Who Hijacked Our Country

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Al Qaeda's Top Recruiter? George W. Bush

We can debate endlessly about which candidate will benefit, or suffer, from the recent bin Laden video. But we can be certain of who gets credit for the vast increase in terrorist attacks worldwide. Before the US invasion of Iraq, there was little or no connection between Iraq and the Islamic terror network. Think about it: Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups hate all secular governments. Saddam Hussein’s government was secular. Iraqis are Moslems, but their government, unlike those of Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, does not force Islamic beliefs or customs on the population. Conclusion: no connection between Saddam Hussein and any Islamic terrorist group.

Yes, Hussein was a bloodthirsty tyrant who tortured and murdered anyone even suspected of disagreeing with him. Yes, he gassed his own people – during the 1980s when Iraq was our ally against Iran. But secular governments and Islamic terrorists do not make plots together. That’s as absurd as thinking the NAACP and the Ku Klux Klan are working together on a conspiracy.

Our own government has propped up right-wing dictators (in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, the list goes on and on) who would probably surpass Saddam Hussein on the brutality scale.

An estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US invasion. Each of these Iraqis undoubtedly left behind many bereaved relatives and friends. Let’s say a million or more Iraqi citizens have lost a loved one during the US-Iraq war. Try to imagine the grief and fury these people are going through. Two years ago, if one of these people met a recruiter from Al Qaeda, he’d probably tell him to *#$%#** off. Today, that same person might tell an Al Qaeda recruiter “where do I sign? When can I start?”

Membership in Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups has probably tripled in the last 2 years (just guessing). Iraq is now, of course, a hotbed of Islamic terrorism. A self-fulfilling prophecy has been brought about by Bush’s invasion. Every time another Iraqi is killed, a new Al Qaeda member is recruited; and where is this newly fired-up anti-American terrorist likely to go? Iraq!

If any Al Qaeda offices have a plaque on the wall naming the “Recruiter of the Year” or “Employee of the Quarter,” the name on that plaque is probably George W. Bush.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

George W. Bush: So Many Scandals...

The George W. Bush administration has had so many scandals, it’s incredible that the public (and the media) seems to focus on just one scandal at a time. They called Reagan the Teflon President, but compared George W., Reagan was made of Superglue. Thanks to the “media” – or whatever you want to call the handful of corporations that owns most of the newspapers and TV/radio stations – as soon as a new Bush scandal pops up, the previous one just falls off the radar.

During the summer of 2002, with the corporate scandals (Enron, etc.) burning up the headlines, Bush’s insider trading allegations with Harken Energy started getting more attention. For a brief period, Bush was squirming under the same microscope with Kenneth Lay and other disgraced former CEOs. And then – a little sleight of hand – Omigod, look over there! It’s Saddam Hussein! He’s going to nuke the world any minute. We have to do something Now! And poof – the Harken scandal fell off the edge of the Earth.

And the Iraqi war – where to begin……. First we had fake documents (no, not “faulty intelligence”) to conjure up this global threat from Iraq. After invading Iraq it was realized that the Weapons of Mass Destruction didn’t exist, and Saddam Hussein wasn’t allied with Osama bin Laden or Al Qaida. The war – which was supposed to last several days – is still raging more than a year-and-a-half later. Nobody in the administration anticipated the number (or ferocity) of the insurgent groups that are now tearing Iraq apart. Does anybody in the “intelligence” community know anything about the Middle East, or even speak Arabic?

In other words, Bush has totally screwed up everything that could possibly be screwed up – from the non-existent reasons for invading, to the mounting death toll a year and a half after “Mission Accomplished” was declared, to the plan for getting out of Iraq (i.e. there isn’t one). When Lyndon Johnson botched everything up in the Viet Nam war, he refused to run for re-election (knowing he’d probably be trounced on election day). And Johnson inherited the Viet Nam war from previous administrations. Bush, on the other hand, single-handedly created the Iraqi war, botched everything every step of the way, and now he stands a good chance of getting elected next Tuesday??!?!?!?!

The Valerie Plame scandal: When Joe Wilson, a retired diplomat, wrote an article refuting Bush’s claim about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Niger, Bush got even. Two senior administration officials leaked the name of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, to columnist Robert Novak, and Novak printed it. Valerie Plame is a CIA agent whose life was threatened by having her name revealed. (A brief digression here: How does Robert Novak sleep at night? And why isn’t he being prosecuted?) And then the Valerie Plame scandal fell off the front pages to make room for……

The Medicare prescription coverage scandal. This bill was pushed, and loudly publicized, to show the Bush administration’s concern for Medicare patients. In reality, it’s mostly an expensive giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. While the bill was being debated in Congress, the top Medicare actuary came up with a cost estimate that was tens of billions more than the amount Bush had “estimated.” The Medicare administrator, Thomas Scully, threatened to fire this actuary if he didn’t keep his mouth shut.

You could fill an encyclopedia – heck, a whole library – writing about Bush’s war on the environment. Just one recent item: a law regulating strip mining in West Virginia was reworded slightly. By changing just one phrase, Bush changed this entire document from a law to a loose guideline.

Each Bush scandal has its 15 minutes of fame, and then vanishes. If any one of these scandals is isolated and analyzed separately, it may or may not be sufficient reason to fire him. But in the larger view, seeing all of these scandals together, it becomes shockingly clear: We need to get this *%*&$#*$&* out of the White House!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Even Scarier Than Halloween

Halloween is coming, and far scarier than any spooky costume is the recent news item about Chief Justice William Rehnquist being diagnosed with cancer. With all due sympathy to Mr. Rehnquist (and all due respect to someone who’s been on the Supreme Court for 3 decades), this creates the scary prospect of a Supreme Court vacancy during the next 4 years. Meaning, of course, that if George Jr. gets re-installed for four more years and gets to pick the next Supreme Court Justice…….

Are you getting scared yet? Think: Roe vs. Wade. (There’s a rumor that George W. Bush used to think Roe vs. Wade referred to George Washington trying to decide how to get across the Delaware River, but I digress.) These 3 items together – President George W. Bush, Supreme Court vacancy, Roe vs. Wade – should be far more terrifying than any Halloween costume or horror movie.

Hopefully, some of the undecided voters, or even non-voters, are women who have gotten complacent about Roe vs. Wade, and will now be galvanized – shocked – into voting (for Kerry!). There are probably millions of affluent voters who are pro-choice but who don’t want their personal wealth, or the status quo, jeopardized by a “flipflopping” “tax and spend liberal” like John Kerry. (Adolph Hitler was right – if you keep repeating the same Big Lie enough times, people start believing it.)

The abortion issue has been mostly on the back burner for quite awhile; after all, Roe vs. Wade has been the law of the land since the 1970s. It’s easy to forget the countless deaths from back-alley abortions, as well as the blatant double standard; i.e. the daughter of a wealthy family could get pregnant, go to “visit relatives” for awhile, and when she returned unpregnant the subject would never be mentioned. Tens of millions of voters weren’t even born when Roe vs. Wade became law; for them the pre-Roe vs. Wade era is just a historical footnote. So, the abortion issue needs to be moved to the front burner – Now!

You can be certain that the Taliban, I mean Republicans, are counting on the complacency of millions of socially liberal but fiscally conservative voters. After all, abortion is “not really much of an issue any more.” Well, now it is. It’s a very big issue. Shake off that complacency and get out there and vote Boy George out of office.

Let’s all get really scared now. Again, that’s President George W. Bush, a Supreme Court vacancy, Roe vs. Wade, and millions of Jerry Falwell zombies just drooling at the chance to turn the clock back 30 years. Oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhh!!!!! No, now don’t pull the blankets over your head and curl up and pretend John Ashcroft isn’t in the room. He is! How can you get him out of your room? By voting for John Kerry on November 2nd.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

If Bush Wins, Whose Fault Is It?

If Bush wins, should we blame him and his puppetstring-pullers for their sleazy campaign strategy, or the Democrats for their lame counter-strategy? By now we’re all familiar with John Kerry’s speeches which have all the personality and passion of R2D2. It’s too bad that someone with a pulse (e.g. Howard Dean) didn’t get the nomination. Dean may have alienated a lot of people with his bluntness and abrasive manner, but he would have mopped up the floor with Little Boy Blueblood. But since we’re stuck trying to make the best lemonade we can…….

No matter what sleazy, totally illogical accusation the Bush campaign comes up with, Kerry goes on the defensive and tries to come up with a logical, analytical answer to prove that no, he’s not a an alien from Jupiter who plans to suck the blood of every American child and spit it on the Bible. No, uh, actually, ahem, now let me explain the 27 reasons why the foregoing accusation is not true. And I promise not to move my arms or change the pitch of my voice during my upcoming longwinded answer.

The most blatantly twisted, wacko accusation from the George Orwell, er, I mean Bush, campaign (and there are many to choose from) is that Kerry is “flip-flopping” because he initially voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq if all other measures failed. We had weapons inspectors; we had international sanctions which could have been tightened further. If there was a global consensus that Iraq was an immediate threat, we could have built an international coalition the way we did in the 1991 Iraqi war. When Bush was granted this authority, most of Congress assumed that Bush would not just go off half-cocked and march into Iraq with no plan or forethought whatsoever.

Now, if the DMV issues you a driver’s license and then revokes it because you drove 100 m.p.h. on a one-way street the wrong way, and you were drunk at the time, most people will be bright enough not to accuse the DMV of flip-flopping on whether you should have a driver’s license. If a prisoner is granted parole and then goes out and kills 37 people and gets thrown back in jail, people whose IQs are higher than the temperature in Fairbanks in January will understand that the Parole Board didn’t “flip-flop.”

Likewise, the Senators and Congresspersons who voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq did not flip-flop. They are guilty of projecting their own integrity and decency onto the president. And they got suckered: Bush doesn’t have either of those traits.

So why has Kerry been fumbling and spluttering for the past year trying to convince voters that he didn’t “flipflop” on Iraq? As we all know, Kerry has several medals for heroism during the Viet Nam war. And Bush was simultaneously (and Republicans can actually keep a straight face while denying this) using his family connections to get out of Viet Nam duty. (When Boy George first applied to get into the Texas Air Guard, there was a three year waiting list to get in, and suddenly, presto, why, look here, we seem to have an opening for little Georgie to get in – Come on, people. As the song by Ministry goes, “Connect the Goddamn dots!”)

So again, why does Kerry answer these flipflopping charges with “well, uh, ahem, my record will show that….”? Why isn’t he grabbing Bush by the collar (metaphorically of course) and yelling “What’d you call me?!!! What’d you say?!!!” Kerry’s wooden manner isn’t the crux of the problem. After a point we have to ask who’s running things for him. Who does he have handling his campaign, a college sophomore who wants to major in journalism and thinks the 2004 presidential election would be a neat project?

Bush, whatever anyone thinks of his intelligence, has had the world’s shrewdest, most brilliant, most unprincipled, groinkickingest spin doctors working for him during his entire presidency. And their Orwellian accusations and name calling are being answered by someone looking through his Journalism 101 textbook to find the proper response. The Bush campaign is defining the issues – and defining Kerry – and the Kerry campaign is reduced to defending and responding with “no, I didn’t” or “now let me clarify….”

The Kerry camp has 9 days to start countering Bush’s dirty-fighting techniques with a hard kick to the ribs (again, figuratively) and bring the issues into focus. Can they do it?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Is George W. Bush Dreaming?

Two recent (and related) news stories are the subject of today’s column.

It’s been revealed that Pat Robertson (evangelist, broadcaster – you know who he is) tried to warn George W. Bush against sending troops into Iraq during the spring of 2003. He warned Bush that there would be heavy casualties, and Bush assured him that there wouldn’t be any US casualties in Iraq.

The other story is the 8-year prison sentence handed down to one of the ringleaders of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

These stories are both related to Bush’s absolutely dreamlike, fairy-tale approach to the invasion of Iraq. Could he be taking Halcyon? (This has been the subject of past rumors.) His entire approach to Iraq – the complete lack of any post-war planning, “Mission Accomplished,” his total shock and surprise at the torture reports from Abu Ghraib – is that of a drug-induced dreamlike detachment from reality.

Come to think of it, most of his policies seem to spring from a dreamlike “everything will be fine and I feel goooooood right now, yeeeaahh” state of mind. Our soldiers will liberate Iraq in a matter of hours, and throngs of grateful Iraqis will shower them with flowers and ice cream. Bzzzzzztt! Wrong!! All of the other Arab populations will see how wonderful Iraq is doing with their new democratic government, and they too will overthrow their tyrannical leaders and establish democracy. Freedom and democracy will flower all over the Middle East. Bzzzzzztttt!! The economy continues to plummet – I know, I’ll cut taxes for the richest 2% of the country and that’ll stimulate the creation of new jobs. Sorry, George, it wasn’t true 3 ½ years ago and it isn’t true now. We all know the saying about neurotic people doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different result each time.

Things don’t seem very hopeful. But wait, I’m just gonna take this little pill……… Aahhh, everything’s fine now. It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Four more years of George W. Bush? No problem; we’ll just wish all our cares away. We’ll be fine.....

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

David 1, Goliath 0

Goliath has been, well, not killed, but stunned by David’s slingshot. Sinclair Broadcasting is the media monolith that tried to purchase the White House for George W. Bush by forcing all 62 of its TV stations to air an anti-Kerry hit piece. Sinclair’s TV stations reach 24% of the viewing public, including some of the fiercest battleground states. All Sinclair stations were going to be forced to pre-empt regular programming in order to air this “documentary.”

More and more lately, it seems like the corporate thugs who have hijacked our country – our lives – have absolutely no responsibility, no accountability, towards We The People. But sometimes there’s a vulnerable spot, and this time the incredible groundswell of public outrage found its way to Sinclair’s jugular: the company’s stock price.

Several large institutions, including unions and pension funds, pressured their fund managers to dump Sinclair’s stock. The ensuing panic among investors and Wall Street movers and shakers has hit Sinclair where it lives: Its stock price plummeted 15%. A group of Sinclair investors threatened to sue the broadcaster if it went ahead with its plans to air the anti-Kerry hit piece. Additionally, a group led by a New York hospital-employees pension fund announced it would sue to recover damages from any financial fallout (fines, boycotts, etc.) resulting from the showing of the film. The boycott of Sinclair, which has been building for the past 10 days or so, was starting to get results; several large clients have pulled their ads from Sinclair stations.

Sinclair has announced it will air “excerpts” from the film during a news segment on Friday. And, to save face, they’re now claiming they never had any definite plans to air the entire “documentary.” You know the drill: Step 1 – insert tail between legs; Step 2 – start rationalizing.

So, for this one brief incident – no, it’s way too early to get complacent or let your guard down – but for this fleeting ephemeral moment, we can swell up with patriotic pride and say The System Works!

For the right now, the score (but the game isn’t over yet) is David 1, Goliath 0.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Letters to Clark County

The Guardian, the British newspaper, has started a campaign to get their readers to write to voters in Clark County, OH, and requesting them to vote Bush out of office. So far 14,000 people have signed up for the newspaper’s program, requesting the name and address of a Clark County voter. Clark County is one of the most evenly divided counties in the battleground state of Ohio.

The Guardian’s reasoning is that since the rest of the world is greatly affected by America’s foreign policy, this is a chance for citizens of other countries to exert some influence – not a vote, just a small effect – on the American election.

Some Americans have written furious letters to the Guardian, protesting (in language that would make Howard Stern blush) this “interference” in American politics, calling the Guardian staff all kinds of expletives and ethnic slurs. The irony here is overwhelming. During the past half century, the United States has financed terrorist organizations (the Nicaraguan “Contras” during the 1980s), and overthrown duly elected governments in Chile (1973), Iran and Guatemala (the 1950s). The Iraq debacle is only the latest chapter in the American government’s insatiable desire to pull the strings of the world.

There are 3 possible reasons for the furious xenophobic reaction of “patriotic” Americans to the Guardian’s campaign:

1. These “patriots” are unaware of the American government’s frequent hand-picking of foreign governments during the last half century, and they’d be properly infuriated if they knew.

2. These letter-writers know of American efforts to control the world, and they find this every bit as infuriating as the Guardian’s campaign to contact Ohio voters.

3. The letter-writers are well aware of the American government’s history of hand-picking and overthrowing foreign leaders, and this is perfectly all right. We’re number one; what’re you gonna do about it?! But don’t you dare try to exert the tiniest influence on our government, you lowly foreign %*&%*!

Judging by the tone and language of these letters (and the IQ that this indicates), I’m gonna go with reason number 3.

I can’t help wondering if these letter-writers have half this much fury at the hijacking of our government by Big Business. Think a little: which is more intrusive? a) a CEO purchases the election with a 7-figure bribe, er, uh, I mean “campaign contribution;” or b) some foreign citizens write letters to voters of one county, asking them to think about the hazards of electing Bush.

There are valid reasons that Bush is hugely unpopular all over the world (there’ll be more columns on this; jeez, this subject could fill an encyclopedia). With millions of foreign citizens being affected (and feeling threatened) by Bush’s actions, it’s inevitable that some of these citizens are going to look for a way to influence the American election.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Self Fulfilling Prophecies

Remember back in the ‘70s when our moral guardians sprayed poison – Paraquat – on marijuana plants? For decades they’d been pontificating about marijuana being a “killer weed,” without a shred of evidence to back up their rhetoric. Finally they must have decided that if they couldn’t convince people it was a killer weed, they’d make it one. Paraquat was supposed to cause severe physical symptoms in people who smoked marijuana that had been sprayed with it; hence the authorities finally turned pot into the killer weed they’d spent decades saying it was.

Another self-fulfilling prophecy has made the news lately. Bush’s “reasons” for invading Iraq – Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were closely allied, Hussein played a large role in the 9/11 hijackings, many of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis (a large number of gullible Americans actually believe that, to this day), Iraq is a center of global terrorism, etc. – turned out to be patently false. And of course, those Weapons of Mass Destruction which we, uh, er, just “haven’t found yet.”

Now that we’ve invaded and conquered Iraq – Mission Accomplished, etc. – and with the ensuing hatred of millions of Muslims for the West, Iraq has been overrun with more rebel and insurgency groups than anyone can even keep tabs on. And one of the most fanatic and violent of the terrorist leaders in Iraq has declared his loyalty to Osama bin Laden and al Qaida. So now Iraq – which 2 years ago was a police state by any yardstick, but was not connected to 9/11 or bin Laden or any international terrorist networks – actually has become a breeding ground for international Islamic terrorists.

Thank you, George W. Bush (and the neo-cons who are pulling your strings), for creating another example of the term “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

The nice thing about a self-fulfilling prophecy (for the person who was spreading it) is that this person becomes right. Marijuana really is a killer weed (Paraquat was supposed to cause all kinds of lung, kidney and nervous system problems), so don’t smoke it. I told you it was a killer weed.

And now, Iraq really is a haven for Islamic terrorists. See, we were right to invade and occupy that country. We can’t pull out now – for God’s sake, it’s a haven for international Islamic terrorists who hate America! We have to stay and finish the job!

People who have an adequate number of functioning brain cells can usually see through these self-fulfilling prophecies, and can see that acting on this erroneous belief is what caused the event to happen. Unfortunately, though, there are enough dim-witted people (and unfortunately they vote) who hear the warnings and hysterical rhetoric based on false information, and then they ultimately see the result of acting on this false information, and their reaction is “see, ______________ was right. It was true.” And the person who spread these hysterical Big Lies becomes right, (even gets re-elected), and the circle goes round and round………….

Friday, October 15, 2004

Dick Cheney, Liberal Crusader For Gay Rights

Because of human traits like hypocrisy, double standards, two-facedness, etc., the above title is of course tongue-in-cheek. People who think they are above the law -- are held to a different standard than those they are judging – tend to get very indignant when these judgments come boomeranging back to them. Nobody likes to get hoist on their own petard, and the funniest thing this side of a JibJab video is to watch how right wing ideologues react when their own righteousness gets squirted back at them.

As we all know by now, John Kerry, during the 3rd and final presidential debate on 10/13/04, when asked whether he thought homosexuality was a choice, mentioned the Cheneys' openly-lesbian daughter during his long-winded John Kerryesque answer. It doesn’t matter that Jon Edwards also mentioned the Cheneys’ daughter during the earlier vice presidential debate (without any barbs or slings from the Cheneys or the Republican Spin Machine). But when Kerry mentioned the same fact during the course of his answer, the Republican Orwellians and spinmeisters went into overdrive.

I realize Dick Cheney has not been a hard-core member of the Taliban wing of the Republican party (John Ashcroft, Allan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, [ad finitum, ad naseum]). Nevertheless, he is the most influential (sorry George, but we all know this) member of the party that supports the above-mentioned Spanish Inquisition Ayatollahs, and whose name gives gravitas to their constant efforts to propel our country back to the 12th century.

Now, here’s a simple fact that everyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size can easily grasp: If you’re constantly preaching fire and brimstone and eternal damnation to everyone who wears a green shirt, and someone in your immediate family is wearing a green shirt – uh, Duuhhh! – this simple fact is going to be pointed out to you. Dingdingdingdingdingdingding!!!

These Ayatollah/Spanish Inquisition/Taliban types always have a tough time grasping why their hatred and fanaticism comes back to haunt them: Jon Livingston and Henry Hyde (2 of the architects of the Clinton impeachment who had it revealed that they too had numerous extra-marital affairs), Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker (fire and brimstoners who sinned and then sobbed for forgiveness on nationwide TV), William Bennett (the world’s greatest living authority on who is and who isn’t moral and righteous and worthy, and then turns out to do more gambling than all of Reno put together), etc. And now the Cheneys. Again, they’re not breathing fire and brimstone, but they’re still aligned with the righteous bile-thumpers (oops, let’s put the B back in bile – bible-thumpers) who have marginalized and persecuted millions of homosexuals, small-time drug users, prostitutes and other victimless “criminals.” If the Cheneys were genuinely indignant at having their daughter’s sexual orientation mentioned during a presidential debate, think how they could have used their influence when other people’s sons and daughters were dragged through the Inquisition just for being gay, smoking marijuana, having illicit sex, or looking at dirty pictures. Every gay person -- and everyone who gets a 20-year jail sentence for possession of .0001 grams of marijuana – is somebody’s son or daughter.

George W. Bush pulled the same stunt, snarling “you leave my kids out of this” when a reporter tried to personalize the abortion debate by asking how he’d react if one of his daughters had her life threatened by an unwanted pregnancy.

Are the sons and daughters of Joe Sixpack less important, less “human,” than the sons and daughters of VIPs and Ayatollahs? Non-Hypocrite Republicans can take this opportunity to circle Yes or No.

I didn’t think so.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

My Candidate Was The Winner

John Kerry won the debate. He's gonna be the next president. Yeeaaaahhhh!!!

George W. Bush won the debate. Four more years. Yeeaaaahhhh!!!

Let's face it, we all have our minds made up. We all saw and heard exactly what we wanted during this debate; our beliefs and perceptions have been reinforced.

Our country has been split down the middle since before the 2000 election. Regardless of who wins on 11/2, this 50/50 divide will probably be with us for a long time. I don't know who these mythical "undecided" voters are, but it seems like almost everyone is firmly entrenched in the belief that:
  1. Kerry is such a flip-flopper and so far "out of the mainstream" (the mantra that every Republican dutifully recites 47 times a day) that we'd better stick with George W., since at least we know where he stands; or
  2. George W. Bush has been such a disastrous president that Anybody But Bush is the only choice.
Bush's approval ratings are supposed to be at their lowest ever; yet he and Kerry are tied. Why?? We're desperate for a change, something, anything different from this administration that's presided over the largest deficit in history, the first loss of jobs since Herbert Hoover, the deaths of over 1,000 U.S. solders, etc. etc. If you're clinging for dear life to the edge of a cliff and somebody -- anybody -- reaches out to pull you up, do you:
  1. Reach out and desperately grab onto the person who's offered to save you?
  2. Say "Hhmmmpphhh!! I don't know enough about you. You don't seem to have enough character. What are your credentials?"

Both Kerry and Bush stuck to their usual personas during this debate: Bush, no matter how many inaccuracies and Big Lies he spouts, is back-porch folksy and speaks with heartfelt conviction and belief. Kerry can mow down Bush's "mis-statements" one after the other, but he still has all the personality of a metronome. Unfortunately, this matters. If we were voting on whom we'd rather go out and have a beer with (or, insert your drug of choice here), Bush would win by a landslide. Unfortunately, too much is at stake for Bush's "hey-I'm-a-regular-guy-just-like-you" manner to keep him in the White House four more years.

Each candidate got out one fairly good one-liner. When Bush talked about how expensive Kerry's health care proposals would be, Kerry retorted that for Bush to talk about fiscal responsibility was "like Tony Soprano lecturing somebody about law and order." Bush said that Kerry is so far to the Left that "Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is known as the conservative senator from Massachusetts."

Bush actually seemed uncomfortable during a couple of his answers; it sounded like he was purposely pausing and talking more slowly so the clock would hurry up and get to that 90-second mark. It almost sounded like that Saturday Night Live skit from 1988 with Dana Carvey playing George H.W. Bush during a debate, squirming and grimacing while reciting and repeating "1,000 points of light" and "stay the course" while he frantically wished for the clock to tick faster. Finally, "Michael Dukakis" (played by Jon Lovitz) turned to the camera and said "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

But basically, both candidates stuck to their tried-and-true personas, and probably not one mind was changed by tonight's debate.

In other words, the clear winner of tonight's debate is:

George W. Bush
John Kerry

Circle the name of your choice.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Anybody home at the FCC?

Just when you thought a few TV and radio monoliths already had as much consolidated power as anyone could possibly have, it gets even worse.

First, a major radio executive throws a tantrum because the Dixie Chicks made a snide remark about George W. Bush and -- poof! -- the Dixie Chicks are suddenly banned from hundreds of radio stations around the country. Now, Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland (I know, I never heard of them either before today, but you'll be hearing their name in the news a lot during the next few weeks) is forcing all 62 of its TV stations across the country to air -- without commercials! -- an anti-Kerry "documentary," just 2 weeks before the election. And, conveniently, some of these TV stations happen to be located in some of the most tense and frenetic of the "battleground" states (those few states where it's anybody's guess whether Bush or Kerry is ahead).

In case you're thinking that Sinclair Broadcasting simply wants to have a political dialogue -- last April they ordered all of their stations not to broadcast a "Nightline" episode featuring the reading of the names of all US soldiers killed in Iraq, because it was "contrary to the public interest."

Now, the public airwaves are supposed to be just that. Public. Not the personal fiefdom of a few billionaires.

The Federal Communications Commision has decided, over the past few years (with the help of the Bush-appointed Michael Powell -- yes, it's Colin's son) that there just hasn't been quite enough power and wealth concentrated in the hands of few enough media executives. Kind of like Marie Antoinette deciding that the Nobility doesn't have enough servants and there are too many stale bread crusts for those wretched poor people to be fighting over.

The FCC is a 5-member board (with many many staff members, etc.) which generally does God-knows-what during its "work" day. When it comes to regulating any kind of fairness or competition betweeen TV/Radio/Newspapers, it goes into a coma that would make a grizzly bear's winter hibernation look like a hyperkinetic 5-year-old at a jungle gym. But, once in awhile something shocking comes along (e.g., Janet Jackson baring her breast during the Superbowl, or Howard Stern making a raunchy joke on the air) that brings this sleeping dinosaur out of its coma.

So far there's no evidence that something "minor" like the hijacking of our public airwaves by a few billionaires will rouse the FCC out of its stupor, but just maybe.........

For the casual listener/viewer, the most conspicuous manifestation of this media monopoly is in your typical TV and radio fare. A quality TV drama or a clever comedy goes off the air to make room for yet another "reality" show. You turn on the radio -- any station, it doesn't matter -- and it's the same 12 songs played over and over and over ..............

As irritating as the above scenario is every day for millions of us, it's even more serious when the democratic process itself is thwarted by the whims and tantrums of a few media executives. What do we have to do to get the FCC to give a tiny portion of the "public" airwaves back to the public? Who knows -- maybe we could trick them and tell them the increased deregulation of the airwaves makes it more likely to see a bare breast on live TV, or that the further concentration of media ownership in the hands of fewer billionaires will result in ghastly 4-letter-words from Howard Stern.

Lawsuits are expected to be filed (monopoly charges, equal time, etc.) but is there enough time, with the crockumentary -- er, I mean documentary -- scheduled any day now and the election just 3 weeks away?

Let's hear from you.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Our Four Year Nightmare

Well, in 3 weeks and 2 days we'll know whether our country's 4-year nightmare is going to end, or whether we'll be stuck with (please God, no) four more years. How did this even happen? The party captured the White House and Congress with the most razor-thin margin in our history, and yet they've steamrolled over our lives as if they had a 99% majority.

Anyway, it happened, so let's try to unhappen it this November 2nd. How can this even be a close election? This administration inherited a huge budget surplus and turned it into a deficit that our great-grandchildren will still be paying off. G.W. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs during his administration. Worker safety and environmental protection (both heavily favored by the American public) have been turned back several decades by the Bushoids.

Even without the above black marks, the war in Iraq should be enough to have Bush's poll ratings down in the single digits. When Lyndon Johnson botched the Viet Nam war, he was forced by the resulting public fury to decline another term in the White House ("I do not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party........"). And unlike Bush, Johnson inherited the Viet Nam war from previous administrations.

And, using some incredible Alice in Wonderland logic, Bush is using 9/11 and the fear of terrorism as a reason for electing him (notice I didn't say "re-electing"). Uh, people, the 9/11 attacks happened on his watch, less than a month after he received a warning that just such an attack was likely. What can he possibly take credit for? If a night watchman falls asleep and lets a building be burglarized and vandalized, he's gonna have a heck of a time convincing the building's owners that "you need me to protect you. There're lots of criminals out there and only I can protect your property." But that's exactly what Bush is doing. And it's working (i.e., polls show that voters think Bush is the most qualified to protect us from terrorism). Come on, people -- think.

The administration that has drained our treasury, declared war on the environment and on working people, and made the 9/11 attacks more likely through its own negligence, does not deserve another four years.

More later. All feedback is welcome.