Notes From The Overground

Progressive-minded weblog devoted heavily to politics and media with some music and popular culture sprinkled throughout working on the assumption that anything that comes out of Washington or the mass media is bogus propaganda unless proven otherwise.

Created by Tom

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Friday, February 21, 2003

Ready to Laugh?

Ridiculous government scare tactics make for some good parody...


Evolution of SUV Safety, Brought to you by Adam Smith and Ford

In an "article" that could easily be a Ford advertisement, Washington Post writer Warren Brown "explores" the evolution of SUV safety prior to last week's gestures from the auto industry. Brown condescendingly refers to opponents of the SUV as "militants" who are "raging against the machine." Judging by his prose I wonder if the article is running directly alongside a full page Ford Explorer ad or if Mr. Brown is perhaps on the payroll of Ford Motor Co. Throughout the article Brown focuses almost exclusively on Ford owned products (the obvious Explorer, but also the not so obvious Volvo and Land Rover models owned by Ford). While he exposes Ford's safety-minded yet crafty business technique of creating proprietary anti-rollover technology he fails to illuminate any significant areas where SUVs have been made safer for drivers of regular non-SUVs who share the road with these behemoths. In fact, the only real breakthrough he discusses involves the safety of those inside the SUV. Brown makes the claim that while Ford's motives are self-serving, the profit-driven capitalist system will fuel the auto industry's drive toward safety. This is a rather idealistic and shortsighted belief in light of the manner in which all industries cut safety corners to maximize the bottom line whenever and wherever they can get away with it.

The one safety aspect that Brown completely fails to address is that of national safety and the manner in which the SUV guarantees our dependence on foreign oil. While we are on the brink of a war mired in the sludge of petroleum I have a feeling that that notion is a little too "militant" for him, if not "military."


Iraqi Veep Wants to Talk

According the AP, the vice president of Iraq is offering a dialogue with the U.S. and other Western nations. He claimed he is willing to talk if "Washington abandons 'aggression' and ceases 'interference in internal affairs.'" While this could easily be dismissed as an empty propaganda gesture it also signifies diplomatic openings that have not been exhausted.


Colin Powell discusses plans for the Iraqi outpost of the American empire in the event the U.S. uses military power to oust Hussein.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Are You Ready?

Here it is cyber boys and girls,, the new and improved Department of Homeland Security Fearmongering Website. Moving a step above or below (depending on your standpoint) the duct tape recommendation, the dept. has unleashed an awareness campaign designed to inform the public on how to prepare for any act of terrorism. One commercial features Tom Ridge in a softly-lit room giving a heart-to-heart to someone just off camera on why America should be ready for terror. It has all the trappings of a friendly testimonial-style commercial about allergy medication or an investment bank. Our good friend and Big Brother, Tom, is just rapping with us. He claims that while people in Florida prepare for hurricanes, Californians prepare for Earthquakes, all Americans must be prepared for a terrorist attack. Thus it is akin to an act of God. The campaign's website includes step-by-step graphic depictions of what to do in the event of a chemical or biological attack, a nuclear blast, a conventional blast or a dirty bomb. The stick-figure images and simplistic instructions are a little too much like those silly old books from the 1950s about what to do in the event of a nuclear air-raid.

The Value of Ready

Ready. Great word, isn't it? What semiotic value. "You better be ready!" Be ready. Beware. Hope for the best, but be ready for the worst. Be afraid, be very afraid.

It sounds like the stories the old folks told you about the boogeyman to keep you in line as a child. Only this time it's a convenient propaganda keyword to keep America just on the brink of panicked fear. Actually, it's terror. If America is fighting a war on terror, we're losing. Because this is what terror is. Terror is a state of intense fear, a foreknowledge of some impending doom and a surrender to its inevitability. What happened on 9/11 was an act of violence designed to induce destruction and terror. It worked. However the terror aspect of the equation has been aided and abetted by the Bush administration. What the U.S. government has been doing to its citizens in the interim is real terrorism, pure and simple.

The Definition of Terror

Webster's defines terror not only as an intense state of fear, but also as, "violence...committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands." George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, et al are terrorists inflicting psychological violence in order to intimidate the American population into granting their demands -- demands for a right wing conservative agenda, marshal law and perpetual war.


How Appropriate


No wonder Bush is so hot to trot; his home state may be in danger!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Worldly and Wise

News media around the world is becoming increasingly anti-American policy as Bush continues his march toward war.


Good News of the Dog Day

In the midst of all this talk of war and repressive hegemony it's nice to have a bit of good news...

New Jersey firefighters rescued a dog who was stranded on a drifting piece of ice in the Passaic river.


Behind Closed Doors…

The power the FCC wields over the media conglomerates is in danger. Michael Powell, son of Colin, head of the commission, and fanatical believer in free-market capitalism wishes to deregulate media rules even further now that the terms of the 1996 Telecommunications Act are up for review . Media scholars Mark Crispin Miller and Robert McChesney discuss the implications and reasons against it on The Nation’s website:

The Federal Communications Commission is presently conducting an inquiry--a "rulemaking"--to determine whether to relax, or even to eliminate, the remaining few regulations that limit how many media entities a single company may own. Regulations still standing include: prohibiting the ownership of a TV station and a newspaper in the same community; limiting a company to owning not more than 35 percent of all TV stations in the United States; and limiting a single company to providing cable TV services to no more than 30 percent of the US population. The FCC will likely reach a decision by the summer. This rulemaking is going on in virtual secrecy, with powerful corporate lobbyists dominating the deliberations. The stakes are extremely high. For the firms, such a relaxation could mean a dramatic rise in company value almost overnight. For the public, further deregulation will lead to another wave of media consolidation, with all that that suggests for the marketplace of ideas.
Read More

The rulemaking is going on in secrecy as the only institutions with the means to convey the proceedings have a direct financial stake in them. In their view, the less the public knows the better. The media giants who control access to information have an extreme upper-hand in these situations as they exert massive power on the lobbying end while controlling public perception through selectivity in what they broadcast. What now exists is a symbiotic relationship between media and conservative government. Media lobbyists basically bribe the Washington through lobbying and campaign funds, while the legislators provide “favors” in return. (As Michael Moore has pointed out, the relationship between lobbyists and regulators/legislators is akin to the the relationship between johns and hookers). A side effect of all of this is that media coverage of those in power favors the conservatives who are in the pocket of big money media.

FCC head Michael Powell's blind faith in the invisible hand of free-market capitalism leads him to believe that the media industry's success is based upon consumer demand. What's missing from his narrow viewpoint, however, is the fact that choice has been taken out of the equation. When corporate media has a virtual monopoly on the information industry, it will succeed by default. People either consume corporate media or they consume nothing.

Static and Blackout

According to Michael Copps, a Democratic member of the FCC, media insiders who oppose consolidation are reluctant to testify for fear of losing their jobs.

Thirty members of congress have written a letter to Powell urging him not to deregulate.

The radio industry was severely deregulated in 1996 and has declined in quality and variety as a result. One corporation runs a majority of radio stations in the U.S. and they are motivated by a bottom-line desire to get the most ad revenue for their broadcasting dollar. What happened to the radio industry could happen to TV and other mass media with catastrophic effects.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

If You Don't Agree With Them, File a Court Order to Silence Them

Earlier today, while "respectfully" disagreeing with last weekend's protesters, "President" Bush claimed that "democracy is a beautiful thing...[p]eople are allowed to express their opinion, and I welcome people's right to say what they believe."

In light of the Bush administration's aid in prohibiting a march as part of the protests in New York City, that is an outright lie. Mayor Bloomberg's administration denied organizers the right to march prior to the elevation of the security level to orange and a federal three-judge panel upheld the ruling. The Justice Department filed an amicus brief urging the federal courts to uphold the ruling. It is a strange thing to love the beauty of democracy while you're taking away the people's power to make a statement. Some argue that while a rally is powerful in its own right, a march would have greater significance. Every other city around the world was able to stage a march. Thankfully, a statement was made. While it was not a march, it will go down in history as the most significant statement against an American war since Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Saint Patrick's Day parade will go on.

Some more views on the NYC protest march from Alternet:
Report from New York by Liza Featherstone
Personal Voices: Dissent and The Mayor's Betrayal by Terra Lawson-Remer


A Nation Divided

Media Scholar Robert Fisk has an interesting article about the gulf between the pro-war and anti-war citizens in the U.S. He claims that the academic and intellectual left need to reach outside their gilded halls. They need to come down from the rarefied atmosphere of ideology and theory and apply these thoughts to everyday people.

The people with whom these liberal academics should be building bridges are the truck-drivers and bell-hops and Amtrak crews, the poor blacks and the cops whose families provide the cannon fodder for America's overseas military adventures. But that, of course, would force intellectuals to emerge from the sheltered, tenured world of seminars and sit-ins and deal directly with those whose opinions they wish to change.

Like Fisk I believe that the American public is much smarter than they are given credit for, they are just tragically misinformed. When information on politics and world events come from the American mass media, one can almost guarantee an ignorant citizenry who is only well-versed in hegemonic soundbites and consumer capitalist propaganda. What's worse is that even the citizens who are cynical about what they hear on the network news are atomized, divided and made to feel as if they are alone in their views. Steps need to be taken to unite people for the public interest, for democracy. If more Americans were focused and aware of just what George W. Bush stands for there would be protests in the streets everyday.


Dubya "Respectfully Disagrees" With Protesters
Most protesters "respectfully" mock the devil so that maybe he'll flee.

Thumbing his nose at the 8 million protesters who turned out last weekend against the war on Iraq, "president" George W. Bush said the demonstrations did nothing to change his mind.

"Democracy is a beautiful thing," Mr. Bush said. "People are allowed to express their opinion, and I welcome people's right to say what they believe."

But he continued, "Evidently some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace; I respectfully disagree." The president said again that Mr. Hussein is "providing links to terrorists." He said, "Saddam Hussein is a threat to America, and we will deal with him."

To those who have followed the president's comments on Iraq day-by-day, what he said today in a brief question-and-answer session in the White House did not represent new territory. But coming on the heels of the biggest antiwar protests since the Vietnam era, Mr. Bush's words were significant because they indicated no change in his thinking despite vigorous opposition — especially overseas — to his aggressive approach in dealing with Iraq.

Hopefully, Dubya in his lack of historic knowledge, will be unaware of the fate of fellow Texan Lyndon B. Johnson, a much better president than Shrub would ever be. Unfortunately, for LBJ, he blew it big time with Vietnam and his popularity plummetted to the point where he wouldn't run for reelection in 1968. This was the first real civil rights president who pushed for equality. Well, you're riding high in April, shot down in May. Dubya isn't changing his tune, so he'll be screwin' up in June, no doubt. King George is nothing if not determined to plunge the world into an unnecessary war. The bright spot is that the "president" claimed that "democracy is a beautiful thing." I'm sure he felt it was a beautiful thing when the Judicial Branch usurped it to make him president, I'm sure he is enraptured with democracy every time he hides behind secrecy and lies, he must feel passionate about democracy when he gives tax breaks to the rich and sweetheart legislation to major corporations, and I'm sure he loves democracy when he and his fearmongers joyfully strip away civil liberties. Let's hope that democracy is a beautiful thing in November of 2004, when he finds out what it really is as he becomes a one-termer just like daddy.


From the People Who Brought You "Amadou Diallo" and "The Plunger Incident"

Organizers from last Saturday's rally near the UN are accusing the NYPD of using excessive violence to arrest protesters. Not the NYPD? It couldn't be...
In addition to the charges of violence, a representative from the National Lawyers Guild alleges that the civil rights of the detainees were violated.

Debbie Hrbek of the National Lawyers Guild said that after the arrests were made police did not follow standard procedures including arraignment within 24 hours and the right to an attorney. Instead, there were what Hrbek called "egregious civil rights violations," starting with the arrests of people who were held for hours in police buses and vans.

"Why is it that people charged with petty offenses were held for 12, 15, 18 hours?" asked Donna Lieberman, head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, noting that most of them could have been released on desk appearance charges.

The organizers called for City Council hearings into the police conduct during the rally.

Mayor Bloomberg defended the police conduct and maintains that the officers "did an excellent job of balancing the rights of people to say what they wanted to say with the needs of all of us." Knowing what I know firsthand of the NYPD, I'm sure that they became overzealous in their job and managed to hurt some people along the way. These are men and women doing a tough job, but they are in a position of power. In dealing with a crowd of protesters, I'm not surprised in the least that they would abuse that power, even slightly, to get their job done (they may be cops, but they are still inhuman with imperfections). While I'm sure that a majority of the officers have nothing but the noblest of intentions, the educational and training requirements in the NYPD are fairly minimal and more often than not the more imperfect are given a tremendous amount of power. That gun and badge can be quite intoxicating.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Sick Media

I read a piece in the New York Times today about the current media frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson. As jaded as I am I still manage to find myself shocked by the idiocy that passes as journalism, but I read on anyway. Kicking the subject of the lunatic pop star aside, one major focus of the article was that a nation enamoured with tabloid expose is a healthy nation. The writer, Alessandra Stanley, muses that if the country is fixated on this, it is not at war, and not obsessed with the morbidity of post-9/11 drama. She likened this current Jackson fascination to the more innocent time when Chandra Levy and Lizzie Grubman dominated the boob tube. I could not believe what I was reading. This, in the New York Times, at a time when a globally unpopular war is all but imminent, Big Brother Bush and his merry men are playing public fear like a Stradivarius with their terror alerts, our civil liberties are being stripped away and the economy is in the toilet. A “journalist” actually claims that we are a healthy nation because we are distracted by a tragically insane figure with a deteriorating visage that resembles Skeletor. All that is fit to scream at. You know you’ve lost patience with society when you begin screaming at a newspaper.

However, what I found most disturbingly naïve in the face of corporate conglomeration and the hegemonic domination of the media was this statement:

American television is by definition boundless, unfettered by government control or the tastes and mores of an elite ruling class. The media madness over a disgraced, precariously balanced singer is an example of a unique American creation: Jacksonian democracy. To bemoan its excesses is almost as silly as Laura Bush's complaining last week that cable news channels' incessant news alerts about the administration's terror warnings were "frightening people."

Well, she would appear to be half-right (later you’ll see that she’s not): the media is virtually unfettered by government control; it will be even less fettered if Michael Powell of the FCC has his way of deregulating the media even further. But “unfettered by the tastes and the mores of an elite ruling class”? Follow me here on some basic logic. The mass media (this includes television) is owned and operated by about five major multinational corporations. These corporations are most concerned with revenue and pleasing their shareholders with a healthy bottom line. Where do they get revenue? Advertising. Therefore, television must appeal to the least common denominator of public interest in order to maximize revenue. But there is even more at stake here, and it gets even more complex.

While the wealthy people who control the media want to maximize viewership it is also in their best interest to stay “on message,” and by that I mean they must uphold a certain ideology that celebrates free-market consumer capitalist culture and eliminates the idea that there is any other way. The problem is that democracy suffers. Since the media is in the hands of the very wealthy, the only way to reach massive amounts of people with a message is to be very wealthy. Thus the only views being heard are those of the wealthy. So “news” programs, political commentary, etc. are dominated by a conservative, right wing ideology.

Why does democracy suffer? Well, in order to have a working democracy the citizens must be well informed of a plurality of views. When one powerful group in society controls the sources of information, there is not plurality of views and people are not well informed. This explains why in the presidential election of 2000 we were given the choice between two virtually identical candidates from two virtually identical political parties while the only unique candidate, the Green party’s Ralph Nader, was given scant political coverage save a few condescending jabs. The game is, in effect, rigged. And the same moneyed interests that control the media control all facets of American government.

Every corporate sector, including the media, has lobbyists. Lobbyists contribute money and basically bribe lawmakers to create legislation friendly to their cause. The Bush administration, while they are not the direct lawmakers (congress is), is extremely tied to these moneyed corporations and basically exerts their influence to give them all that they want. But this phenomenon is not readily apparent to the general public. One must look beyond the mass mediated smokescreen. This, however, is nearly impossible as the mass media corporations are also putting pressure on congress and government. The media lobbyists put pressure on the FCC, the FCC discusses it with congress and virtually none of this is covered by the mass media because it is in their best interest to keep it quiet. It is in their interest to keep all of this quiet. Otherwise, the majority of Americans who are not wealthy, who do not have conservative beliefs, will realize that the emperor is not wearing any clothes and they will demand change. Change means death for the status quo and they cannot have that.

So getting back to Ms. Stanley’s statement that the media is unfettered by government and elite interests, she’s technically dead wrong on both counts. For while the media is unfettered by law, it is controlled by the hegemony that controls the government. There is a power in this nation that is stronger than government and stronger than the people who are supposed to run a democracy. That power is money. If you have it, you control the game, the pieces, the rules, everything.

So, I’m sorry Ms. Stanley, but this nation is actually quite ill. It needs a dose of truth and democracy, and as the antics of the fearmongers in Washington have proven, it is not going to get it soon. A healthy nation would demand truth and justice. A healthy nation would not be preoccupied with sick and twisted individuals on reality TV. But in this brave new world, we anesthetize ourselves with pap and float along as the oligarchy reigns supreme.


Ashcroft to Informant:
It Can't Be! Say it Ain't So!!!

The code orange terror alert that turned the nation into a wild pack of duct tape hoarding animals was based mostly on the lies of an al Quaeda informant. Mission still accomplished for the fearmongers as they've proven just how well they can work in tandem with the media to work the public into an orgasm of fear.


Duct Tape Drama

I'm getting the idea that the code orange fiasco may have been an experiment by the Bushies. I have a feeling they are betting each other on what ridiculous things they can get massive amounts of Americans to do. Perhaps it went some thing like this:

Disclaimer: This is a dramatazition, no politicians were injured in the writing of this vignet...

Int: A highly secure subterranean office in Washington; Dubya, Ashcroft, Cheney discuss policy while some shadowy figure lies prone, chained in the corner...

Dubya: Hey Ashcroft, let's scare the piss out of a bunch of Americans and get them to do something stupid.
Ashcroft (looking up from his copy of Mein Kampf): Well that should be fairly easy. How about we tell them all to wear leather lingerie...
Dubya (shucking Ashcroft on shoulder): No, not yet ya perv -- we have to start slow... let's get them to buy something... let's get them to buy something because they believe it will save their lives in the event of a "terrorist attack" heh heh.
Cheney: OIL!!! They should BUY OIL!!!
Dubya: No, y'see... we have to be more subtle. Now hush up, Papa Dick, it's time for your de-fib again...CLEAR BZZZZZPPPP... whoo-weee, I felt a tingle myself

The commander in chief strokes his chin and his eyes fall upon one of Ashcroft's tied-up "servants." It's an androgynous figure, tied in the corner and clothed in leather with duct tape over its mouth. The chief gets an idea. The chief gets a wonderful awful idea...

Dubya: Okay guys, listen up. Ashcroft, leave the gimp alone. We'll tell people that they have to buy ductape and leather to seal off their windows in the event of a biological or chemical attack.
Ashcroft: Where are they going to get leather -- mine's imported. How about tarps, or plastic? Ya think they'll buy it?
Dubya: Yeah, yeah, shit, they think I was actually elected fer crissakes... They should rush out and buy duct tape and give 'em the word John.
Ashcroft: Oh but prez, I'm not done with the gimp...
Dubya: Shut up. I've got to think about the next step....

Today, all over the U.S., countless ducts are in disrepare as nobody can find the proper adhesive to bind them. They are "sold out." What will tommorow bring? Will the president cook up another ingenious plan? Will Dick Cheney have another cardiac arrest? Will the Gimp escape from his/her shackels, rush out into the street only to be beaten to death for the piece of duct tape over his mouth? Tune in next week to.... TALES FROM BENEATH THE CAPITAL....


Thank You Big Brother, You Are So Good To Us...

The recent state of terror level orange has done its job to turn the masses into a frenzied ball of controllable fear. That done: Homeland Security director Tom Ridge claims that warning levels might be lowered in days.


Power to the People

In the wake of last weekend's protests and the growing international anti-war sentiment today's NY Times has an interesting news analysis about a new thorn in the Bushies' sides: Word Public Opinion.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 — The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

In his campaign to disarm Iraq, by war if necessary, President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: millions of people who flooded the streets of New York and dozens of other world cities to say they are against war based on the evidence at hand.

Talk about new world order...


This Sucks

Blizzard of '03 lays smackdown on Northeast.

Click here to cast your vote now in the national referendum to stop the war in Iraq.