James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The new national anthem

At the start of a new year, it is time to acknowledge that the unsingable old national anthem of the United States finally has been replaced, albeit unofficially. Despite it’s birth in war, may it someday rest in peace.

Liberals generally avoid the old song because it was co-opted a few years ago by the extreme right, who still use it at ball games and other public displays as a political weapon, in the same way that they wave the Stars and Stripes in the faces of all who disagree with them: "This is ours," they proclaim, "and if you don’t accept all of our beliefs, including our most extreme religious fantasies, without question, you are a traitor. You can’t have this flag or this song."

Liberals, being liberals, don’t want to be associated with right wing symbols, and have for the most part ceded rights to the song and, more sadly, the flag.

But "The Star Spangled Banner" is an awkward tune, and it takes a bit of work to learn the lyrics. Liberals are much more likely than right wingers to know the words.

So, ever so quietly, the right has replaced the old anthem with a new number for every day use.

You hear it everywhere, but especially around Washington, D.C., and in the suburbs and certain rural areas, where it is most fully in tune with the sensibilities of the Bush-supporting residents. It’s what they sing all day long into their cell phones as they tool carelessly and threateningly around from mall to mall in their giant SUVs.

It’s so easy to manage. It has only one note – any one note. It requires no harmonies, since each person sings it solo. And the lyric consists of one word, endlessly repeated: "Me, Me, Me, Me."
Good luck in 2005 to the good people of United States of America and all others who must deal with the dangerous megalomaniacs who run this country.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Disgust with the press boils over

The performance of the evil gremlins who control the government of the United States grows ever worse.

It is not coincidence that the performance of news outlets in the country continues to deteriorate at an even greater rate.

News people must accept most of the responsibility for giving us Bush and his band of warped neofascists and for the fact that a great majority of the public doesn’t realize they’re neofascists.

It is because of the cowardly and monumentally stupid performance of television, radio and newspapers that a majority of the citizens of this country are oblivious to what’s being done to them economically, morally and socially.

Those who claim to report the news, while actually spouting propaganda and trivial distraction in roughly equal amounts, have kept much of the American populace from understanding that the United States has become, in an amazingly short time, the most reviled nation in the world, or that our government, at least, has earned the disgust with which it is viewed.

Pathetically inept and insecure George W. Bush is the most admired living man among U.S. citizens, as shown by a December poll done for USA Today, Cable News Network and the Gallup Organization. Twenty-three percent of those polled so named him. As further demonstration of public ignorance, the most admired woman is Hillary Clinton – which effectively demonstrates that Americans make such choices on the basis of how often they hear a name and see a face on television., and how little truth is told with the repetition of names.

Truthfully, having spent roughly 45 years in the news business, I hold the news people in far greater contempt than I do the Bushies, who simply are doing what any informed person should have expected of them.

A few years ago, the BBC aired an elightening documentary about Eton College (a school for youths, not a college as we think of it) and the young aristocrats who make up its student body. The nut of the thing was contained in one classroom discussion, with a BBC interviewer asking only an occasional question. A group of young swells – roughly 11 to 14 years old – held forth in teddibly upper class accents on the subject of their futures.

Of course they would run the country, they said. They would be the leaders of government, of the military and, though it is somewhat distasteful, of business. (Banking seemed to be acceptable.) Asked why they, and not others, should be the ones to rule, the young gentlemen were at first stunned. The very question was absurd to them, as one or two finally managed to explain. They would run the country because...because...because...because that’s the way it’s always been and always will be and the way it should be. Their paters are the present leaders, they would follow their paters into power.

While lacking the fine accents and gorgeous public presence, the Bushies also believe they rule because....because...because they’re supposed to rule. It is preordained. And they believe to whatever depths they have that it is equally right that they, like the arrogant Eton puppies, should rule primarily for the benefit of themselves and their peers. The rest of us are hardly more than farm animals, our existence here having value only in relation to what we contribute to their goals.

Hey, folks, it’s all to be found in their own words and actions – if only the public knew what they say and, more importantly, what they do.

* Yessiree, Bob. That there was quite a shock when that National Guardsman dared to ask Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld why he and his fellow soldiers are so lacking in essential gear, such as armor for themselves and their vehicles. Wasn’t it an even greater shock that the trooper turned out to be right – that his outfit and many more, including those already in the field, are woefully underequipped?

Well, no, not if you pay attention to sources other than the general news media. The lack of adequate equipment for (Support Our Troops!) American military personnel has been obvious since the invasion of Iraq began. And it isn’t just armor. The troops often are inadequately fed and clothed, and can’t get basics such as soap, toothpaste and toilet paper. Halliburton and its subsidiaries and other Bush-supporting companies are making billions of dollars not providing those things for our soldiers. Rumsfeld lied blatantly when he said the manufacturers couldn’t supply the armor in required quantities. The press mostly buried the immediate response from manufacturers who quickly declared that they have been offering for many months to increase production.

I reported all of that in this space on March 23 of this year. And that’s no claim to superb reporting. I’m just an old journalist sitting in his home office watching and reading. If I knew the whole story almost a year ago, why didn’t your full time journalists – or why didn’t they tell you about it?

And have you noticed how quickly the story of the death-causing failure to properly equip our troops has disappeared from news broadcasts and front pages (or any pages)? See any reports about efforts, or the lack of effort, to improve the situation?

* Have you noticed the absence of "orange alerts" breathlessly announced for you by somber, but well-coiffed, talking heads since the election? Know of any broadcast or newspaper reports on that phenomenon, with reporters asking questions about the difference between pre- and post-election "terrorist activities" in this country?

* How many stories have you seen on the ongoing battle over the election in Ohio? A friend of mine who does not use the Internet informed me a week or so after the election that objective experts had declared the election in Ohio, despite minor glitches, was fair. And that’s from a guy who worked many years in the news business and who reads two newspapers a day and several other periodicals every week.

In fact, the evidence of election fraud in Ohio continues to pile up, with thousands upon thousands of witnesses confirming various pieces of the story and several reporters coming up with appalling facts which are not widely published beyond the state’s borders, if there. And there are many reports of fraudulent acts that probably cannot be proven now because of evidence destroyed by state and county officials, and the lack of ability to get information from the probably manipulated (for Bush) electronic voting machines.

The nation’s news outlets apparently decided early and almost unanimously to refuse to report on the Ohio frauds and manipulations. Perhaps they don’t want to upset their Bush-supporting advertisers, or owners. Undoubtedly some believe it would wrong to "upset" the public and "cast doubt" on the electoral process. I have seen those terms used. They are insulting beyond all reason: It is the duty of the news outlets to tell us when and where there is vote fraud, and they have refused in this case to do their jobs.

Oh, yes: Another thing I’ve heard from some of the spineless doobies of the newspaper world is that the problems in Ohio are "just another conspiracy theory." Conspiracy theory is a term borrowed from the Republican right that reporters, editors and publishers now use whenever they want to dodge responsibility for examining a sticky and unpleasant situation. These days, whenever you hear the term, you can assume there is a good chance there really is a conspiracy of some sort.

* Remember the brief but loud to-do over the appointment of the perpetually unethical Bernard Kerick to head the "Homeland Security" fraud?

Again with absolutely no claim to personal brilliance or hard work: Within hours of Kerick’s name first being made public as the probable appointee, I knew all about the man, including a number of appalling situations I never saw or heard reported in the general news outlets. The stuff just showed up, from entirely reliable sources. And if I knew it all, why didn’t the news reports begin until days later, when some other folks started to raise a stink?

* Let’s talk about torture and general abuse of prisoners by U.S. military personnel, the CIA and others. We should, because the press embraces the subject with the same enthusiasm 14th century burghers accorded carriers of the Black Death. If you get your news from television, or even from your local newspaper, you may not know that it has been proven beyond dispute that Rumsfeld and George W. Bush himself long ago gave approval for brutality against prisoners, and that high-level military officers, in the Pentagon and in the field are fully complicit, as is the CIA.

I laughed a few days ago when the Star Tribune, my local daily and former employer, ran a rather long article on an inside page about the "private" jet used by the CIA to transport prisoners around the globe to places where they can be physically and mentally abused without breaking any local laws, and without any unwanted American witnesses. The article documented that prisoners – mostly Muslims of one stripe or another, of course – have been shipped to various places in the Middle East and even Latin American for torture. Evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of many of the prisoners often, even usually, is lacking.

The bitter amusement arose because, again, the situation is something that those of us who check in with news sources from elsewhere in the world have known about for many months. I never mentioned it here because I knew that almost every American reader of such a piece on a blog would think the author had sunk into belief in bizarre and impossible conspiracies.

* There’s been quite a bit of attention very recently to Federal Drug Administration’s failures in protecting the American public from the criminal actions of greed-driven pharmaceutical companies. Gee whiz. Turns out some of the companies – oh, let’s say all of the biggies – have hidden information that would cut into sales, regardless of the deaths and severe health damage their products do consumers.

People, that story has been lying around in plain sight for decades, and has grown rapidly more obvious since the Bushies bought the White House. No doubt it will fade quickly from our view, and nothing will change. The pharm companies are the country’s biggest purchasers of political influence and are very near the top in advertising buys.

* The Strib devoted a long editorial Thursday (Dec. 30, 2004) to ripping George Bush for his shameful lack of performance in regard to the victims of the tsunamis that killed tens of thousands of people and left vast regions devastated a few days earlier. It pointed out that, unlike other leaders around the world, Bush had to be publicly shamed into even noticing the devastation and then into offering far too little help.

But, as so often happens with my local newspaper and almost all others, the news coverage of the same events was almost nonexistant. The news staff duly noted when Bush finally made his pitifully inadequate public statements, but hardly addressed his embarrassing absence from the scene for so long, and never mentioned the fact that he very recently refused to make full payment on promised contributions to food programs around the world, thus further making this country an object of worldwide disgust. The editorial did report that.

But again, this is a story that almost certainly will disappear quickly. And don’t hold your breath until major news outlets report the inevitable failure of this country to make good on the promised aid for tsunami victims. It is an established pattern now.

I cannot think of a civilized way that also is an adequate way of demonstrating the disdain, and worse, I feel for those who run today’s news operations and the toadies who do their bidding.

In that I find I am in excellent company among older, long-tested journalists. The passion many of us once poured into our work now often is aimed negatively at those who dirty the name of our profession. But there will be no improvement until other members of the public start raising hell with them for their failures.


It is necessary to note, given the comments above, that there still are some decent and able people in newspapers and news broadcasting, though their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

Some good people hang on, hoping and trying to improve the programs and the papers, and some really have no choice but to stay yet for a while.

If you’re in your late 50s or early 60s, say, and have worked for your present employer for two or three decades, and need that long-promised pension to live in retirement, you don’t walk away because you’re angry about the amount of fluff and lack of solid coverage – though often you’d like to. So you fight to the degree you can for better performance and swallow what you must and hang on. People in that position deserve sympathy, not animosity.