Television networks have been living off the twin notions that paid advertising is free speech, and that in order to speak freely, you have to pay. All those millions corrupting the US political process, all those officeseekers and office holders who are wholly owned by big money interests and their "lobbyists" who not only dictate laws but write them, they all wind up in the pockets of the media, mostly television.
Is it free speech if everyone doesn't have equal access? Apparently not.
What's even worse however, is that not everyone has equal access even if they show them the money.For years, TV networks in Canada and the US refused to air anti-consumption and pro-environment ads sponsored by adbusters magazine. Nobody noticed.
But two new instances are attracting a bit more attention.One is the Gold Star Mothers For Peace who tried to buy time for a powerful 15 second statement by Cindy Sheehan. Several TV stations refused, one of them, a CBS affiliate in Boise, because the ad was not "factually accurate" questioning the assertion that President Bush lied to the American people. This sets a standard of truth that few of its commercials could meet, not to mention the Swift Boat ads lying about John Kerry.
But even with that standard, the burden of proof for Bush's lies isn't hard to meet.The ad is being shown on CNN, and is available for viewing at various sites on the Internet, including truthout.
Another troubling case is the networks refusing to air ads critical of the networks' lack of coverage of the Sudan and other African human crises. The Sheehan ad instance is craven, pandering to the rich and powerful who will buy more ads than the Gold Star Mothers for Peace ever will. But this instance is sheer cowardice. If the fact of the networks almost totally ignoring genocide and starvation in favor of celebrity gossip isn't evidence enough, their censoring of ads because they tell the truth about their failure completes the picture of their corruption.
This is the nightmare we knew we were in for when the first ‘shock and awe’ bombs fell, and no one knows how or when it’s going to end, except that it won’t be any time soon.
Do you remember those “Saturday Night Live” sketches during the weeks after the 2000 election when the result was still in doubt? One of them showed GW in the White House, looking shell shocked, hiding under his desk as part of his office was on fire, because he’d screwed up so badly.
It may be a little like that in the White House now (or it would be, if he were there.) The American Research Group survey shows his approval rating is at 36%, a point lower than Nixon’s after the Watergate hearings and impeachment hearings, and just before he resigned. Iraq is a major contributing cause to those numbers, though the economy isn't far behind.
Bush left his increasingly besieged ranch to address the organization most likely to support him on Iraq, the VFW, in the reddest of the red states, Utah. Though there were dissenters, the VFW gave him the predictable warm welcome, but there were 2,000 protestors nearby, led by the Mayor of Salt Lake City. (Story with photos here.)
Bush and the Bushites have fallen back on the most craven McCarthyism (a White House spokesperson suggesting that war opponents don’t want the US to win the war on terror; Rumsfeld making grand analogies to people who didn’t support World War II) while turning his blind eye of denial on the draft Iraqi constitution, which has others wondering if all this blood and treasure was devoted to creating an impoverished Islamic state on the brink of civil war.
Bush’s central arguments haven’t changed since the campaign, except that some of the reasons he says he started the war has obviously changed. They were reiterated yesterday, as they were last month, when a young Iraqi woman in Iraq who calls herself riverrun, commented on them in her blog, “Baghdad Burning.” She responded to the connection Bush is making with even greater frequency now, that the war in Iraq is the war on terror:
"Do people really still believe this? In spite of that fact that no WMD were found in Iraq, in spite of the fact that prior to the war, no American was ever killed in Iraq and now almost 2000 are dead on Iraqi soil? It’s difficult to comprehend that rational people, after all of this, still actually accept the claims of a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Or that they could actually believe Iraq is less of a threat today than it was in 2003.
We did not have Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the war. We didn’t know that sort of extremism. We didn’t have beheadings or the abduction of foreigners or religious intolerance. We actually pitied America and Americans when the Twin Towers went down and when news began leaking out about it being Muslim fundamentalists- possibly Arabs- we were outraged.Now 9/11 is getting old. Now, 100,000+ Iraqi lives and 1700+ American lives later, it’s becoming difficult to summon up the same sort of sympathy as before. How does the death of 3,000 Americans and the fall of two towers somehow justify the horrors in Iraq when not one of the people involved with the attack was Iraqi?"
She quotes Bush's speech--“We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard and rebuilding while a country is at war is even harder."--and responds:
Three decades of tyranny isn’t what bombed and burned buildings to the ground. It isn’t three decades of tyranny that destroyed the infrastructure with such things as “Shock and Awe” and various other tactics. Though he fails to mention it, prior to the war, we didn’t have sewage overflowing in the streets like we do now, and water cut off for days and days at a time. We certainly had more than the 8 hours of electricity daily. In several areas they aren’t even getting that much."
To Bush's statement--“They are doing that by building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal justice under law.”--she indicates that the Iraqi forces being trained are already becoming known as ruthless tools of the US.
"We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.
As to Iraqi forces…There was too much to quote on the new Iraqi forces. He failed to mention that many of their members were formerly part of militias, and that many of them contributed to the looting and burning that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for weeks."
“The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day.” (She quotes Bush, and replies: "Indeed they are. The forte of the new Iraqi National Guard? Raids and mass detentions. They have been learning well from the coalition. They sweep into areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass the females in the household and detain the men. The Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him in the head as his car drove away."
These are hard truths, that most Americans aren't getting---although it seems they know this. Another survey shows that 60% of Americans don’t feel they get enough information on military matters to make decisions as voters, and their confidence in the media to provide this information is slipping. They apparently don’t expect it from the military itself---three fourths expect the military to lie.
Add to this the continuing carnage in Iraq, the stories that suggest the US is digging in (or more accurately, creating a citadel city within Baghdad) to stay for a long while, and the increasingly ugly Bushwhacker attacks on anyone--including fellow Republicans--who criticize this Iraqmire.
But perhaps the greatest tragedy (which many, including GW's own father, foretold) is that there is now no good solution. Getting out of Iraq is essential, but no one seems to know how to do it in a way that prevents or even mitigates likely disaster in the region for a long time.
Asked about Bush's call for teaching "intelligent design" in school science, John Kerry replied that Bush would be better off with some intelligent design for Iraq. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any.
High gas prices are already affecting the US economy, and several other events may be about to combine to create what some are calling the Perfect Storm that could sink this economy and who knows what else before it’s through.
A storm of its own was created on several of the bluish community blogs with a post and lots and lots of comments revealing that a change in law about to go into effect in October may well mean that credit card minimum payments will be instantly doubled.
It’s a change in how the minimum is figured, and you can get the whole ugly story, including many speculations on what it means as well as descriptions of how the credit card situation got so sordid and personal stories of its likely impact here at dkos, but it’s also posted at the Booman Tribune and the European Tribune (the difference in comments is interesting in itself, if you’re not too shell-shocked to notice.)
This is pretty unknown, even among experts and certainly among consumers. Banks are bracing for defaults, but some speculate that the impact in defaults, bankruptcies and curtailed consumer spending and small business investment and other month-to-month activity (often done on credit cards) will be enormous.
Speaking of bankruptcy, a front page story in the New York Times Sunday was front page news all over the country: there’s a rush on declaring bankruptcy before the law changes (also in October, oddly enough), making it essentially impossible for many people to get out of debt.
That’s October---you know, when there’s already Christmas music at the malls.
The prospects for a very bad retail season is only the beginning, the first gales of this perfect storm. The impact of the credit card increases and bankruptcy law changes will continue to gather momentum, and winter heating oil gets into the mix of oil prices. There were stories this weekend about the uncertainty and perhaps exaggeration of Saudi oil reserves, and the oncoming if not imminent decline of oil coming out of the ground.
There were also stories about the likely end of the housing bubble within the next few years, if not sooner. Meanwhile, there are possible stormclouds from the east as a weakening consumer economy and higher interest rates coupled with huge federal deficits and the continuing drain of billions into the Iraq debacle start to worry the banks of China and others who hold so much US government debt, and are therefore the key players in the American dollar.
Economic storms get started partly based on perception, and one bit of bad news sours the mood towards others. An administration in steadfast denial might look increasingly untrustworthy, especially with a prominent Republican Senator (Chuck Hagel) calling the Iraq war another Vietnam and demanding US withdrawal, while several conservative pundits are voicing great displeasure that American blood and treasure may be paying for an Islamic state in Iraq, which is a distinct possibility according to news about the Iraqi constitution now being drafted.
So what happens when credit cards aren’t an option, stocks and bonds are falling, real estate trembles and even dollars and T-bills don’t look secure? That’s part of the perfect storm. It might have been avoided with less greedy banks and less accommodating legislators who refused to pass even a 30% cap on credit card interest, and of course an administration that didn’t start a costly and obscenely unnecessary war, give the treasury away to its crony corporations, and pay the rich with the earnings of generations of working Americans (which is what they do when the Social Security fund is routinely raided to pay for deficits.)
Do we even have to add health care costs, which drain the national economy and are a chief reason for so much credit card debt and bankruptcy, and the climate crisis, which is already costing consumers and governments and will only demand more resources summer by summer, year by year.
The people who will get hurt the most are probably the least responsible for this storm, especially if they didn’t vote for Bush. But it doesn’t matter. We may all reap the whirlwind.