Friday, October 17, 2003

Perfidious Propaganda and Bush’s Offensive

When you think about it, it’s not such a bad idea. Nefarious and foul, but logical. If you’re military brass and you want to influence the perception of the war back home, you just have the boys in uniform dash off a few letters to their hometown papers, saying all is just ducky in the trenches.

Problem: the boys are busy trying to stay alive. No problem, you just write their letters for them. One letter will do. Just write it, Xerox it, and order some of the guys to sign it. Or not; just mail it to their hometown paper, unsigned. Nobody’s the wiser back in the world, unless somebody catches on.

Now does that stink, or what?

Speaking of stinking, President Bush has a PR offensive going too:

Bush rejected criticism that progress is too slow in Iraq, saying Americans are not hearing the real story. "It's a lot better than you probably think," the president said, adding that people who have been in Iraq are stunned by the stories at home.

He said schools and hospitals are reopening, children are getting immunizations and water and electricity are coming back. "Life is getting better," he said. [Link]

Well sure we’re not hearing the real story. The Bush Administration and its Flying Monkeys of Perpetual War are throwing up a smoke screen, and in some cases using our troops to do it. Let’s hear the "Support the Troops" Republicans comment on that one, while they try to make peace-loving Americans feel un-American for our dissent against it.

The real story is that life still sucks in Iraq, and 70% of the work force is unemployed. And the job market is infested with corruption. If the kids are going back to school, great. They went to school before “coalition forces” attacked Iraq. I’d love to see what would result if you passed out paper and crayons in a Baghdad school, and asked the kids to draw pictures of what life has been like since last spring. Actually, I probably wouldn’t want to see that.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Ministry of Truth

Orwellian Strategy Used to Sell the War

This column from today's SF Chronicle describes the uncanny similarities between the Bush administration's doublethink and that of Orwell's 1984. I truly believe that this could not be more serious. The powers that be are going to nefarious lengths to manipulate the way Americans think. This isn't rhetoric to posit a position, to persuade free thinking people to rally to a cause. It's lies and disinformation, to obfuscate and coerce through fear. It's brainwashing on an epic scale. And I don't buy it. Do you?

Euro, I row, we all row for Euro

So--a switch to the Euro is imminent, is it? Time to buy gold--or anything.

I couldn't resist

Turns out I'm not leaving on my little journey until the morning. (Something about too many beers watching my beloved Sox lose to the hated Yankees again.)
Soo-I get to point out the wildly disparate takes on today's Security Council resolution about Iraq by three nationally-syndicated newspapers. The Washington Post, the Washington Times (part owned by the Moonies, in case you didn't know), and the New York Times. Reading these three essays, simultaneously published about the same event, gives one a startling view of what is truth in our modern world, doesn't it?

Into the Void

I know that we're all going to miss Erik. I want it duly noted that I tried to get him to book his trip through Expedia or Priceline, but he's kinda frugal and insisted on using No fault of mine.

I'll try to keep the blog alive while Erik's away. But as some of you know, I'm writing a book, and I have another blog called Metaphor. (Link in the left column.) So while Erik's away, if any of our readers want to take a shot at guest-blogging, it's cool with me. Like when Letterman got sick, right?

Just click my name on the left, and send your post in an e-mail.

See ya for a while

I'm going on a brief trip, not taking my Internet connection, and so will not be blogging for a while. (I know, I know, you're heartbroken.)
As a parting shot, I must observe this: The happy-happy reports that the US-sponsored resolution about Iraq was "unanimously passed" by the Security Council today are amazingly distorted. What really happened was that Colin Powell finally wore down the opposition by a water-torture of tiny alterations in the language until finally the opponents to the marginally-amended resolution gave approval. It wasn't a victory for the US, in the sense that we gained acceptance of our conduct, just that we conquered the opposition by diplomatic pestering.
The most telling part of the story is carried in the last paragraph of the WAPO article (WAPO will, I trust, in later editions explain this more fully), namely that none of the big countries, France, Germany, Russia, China, are going to contribute one whit--not a body, not a Euro, nothing--to help the US out of the quagmire Bush has created.

When I return to cyberspace I'll see if America has been told how Phyrric this victory is. Meanwhile, when a soldier is killed, it's still 10 to 1 it's an American, and when a dollar is spent, it's yours and mine.

Who Dathunkit

The war in Iraq has "swollen the ranks of Al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will." I seem to recall predictions to this effect, seem to recall they were drowned out by the Administration's jack-booted march to war.

Certainly this is but a baseless claim of a scorned predicter, a wild-eyed nay-sayer, a flower-bedecked peacenik. Who, besides such a misfit, would make such an assessment?

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, the "British-based think tank" that annually produces the "bible for defense analysts," that's who.

The actual document--The Military Balance--must be purchased, but Dr. John Chipman's summary of the state of terrorism today (a chilling one, to be sure), may be found here by clicking on his "remarks" (Adobe Reader required).

Cost of War

Cost of War

Click here to watch the cost climb. It's sobering.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

--President Dwight D. Eisenhower
April 16, 1953

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I'm not as crazy as I think I am

Today's essay by NYT economist Paul Krugman is a mildly-written warning of the economic forecasts that this blog has been not-so-mildly presenting over the last few days.

I smell a rat at AOL News

This headline and story clearly indicate that Bush has experienced a huge -- 10 points or more -- jump in his approval ratings lately, that he's "rebounded" to 56% approval per a CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll from "around 44 percent." Other indications (plus the "frame" of the story, see my post immediately below about "framing" a news story) were that he was doing fine in his numbers.

These observations didn't square with other polls, and I couldn't find such conclusions on the websites of any of the three sponsors of the poll, so I located the poll results here.

As is clear, there is no such rebound. Bush's job approval rating actually dropped 4 points, from 60 to 56 since the last poll in August, his "deserves to be elected" percent dropped 10 points, from 62 to 52, since the last poll a year ago, and his "will definitely vote against him" percent increased from 35 to 38, and is now larger than his "will definitely vote for" percent (35).

Furthermore, Bush's job approval ratings have never "hovered around 44 percent." According to Polkatz's colorful chart, 56 percent is just about where the average of all Bush's polls are presently.

Question 1: Who wrote that AOL News story? It's not just biased, it's patently false.
Question 2: Why am I surprised?

Of Frames, Nascar Dads and Strict Fathers

This analysis of The Governator's election is supplemental to the story I cited in my post dated 10/8, "Let Them Eat War." The Nascar Dad syndrome and the Strict Father analysis do indeed feel like they complement each other, and must cause Democrats to sharpen their focus, as well as their imagery, in capturing thus-inclined voters, because they're breeding like crazy, and Bush's fear-based campaigning is nurturing them.
Also illuminating, to me, is the article's observation of the difference between Democrats' issue-based campaigning and Republican's impulse/instinct-based packaging. When I think of the present Democratic Presidential candidates, I must admit I'm drawn less to issues of the particular candidate (Gephardt, for example, holds to many of the positions I agree with), than to the aura the candidate evokes in me (Dean--tough, no-nonsense, smart; Clark--sharp, in-command, experienced).
I agree with the article's conclusion, that unless the Democrats likewise adopt such packaging, such "framing" of their candidates and issues, there's gonna be four more years of Nascar Dads and Strict Fathers in office in America.

ship of fools

If what you say about our economic vulnerability is true, Erik, and given that we find our ship of state becalmed in the horse latitudes of protracted and disillusioning recession and in the throes of a housing frenzy, can anyone explain to me why we have a "bring 'em on" militaristic radical in command of our leaky boat?

Saving the best for last

This article, which is clever and cogent--although a bit too long--has a last line worth waiting for:
"After all, if we're not an empire, why didn't we hand Iraq to the Iraqis on May 2, 2003?"

Monday, October 13, 2003

In over my head, I know, but...

I flunked econ in college. So why, you ask, do I keep bringing up the subject. Dunno. Just this last blast, okay?

We Americans are living beyond our means, borrowing like crazy, refinancing our houses, buying cars on long-term leases and eight-year finance packages, because of the low interest rates and because, well, we're spoiled. While that's happening, Bush is spending like crazy and cutting taxes, so we're incurring huge fiscal deficits and, as we have for years, gigantic trade deficits. So where is the US getting money from to handle this shortfall, these 500 billions this year, and more the next?

The same place we overspending individuals are: borrowing. And from whom? China and Japan.

So all China, Japan and Russia have to do is to decide that in one week they should switch to the Euro, and the Far East should call in some of its trillions in loans, and we're ruined.

It's the Cold War all over again, except they're the ones with the usable weapons of mass destruction.

When All Else Fails, Try Bribery

If the Iraq Governing Council resists the US use of Turkish troops as "peacekeepers," and the Turkish people are outraged about it, why, do you think the Turkish government has decided to send their Army into Iraq?
As they said in the Watergate days, "Follow the money."

More about Euros

For a more extensive report about Russia's possible switch to Euros for oil trade, see this article.

I must say, I'm not certain how all this will work out, but it does feel to me that sands are shifting, that more and more sentiment exists out there--in Latin America, in the middle east, in Europe, even in Africa--that America's the world pariah, or at least the bothersome bully on the block. Surely not the fine, high-principled nation of freedoms the present Administration claims.

Money still talks

According to Salam Pax, who's finally back in Iraq, things haven't changed at the border with Jordan since the Saddam Hussein days. You're still well advised to bribe the guards at the border--and if you do, you'll get in without a luggage search.

Apparently there's no Patriot Act in Iraq. And, as we know, no security either.

Conspiracy theories redux

In earlier posts, I posited a "summer surprise" followed by an "October surprise" that Bush would spring on the Demos. In July, during the Demo convention, Cheney would announce he wasn't running after all (too sick, or something, to endure another term), which would divert attention from the Demo convention while the press speculates on Bush's veep (a woman, possibly?); to be followed by his announcement of "victory" in Iraq and the repatriation of the bulk of our troops (except those needed to guard the oil supply of course) with flags waving and trumpets blaring.

But I like Richard's theory better: They've got Osama and Saddam already in their sights, maybe even have laser lights focused on their foreheads, just waiting for Karl Rove's signal. Another, more macabre version: They've already killed both of them and have done the DNA confirmation and are now just waiting for Rove to tell them when it's most propitious to "discover" the bones.

Richard Presents Observations from the Sonoran Desert on the "Look Out Below" post

An economics essayist wrote recently of a "silver bullet" that's going to secure CommChief George's re-election: The Devaluing of the Dollar, that is, weakening it against foreign currencies.
Under this theory, a cheaper dollar will bring about higher prices on imported items which will cause domestic goods to look more attractive to buyers (Take that, you Rising Sun, patent-stealing, auto dumpers!) This will in turn generate more jobs for Americanos (and their border-crossing companeros); which gets the Dow back over the 10.5K level that George inherited from Bill (for the benefit of the high-dollar, Elephantine donor, insider-trading market manipulators) and helps American global corporations' goal of LOWERING our standard of living; and allowing them (Eisenhower's "military/industrial complexĂ‚” now redesigned as the corporate/political complex) to keep American workers union-protection deficient and low paid.

It will also make us look more supportive and less evil to our Euro brethren; and bring the Europeans into thesqueezee play we're trying to put on the Chinois' artificial tinkering with their currency (as our exported bucks build their massive weapons/army).

End result? JefeJorje gets to look wondrous in dealing with "... the economy, stupid..."
about 4-5 months from now, after terrific holiday shopping and spending numbers and as the Donkeys are scrambling to find issues, any issues, that will stick during their 9 member, barnstorming roadtrip, trying to find a starting pitcher possessing that good, live, high-and-tight, knockdown-pitch fastball.

And just to feed the conspiracy freak in all of us, don't you know as an absolute certainty that US Army Special Ops and dark projects people are tracking Saddam and Osama and will snatch them in October '04 just when Gjunior needs to seal the re-election deal?


Look out below

This pre-Iraq war article about the relationship between oil, the dollar and the euro is one of many that suggest that there is an international move afoot to loosen the longstanding tie between oil pricing and the dollar, such that a shift to pricing (and selling) oil for euros could start a dramatic decline in the value of the dollar by diminishing its importance as the currency in which international reserves are held. Venezuela, as well as some middle eastern countries (Iraq, before the war, among them) had begun to price its oil in euros. And now, the world's second largest exporter (after Saudi Arabia), namely our good old buddy Russia, may be considering doing so.
The current exchange rate between the euro and the dollar is 1/1.17, that is, one euro buys $1.17, which is near an all-time high of about $1.18 reached last June. It will be interesting to see what this latest news about Russian oil (if it's effected) will do to the relationship between the currencies.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace

My friend Erik has brought up something very scary. I wonder how it happened that it was dumped in the media during Christmas week last year? If you're going to report something without much public notice, that's the time to do it. And I have no doubt that George Orwell would be profoundly impressed. Here's the whole story on The President's own official Web site. And the original story from the NY Times.

I'm not going to read it all right now. While I was over at my bookcases looking for my copy of 1984, I noticed several new books I haven't read yet, including a few new ones on dogs. I love dogs. I also noticed my clock, a 1930 Telechron, which keeps great time. It's very late.

In the mean time, Hey! Big Brother! Can you see the gesture I'm making in front of my monitor? Don't have that technology down yet? Well, I'll just keep making it until you do. And incidentally, I'm not doing my calisthenics, you totalitarian bullies.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace