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, July 20, 2007

Talking tough

How to Talk to a Republican, If You Must Watch

Diane Rehm’s public radio talk show is both interesting and frustrating. Her guests are often people you really wish to hear from, top-level politicians and journalists. But, because her show lives within the beltway, you often hear these people repeating the same tired, tainted, gelded “conventional wisdom” that somehow always manages to favor the corporate line.

A clinical psychologist whom Rehm interviewed on her show last week has recently quantified what progressive bloggers, pollsters in the GOP, people at Democratic Underground, the Daily Kos, and the population at large have known for quite some time: that people vote with their hearts and their heads. The importance of emotional engagement appears to be lost only on one group of people: top Democratic politicians. They present superior policy positions, and then wait passively for the votes to come rolling in. Ha ha. One of the reasons I supported Howard Dean so enthusiastically in the 2004 primaries, is that he really seemed to understand how to speak to Democrats’ heads AND hearts. (I think Kucinich is rather good at this too.)

The psychologist, Drew Westen, has written a book titled “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation“ in which he cites his own frustration with Democratic politicians and describes how they should actually talk and engage the populace with their message. He claims that several important politicians, including Bill Clinton, have read his book and reviewed it favorably, and that he is being courted by several of the Democratic presidential candidates. Towards the end of the show, he is asked to give examples of the kinds of language he thinks would have been most effective against Kerry’s SwiftBoat problems:

…southerners are characterized, particularly southern males, by what’s called by anthropologists a “culture of honor”, where if someone dishonors you, if someone speaks to your face ill of you and you don’t respond, you’ve been shamed. And you know, 200 years ago that would have lead to a duel. And here is this man who is a war veteran, he’s being run against with a story that he’s going to be weak on terrorism, he’s going to be weak on national defense. Someone punches him. What does he do? He says nothing. He waits three weeks and then he sends his female campaign manager out to write a letter to the campaign manager of Bush, imploring him, ‘Please take it down’. Boy, if you want to send a meta-message about what you’ll do if America’s attacked, he sure sent a powerful meta-message, and he could have done it very differently. . . At that particular point, I would have suggested that Kerry get right out on television immediately and say, “President Bush, for you, a man who dodged the draft, who did nothing but protect the borders of Louisiana, while being a staunch advocate of the Vietnam War, who called your daddy up and said ‘get me out of this!’ when you got the call, ‘please, send some Texas millworker in my place to get shot at’, and who managed to pull those strings, for you to say to me, a war veteran with the shrapnel still in my leg, that I don’t deserve the Purple Hearts that I earned and to put on a campaign ad like that that shows that I don’t deserve my Purple Hearts! Every veteran in the United States, you have just affronted. What you’ve done . . . and, and to do this in the middle of a war when we have boots on the ground, what do you think this says to our soldiers in Iraq or in Afghanistan who are fighting bravely, who are taking bullets right now, that someone someday is going to come back and make fun of their Purple Hearts? How can you have the moral authority now to be the commander-in-chief?”

Concerning Gore’s mistakes in 2000, Westen points out:

Here is a guy who is running against a man who had spent most of his life with his liquor cabinet better stacked than his bookshelves. He is a guy who had been investigated by his own father’s SEC for insider trading. He had handed his entire state over to polluters to such an extent that his Crawford Ranch - he couldn’t actually fish at the rivers in it, he had to stock it with man-made lakes because he had allowed the polluters to pollute it so badly that he couldn’t fish on his own ranch. Who had put to death a woman who was, like him, a born-again Christian, who for sixteen years had lived as a model prisoner, this was Karla Faye Tucker? When, I think it was Tucker Carlson actually, who asked him, “what were her final words to you when she pleaded for clemency?”, he pursed his lips and said “Oh, please, please, save me!”. That that wasn’t on ads that people saw over and over and over, with a president that was running as a “compassionate conservative”, that is absolutely malpractice by both the consultants and the strategists and by the candidates themselves.

Obviously, Westen doesn’t suffer from the severe politeness of our usual candidates. I’m glad he’s getting on board and that his research is being used, but his conclusions and framing have been obvious and available for free on the internet at progressive blogs for years (starting with the dear departed Media Whores Online). I urge you to listen to the show (on the same page, you’ll find a fascinating discussion on Iraq including Wesley Clark and “Surge” architect Kimberly Kagan, who pulls an audio deer-in-the-headlight act as she tries to spew the GOP talking points in front of Clark and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, who don’t let her get away with her spin). Westen is fascinating, and he’s right. But I would point out that he sounds exactly like Digby and Atrios and all of the others who have been trying to wake the Democrats up for so long. Why don’t the Democrats get this? Is it because they don’t really have the courage of their convictions? That they know that they are also bought and paid for by corporations, and can’t get their dander up on behalf of the people?

Let’s hope that now that an academic has published this (blindingly obvious to everyone but the Democratic leadership) thesis, the party begins to find its fighting voice and soul again.

The Horrors of Unchecked Capitalism Watch

If you’ve read either of Al Franken’s last two books, or have been following the Jack Abramoff scandal, then you will be familiar with the Mariana Islands. These islands were taken over by the United States from Japan in World War II. Free market fundamentalists like Tom Delay have fought hard to keep government regulations of industry out of the Marianas, stating that the islands are a “perfect Petri dish of capitalism”. He has been so pleased with the slime that has been cultured in this Petri dish that he told the governor “You are a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we’re trying to do in America in leading the world in the free-market system”.

So, what kind of regulation-free utopia do Delay and the GOP want to “do in America”? Well, I won’t tease you with the answer to that because the results of little to no regulation of industry are easily predicted. Left unfettered by such stupid concerns as the American minimum wage or even human rights, the Marianas have become a prison for thousands of workers, mostly women, imported from Asia in economic slavery, forced to work in sweatshops under horrible conditions (and still allowed to put “Made in the USA!” on the clothing), forced into sexual slavery, forced to have abortions when the natural results of sexual tourism occur. Child labor and child prostitution are also rampant. Essentially, workers are extremely abused at the hands of their corporate exploiters. Industries in the Marianas were among Jack Abramoff’s biggest clients, and he, Delay, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, Bob Ney, a whole host of other GOP legislators have worked for years to keep conditions there unchanged, all the while taking “junkets” to the islands on the taxpayers’ dime to inspect and praise the “paradise” they created there. The irony of the “pro-life” GOP leadership working fist and glove with a sex industry that forces women to have abortions should not be lost either. It seems that Republicans are pleased either to force women to bear children or to force them to have abortions – as long as women have no say in it, they seem to be happy.

The elections of 2006 have potentially broken the GOP hold over legislation to mitigate this horror. The good news is that Democrats in the Senate are now trying to create immigration rules for the Marianas which could break the system of indentured servitude that has been created there. Let’s hope they find their way forward.

Career-Protection-Induced Temporary Amnesia/Lobotomy Watch

Upton Sinclair noted that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it”. Television pundits have recently been proving his point brilliantly. There are very clearly areas of thought and speculation which are verboten for anyone on the airwaves, owned and operated largely by military contractors, to enter. If someone brings up one of these “outside the bubble” ideas on their show, these gelded TV personalities can be seen to freeze and blink vacantly, suffering from the rapid onset of a lacuna of thought brought on by contemplating where such a discussion might lead. I call this phenomenon Career-Protection-Induced Temporary Amnesia/Lobotomy, or CaPITAL for short. Appropriately enough, many sufferers of CaPITAL work inside the beltway, where the chatter of Washington DC cocktail parties informs their sense of boundaries for what may or may not be spoken of in “polite” company.

CaPITAL is most noticeable by the viewing audience when someone says something on a television show that is patently true on its face, yet the host of the show fails to be able to grasp the blindingly obvious because they are not allowed to. Some examples:

1) Chris Matthews interviews anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. He asks her to answer the unfathomable: “Why do you think President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, the other hawks in this administration, why do you think they took us to war?” By now, the answer to that is obvious. The benefits of this war are fourfold: control of Iraq’s oil, regional hegemony in the Middle East, domestic political control (as you shout down your opponents by reminding them that we are “at war”), and war profiteering by the military industrial complex. Sheehan gives a great, cogent answer which touches on most of these points, ending with “It’s for the war profiteers and that’s why wars are usually waged.” Matthews is suddenly afflicted with CaPITAL. His face goes blank, he starts blinking rapidly, and his eyes start shifting left and right as he searches for a way to pretend she isn’t exactly right. “You believe that this was . . . this war was fought, because people in the Whitehouse decided to make some money for their pals in business – you really believe that?” Chris stammers out.

2) It is obvious to the least conspiracy-minded among us that Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence to buy his cooperation in protecting Cheney and Bush. They were both complicit in creating the conspiracy to out Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA agent. Just as Bush’s father pardoned Weinberger when Cap made it clear that he wouldn’t spend one day in jail to protect Poppy’s ass in the Iran Contra investigations, Bush commuted Libby’s sentence to keep him quiet. In this discussion between George Stephanopoulos and John Conyers, when Conyers states the obvious, Steph needs to stop Conyers and have him clarify what he is saying, in an incredulous voice with a dumb, blank, CaPITAL-stricken look on his face, as if he can’t believe anyone would think this way.

CONYERS: But what we have here — and I think we should put it on the table right at the beginning — is that the suspicion was that if Mr. Libby went to prison, he might further implicate other people in the White House, and that there was some kind of relationship here that does not exist in any of President Clinton’s pardons, nor, according to those that we’ve talked to — and this is why we’re doing the hearings — is that it’s never existed before, ever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s really…
CONYERS: We’ve never had…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stop you there, because you seem to be suggesting that President Bush commuted Mr. Libby’s sentence in order to keep him quiet.

Duh, George.

3) Chris Matthews again, this time interviewing a representative from the International Association of Firefighters, an organization which is extremely pissed off at Rudy Giuliani. They claim that they were allowed to search for the remains of their co-workers in the debris pile after 9/11 only until $230 in gold and silver from the Bank of Nova Scotia was recovered from Ground Zero. The following day, again according to the firefighters, recovery efforts were abandoned. Now, emotions were running high at Ground Zero. Certainly recovery efforts did have to end at some point, at the very least with regard to the health of the survivors. But if the timing did happen this way, it certainly makes it appear that Giuliani was only letting the firefighters dig through the rubble until they recovered the precious metals, and that that was what was important to him. Matthews, who has a huge man-crush on Giuliani because he perceives the bald, lisping, Nosferatu-visaged politician as tough, a real “street fighter”, cannot grasp what the man is saying. CaPITAL strikes him again and again, as he repeatedly asks “What do you mean, I don’t get this. What is the connection between finding $200 million dollars in gold and stopping the search for bodies?” “Well, explain that because I can’t figure that connection out. What is the connection?” “Oooh oh, you’re saying he only kept the search going long enough to get the gold.” Yes, Chris, you CaPITAL-addled fool. That is what he’s saying.


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