Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Manufacturing War, At Home and Abroad....

There have been near-constant comparisons and contrasts between the Iraq-war-gone-sour and the Vietnam war. There are, indeed, points to compare and some contrasts between the two. One that's not mentioned much in the news, however, is that both were pretty much manufactured wars--as have been most military engagements since WWII.

A few years ago, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky teamed up to write a little ditty called Manufacturing Consent, in which they posited that the media follow a propaganda model designed to promote the views and desired subjects for public conversation of a ruling elite.

That model explains why the New York Times is the way it is today--still passing on the information the administration most wants to get out to the public, and only incidentally challenging the factual basis of that information.

More to the point, all the tangential evidence shows that the Bushies, collectively, form the most secretive, deceitful and corrupt administration in modern history--maybe in all of American history--and the common-sensical view would be to treat everything they say with considerable skepticism, to assume, for a working reporter's purposes, that they are lying, no matter what they wish the public to believe.

And yet, that's just not the case. The sad, farty little Judith Miller singlehandedly swallowed every bit of information handed her by government shills that pointed to a need for war--by extension, the New York Times actively promoted the administration's desire for war by publishing her ill-substantiated and uncorroborated claims as front-page material. And now that she's been banished to Sag Harbor, her compatriot in journalistic crime, Michael Gordon, is now doing the exact same thing with administration propaganda intended to gin up popular support for some manner of military attack on Iran.

And, there's another point of similarity between Iraq and Vietnam. The large newspapers in the `60s, as most reporters and editors are happy to forget, editorialized in support of the Vietnam war, before and after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. It was not until the news out of Vietnam began to be at odds with what the Johnson administration was saying that the public sensed that they were being deceived about progress, and it was not until then that those same newspapers slowly began to change their stance with regard to the war. Sound familiar?

There's another similarity between the two wars--during both, the government began spying on the public with increasing frequency. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of peace organizations were placed under surveillance by both the FBI and the CIA, along with some agencies of military intelligence. Acronyms such as CHAOS and COINTELPRO are now part of the national political lexicon. Today, we have the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," which no one in the public yets knows anything about, except that Bush has admitted of it in public. There are likely domestic spying programs to sweep up millions, possibly billions, of domestic emails, phone calls, web traffic and faxes, along with data mining programs of unknown sophistication which may be taking illegally obtained information and then joining that information with other relational databases purchased or borrowed from commercial firms in order to mine them for, potentially, the most ephemeral of connections to terrorism--or to create political enemies lists, for all we know.

In the `60s and `70s, when the activities of the government became generally known, particularly through Congressional investigative operations such as the Church and Pike Committees, in the Senate and House, respectively, the public was incensed, and rightfully so. The end result was a new round of legal restraints on the government, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). To civil libertarians, FISA was a joke--a secret court making determinations on surveillance warrants in secret which did not require the same level of proof as for domestic criminal warrants. And yet, it acted as a marginal constraint on an intelligence system which had been out of control for decades. The FBI and the CIA had to have at least some half-assed reason for their domestic spying.

The Bushies have ignored FISA and the FISA court to a degree that, thirty years ago, would have gotten them impeached in an afternoon, but they go on doing what they please regarding surveillance without much concern for what Congress or the public thinks.

This may be the worst part of any war--the President then thinks, "it's emergency time," and, "the Constitution doesn't count in wartime." It doesn't matter that the damage done domestically is greater than what terrorism can do on its own. Such policies do greater damage to us, put us at greater risk, nationally and socially, than any terrorist can.

Add idiots like Bush and Cheney and their trusted insider hirelings to that mix and the opportunity for radical changes in the country goes up exponentially. The public sees nearly 3000 people killed on a single day and gives up all power to the very people who are the least able to exercise that power responsibly, and then, years later, wonder why the country's gone to hell in a rocket-powered handbasket, and, wonder why rights they assumed to be inviolate are now effectively gone, then refuse to understand the relationship of an undeclared war on an emotion, terror, to that loss of rights, to the clusterfuck they see going on in Iraq, to the constant propagandizing they're getting from all sides.

When we stopped being the home of the brave, brave enough to challenge our own government's usurpations of power, we also stopped being the land of the free. That's an even bigger loss than 3000 people on a single day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

When the News Shits on Your Head, It's Cindy Sheehan's Fault....

Perhaps it was providential that I woke up today to an email from an acquaintance which excoriated Cindy Sheehan for not putting a headstone on the grave of her son who had died in Iraq, and who has been solidly against the war and determined to get an answer from George Bush as to why her son died.

This email has been circulating for some time, and shows a grassy plot with a small bouquet where the headstone would normally be. The accompanying text is quite inflammatory, suggesting that Sheehan was neglectful of her son. The email is quite behind the times--as Snopes recounts, there was a temporary disagreement over disbursement of mortuary funds, and there is now an elaborate headstone in place.

But, it continues to circulate not only as fact, but also as a condemnation of a woman who wants the cessation of a war in which her son was killed for no discernable reason but that Bush and Co. wanted a war.

To give some shaded racist cant to the email, a second picture has been appended since the email began to circulate--Sheehan giving Jesse Jackson, Sr., a hug at a rally, as if this were further proof of her treason.

It's almost pointless to reiterate that all the reasons given for the war--that Iraq had alliances with al-Qaeda, that Iraq was in possession of huge amounts of chemical and biological weapons, that Iraq was preparing nuclear weapons, that Iraq was an imminent threat to U.S. national security--have been soundly disproven. A hard-nosed and hard-headed small core of people in this country still believe that all those things are true, and that people such as Cindy Sheehan are traitors, that they "hate" the military, and that her "disrespect" for the Commander-in-Chief hurts troop morale and is evidence of grave wrongdoing on her part.

The latter may be, in the eyes of that minority of knuckleheaded cult followers, the greatest sin. The cult of personality that has grown around Bush is nothing short of breathtaking. The man is an idiot, probably maniacal, and certainly the most bullheaded and obdurate of any recent Presidents.

I say the timing of the receipt of the email is providential, because it comes at virtually the same time that I read the Washington Post's first installment of a planned series on "The Other Walter Reed." (The second installment is here, and the third, here.) Just read the whole goddamned thing, then whiz backward in time a few days to the reports from Congress on the incredible amounts of money wasted in Iraq, and just juxtapose those news items and that email and ponder what they mean, individually and together.

Compare the photo-ops of George Bush visiting the polished Ward 57 of Walter Reed with the pictures of Cindy Sheehan being arrested for civil disobedience. Compare Bush, jutting out his chin and demanding the carnage go on because, otherwise, his fragile house-of-cards psyche will collapse, with one dead soldier's mother saying, "no more carnage." Compare the ways in which Cindy Sheehan and the loony right choose to "support the troops."

I say providential, because there seems to be no better way to illustrate the gigantic cognitive disconnect at work in this country today. The very people who claim to "support the troops" tolerate the sort of neglect occurring at Walter Reed (and at army facilities as far away as Colorado--see) and will, mark my words, eventually denounce Priest and Hull for bringing the situation to public view as an attack on their Dear Leader.* Priest has already been subjected to that treatment for her articles on the CIA's black world prison gulag, so I don't expect anything from the hard-core right wing but more of the same. I don't expect the attacks on Sheehan to stop, either, nor on the current Congress for exposing the sort of graft and bribery and war profiteering that may have been the only plan this White House ever had for the war.

There's not much chance of changing the minds of those in the deeply neurotic/psychotic cult of Bush in this country, but, there might be a chance of influencing the people, including those in the media, who take their ravings as serious, thoughtful complaints. It's one thing to acknowledge their rights to free speech. It's quite another to treat them as if they have some kind of special knowledge, or to give priority to their views as if they are representative of the majority in the country, when, in fact, they are at the margins of society and represent its fringes.

* Oops! Young Jonah Goldberg (evil spawn of Lucianne) says at National Review Online that, well, the troops ought to get the best, but Dana Priest is such an untrustworthy reporter that he'd much prefer that Fox News take Geraldo Rivera (who hasn't done anything resembling real journalism in about forty years) off the Anne Nicole Smith story and put him on the Walter Reed story. That way young Jonah could be assured of getting the unvarnished truth, because Fox (evil spawn of Rupert Murdoch, which was, in fact, doing the non-stop Anna Nicole Smith story instead of the Walter Reed story in the first fucking place) is so much more trustworthy when it comes to reporting the "news."

Give me a fuckin' break, Jonah. Neither you nor Geraldo would recognize the news if it walked up to either of you, introduced itself, gave you its home phone number, begged you to call and then shit on your head. What you and your very needy, very fearful and not-at-all-independence-minded readers think is news propaganda.

Exactly who broke this story in the first place, Fat Shorty? Dana Priest and Anne Hull, or Geraldo Rivera and you and your pal, Rupert?

One guess, and, be quick about it, fat-boy-who-loves-war-but-won't-join-up, before the news shits on your head. And the news is that the loony Bushies can't run an army at home, either....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ah, Molly, We Miss Your Presence Already....

What you might have made of this reptilian excuse for advanced theoretical thinking, fundy-style....

It's downright scary to think that these people help run their states' business--you know, things like school curricula, affairs of science and commerce and law, and all the while managing to play with themselves non-stop, intellectually, if not physically.

I'm marginally of the opinion that these retrograde examples of homo sapiens actually waited for Molly to expire before exhibiting this exceptional desire to return to the Dark Ages, so fearful were they of retribution in print, but, then, that would mean they could read, so....

The Warren Chisum mentioned in the link above is none other than the Warren Chisum that Molly memorialized--and then buried--in an article for The Progressive years ago, partly reproduced here.

Tom DeLay, as I wrote to him once, was the reason why I didn't admit to anyone normal and sensible that I was a native-born Texan. Guilt by association is an unfortunate, but regrettably real, phenomenon in life. Now that DeLay's a Virginian of dubious provenance and even more dubious character (if that's possible), and Molly's gone, it becomes part of her legacy that I once again, in her memory, say, yes, by gum, I'm a Texan.

I may never become a Texan quite like Molly, but I aspire to her ideals and goals--fighting the good fight, skewering those deserving of skewering, taking to the streets and banging pots and pans for peace and justice, and having a little fun all the while, where I can find it.

I grew up, off and on, in and around a west Texas dirt farm on the northern edge of the Hill Country. It was the place of my mother's birth, and I learned to shoot there--just tin cans and bottles, mind you--it just never was in me to think that animals, even varmints, were fair game--and to figure out how to blow tuna fish cans all the way over the top of the rusted mule-drawn combine with M80s. It was a place, in the early `50s, where a big day was getting a ride with my grandfather up to the nearest store, where I could spend a dime on a Classics Illustrated comic book and another dime on a Nehi orange soda, with the great promise of getting a nickel back on the bottle on the next trip. The telephone there still was a wooden contraption with a horn to speak into and a handpiece to listen from, switched on a party line, which meant if one picked up the phone to call, and someone else was already on the line, it was impolite to linger and eavesdrop on their conversation. The school had two rooms, one for grades one through three, and the other for grades four through six, and a cafeteria, across the road that, maybe once a week, served hot, fresh-baked rolls that took both hands to hold and could be drizzled with honey from decanters with the neat lever-connected-to-a-slide-valve. It was a place of interminable dusty heat most of the year and ripping cold winds in winter that came out of the north like an invading army, and in spring and summer, heat lightning on the horizon spread out across the forbiddingly dry evening sky like god's artillery strikes.

It wasn't exactly idyllic, but, it was often home in those years. I was separated from it physically for decades after, and still am. In more recent years, I frequently regretted--as the country went from bad to worse to downright ugly due to the pernicious influence of politicians like the execrable DeLay, the even more execrable Bushes, along with the Cornyns and Hutchisons and the Snopes-like carpetbaggers such as Rove and Cheney--that so much of my history had been tarnished by a kind of decay unique to contemporary Texas, a dry rot, a desiccating withering of the heart and the soul and the intellect, and I often wished to divorce myself from it. But, whenever I read one of Molly Ivins' columns or heard a bit of one of her talks, I thought that, maybe, there was hope for Texas in spite of it all.

Now that Molly is gone from us, and DeLay is where he truly belongs (wrapped in the bosom of the Lord of Lobbyists and Political Prostitutes), it's incumbent upon us, collectively, to fill her large shoes, equal her large heart and match her loud laughter at the absurdity that is politics in these United States, including Texas, and meet her standards for truth and peace and real justice.

In order for me to help in doing that, I have to once again say that I am a Texan, and to say, "I wanna be Molly Ivins' kind of Texan."

There are a passel of stories about Molly here, collected by her friends at The Texas Observer, and they're revealing, funny and, I think, somehow, in the midst of grief, enormously hopeful. Read `em all. It's worth the effort.

[A small note to my few readers--I've been preoccupied with reading the live-blogging of the Libby trial, and musing to myself about the revealed truths of that trial concerning the incestuous, necrophilious relationship of the DC press corpse to this particular White House and its occupants. It's becoming glaringly obvious that the more overpaid the TV news celebrity, the more inclined he or she is to get out the shovel and bury real investigative journalism for the sake of comity and good relations with a pack of hyenas dressed in expensive suits.

If this trial has taught us anything so far, it's that we're in the midst of an anti-Watergate moment, where the press has gone out of its way to protect the administration (with some notable exceptions), rather than expose it for what it is, and that the extent of that effort is even broader than media critics suspected, and goes way beyond self-censorship, into the territory of actively propagandizing the public in favor of this administration.

The prosecution rested, and Libby's lawyers made it clear they have pinned their defense on a long parade of witnesses from the news media in an effort to broadly impeach that media. The testimony has shown that news media in an even worse light did the prosecution's witnesses from the press. Craveness doesn't begin to describe it, while the dead-and/or-missing-blonde-girl show continues to suck up all the bandwidth. *sigh* Maybe some introspection over journalistic ethics is just too much to ask of these bozos with a press pass and a severe shortage of scruples.

It's getting tiresome to repeat, so often, that the inside-the-Beltway press has shown itself to be biased, and severely so, and the proof is in the contrast between the reporting of the Clinton years, which repeated, breathlessly, every targeted leak from the Starr investigation as further indication of Clinton's unfitness for office, and then has consistently given Bush, Cheney and his Congressional cronies a pass on much, much weightier matters of lying about war, malfeasance and misfeasance and corruption, dereliction of duty and on a degree of usurpation of power that would have left Nixon gaping in awe.

More, maybe, on the media's sloppy state of being at a later date.]