Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bring 'Em Home, Joe

Forty years ago, it seemed the Vietnam War was the greatest malfeasance of government in America's history. Then Watergate happened. That was followed by Iran-Contra, which saw branches of government openly lying to pursue illegal policy objectives. Now comes what surely must be the heavyweight champion of government malfeasance: The war in Iraq.

Not surprisingly, a new poll shows a majority of Americans favor setting a deadline to bring troops home from Iraq, while an even larger majority oppose President Bush's plan to send more troops to the warzone. Meanwhile, another new survey of international relations scholars finds 89% in agreement that the war in Iraq will result in decreased national security for Americans. Polls taken during those previous debacles in American history showed similar sentiments. So why is public opinion so rarely heeded in decisions that affect not only the direction of the country and its relations with other nations, but the lives of America's sons and daughters, brothers and sisters? How representative is a government that doesn't represent the will of the people?

This time around, blame Joe Lieberman.

It's no secret that Lieberman is the lynchpin in the Democrats' control of the Senate and if Lieberman chooses to betray them, the Republicans regain control and hope of changing course in Iraq is lost. Therefore, the Democrats have one hand tied behind their back. They can't act on the popular support for bringing the troops home and ending U.S. involvement in the war, because they have to somehow appease Lieberman, who lost the Democratic nomination in his own state, due to his dedication to President Bush's alleged plan for Iraq.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Lieberman mentioned that General Petraeus, new commander of the forces in Iraq, expects to be able to assess whether the escalated force is achieving its goals by the end of the summer. Lieberman wants a "truce" between the parties on Iraq until then. What he really means is that he wants Democrats - in defiance of public opinion and popular support - to stop pressuring him and other Senate leaders to come up with an alternative before September. In a profile this month in The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that Lieberman feels he owes the Democrats nothing, and suggests that a big reason why cutting off funds for the war is not on the table is because that would push Lieberman over the edge and make him switch parties.

What if autumn comes and no progress has been made? The Bush administration will certainly spin the situation to tell the public that some goals have been achieved. Will they, and General Petraeus, ask for more time and more patience (which means, undoubtedly, more lives lost)? Or will Joe Lieberman have the courage to step up and say "We gave this a chance and it didn't work. Now let's listen to the people and bring them home"?

If it turns out to be the case that Congress must wait another six months to effectively even make an attempt to turn things around because Lieberman is holding control of the Senate hostage, then the lives of everyone lost in that time are on his hands. Lieberman's excess of pride and feelings of personal vengeance come at the cost of delaying the democratic process and the irreparable harm that will likely come to many families on all sides of this war.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Don't Believe the Right-Wing Media

Barack Obama has the right idea. According to The Sleuth, a Washington Post.com column, Senator Obama is "freezing out" reporters from Fox News, the network which unapologeticly aired the right-wing smear against him in the last week. Since the incident - which right-wingers have attempted to blame on Hillary Clinton's campaign, in an effort to smear two Democratic candidates at once - Obama has given interviews to nearly every other major broadcast news channel, except Fox.

Obama's not the only one being attacked. Former Senator John Edwards is fielding questions on the campaign trail about his residence in Chapel Hill, N.C., and whether it is "too nice" for someone who is talking about poverty issues. The absurdity of such an attack shows how ruthless - or desperate - the right-wing is to take the public's attention off the actual issues.

Even what were once thought of as traditional news sources are being overcome by the right-wing propagandists. ABC News, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, recently hired right-wing talk-show personality Glenn Beck to be a regular commentor on Good Morning America. Several Muslim groups have complained to ABC that because Beck has demonstrated a bias against Arabs, he should not be included in their programming.

ABC's senior news correspondent Jake Tapper recently used quotes from the defender of the right-wing faith Rush Limbaugh to augment a story about the racial implications of Joe Biden's comments on his fellow Democratic presidential candidates. Limbaugh is someone who is known for making racially insensitive comments, so why would ABC choose to reference him? What could they have expected him to say?

Last week, Tapper questioned the authenticity of Democratic candidates, but not Republican candidates. The reporter has a history of favoring Republicans and questioning the integrity of Democrats in his reporting. It's sad to see the former home of a fine journalist like Peter Jennings become a forum for Republican propaganda.

On Fox News recently, smug right-wing poster boy Sean Hannity aired scenes that were cut from the ABC telefilm Path to 9/11 which were removed from the original broadcast because of complaints that they portrayed events that never happened. That didn't stop Hannity from telling viewers he was going to present "both sides." Presumably, he meant fact and fiction, along it remains to be seen how many actual facts were not obscured by Hannity.

Fox News was created by Roger Ailes, who was a paid political consultant for the Republicans in the 1970s, 1980s, and the early 1990s. Fox has had an unapologetic conservative emphasis from the beginning, despite its corporate slogan of being "fair and balanced." It was owner Rupert Murdoch's contention that the news media was "liberal" and he and Ailes intended Fox to offset that perceived imbalance. In fact, substantial research has investigated this, and concluded that there is no liberal bias in media. But conservatives persist in saying there is, which is a convenient way for right-wing extremists to get their opinions heard, and more dangerously, have their skew with the news.

Here is the definition of propaganda: "A type of message aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people. Instead of impartially providing information, propaganda is often deliberately misleading, using logical fallacies, which, while sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid."

In an up-to-the-minute and egregious example of the right-wing's attempt to inject propaganda into the culture, the American Enterprise Institute - a right wing think tank funded by the likes of companies like Exxon Mobil - is offering scientists and economists $10,000 to dispute the United Nations' climate change report (referenced below). The Institute is looking for articles that cast doubt on the U.N. report's findings. You can be sure that if anyone takes the bait, the right-wing media will report on it, since groups like AEI and the Heritage Foundation often place people in the editorial staffs of news organizations. Nothing less than life continuing on the planet is at stake, and the right-wing wants to cast doubt on the report -- so that companies like Exxon will not have to change their ways and stop polluting the atmosphere. It's insanity.

We won't even get into the absurdity of Fox's smugness incarnate, Bill O'Reilly, who spins more stories and twists more truths than anyone can keep track of. He'll tell you he's an "independent thinker" but then recite Republican talking points and disparage Democratic personalities. The goal of propagandists like O'Reilly and the people behind Fox is to keep telling viewers they are getting impartial news, when that's the last thing they are getting. The Nazi propagandists used the same trick back in their time.

In an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman paid tribute to Molly Ivins, who passed away this week, citing her 1995 column about Rush Limbaugh, in which she wrote ''Satire has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful. When you use satire against powerless people it is like kicking a cripple.''

It's also a powerful political tool. Be smart; don't believe the right-wing media. They exist to serve corporate and neoconservative political interests, not to serve truth.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Room For One More?

Just when it seems like everyone who has ever held any public office is running for president, along comes Al Gore, who has said he has no plans to run, but according to a new article in Rolling Stone, may be quietly laying the groundwork to make off with the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Gore, who seems the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Documentary later this month for his film An Inconvenient Truth, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has newfound cultural clout and respect for not only his environmental work but also his straight-talking attitude that came out before the Iraq war (and in the years since it began). In September 2002 - six months before the war even began - Gore gave a speech in which he said "The chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam."

With the release of the United Nations' report on global warming on Feb. 2, Gore's profile is likely to rise even more, as the report is scheduled to support the scientific conclusions that he backed years ago. Anyone who disagrees with the scope of the global warming problem at this point is either an apologist for industry or a fool. These matters have been discussed for more than 30 years. Any leader who doesn't use their role to help correct the environmental disaster that is happening (not coming, but happening) will surely be judged as ineffectual.

The article makes a compelling case for why Gore should run, and how he could win. He'd be an alternative to the cautious middle-of-the-road campaign of Hillary Clinton, and right-wing pandering that will surely come from John McCain and Rudy Guiliani. Only Barack Obama and John Edwards - both strong candidates - could challenge Gore on his turf, but Gore has an advantage with his experience in the Senate and as vice president.

That said, fans of robust political debate should be glad that there are so many talented candidates running. With the likes of Edwards, Obama, Gore, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and even Clinton running, one of them ought to be able to make it to the finish line and use their time in the Oval Office to make a dent in correcting the course the country has been on under the Bush administration and the extreme right-wing idealouges it represents.

At the very least, Al Gore should run because his presence alone would steer the national debate to environmental concerns that are essential to the nation's well-being.