James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A successful sting by Timmy Do-right

If you wonder how we've come to the sorry state we're in, there's a news story in the Star Tribune (Aug. 16, page B6) that answers the question, though that certainly is not the intent of the reporter nor of the pollsters whose new results he passes on.

A poll by SurveyUSA over the previous weekend shows that in the wake of the Hwy. I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's approval rating is at an all-time high, the Strib reported.

The poll says 59 percent of Minnesotans now approve of “the job Pawlenty is doing.”

Last month, the the Strib says, the same polling firm found that 53 percent of Minnesotans approved of right-wing Tim's job performance – which was, in itself, enough to demonstrate the appalling ignorance of the average citizen.

The bridge disaster and Pawlenty's follow-the-script public appearances immediately after that happened accounts for the big jump in the approval rating, the Strib and various experts agree.

Big whoop.

It's the same phenomenon that gave us Rudolph (Screw the Emergency Workers) Giuliani as a presidential candidate who must be taken seriously.

Go to the disaster site, stick out your jaw, puff up your chest in your best imitation of Dudley Do-right. With sad eyes and somber voice, express sympathy for the survivors and the families and friends of victims. Switch to firm voice and vow that everything humanly possible will be done to see things right, to get to the bottom of the problem, to repair the damage, to make the city/state/nation whole again.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Keep the promises vague.

It is entirely possible, sometimes probable, that office holders following that well-worn routine are genuinely sorrowful and sympathetic. But it's hard to tell who really cares for the people hurt by whatever disaster it is and who is simply going through the motions while focusing privately on covering his or her exposed ass.

What should matter is what led to the mess and what happens next – but by the time facts are available and something actually is done to address the situation, the public is on to other things, or absorbed by the sad tales of broken families and uplifting tales of heroism with which television, radio and newspapers bombard us.

Facts? We don't need no stinkin' facts.

The public goes for it every time, regardless of the history of Dudley Politico.

In our case, Tim Pawlenty is a right-wing bobo who has done all in his power as governor and as a leading legislator working on behalf of the no-tax fanatics to undermine Minnesota's infrastructure.

Now he's pushing like crazy to rush the building of a replacement bridge without proper consideration for design, structural longevity, possible accommodation for transit and without clear safeguards for environmental and worker safety and rights.

Hey, we have a Republican National Convention coming next year, and Tim wants a national role so badly he's embarrassing himself playing to those with power in the party. He wants that bridge up, or at least well underway by the time the neocons and “social issue” nutters get here.

The bridge collapse probably can't be laid directly at his feet, although some recommended near-emergency repairs on the now-fallen structure were rejected by his equally fanatical anti-tax transportation commissioner (and lieutenant governor).

Pawlenty's ever-so-amusing predecessor, rassler Jessie Ventura, also took big whacks at budgets for bridge and road repair in order to cut license-plate fees on costly, over-sized gas guzzlers, which he prefers to drive.

Both The (brainless) Body and Pawlenty got plenty of support from the Republicans who controlled the Legislature until this year.

Still, there's no question that “staying the course” on Pawlenty's program could only lead to more collapses in the future, and until the Minneapolis bridge killed people, he wasn't about to give an inch on his screw-the-public program.

But, having done the Do-right thing, here he is, at the top of the polls.

And the people who think he's doing a heckuva job are the body politic, the voters of Minnesota.

Do you wonder that the republic is eroding at the rate of many a Minnesota lake shore?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When news and propaganda merge

Language matters.

It matters greatly.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans can read, or listen, with anything approaching critical attention. So we get conned and robbed and thrust into untenable and often illegal situations at every turn. We get pushed into wars that should never happen on the basis of what a Bush or Cheney or Rove seems to be saying, rather than hearing the truth beneath the twists and clever obfuscations.

We're constantly bombarded by the propaganda machine, hammered with words and phrases that seem to say something straight but that, in fact, encourage a belief in lies and dodges.

The propaganda machine includes the once independent news outfits -- virtually all radio and television and almost all newspapers.

Remember how quickly the “news” outfits adopted the Bush Administration word “surge” to describe the escalation in the occupation (never called an occupation) and war in Iraq? For at least a couple of months, you heard or read “surge” in every story about the escalation. You rarely saw “escalation” in a corporate newspaper or heard it on television.

“Surge,” a word chosen by the office of Karl Rove, conveys new strength. It says “increased power.” And that's the idea it sold. New strength, new power for our side in Iraq. And millions of Americans absorbed the word and its meaning and at least half believed it.

It was a lie, like almost everything out of the White House during the past six years. The same tactic had been tried before and failed. There was not the tiniest reason to believe the latest attempt would fare better. Thousands of people complained about the use of the word in the news, but the new failure had to become clear before the papers and television stopped using it and started pretending, in fact, that they'd never heard it.

Surge? What surge?

Most such propaganda words stay with us, unfortunately.

A few days after the I35W bridge in Minneapolis went down, Patricia Lopez, a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said in a story about replacing the bridge that the Democrats in the State Legislature were planning a “tax and spending” plan to rebuild the state's crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

“Tax and spend” is, of course, a right wing think-tank construction, endlessly drilled into the heads of the “base,” with the same fervor applied to “Support our troops.” It is a knee-jerk phrase, applied without thinking every time someone suggests our tax system favors the rich and hurts the rest of us.

Lopez used it as her own, not in quoting some Republican antitax fanatic, and in so doing, whether deliberately or stupidly, triggered the Pavlovian response of the nonthinkers and set them up against whatever plan the Democrats devise.

Liberals I know read over that without catching what had happened. Careless reading.

Can you identify the “frontrunner” for the Democratic presidential nomination?

Of course you can. The American press anointed Hillary Clinton with that title long before anyone had officially declared candidacy. And, yes, it matters.

A recent poll showed that about 53 percent of Democrats believe Clinton is the most “electable” of the Democratic candidates. The same poll showed Clinton is not “liked” by anywhere near the same percentage of Democrats.

The press and television have convinced them that she is the one who must be nominated.

That's propaganda at its most powerful. She and her campaign crew conned the political reporting herd, which moves almost entirely as a unit, right from the git-go, and they've worked hard to persuade Democrats that only Clinton can win.

Oh, and about that highway bridge: Not all of the bodies have yet been recovered, but the antitax mob already has shifted from clucking their sympathy to fighting any meaningful moves to improve Minnesota's rotting infrastructure.

Catch phrases – taught to the Republican base along with “tax and spend” and “Support our troops,” have appeared in at least a couple of op-ed pieces and in several letters to the editors of local newspapers.

Any time you see the phrase “throw money at,” you know the writer or speaker is someone who has learned the Republican mantra by rote. Any spending, for any purpose, no matter how good or necessary, is automatically dismissed as “throwing money at” whatever problem needs solving.

It means, “The rich guys are afraid they may have to pay something closer to their fair share of taxes and they damned well don't want to.” It also means: “We (or the rich guys who's butts we kiss) don't personally use this particular service, so we don't want it funded.”

Of course, it also can mean "We're too stupid and self-centered to understand how this benefits us," but one shouldn't say that, so I won't.

Another favorite, used very heavily right now by the tax haters in Minnesota, is “rather than taxes, we just have to reorder priorities.” That also has popped up in several letters to editors.

To those who created the phrase, it means “Take money from children's health programs, and education, and inner city police and fire departments and any government activity that doesn't directly and immediately serve me.”

And another: “bloated bureaucracy,” which simply means the people who do the public's work. It is never applied to the truly inefficient and fear-paralyzed bureaucracies of corporations. Supposedly, there is always “plenty of fat” in public budgets, and government can do it's work without people.

For a long time now, when I hear such phrases -- “too much fat in government budgets” or “bloated bureaucracy” I demand that the speaker give me specific examples, and they can't be fiction from the right wing myth machine. I have yet to get a straight answer.

Just one more:

One of the countless newspaper pieces on Karl Rove's supposed departure noted that one of his initiatives involved using public funds – tax money – to support “faith-based intitiatives.”

That term appears over and over in the news. The speakers or writers almost never point out that “faith based initiatives” or “faith-based programs” are simply the programs of religious organizations, and “public support for faith-based programs” means handing tax money over to (mostly) churches. There are some who quibble about the constitutional problem inherent in that action, but who pays any attention to the Constitution these days?

Folks, please read and listen with full attention to what's really being said, promoted, denigrated. It's dangerous out there.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Niccolo Jr. pretends to leave

Oh deary me. Our own would-be prince maker has resigned and is leaving the White House at the end of August.

There was even a touching little bit with Georgie and the pipsqueak Machiavelli on the lawn, with glycerin tears in plain view.

I watched a couple of CNN pretty-faces read their teleprompter ad-libs about how there just might be a few late night calls, off the record, because the prince has depended so on his “boy genius” for so long he's not going to lose that support now.

It was enough, as my old man used to say, to gag a maggot.

After that and a similar smirk fest at one of the other faux news outfits, I swore off further commentary or “reportage,” at least unless and until Paul Krugman weighs in on the subject.

Just in case any real people are in doubt: Rove isn't going away. He isn't even slowing down. He is being repositioned in order to better lead the Lies, Dirty Tricks and Nasty Tactics Brigade for the 2008 campaign to permanently embed Neocon rule.

Out of the White House – officially, that is – he doesn't have to bother swatting away the timid little congressional Democrats, who occasionally make a pretense of demanding an accounting of and by Rove for his various illegal activities.

Having long ago used the U.S. Constitution for toilet paper – handed over a sheet at a time by Congress every time someone in the White House squats -- the regime insiders aren't seriously threatened by the Democrats, but they still need, for purely propaganda reasons, to pretend there is another branch or two of government, and making the Dems crawl can be time consuming, as well as boring.

Out of the White House, Karl can operate with complete freedom and privacy, with no one able to claim a legal right to oversight. His actions can and will be wholly protected from public view.

Unless some party functionary with access gets a sudden attack of conscience or is stricken with an attack of honesty – extremely unlikely events -- the sociopaths and their leader will operate untroubled by law, conscience or public opinion.

The only “news,” and it's barely more air-worthy or print-worthy than a rush hour fender bender at this point, is that the captive news outfits are opening their raincoats to again display their inadequacies for all to see.