The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Potemkin Ranch

October Surprise Photo-op Watch

Bush, just 10 days away from the most important and highly contested election in America's recent history, has decided he needs to take a day at his ranch, which he bought in 1999 for his presidential campaign. Prior to buying this ranch, he lived his whole life in houses in towns and cities, like the rest of the non-ranching world. Keep that in mind as the media tries to pass him off as some kind of brush-cutting cowboy.

According to his schedulers, he plans to spend a day in Crawford, Texas on Saturday. Does it really seem likely that he would waste one of the most important campaigning days this month, so close to the election, on a Saturday when people are actually home, to go kick around on his dusty ranch? No, it doesn’t seem likely to me either. I would predict that instead of spending the whole day on Saturday talking to cows, he is going to be flown to some hotspot in Iraq, for a Glorious Salute to Dear Leader Photo-op. This will be the second time in his life that he will have been in a war zone, despite having been quoted in January of 2002 as saying "I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." The first time was when he was carted off to Iraq for a similar photo-op last Thanksgiving, prancing around with a large, inedible turkey for those troops that had signed a loyalty oath to him. The corporate media sycophants will wet themselves with pleasure at seeing our Glorious, Manly Leader standing in our conquered colony of Iraq, pal-ing around with the young people he so resolutely thrust into harm's way for no purpose that he can reveal to the public.

That's my prognostication for Saturday.

Ratf*cking Watch

Here's one other prediction for the remainder of the campaign. One of Rove's favorite tricks, which he learned at the knees of Nixonian dirty-tricksters, is called ratf*cking. In this move, a candidate does something to harm, or seeming to harm, himself, so that he can play the victim and blame his opponent.

One of the most famous episodes of this from Rove's past was when he bugged his own office, then whipped up a big media frenzy around trying to find out who had done it. He managed to "discover" the bug on the day of a big debate in which his candidate was expected to do poorly. And he blamed his candidate's opponent, of course.

In the 2000 race, a Bush debate folder found its way into the Gore camp. Imagine Rove's surprise when it was returned, unopened, before Bush could declare that Gore had stolen it and "cheated" in the debates.

So, in the coming days, watch out for something unfortunate to occur to Smirky, something which Rove may try to blame Kerry for. Something like the forged CBS desertion memo . . .

See The Atlantic Monthly for more examples.

Feeling a Bit Drafty Watch

Yesterday evening, there was a small NPR radio piece on "The World" about a nuclear Iran and what needed to be done about it. The commentators were lamenting the fact that we didn't know if Iran's nuclear facilities are above ground, where we could "take them out", or below a mountain somewhere. Quite apart from the irresponsible idea that we would just attack Iran and blow up their facilities on our own, scattering radioactivity across the landscape (which would unite the Muslim world against us in a way that even the invasion of the weak, oil-rich Islamic Iraq has not yet done), I found this piece disturbing because it seriously was postulating that the US is being forced into some kind of position of no return, where we would have to attack Iran militarily. Oh sure, the piece paid lip service to the idea that the Bush misadministration would rather negotiate with Tehran (until the hard-line chickenhawks in their base got bored and frustrated), but on the whole it sounded quite ominous indeed.

Our military is quite logistically stretched right now, and so our continuing dealings with the rest of the world, framed by Bush in all three debates as "aggressive", will entail a draft. Of both men and women. They are already planning to draft medical workers, and you have all read the stories about soldiers having their combat tours extended, being forced to re-enlist (under threat of being sent to Iraq), and calling retired soldiers and guardsmen back up. The draft is happening already, slowly, relatively quietly, but it is already happening.

If there is any humor to be found in this situation, you may find some of it at Enjoy the Draft.

Planning for Success Watch

In this NYT article, we read that this administration had a firm grasp of the situation in Iraq going into the war. A quote:

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city...

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

So by September of 2003, we were supposed to have troop levels down to 30,000 in Iraq. That was over a year ago. Obviously, all has not gone "as expected".

Free Speech Watch

I remember years ago, when I first felt like writing to other people to ask what was going on in our country, the thing that struck me as the most weird, unbelievable, and strange were these scattered reports of "free speech zones". Early in Bush's presidency, people were writing in to websites and news sources that protestors at events where the president appeared publicly were being herded up, shipped hundreds of yards if not miles away, and left to stand in areas with their protest signs.

I really couldn't believe it. I thought it was way too conspiracy-theory-ish, and that no one would believe me if I wrote about it. This surely couldn't be happening in America. The people, who have enjoyed and presumably cherished free speech and the right to assemble until now, wouldn't put up with it.

Today, we know that those early stories were not only true, but only a small foretaste of the ridiculous curtailment of our civil liberties to come. This regime treats its citizens as if they have no right to assemble, no right to protest, and treats citizens with differing opinions as criminals. Amazing that we have become a banana republic in so little time, and no one seems at all upset about it. Certainly the whorporate media doesn't think there is any problem with the situation. Apparently, if our government decides to take our civil liberties away because it doesn't like them, the American people just give them up without a fuss. And apparently, if we have a government that doesn't like our civil liberties (remember, watch what they DO, not what they SAY), nobody feels it important to comment on that.

And so, citizens going to Bush campaign events have to sign loyalty oaths, and if they are found to have Kerry t-shirts on, or a pro-choice button in their purse, they are forced to leave and threatened with arrest. Even people attending PUBLIC events with the president are subjected to such treatment. And clearly this has nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism; these goons were moving in this direction well before September of 2001. They treat the public as if they were in charge of a one-party autocracy. They treat political dissent in the same manner that their favorite boogyman Saddam Hussein treated it.

The stories coming out of these events just get weirder and weirder. Finally, they have hit the level of the truly absurd. Three teachers from Oregon were kicked out of a Bush campaign event for wearing t-shirts that said "Protect our civil liberties". Think about that. That message was judged as antithetical to the Bush regime. Protect our civil liberties. It is so rare that such a moment of truth comes out of a Bush event. Protecting our civil liberties is of course an affront to this regime. But to just come right out and clearly admit it, by kicking these three out of the event, was a rare moment of truth from a Bush campaign event.

I’m sure there are many other signs and symbols that would get you kicked out of a Bush campaign event. These three teachers have shown us that we haven't hit the envelope yet. Surely, someone wearing a sign or shirt saying "Give Peace a Chance" would be shown the door. What about the peace symbol itself? Would that get you kicked out? What about an allusion to the brotherhood of mankind, or kindness, or turning the other cheek? Just what is the limit of what is considered banned in a Bush campaign event? Bizarre.

Getting Less for More Watch

One of the things I really like about Kerry's platform is his bit on healthcare. As I understand it, by having the government be a second insurer and pick up catastrophic coverage for people, it will reduce insurance premiums and probably allow more small businesses to get more people covered. It will cost a bit to the government, but it will also protect people whose insurers try to screw them over when some catastrophic health event befalls them.

The thing I like most about it is that I really do think it is the nose of the camel under the tent on the way to a single payer plan, which would be a huge benefit to this country. The US pays so much more, about triple per capita, for our healthcare, and we get so much less than other countries with socialized medicine. People in this country have been conditioned to be scared to death of single payer plans with horror stories about how bad medicine is in other industrialized countries. But really, is anyone so head-over-heels in love with the healthcare they are getting in this country now? I know I’m not that impressed. Sure, we are covered for things going massively wrong, but the bureaucracy, inefficiency, redtape, and delays that I've experienced are exactly what I would imagine enemies of a single payer plan would dredge up as arguments against such a plan. And if we had national coverage, we could really keep an eye on it. Plus it would lower the costs for everyone, because there would be no cherry picking, no dropping people for previous conditions. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than what we have today, and I don't think it would be any worse.

Kerry's plan is small, but significant, and will let us see how this kind of system might work.

War Watch

Thanks to Paul for the following joke:

Q. What's the difference between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War?

A. George Bush had a plan to get out of the Vietnam War.

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