James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Newspapers, economics and the phony troll

On Sept. 9, the Star Tribune here carried this multi-column headline at the top of page one:
"Economy regains ‘traction.’"

A much smaller sub-head said: "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan delivered an upbeat report to Congress."

The relatively short portion of the headlined article on the front page, before it jumped to an inside page, was more of the same, and repeated Greenspan’s oft- and long-repeated claim that the deterioration of the American economy that has accelerated throughout the Bush presidency actually is just a "soft patch" that happened only last spring.

That, in a nutshell, is a fine example of why intelligent readers who used to believe that our newspapers did their best to bring us fair and complete information now mistrust almost everything they lay before us.

First, the main headline states Greenspan’s claim as a fact – an unacceptable action throughout most of my approximately 45 years in the newspaper business. The rule is that a questionable statement, even in a headline, must somehow be attributed.

The next problem is that the article doesn’t show until it moves to an inside page that Greenspan actually wobbled and "flip-flopped" more than a little in his testimony before Congress, nor does it ever point that fact out clearly, so that an economically unsavvy reader can understand what went on. All newspaper people know that only a minority of readers will follow a story to an inside page, and the minority gets much smaller when the subject is economics.

And then there is the issue of Greenspan himself. The country’s corporate news outlets treat him as though he is the very font of economic wisdom, the greatest source of fiscal truth the world has known, the equal of the mighty Wizard of Oz.

In fact, he is much like the wizard of the Emerald City: If you look behind the curtain, you find a fraud, though not such a benign one as Dorothy and friends discovered.

The Fed chairman is a ridiculous old troll who is pitifully desperate to hang onto his position and prestige, and the vestiges of his power, into his dotage. For all of the Bush years, he has bowed and scraped and said most of what his master wanted him to say in order to stay in the job. His increasingly veiled suggestions of error on the part of the Bushies are never more than absolutely necessary to maintain some slight appearance of independence.

Greenspan has been overrated throughout most of his career. Washington insiders have known that for years, but he’s a whiz at conning an economically dim press core, and that has given him real power. Bill Clinton wanted to fire him but was talked out of it by people who feared it would create a political storm. Canning the troll would distract the press and public from more important Clinton efforts, it was feared, and hand right-wing Republicans another phony issue to howl about. Yet over the years, there were rumors aplenty that Bush Senior also wanted to be rid of the man.

In truth, the right wingers also know Greenspan is a faker – they’ve admitted as much here and there although he’s useful to them.

But just about everybody in the news racket treats the Fed chairman like a god. They don’t bother to qualify the headlines because they assume that if Greenspan says something, that something, no matter how weasel-worded and false, is akin to holy writ.

So, when it comes to news of the economy, or understanding the fiscal and financial realities with which we must deal, you have to be very, very careful about what you read in the newspapers and most other news publications. But if you read carefully, and with a high degree of skepticism, pretty much disregard Greenspan and most other Fed types, you can get at the truth. It is worth the effort. Money, as the fella said, makes the world go ‘round.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Suspicions confirmed

A report in the Sept. 1, 2004, edition of the Washington Spectator confirms what many liberals have long suspected.

The report mentions a little-known 2002 study, "The U.S. and the Wealth of Nations," in which authors Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen conclude that the average intelligence level of a country determines its economic strength in the long run.

It shows that citizens of China, Japan and Korea have higher average IQ numbers than do Americans.

Even more telling, perhaps, in terms of recent and 2004 presidential and congressional races are the figures on U.S. states. Note that 100 is the international average IQ.

The top seven states in terms of average IQ in the 2002 study were Connecticut (113), Massachusetts and New Jersey (111), New York (109). Rhode Island (107), Hawaii (106) and Maryland (105). In all of those states, Al Gore beat George Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

On the other end of the spectrum, the states with the lowest average IQs were Mississippi (85), Utah and Idaho (87), South Carolina and Wyoming (89), South Dakota and Oklahoma (90). All of those states went for Bush in 2000.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Terrorists are us, too

By Andy Driscoll

Terrorism is not a practice limited to Islamic extremists. Terrorism is any technique imposing change or control through intimidation; it is a daily exercise among clashing cultures, armies, police forces, religious sects, and political groups around the globe.

We tend too much in this country to shorten ideas to convenient sound bites, to simplify very complex issues and tag protagonists with short labels as a marketing convenience - and because some among us are desperate to put a picture of a villain in the American mind.

This dangerous form of demagoguery keeps us in a seething state of fear; we stereotype religious or ethnic groups as perpetrators of terror because a few individual members have committed crimes in the name of those same faiths or groups. We are so fearful, we're too easily convinced that dispensing with the fundamental tenets of our way of life will ferret out the boogiemen or women toting every piece of luggage, wearing every tennis shoe, showing every face that looks...well, unAmerican.

We watch on television the terrorism practiced against unarmed dissenters in the streets of New York by armored and armed-to-the-teeth law enforcement officers whose only reason for their dress and behavior is to scare hell out of people and arrest them for exercising their right to speak against, as well as for, the status quo. This form of terrorism stalks groups dedicated to peace and justice, using infiltrators and agents provocateur in quest of discrediting the legitimate aims and attitudes of such "troublemakers" and preventing their influencing public opinion and public policy.

Terrorism is plotted in the Pentagon, in the White House, in the halls of Justice, and most especially in the CIA. They all work to quell dissent, yes, but also to control the governance of other nations by financing military oppression, assassination, and resource exploitation on behalf of American multi-nationals.

Unprovoked war is terrorism, and so must we define our incursion into Iraq as a terrorist act.

It's easier than we would wish to manipulate an entire nation into hysteria once it's been Attacked - even easier to demonize all who look or sound like those who violated our spaces and our peace and took hundreds of lives in the process. Such people claim to be defenders of a god, their god, to view us as the evil ones ­ not the only infidels, but certainly the most powerful and thus the most evil and most challenging.

Less than 3,000 innocents died in New York City on 9/11. More than 15,000 innocents have now died in Iraq. Fifteen thousand.

In wars of the 21st century, innocents die in far greater numbers than the armed forces of any combatant. When the innocents, the guiltless thousands dragged into the line of fire between belligerents, are the victims, we must remember: terrorism is any deadly force used against fellow humans who are simply trying to live.

Our nation, its leaders, its journalists and its defenders have cavalierly dismissed the carnage we have wreaked on at least two countries whose thousands of innocents we claim to have liberated with our death-dealing bombs and military might - Iraq and Afghanistan. Terror incarnate, inflicted upon millions while we searched for two men who have yet to account for the crimes we accuse them of committing, one of them still missing, in fact.

How can we invoke the adjective "Islamic" so facilely when talking of terror and terrorism when our own massive war machinery has been let loose on so many more men, women and children whose only sin was to be living too near a target? We cannot, not in good conscience.
The terrorists R us...too.

(Andy Driscoll is a St. Paul writer, journalist, consultant and community activist currently pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs, innovative leadership and creative writing at the University of Minnesota.)