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6.24.2004

O'Reilly: Throwback or Throwup?


More fair and balanced commentary from the ever wise and insightful Bill O'Reilly:
Bill O'Reilly referred to his Radio Factor co-host, Lis Wiehl -- an author, law professor, and FOX News Channel legal analyst -- as "eye candy ... for me" on the June 21 radio program, telling Wiehl that she is on the show "because you're good-looking, so I got somebody to look over" while he's on the air.

O'Reilly, who earlier in the program claimed that Wiehl would like to "date" former President Bill Clinton, responded to her comment that Clinton's lip-biting during his appearance on 60 Minutes was "cute" by stating, "That's the in-depth analysis from a Harvard Law grad, ladies and gentlemen." Later, in a discussion about Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11, O'Reilly referred to Wiehl as actress Drew Barrymore, remarking, "I loved you in Poison Ivy. Was that the one [movie] she was naked in?"



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6.17.2004

regan-gate


For those of you who, like me, turned away in disgust from massive portraits of Regan on the cover of every newspaper last week, Norm Dixon has written a great article on Regan's work to arm Saddam with chemical weapens in the 80's. Note that a good chunk of the current administration was calling the shots then too.

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6.14.2004

Damage Control


Kurt Nimmo writes in CounterPunch today:
So desperate are Bush Republicans to kill Michael Moore's latest film, Fahrenheit 9/11, they have hired a public relations firm to set up a web site attacking Moore. The site, MoveAmericaForward.com, claims to be "non-partisan," but a glance at the "About" page of the site reveals the director and staff of Move America Forward are all diehard Republicans, anti-tax activists, and former legislative staffers. The PR firm is Russo Marsh & Rogers.

This meshes nicely with a book I've just finished, 'Coercion', by Douglas Rushkoff, which highlights some of the ways that governments and corporations use coercive techniques to influence citizens and consumers. It's a good read, and recommended for those who consider themselves media savvy, and yet are unaware of many of the techniques used to sway their opinion.

Rushkoff discusses one particularly infamous case in which the Kuwaiti government hired the PR firm Hill & Knowlton to convince Congress and the American public to push for the Gulf War. They fabricated an atrocity, produced a 15 year old girl who gave false testimony to Congress, and were of course successful. For those of you who (like me) were unaware of this, here is a quick summary of the deception, and here is a more in depth discussion.

In light of this, I found Hill & Knowlton's mission statement to be intriguing:
We believe that communication has the power to create change and that real change only occurs with effective, powerful communication. Communication is the heart of what makes us human, what makes the world go round, and what we at Hill & Knowlton do day in and day out in 70 offices in 37 countries around the globe. Powerful communications that make a difference, that go beyond the ordinary, that can transform, inspire, move and educate is why we exist. This power can be accessed by our clients wherever and whenever they need it; in specialist arenas and in global campaigns; in the corridors of government; in the financial centers and in the minds of consumers everywhere.

This leads me to some questions: What is the dividing line between communication and manipulation? If I am an effective communicator, does that mean that you understand me, or that you agree with me? If 'straitforward' methods of communication are proving ineffective, when is it acceptable to use more oblique forms? What is the effective response to the Hill $ Knowlton's of the world? Can information beat decption? What if the deception has already wrought an emotional state change, such that information has little effect? These are the questions of the hour for the tree...

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the wall


A trenchant piece here on some of the nasty particulars of the wall going up in Israel. Perhaps the most incredible aspect of this construction project from hell is that apparently very few Israelis are aware of its scope. Presumably they will not be prepared for the rage to come.

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6.07.2004

wal-mart is hungry


I am a staunch disparager of Wal-Mart, but have been challenged in my portrayal of the mega shopping store as a pestilence that should be stricken from the earth. Wal-Mart's supporters maintain that the store creates jobs and offers products at unbeatable prices, and thus is fundamentally good for society. However, the corporate giant may actually be consuming more resources than it delivers, as reports of employees on public assistance and decimated local businesses attest. But wait, there's more; an article in the Elizabethan Star of Tennessee discusses the huge subsidies doled out to the company:
Wal-Mart Stores have enjoyed more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the United States, according to a new study released by a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

...snip...

The types of subsidies reportedly given to Wal-Mart projects included access roads and utility lines, tax increment financing, sales tax rebates or exemptions, property tax abatements and tax-exempt bond financing.
In addition to documenting subsidies actually awarded to Wal-Mart projects, the study describes those situations in which local citizen groups successfully opposed plans for public assistance to the company. "The fact that Wal-Mart often proceeded with such projects without subsidies suggests that the company did not seek the assistance out of financial need," Mattera said.

This reminds me of the system that logging companies use to relieve timber rich countries of their resources; they come in promising jobs and growth, demand huge tax breaks, and walk away with the money and resouces, leaving behind economic and environmental ruin.

Why is it that counties and countries continue to hand out funds to these destructive corporations? I suppose the systems are complex enough that true self interest is obscured, which is also the case in our current political system.

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6.01.2004

draft


Jacob Levich of CounterPunch reminds us that discussion of reinstating the draft is going strong in congress these days. I noticed the following bills several months ago, but thought that nothing was going to come of it. Apparently they are still up for discussion. The two bills are S. 89 and H.R. 163. They both contain the identical text:
Universal National Service Act of 2003 - Declares that it is the obligation of every U.S. citizen, and every other person residing in the United States, between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform a two-year period of national service, unless exempted, either as a member of an active or reserve component of the armed forces or in a civilian capacity that promotes national defense. Requires induction into national service by the President. Sets forth provisions governing: (1) induction deferments, postponements, and exemptions, including exemption of a conscientious objector from military service that includes combatant training; and (2) discharge following national service.

Amends the Military Selective Service Act to authorize the military registration of females.

Note that "every other person residing in the United States" will also be required to sign up. I wonder who in particular they have in mind.

Note also that this bill is heavily sponsored by Democrats. Why? I'm working on that one... Some argue that it's a ploy to generate opposition to the war, as a draft would be incredibly unpopular. I could definitely see that being the case. On the other hand, it seems absurd to rush to war with an all volunteer army that is ill-equipped to deal with the resistance on the ground. Perhaps those democrats actually want a shot at 'winning' the conflict.

Bill Broyles has a trenchant piece on why either the draft should come back, or the war should not be fought at all.

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