James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A novel idea for our future

Let's play a little intellectual game – not too difficult, mind you, and sure to be lots of fun.

We'll each pretend to be an author planning to use a number of established facts, real-life facts, as the basis for constructing a novel. Let's see how many of us take the proposed book in the same direction and what truly different thoughts occur. Detailed plotting is not necessary, but certainly can be done.

I'll state a relatively short list of facts and real situations which all of us should use. At the bottom, I'll list just a few more of the hundreds of well-documented bits of information which can be used or not, as each “author” likes, to bolster the themes of his or her novel.

The basic facts (as I said, all real, all matters of public record):

-- There is a sitting president, highly unpopular, who achieved the office through a combination of electoral cheating, lies spread through a compliant news system and a Supreme Court majority that shares his political views. He gained a second term through further skulduggery. He's now nearing the end of his final term, an election is scheduled in a few months.

-- That president is an intellectually deficient, superannuated frat boy and locker room bully. (Not verifiable “fact,” perhaps, but widely agreed upon.) The policies of his administration have been created by a cabal of right wing power lovers and profiteers. Foreign policy has largely been controlled by a vice president who is disdainful of the public and the country's Constitution and also is demonstrably paranoid to a degree bordering on, if not actually, psychotic.

-- The country is in long and seemingly endless wars in two Islamic countries. The biggest of those, in Iraq, was deliberately created by the administration and sold to the public by means of a long series of egregious lies, most of which have since been exposed. A sizable minority of the public continues to believe the lies despite the exposure. This country, as such, derives no benefit but a great deal of pain, loss and distress from the bigger of the two wars and doubtful benefit from the other which, in any case, is not being fought seriously by the administration. However, a small economic elite profits almost beyond comprehension from the wars.

-- The administration is backed by an extremely powerful, if loosely knit, group of billionaires and corporate executives, notably those who have been the financial beneficiaries, either directly or indirectly.

-- For the first time in the country's history, it is using torture, sometimes against those merely suspected of being enemies of the administration, if not the state. Numerous other rules of conduct have been breached for the first time and the country's standing in the world has plummeted.

-- The country, for the first time, is doing massive spying against its own citizens, in some cases even after the administration's own courts –- that is, judges appointed for political reliability rather than knowledge of the law -– have said the spying is illegal and called for it to stop.

-- Before the spying and torture began, the administration had its own faithful lawyers create legal arguments supporting its right to commit those illegal acts. Essentially, the lawyers said that if the president (administration) does something, that makes the something legal. As with a god, the mere doing make the action right.

-- The president has issued a great many executive orders giving himself the right to do what he chooses in a variety of other areas. News of the orders rarely reaches the public.

-- About two years before the end of the president's legal term, the administration issued a very large contract to build a network of concentration camps within the country. Locations, exact size and, most importantly, the general identities or descriptions of those to be imprisoned in the camps were not specified. After brief news stories about the letting of the contract in just a handful of the nation's biggest newspapers (no television coverage), none of the news media ever again mentioned the camps. The contract to build the camps was given to a subsidiary of the company led by the vice president. Presumably, the camps are now in shape to accept prisoners.

Incidentally, the vice president supposedly severed all connections to the corporation after his election, as required by law, but it soon was shown that he still has interest in its financial success. The company has grown at least ten-fold, entirely through government contracts, since the president and vice president took office.

-- About a year before he is to leave office, the president issued another executive order giving himself the sole right to declare a national emergency under which he can take control of all functions of federal and state governments, or any of those functions he chooses to take. The order received almost no coverage in the mass media.

(Note that, as with the domestic spying and torture justifications, the administration has never to date made any such preparation that it did not use at some point.)

Those are the basic facts.

Now I'll suggest some bits and pieces that probably should figure into your tale – real facts or events that will help give bulk to your scenarios:

-- Despite overwhelming disapproval by the public, the administration continues to build a phony list of excuses for attacking yet another country, Iran. As the end of the president's terms grows closer, the drumbeat for that attack grows louder.

As with the buildup to the attack on Iraq, the country's news media are helping the administration build its case. There also is recent information that gives reason to believe that some of the supposed provocations are, in fact, false flag operations. Statements from the White House and military leaders are given lengthy and prominent coverage with no attempt on the part of the media to verify their accuracy. Numerous indications that the White House and generals are lying are almost entirely ignored by broadcast outlets and major newspapers.

Some members of the administration's coterie of right wing policymakers openly admit, when asked, that they are eager to attack Iran; they admit it in the certain knowledge that the word is unlikely to reach the great majority of the citizenry.

-- The country's economy is in very bad shape – far worse than any of the major media have acknowledged and certain to get worse still. Another Great Depression is not out of the question. However, the very wealthy have been almost entirely unaffected this time by the troubles plaguing the general population and, in fact, are using the present situation to consolidate their hold on the country's wealth.

-- Democrats, supposedly the opposition party, in fact continue to allow the administration to do pretty much as it pleases without serious opposition. Democrats go along with continued funding of the Iraq war, with trade agreements and other efforts that do much for the rich and much to the rest of the population.

They continue to approve bills that do away with long-standing protections for the public on issues such as bankruptcy, personal privacy, control of employees lives by employers, contract guarantees, ability to sue for redress of corporate wrongs and many others.

-- The administration, not content with having major influence over news media, by dint of the fact that most of the media are owned by extremely wealthy supporters, among other things, uses fascist-like propaganda methods to control what the public knows. One of many examples, and this was reported by some major news outlets: the Pentagon controls what is said by virtually all of the retired high-ranking officers who serve as “analysts” and “consultants” for all major television news outlets. So all on air “expert analysis” of various wars and hotspots is essentially Pentagon (administration) propaganda.

-- A nice little bit that could add flavor to your story: A reporter for ABC news noted in a discussion with Vice President Dick Cheney that a huge majority of the country's citizens oppose continuation of the war in Iraq, the vice president replied “So?”

He went on to say the public policy should not be geared to public attitudes.

A novelist might conclude that the snide “So?” was more than Cheney's usual disdain for the American public, which is how it was widely described. The novelist might consider, for example, that Cheney always is fierce in defending his and the administration's actions, that he is relentless in pursuit of what he wants regardless of the needs or desires of others, and that he never, ever is willing to give up something he wants, such as a war.

A novelist might therefore decide that Cheney's offhand response was rooted in his certainty that he'll have what we wants, even though the administration is, by law, scheduled to leave office next January.

That can lead one in interesting directions.

Other facts, chosen at random, for possible use:

-- There is mounting evidence that the administration and its military favorites are lying about the supposed provocations by Iran just as they lied about evidence they manufactured to support the attack in Iraq.

-- Although this is an election year, the administration has felt free to attack Medicaid funding, to fight states that want to increase health care coverage for uninsured children and to slash at other apple-pie programs the neocons and super wealthy dislike. It is hacking at education funding and other health care programs. Election or no, it seems utterly unconcerned with public opinion or perceptions.

-- There is a mountain of evidence –- make that a mountain range of evidence -– that the country's present economic troubles are rooted in deliberate dismantling of government regulatory safeguards and could have been avoided had not the regulators been, in fact, part of the machinery to defraud the public.

-- While crying “Support our troops,” the administration has greatly reduced support for returning veterans, especially those physically or mentally wounded, in order to save money. (It could be noted that there is no profit in caring for them.) Scandals of malfeasance and nonfeasance in providing health care for the injured and mentally damaged arise almost daily. The Pentagon lies egregiously about such things as the suicide rate among Iraq veterans, the number injured and so on. In other words, once no longer able to return to Iraq, many of the veterans are abandoned.

Now a bit of wild speculation to liven things up. You may use it or not, of course, but if I intended to write this novel, I'd consider carefully that if the neocons remain in power through declaration –- one possibility for the book -- they might then have to decide what to do with Bush, who may well be seen as a liability. That provides some other interesting novelistic possibilities. But that's just my imagination working.

If H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley could do it, we can do it. Enjoy, and if you're so inclined, let me know your basic story line, or the conclusions your novel reaches.

Remember that this is just for fun. It can't happen here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cable business nooz; feminism or ogling?

Something that never occurred to me until I began paying a little attention again to cable nooz business programs a couple of months ago:

Only physically very attractive women in the 30s are qualified to anchor shows covering economics and the equities and commodities markets. In fact, very few people who are not very attractive women in the 30s – men and older women, for example – are qualified even to report on such topics.

If that weren't true might not someone less glamorous, perhaps even male, be in such a position here or there?

Who knew?

One of the cable networks used to have a couple of guys in their 40s whose work on late afternoon roundup shows I appreciated. They seemed to me to be knowledgeable, accurate and balanced in their reporting, and occasionally insightful in their restrained analyses. One of the two has been relegated to a very early morning show and the other apparently appears on air only occasionally these days, usually in spots that define his role as gofer for the glamorous young women.

I spent about 40 years covering economics, the markets and major corporations and dealing with such decidedly unbeautiful people as CEOs, heads of securities firms and economists such as Walter Heller, John Kenneth Galbraith and the champion con man of all time, Milton Friedman. The longer I was at it, the more I learned, and the more I came to think that it took a lot of learning to qualify as a solid reporter on economics. It never once occurred to me that gender and physical attractiveness might be qualifying characteristics.

Having listened to some of the gorgeous anchors over the past two or three months, I have come to the conclusion that most, if not all, of them have spent far more time learning about hair, makeup, clothing and how to moderate their alto voices to suit the topics than they have to learning journalism or economics.

On average, excluding a couple of highly competent yet still attractive long-time reporters, I'd guess the average economic education of the glams to be about one week in a crash course. To be honest, their ad-libs often demonstrate what seems to me an appalling ignorance of the topics at hand.

Obviously, the cable execs know more than I do, however, since they have a lot more money than I do. (That's modern American reasoning, folks). So I must be wrong again.

Isn't television a remarkable educational tool?