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More Commentary on the News

September 27th, 2003

Remain Afraid, Administration Encourages

The Bush administration’s State Department is telling Americans to remain fearful and worried of possible terrorist attacks. But really, tell me: are we truly any more at risk today than we were three years ago? The threat has neither increased or decreased. The terrorists are no more nor less capable of or committed to doing anything. But a fearful populace follows its leaders with less questioning, and more readily supports infringements on its own liberties. This is not a new idea or revelation; we have heard before that our own fear, and what it leads us to do, is the only thing we truly have to fear. So live your life calmly. Approve only what security you believe is truly necessary, remembering that security and freedom are always a trade-off.

A Political Culture Without Morality

When former ambassador Joseph Wilson had the temerity to point out that Bush lied to the American people about Saddam Hussein buying uranium from Niger, the administration did not admit its mistake. Nor did it even withdraw the assertion. It tried to shift blame, pin responsibility on lesser officials, claimed they relied on the British intelligence more than their own. Everything but admit to responsibility for the lie.

But the immorality did not stop there. Furious that Wilson would show up the president, White House officials sought out ultraconservative columnist and pundit Robert Novak, and illegally informed him that Wilson’s wife was a secret CIA operative who had suggested her husband be the one to investigate the Niger story.

Remember that the Bush administration keeps a great deal of information secret with the excuse that it protects people. People are arrested and detained, and yet are denied access to witnesses or information because the administration says it would put covert operatives at risk. But when a diplomat tells the truth that the president was lying to the American people to drag them into an unwise war? The administration unveils his wife’s covert status just out of spite.

While we’re watching the administration reveal information that should be classified, how about some information that should be unclassified, but it keeps secret anyway? What happened to flight 93 on 9/11? We don’t know; they won’t release the flight data recorder, severely limited access to the cockpit recorder, and have gagged witnesses to the event who contradict the administration’s story of what happened. Who sat on the president’s energy council and what did they say? Sorry, that’s confidential. You might find out that a swarm of Texas oil cronies of Bush practically dictated the nation’s energy agenda, and that would certainly hurt some people in the White House. What did Saudi Arabia have to do with 9/11? We won’t know more about that for any time soon, the Bush administration censored that part of the report on 9/11.

Bush’s people have their own morality in play, echoing the Nixonian sentiment that the White House can do whatever it pleases. We need a John Dean here, someone who will break down and do the right thing.

Meanwhile, Europe, Rest of World Mysteriously Unwilling to Help Bush

Go figure. You engineer a war to gain votes, win oil fields and please your party’s hawks, lie to your people and to the world, belittle and ridicule long-time allies and new friends who don’t want to go along, call the world’s foremost body to promote peace “irrelevant,” cut short their attempts to make peace, kill 6000 civilians, and destabilize an entire region. And then, when you get stuck in the mud and need help, you come before those same countries you made fun of, as arrogant and uncompromising as before, asking for them to give money and blood in return for no control and no business opportunities–what does the rest of the world do?

The say “no”! The ungrateful wretches! How dare they? Bring back “Freedom Fries!” We need to ridicule these ingrates some more!

One Step Closer to Privacy

After U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham in Denver put the kebosh on the FTC’s Do-Not-Call list, perhaps the single most popular initiative to come out of Washington D.C. in years, the high 10th Circuit court has given every indication that it will overturn the lower court’s ruling and allow the list to go into effect.

Meanwhile, Tim Searcy, executive director of the American Teleservices Association, argued on Crossfire that so many people would lose their jobs if the list was enforced. Crocodile tears, of course; the industry is perhaps most famous for using a mechanical calling device to contact people during dinner time and get them to listen to a recorded sales pitch, a device which had a single purpose: to allow the industry to fire as many of the people to whom they pay minimum wage as possible in order to hike their own profits. These people could care less about the people they hire, and if the list is indeed enforced, the telemarketers won’t be out of business, they’ll just have to find a less annoying way to do their business, and they will still need to hire people. But there is nothing new about megacorporations holding their employees hostage, using them as human shields to protect themselves against being fairly regulated, taxed, or held accountable for their misdeeds.

Side comment: have you ever been caught by one of those machine callers? They are extremely convincing; you would think that you could tell a marketer, or especially a machine, right away. But the recorded messages are carefully scripted to make you think that a neighbor is calling, or some other ruse. Only when you (a) try to interrupt, or (b) stay on long enough to see that it’s a sales pitch, and then interrupt, do you realize that you’ve been listening to a machine. If you’ve never gotten a really well-designed auto-caller, don’t scoff–it’s easier to be fooled at first than you might think.

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