

Another interesting piece on this here.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Give Me a Sign

Another insight into the mind of the pro-Bush voter – on my return from South Florida Sunday, I passed a Jeep that had a homemade, poster-sized sticker affixed to the rear-mounted spare tire. The sign said:

"If I give you mine, that's generosity.

If you give me yours, that's generosity.

If you give mine away, that's communism!"
Needless to say, the word "communism" was written in red ink.

Without going into a long debunking of the political ignorance this displays, let me say this: communism is based on government ownership of the means of production, as compared to capitalism, which allows private ownership of such means.

For workers, there's not a heck of a lot of difference, especially when it comes to government taking their money and giving it away. In America, workers who are paid legally have taxes removed from their paychecks, and that money is redistributed to a variety of people.

In America, most of the tax money goes to high-tech industries, notably weapon makers. Very little goes to the poor. For example, when President Bush handed out his three massive tax cuts, he did so by borrowing money from people not yet born and gave it to people alive now that are already rich. And if you examine how much money the government hands out in freebies, you will see that most subsidies are to wealthy corporate interests and not to so-called welfare queens.

Capitalism, as much if not more so than communism, is about taking your money and redistributing it to others.

But what I do I expect trying to learn something from bumper stickers?

Sorry for the Vast Emptiness

I was on vacation for the holidaze, so I was not blogging. Back now.