Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why is Bush stirring the hornet's nest?

A disturbing thought crossed my mind today as I considered the speculation around a U.S. attack on Iran. The top military leaders at the Pentagon are against any preemptive action, and there are resignations predicted if Bush starts dropping bombs. Of course, the American people do not support an attack on Iran and the world community is also opposed. There are many possible motives behind Bush’s eagerness to attack yet another sovereign nation, but this is one I hadn’t thought of before. It is horrible to contemplate, but, because we are dealing with madmen in Washington, not too horrible to dismiss.

Is George Bush trying to provoke another 9/11?

The crowning moment of his presidency was standing on top of the World Trade Center rubble with his megaphone surrounded by honest-to-goodness heroes. His polls were up in the 90s. World leaders expressed their unanimous support. It was a point in time when America and the world looked for guidance to the man who had failed miserably at virtually everything else he had done in his life.

The moment would be intoxicating for anyone, but for Bush, it was like winning the lottery and hitting the winning home run in the World Series all wrapped into one. And, because George is George, it all went downhill from there. Today the President faces quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, hostile world leaders, a Democratic Congress, polls dipping into the 20s, and more and more criticism from people who once supported him. What to do?

One might desire to quickly and dramatically change the topic. Another 9/11 might do it. A terrorist attack causing massive deaths in America would suddenly put George back in the world spotlight and divert attention from his ongoing blunders. Like him or hate him, he’d be the face of the government.

A large-scale eruption of terrorist violence would also open the door to an option that sends chills up and down the spine of any rational American—martial law. Even those of us who are critical of the administration continually underestimate Bush’s stupidity and Cheney’s malevolence. Declaring martial law would give GW the ultimate control for which he yearns. Bush and company would then have an excuse to round up the liberals, the gays, the unfriendly journalists, and the college professors and provide them all with free housing at gated “resorts” in the Nevada desert.

And then there’s the matter of the 2008 elections. Terrorists have struck again. The United States is in a heightened state of security. The world is in turmoil. The wise thing to do, Glorious Leader tells the American people, is to “postpone” the elections until the situation becomes more stable. Yes, there are soldiers on the streets of Dallas and Boston and Portland, but that is for our own safety and security. There will be national elections again, sometime in the distant future.

George Bush is sticking a twig into the hornet’s nest of the Middle East. Why? The answer may be worse than you ever imagined.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bachmann Update: Still crazy

That wacky Michele Bachmann is at it again. In a recent interview, she described in detail a SECRET plan by Iran to divide up Iraq and create a “terrorist safe haven zone” called “The Iraq State of Islam.” Of course when questioned later, her office said there actually is no secret plan.

Thank you, fellow Minnesotans of the 6th District, for sending a mentally imbalanced person to Washington who will provide the rest of the country with yuks at our expense for years to come.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Congress must make media concentration a priority

In a totalitarian regime, the government decides what is news—what is true and what is false. They disseminate their “news” through the government-controlled media. In a democracy, there is a middleman known as the free press. The role of the press is to stand between those in power and the people to discern the truth, as best as possible. They have the training, resources, and networks to separate the egg yolk from the white, truth from propaganda, which is what separates us from totalitarian governments around the world.

What we have today is a different model. For a variety of reasons, the balance has shifted and the press no longer serves as the honest broker. Media concentration has resulted in the very large pie being shared by a mere handful of owners. This small group of generally conservative capitalists decides what is news—what is true and what is false—for most Americans. They decide which viewpoints will be heard, which experts to choose, which angle to pursue. As a result, voices that do not mesh with the owners’ capitalist agenda—socialists, gays, feminists, minorities, progressives and liberals—are ignored or attacked.

The “liberal press” is a myth. There may be liberal reporters, but those who own and run the media are anything but liberal. They are businesspeople first, citizens second, and greedy above all. They give the government what it wants through propaganda and friendly press, and the government returns the favor with deregulation and policies that allow owners to enlarge their monopolies. The American people—those whose sole source of news is the mainstream media—get the pleasure of being brainwashed. It’s a win/win/lose situation.

Breaking up the media monopoly needs to be a top agenda item of Congress, and they should start working on this soon. It may be too late for the 2008 elections, which is frightening. Another Republican in the White House for four years will surely mark the end of the American experiment. Unfortunately, the MSM must be forced to incorporate alternative voices and points of view by government. It will not move in this direction on its own.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

George Bush: Smirking towards Armageddon

Did you think George Bush couldn’t make things any worse? Reports from the British press are indicating that a strike on Iran could happen within days. Days. How wrong is this?

Striking Iran will set the Middle East on fire. It will increase America’s susceptibility to terrorist attacks a hundred fold. It will drive the price of oil sky high. Bombs are indiscriminant and will kill tens of thousands of Iranians. It will galvanize the Iranian people against us, even those who oppose their own government. It will accelerate the recruitment of more terrorists around the world. It will result in many U.S. casualties because Iran has a far stronger and better-equipped military than Iraq.

How can this be happening, you ask? Don’t ask me, ask your representatives in Congress and the Senate. Ask them how they will end this madness. Tell them that the President and Vice President are completely out of touch with reality and must be restrained. ASAP.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Why conservatives can't do satire

There have been a number of negative reviews of the new FOX show “The ½ Hour News Hour.” An attempt by Conservatives to copy the success of The Daily Show, the HHNH tries political satire from a far right perspective, and, as one might guess, fails miserably. I forced myself to watch segments of the show on uTube, and it was as painful as I had imagined it would be.

For all the panning of the show in the media, I have failed to read one critique that accurately explains what the problem is, so I will. Conservatives do not understand irony. Irony is the foundation of satire. If you don’t understand irony, you can never do satire.

The University of Victoria Department of English Writer’s Guide explains it this way: The term irony is derived from the Greek eiron (dissembler), and denotes that the appearance of things differs from their reality, whether in terms of meaning, situation, or action. That is, it is ironical when there is a difference between what is spoken and what is meant, what is thought about a situation and what is actually the case; or what is intended by actions and what is their actual outcome.

Conservatives are not wired to appreciate subtle humor. Conservative comedy is when people slip on banana peels or get hit in the face with a pie. Drawing subtle inferences is simply beyond their abilities.

There are no jabs or barbs directed at Bush or Cheney or anyone in the administration in the first installment of HHNH. All the venom is directed at liberals and liberal ideas. Because they don’t understand irony, they don’t see (or refuse to see) the irony in any of Bush’s actions in office. No surge jokes. No one-liners about the inability of the President of the United States to utter a coherent sentence. It’s all about dissing Dems.

What’s clear to all is that the object of HHNH is not humor but revenge. What lies beneath the Obama hits and Hillary swipes is anger, not irony. Irony is part of the human experience. It is not divided down political lines and it is not intended to be used as a bludgeon to smite one’s enemies. If FOX wants to go funny, it should really consider shows more in tune with it’s audience, like remakes of The Beverly Hillbillies or Gilligan’s Island. Big guffaws. Light on irony.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Oh, that helpless feeling

There are millions of Americans out there who feel like I do. They feel as if they are a passenger in a car that has gone out of control on a highway. The car is skidding toward oncoming traffic, and it’s happening in slow motion. Most frightening of all is that the driver seems to be enjoying it.

We are the people who have called and written our representatives, signed petitions, and let it be known to anyone who will listen that Bush and his crew are running this country into the ground. Yet for all we’ve done, America remains on a crash course toward expanded war and mayhem. It seems all we can do now is hold on and wait for the impact.

It’s a horrible feeling of helplessness. Our destiny, perhaps our very lives, is in the hands of madmen who rule just beyond the reach of civilized society, hiding from justice in a haze of lies, obfuscation and deceit. We hoped the people we elected to Congress would stop America’s village idiot from further tearing apart the Constitution, but alas, they sit on the sidelines yapping like Chihuahuas as the burglars ransack the house.

In an emergency situation such as a runaway car, there is only one possible life-saving option, and that is to take the steering wheel from the driver and try and regain control of the vehicle. That means either impeaching Bush and Cheney or forcing them to resign. There really are no other options if we are to avoid more death and destruction.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Please pay me for being stupid

I want to be a conservative pundit.

It’s one of only two jobs in America where you can gain fame and fortune and be wrong about everything. The other is politician.

I can say or write that black is white, up is down, and someone will give me enough money to buy a house in Scarsdale. And a pony.

It has to be a great job because it doesn’t require any thought. In fact, you run the risk of making sense if you think about something for more than a few seconds, and that is a death sentence for a conservative pundit.

Basically, the only job requirement is to say the first thing that comes into your head. Ten times out of ten it’s wrong and stupid, and people will love it.

In fact, the more wrong and stupid it is, the better. Angry white men, your target audience, also love it when you say cruel and hateful things. They enjoy it when you pick on the poor, women, minorities and the Clintons. The more hateful the attack the better. Cruelty towards others makes angry white guys laugh. How hard can that be?

I’m tired of just getting by month after month. It’s time to jump on the stupid train and take the short ride to Hatesville. There’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow and it’s mine. ALL MINE.

Friday, February 09, 2007

How D.A.R.E. you!

I attended my 10-year old son’s graduation from D.A.R.E. last night. He was proud of his accomplishment and I congratulated him enthusiastically. It was an hour-and-a-half long event—a very long time to ask a hundred fifth-graders and one fifty-four year old father to sit still—but the kids seemed very into it and were full of D.A.R.E.-loving energy.

A remnant from the early years of the war on drugs, D.A.R.E. is still a mainstay in many U.S. schools despite the fact that a number of studies have shown the program is not effective in reducing drug use. Knowing this put the graduation ceremony in disturbing perspective for me.

The master-of-ceremonies was uniformed Officer Schuveiller, an affable, easy-to-like man who obviously believed in the program. During the course of the evening, Officer Schuveiller mentioned at least three times that he had never smoked, had a beer or taken an illegal drug in his life. Good for him, I thought. He was certainly a better role model than 90 percent of the parents in the audience.

The theme of the evening was abstinence. Students read essays that were all only slight variations on the “I will never, ever, ever, ever…take drugs in my life” theme. Their insistence on this matter was passionate. Drugs kill people. Drugs ruin families. Drugs make you stupid. I will never touch drugs in my life.

You can’t blame the kids. The fact that they are fanatical about something they have no experience with is not their fault. Providing fifth-graders with a six-week abstinence-only sex education course conducted by the local Baptist church would produce similar results.

D.A.R.E. is not education but indoctrination. The program deals in absolutes and sets up standards of behavior that most students can never hope to meet. When they don’t measure up to the perfect Officer Schuveiller, when they behave like the fallible human beings they are, we all are, then the guilt sets in.

The program makes a distinction between good drugs and bad drugs, but it is laughably arbitrary, and as the children age, they will all understand this. “My Dad has a drink every night, and he’s the CEO of huge company.” “My brother smokes cigarettes, and he’s a lawyer.” The hypocrisy of the “touch drugs and your life is ruined” approach does not go unnoticed by kids, even at this young age.

And let’s not forget the aura of militarism surrounding the program. The course is run by policemen, not sociologists or drug therapists. Officer Schuveiller showed a video he created that was a collage of photos showing the kids in different settings during the program. One long stretch of shots involved a military helicopter landing in a field next to the school and all the kids lining up to see it and talk to the pilot. What possible connection is there between a military helicopter and an anti-drug program for kids?

None of this is to say that we should encourage children to take drugs. However, drugs are a part of our society and need to be dealt with realistically, not through the filter of a political or religious agenda. When we are hypocritical about drugs and drug use or rely on propaganda and cherry-picked science, as the D.A.R.E. program does, kids get very mixed messages.

D.A.R.E. has always been a band aid over the drug problem championed by reactionary politicians who care more about looking like they’re doing something than actually tackling a very complicated societal issue. Trying to brainwash kids into abstinence will never be successful, and D.A.R.E. should be scraped for a much more realistic, honest approach to drugs.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Troop Throb in Iraq, Says Snow

WASHINGTON DC – At this morning’s briefing, White House press secretary Tony Snow introduced new administration terminology related to the President’s troop surge in Iraq.

“What we’re doing in Iraq is really better described as a throb rather than a full-fledged surge. We want to keep expectations at the throb level, which is only slightly less aggressive than a surge. Our goals remain the same.”

A reporter asked Snow why the latest strategy wasn’t a swell or gush of troops.

“No, we’re not swelling,” asserted Snow. “And we are absolutely not gushing or, I might add, undulating. Let me make that clear. This is a troop throb to secure Baghdad and assist the fledgling government with security.”

Caroline Matthers from the Washington Post asked Snow to clarify exactly how many troops would be inserted as part of the throb.

“That’s one of the reasons why our terminology has shifted slightly. Instead of the 20,000 number previously stated, we will be sending closer to 500 additional troops.”

One reporter asked if that was a strong enough throb to achieve success.

“We believe that the thrust of our throb will be sufficient to fill the security void and help propagate peace in that war torn city.”

Monday, February 05, 2007

Murdoch admits the obvious: We peddle propaganda

It’s come to this. In a recent interview at an economic forum in Switzerland, media mogul Darth Sidious, otherwise known as Rupert Murdoch, was asked if News Corp. had managed to shape the agenda on the war in Iraq. His answer?

“No, I don’t think so. We tried.” Asked to elaborate, he said: “We basically supported the Bush policy in the Middle East…but we have been very critical of his execution.”

Okay, can we now relegate the term “liberal media” to the dustbin of history? We’ve known all along that FOX News was neither fair nor balanced, but now it is revealed that it is part of what can only be described as a worldwide propaganda machine for the conservative agenda.

Is there an outcry from “legitimate” news organizations about this? I haven’t heard it. Maybe that’s because there are no legitimate news organizations left. The deafening silence surrounding Murdock’s remarks among the major media outlets suggest complicity. It’s now generally accepted that the old school of journalism—the search for truth—has been closed, and the new school—infotainment and government cheerleading—has taken its place.

The run-up to the Iraq war is one of the most egregious examples of the new journalism, and it wasn’t just FOX stoking the war engines. All of the network news organizations eagerly hoped on the Bush/Cheney Baghdad express. They all supported the Bush policy in the Middle East, ignoring anyone who dared to criticize the inevitable.

Murdoch spoke the truth for once, but nobody cared. Who needs Pravda when the capitalist propaganda machine operates so smoothly and efficiently?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

George is the reason the wheels are coming off the wagon

What is it about Bush and things with wheels? GW is one of three people in the world who have managed to fall off a Segway. He’s had numerous bicycle accidents on the ranch’s back 40. And now, we hear he nearly ran over a host of reporters when he took the controls of a DC-10 tractor while touring a Caterpillar facility. Some have suggested that it was clearly his intention to run over the press corps, but I think that’s giving him more credit for driving ability than is due.

Does he have some type of inner ear problem? Does he make it a point to drink and drive?

It’s more than a little upsetting to know that we have to keep the presidential car keys hidden from the leader of the free world.

I don’t recall hearing anything about Bush crashing a jet fighter during his National Guard days (although, who knows if he really flew anything by himself), so it doesn’t appear that planes are a problem.

Wheels seem to be the trouble here. Perhaps the lack of wheels turning upstairs translates into an inability to make them work downstairs.

I say, “George. You wanna ride? Here’s your safety helmet and an adult 3-wheeler. Have a blast.” But that’s just me.