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June 5, 2005 - What's News and What Isn't

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So now we know who Deep Throat was.  Fine.  So?

And what is there to say about the massive landslide out here, just down the coast, with up to twenty multimillion dollar houses sliding down toward the Pacific?  Such things happen.  This is California.

The Michael Jackson trial goes to the jury – but there will be no comment here.

And what is there to say about the American Family Association urging a boycott of Ford cars and trucks – they say Ford has given thousands of dollars to gay rights groups, offers benefits to same-sex couples and actively recruits gay employees - just after their call for a boycott of Kraft macaroni and cheese in a box (the one will the picture of SpongeBob SquarePants on the cover).  Oh, it wasn’t just the cartoon character.  Kraft authorized its company logo to be placed on the official website of the 2006 Gay Olympic Games in Chicago as a major corporate sponsor.  Boycott all Kraft products?  Even Tang with its new mango flavor?  Oh my!

This is news?  What about the war?

Some of us are still thinking about what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said on CNN last weekend –


I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time. The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.


As Andrew Sullivan comments


You'll either be relieved or terrified by this statement by Mr Cheney.  Relieved if you think he has a grip on the situation; terrified if you think it shows he has no idea what is going on in Iraq (or in the military's own detention facilities, for that matter).  But at least he has given us a clear marker for the future that we can hold him to.


Yeah, it is a marker, just like the other one Sullivan points to –


They will do everything they can to disrupt the process up to those elections in January because they know that once you've got a democratically elected government in place that has legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Iraq, they're out of business. That will be the end of the insurgency.


That one was from October 28, 2004.

I think Herbert Hoover said prosperity was just around the corner.  To repeat…. When someone tries to sell you something by opening with "Trust us – this is not what it seems," one is naturally a bit skeptical.  If that is followed with, "Have we ever lied to your before?"  One steps back.  If that is followed by, "I know you THINK we lied, but you weren’t listening carefully," then one steps back even more.  These guys need some marketing advice.

Our own marketing guru, who this week asked why aren't we acting as if we understood moral authority and, in the same item, discussed how to exterminate swarms (perhaps you should read the item), suggested I ought to look at something other than the fluff stories in the news.  He suggested I pop up the New York Times before it goes behind the subscription wall and only those who pay big bucks can read it and comment on it.

His suggestions from the June 1 issue?

Item one: Patriot Act Redux, and in the Dark

He says the editorial is scary – and that what's emerging AGAIN in DC and why it's NOT just about what THEY do to others outside our borders.


The Patriot Act was passed in haste, in the angst-filled days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with some lawmakers candidly admitting they never read the details. That was one of the reasons key sections included expiration dates, so calmer heads of the future would have an opportunity to fix mistakes. Now that opportunity is here, and far from removing obvious threats to civil liberties in the law, the White House and eager Senate Republicans seem bent on making it worse.


He says - "Why should we believe these guys? They treat their own constituents as if WE were terrorists..."

Yep.  Let’s see – there the proposal to let FBI agents write their own "administrative subpoenas," without the need to consult prosecutors or judges, and demand of all manner of records, from business to medical and tax data.  Yep.  And there’s that library provision that lets the government seize entire databases at libraries, hospitals and other institutions when just one person is under investigation.  And there’s that part of the act that makes it a crime for record holders to let the public know when a government data sweep has occurred.

But we worry about Michael Jackson and SpongeBob SquarePants.  Was your Ford Explorer assembled by some gay guy?

Item two: America's DNA

This is Thomas Friedman's opinion column, explaining why he's worried that in fits and starts we are eroding everything we've inherited as our heritage – what he calls our DNA.  Freidman recalls a conversation with a friend in London –


In part it was a recent chat with the folks at Intel about the obstacles they met trying to get visas for Muslim youths from Pakistan and South Africa who were finalists for this year's Intel science contest. And in part it was a conversation with M.I.T. scientists about the new restrictions on Pentagon research contracts - in terms of the nationalities of the researchers who could be involved and the secrecy required - that were constricting their ability to do cutting-edge work in some areas and forcing intellectual capital offshore. The advisory committee of the World Wide Web recently shifted its semiannual meeting from Boston to Montreal so as not to put members through the hassle of getting visas to the U.S.


As our business school professor of marketing comments - "This is our new American Product - along with war on foreign soil - that NO AMOUNT OF PR can overcome. People's experience IS the product and it's far greater than any packaging we call PR!"

So how do we want to be seen?  How do we want to be known in the world?


In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the U.S. lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They "make you feel so unwanted now," said Mr. Das. America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," he added, because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."


It seems it is okay of the world goes dark.

Our market friend comments - "These are not SMALL issues!"

No, they are not small issues.  There was some comment on this on the leftie blogs this week – but generally a collective national yawn.  Oh well.

Item three: The Peacemaker

This is about Rudolf Giuliani – with the subtitle "Olle Wastberg nominates Rudy G for the Nobel Peace Prize."



Mr. Giuliani took office in 1994, when the city was rife with gang violence, rundown neighborhoods, robbery, graffiti and litter. The police had lost the daily battle against serious crime. The mayor brought with him a policy of rethinking the fight against crime... in human terms, it would appear that over the last 12 years the policies Mr. Giuliani put in place have spared New York perhaps 10,000 murders, 15,000 rapes and 800,000 robberies. This is clearly a humanitarian accomplishment of great magnitude.


Our friend comments - "Now here's a man, that acts in the best interests of his constituents. Despite party and politics, I'd vote for Rudy in the White House, because in moments of crisis he's been shown to be true to human moral instinct. I can respect that in a person, especially in a politician! We really need a new style of American leadership! And if he could unite red and blue states, more power to the guy... (quite literally)"

The problem with this man with the "human moral instinct" is clear.  He’s pro-choice.  And a Republican.  That party is now firmly evangelical Christian and Frist and Dobson will not allow Giuliani any chance for any nomination to any office, unless he embraces what the call the "culture of life" – and comes out for embryo rights, the death penalty for most felonies, and an expansion of the war of Jesus against the heathen terrorists, to Syria, Iran and Korea.  I suspect Giuliani is not so much pro-abortion as he simply feels the decision is not the government’s to make, on Southern Baptist theological grounds.  Too bad.  The party to which he belongs now believes they have the mandate to make these decision for women.

Giuliani is toast.  And he won’t get the Nobel Peace Prize either.  Besides, his divorce was messy and offended a lot of the evangelical Christians who are working so hard to protect marriage, particularly from gay men who want the same legal rights as married heterosexual folks in Alabama.

Item Four: Beyond Viagra Politics

As our friend puts it, this is Matt Miller's fantasy appeal for leaders of both parties to take truth serum instead of Viagra for a day - "Miller includes the thought that we ALL must be held accountable for what our leaders do!"


... how different our politics would sound if we moved beyond Viagra politics and got serious about our problems. All it would take is enough of us rebelling against a perverse culture in which "political courage" is oddly defined as "telling the truth." After all, if we don't make the world safe for our leaders to do the right thing, who will?



After point to these our friend says - "These are all four taken way out of context and each deserves a full read. But taken together they reflect the angst and concern I feel for our national malaise - our lapse of moral responsibility - that got me started on this whole writing kick this morning."

And then he went back to work.

Angst and concern….

I came this on the site Tacitus where in a discussion of bringing back the draft the anonymous writer, a right-wing conservative to the core, suggests we’re all in this together –


If you reject the very idea of a democracy or a republic, in which the people at large are the state, and its acts are hence their acts, then it becomes sensible to speak of a war of that state in which the citizenry have no moral part. This being America, corporate media and Diebold machines and paranoid theorizing notwithstanding, one assumes that reasonable persons do not reject that idea. We are a republic, and our state and its actions are therefore reflections and extensions of ourselves. Every citizen is the co-equal of every other under law, governance, and the responsibilities and consequences thereof. This is basic civics, but it clearly needs restating: America's wars are Americans' wars. The failure to grasp this is, to be sure, a bipartisan moral idiocy….


The war is our war.  What happens at Guantánamo Bay is what we did.  Shutting down our borders to the best and the brightest is what we are doing.  Giving up our rights to be safe is what we are doing.  Allowing the evangelical right to define, by their rules, what is moral and allowable is what we allow.  Assuming no one does the right thing as a matter of course – just the way life is - is what we assume.

So what are "we" going to do?

We're going to wonder if Michael Jackson will be convicted.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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