Friday, December 30, 2005

Fisking another Puff Host Idiot

posted by Rob at 3:17 PM

Sorry for the harshness of the headline, but there really is no better way to describe this waste of time and eye strain written by Bob Burnett. It's beyond tasteful and quite indefensible, which is why it fits in so well at the Puff Host.

It's headline - A New Years' Resolution - Resist Facism

Let the literary bowel movement commence!
The Declaration of Independence reads, “The history of [King George 3] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” 230 years later we’re in a similar plight with would-be King George 43. It’s our turn to throw off the yoke of tyranny, to resist the rise of fascism.

The Bush Administration is inexorably becoming a totalitarian regime, where dissent is suppressed and the populace cowed by repressive controls. In Fascism Anyone? Laurence Britt lists 14 characteristics of fascist governments.
First off, a severe nitpick. Burnett's bio says he has a "second career as a journalist." Any real journalist knows that, according to the AP Stylebook, "Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence." Geez.

It's also rather sad that Burnett goes from a founding document to a book written by an admitted Bush hater. I have no problem with Bush haters per se, but it's odd that someone who did business with the Soviet Union (until the Russian Mafia "knocked off" his customers) would suddenly hint that the U.S. is nearing fascism.

Nevertheless, Burnett begins to list the 14 characteristics and attempts to show evidence that Bush is evil.
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
President Bush gives his carefully orchestrated speeches to military audiences in arenas covered with patriotic symbols. His text is loaded with jingoistic phrases, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” “To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor.” His Administration argues that dissenters are unpatriotic, advocates of “surrender.”
I'm not sure what the phrase "carefully orchestrated speeches" is supposed to convey, other than to let the reader know that Burnett prefers ad-libbed, public access style speeches. I'm also unsure what is wrong with the "jingoistic phrases." The former is a bit heavy handed, but the latter simply underscores the value of completing the mission of helping Iraq create a peaceful government.

As for evidence that "dissenters are unpatriotic," it'd be nice is there was some ... um ... evidence presented of such. Burnett can link to a book by a Bush hater, but not an Adminstration quote saying anyone is unpatriotic.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights
The Bush Administration has the worst human rights record of any Presidency in the past 100 years. Bush authorized torture and illegal eavesdropping on civilians. He abandoned the Geneva conventions and suspended basic rights for those designated as “enemy combatants.”
Bush helped free two countries from cruel dictorial powers. His policies have arguably forced Syria from Lebannon and a revolution in Ukraine. Israel - for better or for worse - has made true sacrifices for peace.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Muslims and Jews to live as they please without violence, the media celebrates movies on homosexual love, women are increasing filling college campuses, and, if I wanted, I could buy an airline tickets to almost any location in the world and go there now. (Quick - name five countries whose residents can express similar sentiments).

Burnett ignores all that and whines instead about the definition of "enemy combatants" without - again - offering no links or evidence to support his contention. Of course, for the Bush haters, no such evidence is needed because that complaint has been repeated ad naseum for years so of course everyone knows what he's talking about. (More on this phenomenon later).
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
After 9/11, President Bush used the struggle against Al Qaeda as an excuse to expand executive authority and pass the Patriot Act. The White House manufactured a climate of fear to convince Americans that the invasion of Iraq was in the national interest. For many, our “enemy” gradually changed from Al Qaeda to fundamentalist Muslims and then to “Arabs,” in general.
I'm not sure where Burnett is going with this. He neglects to mention that Congress, not Bush, passed the Patriot Act (which Democrats love to bash but fear not extending).

And did the White House really create a climate of fear? I'm pretty sure the video of tall buildings collapsing, the Pentagon smoking and a crater smoldering has power a generic 30-second political spot during "King of the Hill" does not.

As for the last senetence - again unsupported by any evidence - I remind you that "Two days after the 9/11 attacks a Washington Post poll found 78 percent of Americans thought it likely that Saddam 'was personally involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks.'"

Since polls rule the world, how can Bush be blamed for what people automatically believed?
4. Supremacy of the military/ avid militarism
While terrorism experts felt that the fight against Al Qaeda would require joint diplomatic, financial, intelligence, military, and police operations, the Bush Administration focused solely on the military. The White House painted anti-war voices as unpatriotic, appeasers.
"Solely on the military"? WTF was this - "President Freezes Terrorists' Assets"

or this - "Polish troops to stay until Iraqi polls"

or this - "Australia sending more Iraq troops"

or this - "Bush Meets With Muslim Leaders"

Does Burnett even bother researching an accusation before asserting it?
5. Rampant sexism
The Bush Administration glorifies the culture of “machismo.” Their policies treat women as second-class citizens – they intend to repeal Title IX. They are against contraception, as well as abortion. They are militantly homophobic.
WTF No. 2? Condi Rice. Karen Hughes. Harriet Meirs. His mom. Jessica Lynch.

How many more women in Afghanistan go to school now compared to 1999? How many Iraqi women have been raped openly by government officials since 2001? When was abortion prohibited by law?

Burnett ignores all that. Instead he frets over a more-than-two-year-old story regarding the forced creation of sports teams for female college students.
6. A controlled mass media
Under the direction of Karl Rove, the Bush propaganda machine has been relentless. They subscribe to the maxim, “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.” Aided by Fox News and the ubiquitous conservative talk net the Administration has ceaselessly fed the electorate the Orwellian Party line - “war is peace”, “ignorance is strength.”
Bush lied. Bush doesn't care about black people. Bush is Hitler. War for Oil. Fahrenheit 9/11. Manchurian Candidate. Syriana. Sweet Neo-Con. Barbara Streisand. Dan Rather. MSNBC. The New York Times.

Need I say more?
7. Obsession with national security
This Administration has been the most secretive in recent memory. It hides vital information from Congress. Through executive privilege, restriction of the Freedom of Information Act, and unwarranted security classification, the White House restricts public access to vital information.
Again no evidence to what he is exactly accusing or trying to say. What exactly does he mean by "most secretive in recent memory." How would the Clinton presidency compare, with its endless court battles on executive privileges? How about Nixon? Hell, JKF was a walking drug cocktail plugging anything non-male. Did we know anything about that in real time?

Actually, Burnett begins with a assertion on national security but whines about executive privileges. I guess he's never read up on Separation of Powers.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together
The Bush Administration allied with Christian Fundamentalists. Jimmy Carter characterized their creed, “Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong.”
Reagan was arguably closer to religious folk than W. Were the '80s a time of rampant facsism? And didn't I just mention that Bush met with Muslin leaders, and all escaped un-converted? And what did Clinton enjoy carrying when photographers were nearby?
9. Power of corporations protected
The Bush Administration changed tax laws to raise corporate profits and reduced oversight to increase their power. As a result, most of the proceeds from an improving economy have gone to corporations, executives, and shareholders.
And what do "corporations, executives, and shareholders" do with that money? Stuff it in mattresses? Light cigars? Or do they buy things, which creates demand for products and services, which creates jobs, which creates more taxpayers, which creates more tax revenue.

Consider what the TaxProf has to say. (Note to Burnett - this is called a link. It directs the reader to evidence or perspective on a point just made).
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
The last five years have been the most difficult for organized labor since the beginning of the U.S. labor movement. In the private sector, less than 8 percent of workers are unionized.
Yes. Bask in the glory of unions and their great deeds these past five years. All hail unions. And when you get a chance, tell me what percentage of union members are in the private sector. That'd be nice to know.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
The Bush Administration is anti-intellectual and anti-science: supporting “intelligent design”, restricting stem-cell research, and rebuking findings on Global climate change. Recently, it tried to subvert the Public Broadcast System.
So, inversely, anti-intellectuals (morons?) support "intelligent design" and are skepticial of stem-cell promises and human-created climate change. In other words, if you don't agree with Burnett you're dumb. (Hint - that's why people Burnett supports lose elections).
12. Obsession with crime and punishment
George Bush espouses a dualistic, fundamentalist view of the world – The US is good while others are evil. As a result, he has ordered harsh treatment of suspects and prisoners captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Compared to most countries and their policies, the U.S. sure as hell is good. Is Burnett hinting that it's not? He'd better re-read fascism characteristic No. 1!
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption
In 2005, numerous instances of Bush Administration corruption were revealed: Presidential adviser Scooter Libby and House czar Tom Delay indicted. The appointment of Mike “Brownie” Brown as director of FEMA was an example of cronyism, at its worst.
Indictments are not verdicts. Delay's very well might be thrown out of court. Libby's indictment was a random byproduct of a pointless investigation. Brown oversaw many hurricane relief efforts with little complaint until Katrina, when Bush haters ravaged the coast for evidence that Bush didn't care for the poor or blacks.

And how exactly does any of these three "numerous instances" reflect on the Bush Administration? Libby may be a rotten apple, but Delay is in Congress and Brown was not accused of corruption, just incompetence.
14. Fraudulent elections
Suspicions persist that the 2000 presidential election (in particular) was stolen through a Machiavellian series of maneuvers in Florida, and other states.
Suspicions also persist that the 1960 presidential election (in particular) was stolen through a Machiavellian series of maneuvers in various counties and states. And you have to wonder about that recent gubernatorial election in Washington, where a state dominated by Democrat election workers conducted re-count after re-count until a Democrat won. (As oppossed to the Florida situation, where the Republican won every re-count.)

Of all the left-talking points and whines, I *really* wish the 2000 election would become settled history. Bush won plenty more states than Florida. He didn't steal Gore's Tennessee or Clinton's Arkansas. Apparently one can defend a Supreme Court decision which allows the killing of unborn children, but cry about another decision which ends a disputed election. Which one sounds more fascist?
In 1942, Woody Guthrie penned “All You Fascists Bound to Lose.” When Guthrie wrote the song, Americans were fighting fascists who controlled most of Europe. Times have changed and now we’re fighting them in the heartland.
Be careful. Your neighbor could be one! Or your cashier at Wal-Mart! Or even your child's teacher!! Anyone one of them could be a fascist!!! (By the way, what's that about using fear to further one's goals?)
This New Year’s eve, after you’ve toasted your friends and sung a round of Auld Lang Syne , consider singing Guthrie’s song of resistance as your segue into 2006.
I'm gonna tell all you fascists, you may be surprised,
People all over this world are getting organized,
You're bound to lose,
You fascists are bound to lose.

[One more time]
I have a better song - by the Eagles:
I turn on the tube and what do I see
A whole lotta people cryin’ ’don’t blame me’
They point their crooked little fingers ar everybody else
Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves
Victim of this, victim of that
Your momma’s too thin; your daddy’s too fat

Get over it
Get over it
All this whinin’ and cryin’ and pitchin’ a fit
Get over it, get over it

Defining Katrina deaths

posted by Rob at 8:27 AM

Interesting - and unsurprising - news being reported today: the media assumptions regarding the victims of Katrina were wrong:
... a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. Census tract data indicates that the victims weren't disproportionately poor. Another database, compiled by Knight Ridder of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, suggests they also weren't disproportionately African-American.
Sorry Wolf, but it appears most of the victims were not "so poor ... and ... so black."

Note that the Knight-Ridder study examined "locations where 874 bodies" were found. As of Dec. 21 (the latest report I could find), the number of deaths linked to Katrina was 1,322. So the K-R study looked at only 66 percent of the known dead.

Also note that any report of Katrina deaths is suspect given the wide definition of who constitutes being classified as such. As the AP reported last week (emphasis mine):
Officially, as of Sunday, the states counted 1,075 deaths in Louisiana, 230 in Mississippi, 14 in Florida and two each in Georgia and Alabama. But the states have different definitions for storm-related deaths. For example, Louisiana counts evacuee deaths from heart attacks or strokes before Oct. 1 as storm deaths, but Georgia doesn't.
The AP report uses the example of "a 56-year-old New Orleans woman who had a stroke two days after she was bused from the infamous storm refugee shelter in the Superdome to Texas." She's counted as a Katrina victim.

As Best of the Web noted when that report came out:
Couldn't the AP have interviewed a New Orleans evacuee who wasn't murdered in what, prestorm, was one of the most violent cities in America?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Everything he thought he knew was wrong

posted by Rob at 10:36 AM

There's the Reality in Iraq, then the Media-Created Fantasy of Iraq. The contrast is finally gaining some attention, as evidenced by none other than CNN's Anderson Cooper:
Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news.
Here's a take from a journalist blogging about his first trip to Iraq:

More than anything in the last few days I’ve heard from soldiers and commanders that people back home don’t quite get it. They don’t see the real picture. They don’t get the real story. Some of them, like Lt. Col. Gregg Parrish, look seriously pained in the face when he says only a part of the picture is being told; the part of car bombs and explosives and suicide bombers and death. It’s a necessary part of the picture, but not a complete one, he says.

I’ve listened to the soldiers and Parrish about the missing pieces of the puzzles that don’t reach home. My selfish, journalistic drive immediately thinks “Perfect. A story that hasn’t been told. Let me at it.”

But I have a slight hesitation; I need to keep balanced. I can’t be a cheerleader, even if I have a soft spot for the hometown troops, especially after the welcome they’ve shown me. I still need to be truthful and walk the centerline and report the good or bad.

But then I realize it’s not a conflict of interest. If I am truly unbiased, then I need to get used to this one simple fact; that the untold story, might in fact, be a positive one.
As Iraqis vote today, it will be interesting to see how the national media handle the reports of turnouts versus the backdrop they've painted the past several weeks.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has some details on the view in Iraq from the New York Times:
The NY Times offers something at least quasi-optimistic, but note the headline’s spin “Heavy Sunni Turnout Is Reported; No Large-Scale Attacks by Rebels”. The terrorists and fascists are still “rebels,” not anti-liberty, power-mad reactionaries. That is what Zarqawi’s and Saddam’s minions are.

The article still has plenty of flash and bang — the juice of violence on a day when democratic hope is the big story. ...

Millions vote. That’s the big story, the huge, grand story. The democratic surge continues– that’s the tide of history. This report, however, suggests thoroughly ingrained and institutionalized pessimism. Note the language of gloom, doom and failure lurking in the text.(”fissures”, “deadlock”, “alarm”, “profound differences”, “vastly polarized”, “growing pressure” on American commanders, etc.).

Friday, December 02, 2005

Getting an "A" in Bush hatred

posted by Rob at 10:00 AM

I came across a blog today described as "A class discussion blog for Derek Stanovsky's Fall 2005 Freud courses at Appalachian State University." You can see it here.

Looking over it, it appears to do more with Bush hatred. Most of the posts are orgamsmic links to sites opposing actions in Iraq.

By the way, the name of the blog is "Freud Blog." One post is by the course instuctor and it points his students to his page at The top comment - the first is more than a year - is:
Both classes I've taken from him has altered my entire world view. He is a genius. Workload is hard, but not ridiculous. He has a knack for explaining dense material.
I googled Derek Stanovsky and found he is "an Assistant Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and has been teaching at Appalachian State University since 1995. He is the Director of Internet Studies, teaches courses on Internet Studies, Marx's Capital and in Watauga College, and is a member of the Women's Studies faculty."

That page includes a running "Cost of the War in Iraq" and another plea to "Rate Me."

This isn't a slam against anyone. It's just an interesting example of how some in higher education use the internet. You can only guess what answers earn you an "A."