“Nexus of Politics and Terror”

It was great to see that Countdown with Keith Olberman had a segment called “The Nexus of Politics and Terror” tonight that went over 10 (though they have 13 on the web site) situations where bad news about the Bush administration was followed by a change in the terror alert.

I realize that Olberman isn’t the first to make this connection (JuliusBlog‘s “Timeline of Terror Alerts” is the most cited, though I prefer his chart showing Bush’s approval ratings and terror alerts), but Olberman’s show appeared on a major cable news network (MSNBC), which makes it more likely to be seen by the masses.

I know that one could make the argument that all of this is just a matter of coincidence and that correlation does not imply causation, but it does raise the question: Is the Bush administration using terror level alerts to distract the public? As Olberman joked, if someone felt so inclined it would probably be possible to create a list connecting Wal-Mart openings with terror alerts, but with those two items there is no relation (well…) — but the terror alerts do help the Bush administration and make people convinced that they are actually doing something and that they should still be afraid.

I, for one, am convinced that there is something sneaky going on.

Journeys With George

Alexandra Pelosi and George W. Bush
… Maybe he’s not so bad as we think? … Maybe he really is a nice guy? … I don’t know. All I know is that I’m feeling very confused right now.

I’m not sure exactly how to put this, but after watching the self-reflexively sympathetic Journeys With George, I have been brainwashed/fooled/deceived/whatever into think that President George W. Bush may not be quite as evil as I originally thought he was.

This movie is quite a doozy, if I can say so myself. The creator is Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She is, quite obviously, a hardcore democrat liberal. She is also a news producer with NBC news and, for whatever reason (I mean, really, why would they assign the daughter of a democratic representative to cover the a republican presidential hopeful??) they put her on the George W. Bush beat and had her cover his presidential run, starting with the announcement that he was running for president.

Over the course of the year or so that they spent together, Alexandra and Bush actually became pretty close. The thing is, based on the footage she shot (for her own documentary — not for NBC news), he is a genuinely nice guy. He joked with her a lot, and when the other journalists turned on her (when an informal poll she did of who other journalists covering Bush wanted to win was leaked to the tabloids, thus making them all look foolish and fearful of Bush’s reaction), Bush was the one who was nice and said something about how the other journalists weren’t her real friends anyway.

Throughout the movie, Alexandra and Bush have a really good relationship. He really was a nice, fun guy with her. The cynic in me wants to be like, “Well, he was just trying to be all schmoozey so she would report on him better” or something like that, but, honestly, it really did not appear that way. And trust me — when it comes to Bush, I’m as cynical as they get.

The documentary, however, did have more substance than just Alexandra showing us that Bush is a nice guy:

At one point she is talking to another journalists (one of her friends during the trip — a guy who worked for The Financial Times of London) and he notes how the journalists traveling with Al Gore didn’t like him much and that he wasn’t very friendly (or, at least, nothing compared to Bush), and that those attitudes undoubtedly showed up in their journalism. With Bush, on the other hand, the journalists treated it like a party, and Bush was throwing it. So they only reported on little, superficial things and “weren’t really doing [their] job.”

Alexandra makes other pithy remarks about the whole surrealness of it (my favorite: from a distance, clouds look majestic and strong, but up close they look like whipped cream — a not-so-vague metaphor for Bush himself?), and that is probably what saved me from going insane at the end. She really makes the whole thing self-reflexive and somewhat tongue-in-cheek — like she is also saying to herself, “What the fuck is going on here. I am friends with George W. Bush???”

I recommend the movie with the caveat that if you turn into a Bush-supporter at the end, I hold no responsibility. Serious — you have to be in an open state of mind when you watch this movie and realize that it will leave you confused and feeling betrayed and embarrassed. Good luck!

Ryan Mello for Office

Ryan Mello for Tacoma Parks Commissioner Position #4
My friend from college, Ryan Mello is running for Tacoma Parks Commissioner (position #4). He’s a great guy and I worked with him a lot when he was the ASUPS (our student government) president at my college my sophomore year. Admitedly, I don’t know too much about the Tacoma Parks Board, but I’m sure he’d do a great job, and reading through stuff on his website and his interview with The Tacoma News Tribune, I’m sure he’d do a great job.

(Disclaimer: I created that website for him…)

Nonetheless, if you live in Tacoma, register to vote and give him a chance!

Blame Bush!

Speaking of exploitation, I want to “exploit” the current disaster going on around New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina and defer blame not to nature but to President Bush.

(Yes, I am serious.)

Sidney Blumenthal has a great article on Salon: “‘No one can say they didn’t see it coming'”

My favorite quote:

In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze.

Upon further research, I found out that the third most likely disaster is an earthquake in San Francisco.

In addition to Blumenthal’s reporting, I also found “Katrina Proves Bush is a Failure” over at Swing State Project.

I really don’t think this is “exploiting” the situation, but rather highlighting why we must take as many points of view and ideas into consideration and understand the consequences of our actions.

Exploiting Who/What?

As far as I am concerned, life is based on exploitation. Everyone exploits everything, and that just seems to be how things are. The people who complain about that are totally missing the point.

I find it extremely disturbing and ironic that while people are attacking Cindy Sheehan for exploiting her child’s death, we have another mother who is vowing to stay in Aruba until she gets answers about her daughter’s disappearance. In the same month that Cindy Sheehan is accosted by the media for camping outside of Bush’s ranch (where all he seems to do — as made evident by a recent episode of The Majority Report — is clear brush!), Beth Twitty-Holloway confronts and harasses a young man who she thinks is somehow hiding information from the police. Rather than covering Holloway’s actions as disrespectful and possibly illegal (the young man is seeking a lawsuit now), the media covers it as “a mother out for answers”-type thing. She is hailed for her slightly unorthodox actions and excused because she is a mother in grief.

Yet when it comes to Cindy Sheehan, the media’s story (when it chooses to get critical — admittedly, most of the stories covering her actions in Texas are pretty lame and don’t ask tough questions of either side) is that she is exploiting the death of her son in order to advance her left-wing agenda. The fact that she is a liberal who lost a child in the Iraq War seems to mean that must hide her political views as she grieves and that since her son died in a war she disagreed with, that she must stop all political action in the name of her son. It’s ridiculous.

The administration has been exploiting military families this entire war. And not just military families — this entire war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan before it, was waged in the name of those who died on Sept. 11. The U.S. wanted revenge and wanted to ensure that an event like Sept. 11 would never happen again. If the right-wing administration can exploit, what makes it so wrong for the other side to do the same?

Which brings me back to my first point — “exploitation” isn’t always so bad. Without “exploiting” the dead, we probably wouldn’t have made the same advancements we’ve made against fatal diseases, for example, because families who have suffered the loss of a loved one due strive to save others from the pain and fight for research and treatments and whatnot. If John Walsh hadn’t “exploited” the death of his son, America’s Most Wanted would have never existed — that show alone has helped apprehend 853 criminals and found over 40 missing children. (The America’s Most Wanted example comes to my mind because I saw John Walsh commenting on the whole Aruba thing last week.)

I think what Cindy Sheehan is doing is admirable and brave. I don’t think she is exploiting her son — or any other soldier. I think that she has turned her grief into action, and that is a commendable thing to do. In the face of horrible events, most people retreat inward and try to cope with what has happened. Cindy Sheehan lost her son. She is using that loss to illustrate the fact that he died for what is not a “noble cause.” She is trying to affect change, unlike (not to dis on her, because I am sure she is going through immense grief as well — it’s just that the media handles it differently) Beth Twitty-Holloway who is truly exploiting her daughter’s disappearance to be on the television and, well, I’m not really sure what her ultimate goal is, but I don’t think it is as selfless as Cindy Sheehan’s motives.

Disconnected

Ron Reagan Jr.
I was very sad to find out yesterday that MSNBC‘s television show Connected Coast to Coast with Ron Reagan (and this annoying conservative named Monica Crowley) is being canceled. The network is adding Rita Cosby (who used to have a show on FOX News of all places) to the lineup and Reagan is getting bumped. (Personally, I was hoping The Abrams Report would get booted — all the show does is sensationalize court cases.)

In my anger and sadness, I sent off an email to the Connected producers. You can too at connected@msnbc.com.

Here is my email:

Subject: where is connected going?

i just saw that there is a new lineup starting on monday and was sad to see that connected coast to coast is no longer scheduled for the afternoons.

is the show totally going away? what will happen to ron reagan? it was nice to have a liberal commentator for a change (matthews isn’t much of a liberal anymore, and olberman is more straight-news than commentary).

also, being from seattle it was cool to see someone from the pacific northwest with a show (since it seems everyone else is from the east coast or los angeles).

is there any chance getting connected back?

I’m not sure that my email was effective as it could have been, or that I necessarily contacted the appropriate people — maybe this is something I can investigate more, later. All I know is that I truly and sad that Reagan is being “disconnected.”

Where Is the Outrage?

The story about the guy from Brazil who was shot (8 times!!) and killed in London on Friday is probably one of the most upsetting pieces of news I’ve read in a long time… probably more upsetting than this whole Karl Rove scandal.

Thank god we have The Huffington Post‘s “A Death in London” to really put things in perspective and actually report the story. (I swear, it took me a long time to even find this story on U.S. media sources this morning — the fact that an innocent man has been killed has been trumped by the release of the “names” of more suspects is rather disturbing).

I quote from the “Death in London” piece:

So let us consider two truths about this incident. Jean Charles de Menezes would never have been shot if he didn’t have dark skin, because if he didn’t have dark skin, he wouldn’t have been a suspect. (This despite the fact that Brazilians look nothing like Pakistanis.)

What this basically says, and which I think is true, is that anyone who doesn’t have white skin is now considered a potential terrorist — not just middle eastern people anymore.

And people who might defend this by saying that it was done in the name of safety and all that… well, it’s bullshit. After the Oklahoma City bombing here in the U.S. we never would’ve buried a story involving police killing “innocent” white redneck skinheads.

I just don’t get how this isn’t upsetting more people. The ends (stopping terrorists) do not justify the means (killing non-white people who might be terrorists). I understand that they police were doing their job and whatnot, but it seem as if the U.K. isn’t even apologizing for this — they are trying to justify/rationalize rather than say they are sorry.

What I find most ironic about all this “they hate our freedom” rationale for the combating these people who “hate our freedom” is by limiting our freedom (“shoot to kill” and The Patriot Act and whatnot), there is far less freedom for these terrorists to “hate” us for.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I honestly don’t think that killing people without certainty and saying that it was the right thing to do is going to make things better.

The night of Sept. 11 I went for a run for whatever reason (during college I often went on late night runs). I remember being afraid that night, but not because I was worried about terrorists or anything like that, but because I thought the police or military or who knows what would stop me and interrogate me about why I was running at night and whether I was connected to terrorists or whatever. Is that freedom worth hating?

Bad for the Gays?

What bothers me and worries me most (well, beside the obvious ethical implications) about this Jim West (mayor of Spokane, Washington; made some homophobic remarks; was caught in a pretty intense gay sex scandal [offering jobs to gay men via online chat, hounding those men for dates, etc.]) is that I’m guessing after this all blows over, it will ultimately look worse for gays than for the hypocritcal republicans who pretend to be straight and then do really sketchy sexual things on the side. It’s like the priest thing — while the Catholic church has suffered some loss of face for letting the sexual abuse occur, I think in the end these types of things reinforce the idea that gay men are pedophiles and sexual predators who cannot be trusted. It seems that whenever there is a gay man in a postion of power (priest, politics, etc.), all we hear about is when he comes out of the closet after doing something really bad. The “openly gay” politicians are pretty benign so we don’t hear much about them doing good things.

I wish I knew what the solution would be. I don’t think, this time, that the problem necessarily rests on the media. I think it has more to do with oppressive organizations (e.g. Catholic church, republican party) forcing their members to adopt a lifestyle (i.e. straight) that isn’t them. The psyhcic torture of pretending to be someone else (Jim West: living “this double life has been hell”) causes these men to do really bad and inappropriate things.

The internalized homophobia and self-hate casues destructive behavior that causes these closeted gay men to make bad decisions. It isn’t a problem with being gay, per say, but homophobia.

Post(it) Notes

Arianna Huffington
I want to be the 1,000th blogger to direct everyone to The Huffington Post, the new web site/blog/news site created by Arianna Huffington. She’s totally great. She used to be really conservative and right-wing, then her rich husband came out of the closet and she got tons of money… then she became a super progressive. She also writes columns for Salon.com and ran for the governor of California in the recall race (until she dropped out and endorsed Gray Davis). She rocks!!

Debating the Abortion Debate?

Bush and a bunch of men signing an anti-abortion law
My friend Alicia sent me this article by David Brooks (a conservative columnist for the New York Times): “Roe’s Birth, and Death.” Since the article was published on April 21, 2005, it won’t be free to read online for much longer, so allow me to summarize: Brooks argues that because the Roe v. Wade decision was made via the courts (and not legislated into laws), the upcoming attempt by Senate Republicans to “go nuclear” and end the ability to filibuster judicial nominations (and, Brooks suggests, filibusters in general next) is devastating for American politics. The Democrats have been using the filibuster to block judicial nominees by Bush because he is trying to appoint conservative, religious, anti-choice judges and the Democrats are trying to ensure that only judges who follow Constitutional law and not relgiious law are appointed. Anyway, Alicia asked for my thoughts on the article. I emailed them to her and figured they would make good blog content, as well:

yeah, well, i’m not happy with this article.

as for an analysis… hmm…

the thing that bothers me most — and maybe this is more evident of my “brainwashing” or whatever of pro-choice rhetroic — is that i don’t understand what blackmun and the court could have done differently. abortion isn’t about passing compromising laws and whatnot, it _IS_ about rights and the fact that the government or the church or whoever should not have such sexist control over a woman’s body.

i will say, though, that brooks is right-on about how the whole abortion debate really does dominate american politics. it gave the religious right the fervor and passion to go ahead and move much more aggressively with their agenda than they had in the past. and by taking over the framing of the debate, they have made democrats appear insane and eager to kill babies… despite the fact that late-term abortions account for such a small percentage of the abortions which take place, the conservatives have latched on to that image and seared it into the minds of americans. it’s stupid.

sorta like the whole teri shiavo fiasco, majority of americans _are_ on the side of democrats/liberals… it’s just a small group of extremely vocal and unhappy and power-hungry conservatives who say that teri should live forever and that all abortions are wrong and that men should decide what is best for a woman’s body.

my favorite photograph ever was that one where there was president bush and a group of five or six men or something signing an anti-abortion law (partial birth abortion) into place and how they were all proud of themselves for it… the whole situation of that photo was disgusting. here were men sitting there restricting women’s rights and there was not a single woman in the picture signing the bill — even though this bill was supposed to be for women’s good and protect them and stuff. so patronizing and sexist.