The Better Rhetor

Thursday, February 27, 2003
The Little Hat Problem

In which renegade typographical symbols showed up between em dashes and apostrophes has been—hold my breath—fixed. The problem may have been caused by writing directly into Blogger rather than composing in Word and pasting.

Thanks to Jeanne for the suggestion.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
My dashes and apostrophes

Have spouted weird little As with hats on them— like this. See what I mean? Why?

I'm all for overthowing the oppressive hegemony of conventional typographics etc, but I don't like this! Would someone smarter than me please drop me a note and tell me what's happening? You can click onto my e-mail account below.


Thank Goodness for Bucharest!

From the on-going opera bouffe, Ari & I, by Russell Mokhiber

Mokhiber: Ari, two things.

Ari Fleischer: We're going to -- the one question rule has to be in effect because I'm going to have to be in the Oval at 1:05 p.m.

Mokhiber: The Washington Post reported yesterday on its front page that "many people in the world increasingly think that President Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein." Why do you think that millions of people around the world hold that view?

Ari Fleischer: I don't think that -- number one, the President is going to do what he thinks is right representing the American people. And when you look at what the American people think is right, the American people strongly support the President's efforts to bring peace and to make certain that Saddam Hussein is disarmed so that he cannot harm the peace. That's the President's focus.

Mokhiber: But why do you think millions of people hold that view?

Ari Fleischer: I'm not in a position to judge it. I can tell you that I've seen the President travel abroad. And for example, when he was in Bucharest, hundreds of thousands turned out in the streets of Bucharest to welcome the American President.

For more, go to Common Dreams.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:
Liberal Oasis Interviews Greg Palast

Investigative reporter Greg Palast sits down with Liberal Oasis to discuss the new edition of Palast’s New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

LiberalOasis: In your view, what is the real motivation for the Bush Administration to start a war with Iraq?

Greg Palast: You don’t seem to buy the notion that Saddam is the Butcher of Baghdad. He’s Bush’s Butcher of Baghdad.

The most important phrase from Condi Rice was when she said it’s immoral to leave Saddam in power for 12 years.

Of course, it’s been 24 years. He was their favorite dictator. They kept him in power because he was against the Unicycle of Evil, Iran.

Saddam is a killer, a murderer and a berzerker. A Frankenstein created by Bush. He hired him, so I guess he has the right to fire him.

LO: What’s changed?

GP: One, Saddam’s gone renegade. Two, the war on Iraq is the weapon of mass distraction. When you say attack Osama, he says attack Iraq. It’s bait and switch. Don’t watch that man behind the curtain.

Bush put a turban and a beard on Saddam. Now most Americans believe Saddam played a part in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush also wants an endless war economy. We have an economy completely in the toilet, the same thing that defeated his daddy.

But if you have an endless war economy, you create a distraction through patriotism, and you boost the economy, by spending money on the military, on the berzerker weapons.

LO: Does all that mean oil is not the main motivator here?

GP: Bush is oil. His number one donor is the petroleum and energy industry. We didn’t hold an election. We held an auction, and they put up the money.

And you can’t look at Iraq alone. You have to look at the entire picture, including Venezuela, which is a swing nation in OPEC.

Just as we’re concerned about Iraq, we’re concerned about Venezuela. But we can’t get away with attacking Venezuela because Hugo Chavez was elected.

LO: On Venezuela, liberals certainly opposed attempts by the White House to subvert democracy and back a coup to depose Hugo Chavez.

But is Chavez a guy that liberals can be comfortable standing by? Does he have respect for democracy? Is he above oppression, human rights violations, and political assassinations?

GP: This guy is the real voice of democracy in Venezuela. I have never seen such misinformation in the media. The New York Times has literally fabricated reports. I have never seen anything like it.

Chavez is the Nelson Mandela of his country. 20 percent of the country is white, while millions of brown people live in intense poverty. And they finally elected their own guy and they fighting as hard as they can to keep him.

But the white reporters meet the white elite in the white part of Caracas and based on that, they call Chavez a would-be dictator, even though he was elected with 56 percent of the vote.

George Bush was never elected, and I’ve never seen him called would-be dictator in the American media.

Chavez has gone as far as to pardon those who have attacked him. That’s what he is willing to do to avoid a civil war between his people and the armed, jealous white elite.

For more, much more, on Tony Blair, the IMF, the U.S. Press, and the motivation to keep going, go here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Virtual March on Washington

On February 26th, you can join a massive march on Washington without leaving your living room. The Virtual March on Washington is a first-of-its-kind campaign from the Win Without War coalition.

Working together, we will direct a steady stream of phone calls — about one per minute, all day — to every Senate office in the country, while at the same time delivering a constant stream of e-mails and faxes. Our message: Don’t Attack Iraq.

A new approach, using new technology. If enough people call, who knows how things might go? Go here to register.

Peeved Off!

From the Washington Post:

Democrats Challenge Bush's Credibility

After months of searching for a unified political attack against President Bush, congressional Democrats have settled on a new and, some say, controversial strategy: questioning the president's truthfulness.

On an almost daily basis now, congressional Democrats are warning of a "credibility gap" between what Bush says to the American people and what he does through new government policies.

Last week, with most members away for the Presidents' Day recess, Democratic leaders circulated "Caught on Film: a photo history of the Bush credibility gap," highlighting "various examples of the Administration making promises at various photo-ops and then slashing funding for the very priorities it stressed." It covered everything from education to programs for the poor.

In this and other releases, Democrats hit Bush for what they say is his shortchanging of police, firefighters and other homeland security "first-responders" when public anxiety about a new terrorist attack is running high. Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.) on Friday sent out a release titled, "White House Continues Efforts to Deceive Nation's First Responders."

Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), the architect of the new strategy, and other top Democrats said Bush is also misleading the public about who benefits under his new tax cut plan, particularly the elimination of taxes on dividends. While Bush says the dividends cut will help most Americans, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that people earning less than $46,000, will get, on average, a $12 tax break, Democrats note.

The idea, Democratic strategists say, is to chip away at public support for Bush -- and, by extension, House and Senate Republicans -- by spending the next two years accusing him of essentially lying about his party's policies on the home front.

A top strategist for House Democrats, who declined to be identified, said party leaders are intensifying the campaign now to coincide with criticism of Bush's Iraq policy from world leaders. "What's happening in Europe has been the trigger," the strategist said. Daschle has encouraged activists in labor unions and environmental groups to spread the "credibility gap" message, too. "You will see this coming from all corners of the Democratic operation," spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer said.

Great, say I! Finally! My only question is what took them so long. But then, unbelievably, comes this:

But, as a top Democratic pollster who declined to be named said, the strategy could easily backfire. Focus groups conducted by various Democrats have shown that the American people trust Bush and disdain highly partisan politics, especially when the country is edging toward war. Senior Democrats also risk alienating Bush, whom several Republicans described as peeved that Daschle and others are questioning his honesty.

So let us see if we understand. A "top Democratic pollster" warns the strategy could "backfire"? Democrats could "alienate" Bush? The president is "peeved" at Daschle? They’re kidding, right?

Mr. Bush and his henchmen have basically mopped the floor with Democrats since about fifteen minutes after the election was stolen. Along the way, the president has brazenly and repeatedly lied about the reasons for war, about the economy, about healthcare, about the environment, about social security, and about homeland security. Are we missing anything? And virtually no one (outside of Paul Krugman and certain valiant legionnaires of Blogistan) has called him on it. Now, the Democrats are finally ready to show some backbone and a "top consultant" thinks to "warn" them that the president is "peeved" at this?

Really, shouldn’t someone let the "top consultant" in on the fact that that the Democrats have nothing left to lose anyway, and, oh yeah, that the economy, security, and health of the nation are bottoming out?

The top consultant warns that the president is "peeved." Well, peeve him off then! Tell the truth, at last, and see where the river takes us all.

We Need Stout Democrats

And now we have one. Please pay a visit to Stoutdem, a bracing new site of politics, humor, and more politics. Among other things, you'll find some great advice on how to run for office (for the self-destructively inclined.)

Monday, February 24, 2003
Prepping Us For War

For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.(Paul Krugman)

And how is this done, exactly? How is a population made to believe that war is inevitable, the enemy implacable, the government a source of unerring wisdom and might? Let us count the ways:

o The news programs with their zingy, multi-colored, eye-snagging graphics: "Target Iraq; "Countdown Baghdad" etc, as though war were comparable to a Monday night football game or an upcoming TV mini-series.

o The seemingly endless rounds of interviews with miscellaneous generals and preening pundits who discuss in lascivious detail the mechanics of war, i.e., the capacity of American missiles, the ideal weather for infantry attacks, the armaments of the Iraqi Republican Guard, as though questions of "why" and "whether" were irrelevant and all that remained were "how" and "when."

o The demonization of the enemy into a single malevolent personality—quick, who has the trendier one-word name these days, "Shaq," "Kobe," or "Saddam"?—who serves as a cartoon figure that forestalls more complicated discussions of history, politics, and economics. (What happened to "Osama," by the way? He’s off the "A-list," at least for now.)

o The relentless assaults on talk radio against the patriotism, character, morality, and mental stability of those who dare to oppose the war. You are either with us or you are morally defective.

The good folks at Political Research Associates have done a nice job of cataloging some of these antics as they have taken place on the covers of the conservative publication, The Weekly Standard in 2001-2002. The covers, when you consider them together, offer a fine example of how citizens are prepared to accept war as inevitable, their leaders as noble, and their enemies as vile, terrifying characters who deserve pretty much whatever they’ve got coming to them. Here’s the visual gallery, with a few of my own comments underneath each image:

The manufacture of heroic figures. American leaders seen here as calm, united, resolute, unafraid. The drama of the headline contrasted with the seeming serenity of Bush et al. A black & white cover for a black & white world.

The linking of the two evils. Unproven by the facts, reality in the image. The Wild West poster does the trick of validating the Bush approach and chosen iconography.

The continued valorization of the Leader. Lest we forget or doubt, the leader portrayed as brave, heroic, steadfast: a commander with a "mission," with all the religious undertones that word conveys. Surrounded and yet at the head of America's military.

The redefinition of key concepts. "Empire" as inherited from the nineteenth century is a discredited concept, associated with plunder, racism, and suffering. Now we are to rehabilitate the word, justifying its use in an American context. Note how clean, bright, and airy the image is, and how it links "empire" to hallowed images—the flag, the men at sea. Note the sailor reaching, almost gently, to straighten the flag. A new and improved "Empire."

The moral and the immoral, the noble and the base. On our side, the conventional technology of air power, which is lawful, familiar, protecting, comforting. On their side, the use of chemical weapons, which are outlawed, terrifying, underhanded, and vile. The image provides a striking visual contrast between the "military" and "terrorists."

The enemy. The other. The defiler of cherised symbols. Irrational and strange, they are beyond reason or dialogue. There can be only one response: Crush them.

And so we are prepared for war by our free and independent media. The Weekly Standard is of course a conservative publication, open in its leanings, but is it really so different in Time, Newsweek, ABC’s Nightline and other mainstream outlets? What was it Orwell said:

Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks the whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns somersaults when there is no whip.

Our media: Working without a whip.