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

RSS Feed

Friday, February 28, 2003

Diplomatic Resignation

John Brady Kiesling, a member of Bush's Foreign Service Corps and Political Counselor to the American embassy in Greece, wrote a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell protesting "our fervent pursuit of war." Kiesling's statement of dissent is available on the NY Times web site.


Existence of Missing WMD Called Into Question; But Nobody is Asking

A major news story printed in Newsweek that has gone virtually unnoticed in the last few days...

March 3 issue — Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them. Read more...

The implications brought forth by this article cast further uncertainty over the existence of Iraq's "missing" weapons of mass destruction. The story does point out that while Kamel claimed that the weapons were destroyed, Iraqi officials still maintained design and engineering specs to re-manufacture these weapons. Also, the CIA responded right away claiming the story is innacurate (and they've never covered anything up before). Regardless, a story with such implications on the impending war deserves more attention than it is getting.


Mixed Signals

Hussein makes the mistake of angering the Bush administration with more compliance (Thanks Onion).

UNITED NATIONS - Iraq agreed in principle Thursday to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles, two days before a U.N. deadline. Word of the agreement came as chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Baghdad's disarmament efforts had been "very limited so far."

The mixed signals were likely to provide ammunition to supporters and opponents of a quick war to disarm Iraq. The two sides failed to reach agreement on key issues during a heated and bitter discussion in the Security Council on Thursday. Read more...

Overall, looks like more good news from the disarmament front.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Damn Blather!

The White House (and their endless league of conservative cheerleaders) came down pretty hard on Dan Rather for giving air-time to Saddam Hussein.

Sometimes, to see the point of view from the other side (and have good laugh while I'm at it) I meander around the internet and take in some of the more right-leaning blogs. I came upon one this morning denouncing Rather's interview. From

Dan Rather should be ashamed of himself. He gave a full hour of television time to a tyrant, a murderer, a sadistic man who hates America. Rather did it unabashedly, without shame or trepidation. This charade of an interview was nothing more than a commercial for appeasement.

CBS should also be ashamed for airing this garbage. In a time where we are getting ready to go to war with Iraq, CBS is showing an hour long session of cozy coffee talk with the leader of that country. More.

To my dismay I found that many other conservatives feel this way. A quick search at the source, confirms this. (Keep in mind that, like the NY Times, one must register with Fox News in order to view their on-line content. Being that I have an ideological problem with being labeled a "Fox Fan" as far as they know I am a woman named John Ashcroft with a web-mail address.)

By interviewing Saddam in an almost worshipful manner, Dan Rather encouraged the dictator to reveal the visions of sugarplums dancing in his head. Start with the notion that he is a democratically elected head of state, add the view that he was not defeated in the Gulf War, and finish with the huge file of actual facts about him in the public domain. Anyone with an IQ greater than his/her body temperature has to see the psychopath lurking behind the "come let us reason together" facade. Can there be a question about what needs to be done?
Donald W.
New York, NY

Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein was gutless and frustrating. I think Mr. Rather and CBS were just trying to secure future interviews with Saddam by not offending him. I guess ratings are more important than the truth. We spent the whole broadcast waiting for Mr. Rather to ask a real question. A new journalist with little experience could have asked better questions. I agree it was one big commercial for Saddam Hussein. The "joke" was the interview itself. Mr. Hussein is not stupid that's why he chose Dan Rather. CBS obviously thinks the American public is stupid. I beg them not to waste our time anymore. We are sticking with Fox.
Jeff H.
Naples, FL

The interveiw was totally inappropriate! We now have News Anchors playing statesman with alot of authority and no responsibility. Wonderful!!!! I did not elect Ramsey Clark or Dan Rather to be my spokesperson.
Roland J.
Palm Harbor, FL

And The White House Chimed In

Thus the White House, through their patsy Ari Fleischer, expressed anger over not being able to rebuff Hussein's claims.
He [Fleischer] said the White House had offered a representative to counter what he said would be propaganda, lies and irresponsible statements by Saddam in the rare interview, but he said CBS replied it was interested only if President Bush made the response himself.

Yes, heaven forbid that the White House doesn't get a chance to spin the story to their propagandistic needs. Fleischer's point is nothing but moot posturing. Cursory examination of the Hussein interview proves that, ideologically, the interview was not harmful to the White House's aims. In the two years the Bush cabal has been in control they have exhibited an obsessive-compulsion over controlling information in any way they can. Sometimes this OCD of theirs blinds them to the fact that in most cases, unfortunately, they do not need to. As you will see the mass media is quite complicit.

I really do have to chuckle at the viscerally hypocritical, anti-intellectual timbre of the opinions voiced by some internet conservatives (blindly following the lead of the White House in damning Rather). Before we hang Dan Rather for treason we should examine the facts. For starters, the same pro-war folk who post and comment are generally pro-capitalist believers in free-markets. The hypocrisy in that area is apparent. The commercial aspects of media consolidation are A-okay until somebody actually airs something you don't like, then they are abusing their position.

However, what is more frightening is the anti-intellectual aspect of these statements. We are about to engage in a war with a leader; remember it has been made clear by the Shrub administration that we have no gripe with the Iraqi people (even the ones who we'll likely incinerate with our bombs and missiles). As Americans we take pride in the ability to see all sides of a story and our media is supposed to provide a forum for anyone with a voice (forget the fact that this doesn't actually happen). That is what Rather provided through his interview. The whole affair could be justified under the auspices of maintaining a well-informed public. I'm sure ratings were part of the picture. (How can they not be in commercial media at the end of a major sweeps period?) We were supposedly given the unique opportunity to eavesdrop on a discussion with our "enemy." Yet, how informative was this interview? And did it work to enhance the pro-war side of the argument over the anti-war side? (This question is completely lost on many of our conservative friends.) The people of America had a chance to hear Hussein through an American television show. Every lie, untruth or outrageous claim made by Hussein was rightfully contextualized. This was by no means a sympathetic look at a despicable dictator.

Nothing But a Hegemonic Sham

Not sympathetic at all (despite the White House's whining). I really find it hard to believe that any American walked away from watching Rather's interview thinking that Hussein is a good guy. The fact that he is an evil despot is irrefutable. On one level this provided something of "another side" to a usually one-sided media discourse in America. It provided the "other side" that the media was willing to give. I find it insultingly ironic that an American viewer is more likely to see Saddam Hussein in a face to face interview than a "leftist" American scholar like, say, Noam Chomsky (one of the most quoted men in the English language yet virtually invisible in the mainstream media). We were able to address our "enemy" through the mass media. However, it was a discourse completely moderated by the American media -- thus it was well under the control of conservative American hegemonic interests. On another level it could be looked at as an opportunity to spend an hour focused on a face we have been trained to hate for the last twelve years. This is much like the hate rallies in Orwell's 1984 where the citizens of Oceania were made to focus all of their rage onto a billboard-sized image of Emanual Goldstein, their nation's greatest traitor. In a sense, Rather provided America's own little hate rally.

As refreshing as it was on the surface to see Rather explore another side of the propaganda picture, it was a hollow gesture. Americans did not learn anything from the edited Hussein interview that had not already been programmed into them. Truly unique and radical viewpoints are still frozen out of the national discourse. It is rather difficult to hold a national argument, a constructive dialectic, when only one side is given the time of day.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

There's Something Happening Here...

Those who oppose Bush's rush to war made their voices heard today. Phone lines in both the executive and legislative branch were tied up with calls and faxes from the "Virtual March on Washington" as the information superhighway was put to use as a great democratizing force. What happens from here, what our "leaders" choose to do, is another story...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of opponents of war against Iraq called and faxed U.S. leaders on Wednesday in a "virtual march on Washington," jamming the White House switchboard and many congressional telephone lines for several hours.

Coordinated by the Win Without War Coalition, an umbrella protest group, the action aimed to direct at least one telephone call and fax to every U.S. senator every minute throughout the day. Organizers said they were far exceeding that goal.

The White House switchboard was also flooded and most callers heard a message that "all circuits are busy."

Something special happened today, and at the very least, the voices of sanity cannot be ignored. Democracy has a way of blossoming in the most hostile environments...


Helen Thomas Rules

I did a web search on senior White House press reporter Helen Thomas and found this great exchange with Ari Fleischer from early January:

HELEN THOMAS: At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.

MS. THOMAS: My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

MS. THOMAS: They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

MS. THOMAS: Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?


At nearly 83 years old, Helen Thomas can still lay a smackdown on those who dare spew empty rhetoric and misinformative propaganda.


What Am I, a Clown!? Do I Amuse You?!?!
Bush Mocks Saddam

Bush is pulling out all the rhetorical stops now. According to the AP Dubya mocked Saddam for disclosing weapons that he previously denied and called him a "master of disguise and delay." Ooh, them's fightin' words.

Wind Bags

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin' south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

-Bob Dylan


Fleischer's Follies

For the sake of comic relief...
Buzzflash reports that the White House press corps laughed Ari Fleischer out of the room. Read the Buzzflash account and scroll to the bottom to watch the realvideo file. A reporter cited an item in the French press that suggested that Bush is promising concessions to non-security council nations like Columbia to influence the UN vote. "Think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable, and that is not an acceptable proposition." The briefing room erupted in laughter and Ari walked away indignantly. If nothing else, the incident was very funny.

Incidentally, the Daily Show has been keeping pretty close tabs on Ari's ridiculous soundbites. Having the unfortunate job of being the press patsy for THAT administration puts him in a frequently laughable position as he oftentimes spews out nonsensical propaganda and misinformation. Every day, he says something laughable. The press corps must be at their limits by now, unable to contain their guffaws.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

With A Little Help from His Friends...

The New York Times reports that, according to experts, Bush is seeking the second UN resolution to help out his friend Tony Blair. It is reported that a UN resolution may help Blair stem the tide of anti-war sentiment in Britain. The jury is out on this, with large segments of the European population against the war even with UN backing. Even if a large number of people in Britain would support a war with the UN's blessing, the U.S.'s continued coercion of the council will only harm their case with the public.

What About Bush's Other Friends?

As for Bush's other "friends," the American governors with fiscal problems reaching epic proportion, they can fend for themselves . The Bushies know their priorities...


Assassination Allegation

Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald claims that Dubya told him he would order the assassination of Saddam Hussein if he had the intelligence capabilities. The White House would neither confirm nor deny Fitzgerald's claim.

Fitzgerald's comments came during an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board in which he was asked how the United States could capture and remove Hussein from power without killing thousands of Iraqi citizens in the process.

"That's a really good question because the administration -- I have personally talked to the president about this and if we had intelligence on where he was now, and we had a clear shot to assassinate him, we would probably do that. President Bush would probably sign an executive order repealing the executive order put in place by President Ford that forbid the assassination of foreign leaders," Fitzgerald said.

The executive branch could become ever more powerful, free to knock off ex-ally-turned-despots or just plain inconvenient leaders, outside the UN, one by one in their quest for an empire.


The Personal Side of Ashcroft's Police State

Jimmy Breslin wrote a great piece about a 55 year old Irish woman who was barred from entering the U.S. because she was considered a "threat." Bernadette Devlin McAliskey was famous the world round in 1969 for being a member of British Parliament at the age of 21. She served a six-month prison term for her activism in the early 70s while still a member of Parliament. However, she's been coming in and out of the States for over 30 years and has been a key proponent of civil liberties in Northern Ireland and human rights issues around the world.

Monday, February 24, 2003

New York Calling

It takes a special kind of dullness to make for one of the dullest Grammy awards ever. Even the night's big winner, the talented but unexciting Norah Jones reflected the sickly lethargy that made this night stand out as a death valley in the dull sea of Grammy awards shows (no small feat). The fact that the lullaby strains of Jones's croon beat out the rollicking work of Bruce Springsteen speaks volumes to the vibe of the evening. With an unpopular war looming on the horizon one expected something interesting, something of a spiritual throwback to late-sixties USA. Yet despite the presence of popular music's liberal elite the telecast was such a non-event that it was instead described by some as a "throwback to the Eisenhower era."

Painfully dull was the name of the game. Only a few small anti-war gestures by Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and the mentally deficient Fred Durst made a dent in the manufactured veneer. That is until Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven Van Zandt, Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl provided the three and a half minutes that made the three and a half hours of Grammy irrelevance worth the sit. This stellar quartet fronted a performance of the apocalyptic "London Calling" as a tribute to the recently deceased Joe Strummer of the Clash. (Forget the fact that NARAS never had the taste or the balls to recognize Strummer when he was alive -- and forget the fact that Strummer would have told them where to shove their Grammy shite.) The pulsing guitar riff and pounding drums was a punk-rock wake-up call to the sleeping Madison Square Garden. The four singers traded couplets, spitting out Strummer's lyrics with ferocious power: "London Calling to the faraway towns/ Now that war is declared - and battle come down." These three and a half minutes of anti-war furor shined like a supernova in a night where the peace movement was conspicuously absent. Three and a half minutes that came near the end of the telecast and foretold what the networks could not silence with glittery decorum.

The ice age is coming. The sun is zooming in
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
London is drowning and I live by the river...

In times like these, the words of rock and roll poets glow like prophesy as their art timelessly reflects our nature back to us...


Surreality TV

Hussein Challenges Bush to Televised Debate in Interview With Dan Rather

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein indicated on Monday that he does not intend to follow U.N. orders to destroy his Al-Samoud 2 missiles, and challenged President Bush to an internationally televised debate via satellite linkup. Read more...

Now this would be some groundbreaking reality TV -- two sociopaths going head to head via satellite link-up in front of the entire world; television magic. But, alas, the White House dismissed Hussein's challenge for televised debate with Bush as "meaningless."


Showdown at the UN

The U.S., with the backing of Britain and Spain, are circulating a new resolution around the UN declaring that Saddam has missed "the final opportunity" for peace (I guess the fact that if they start a war, everyone's missed the opportunity for peace is lost on the Bushies -- or they just don't care).

And in this corner... France, Germany and Russia, with support from China, are circulating a competing resolution that calls for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq over the next five months.

Bush and his conquistadors obviously hate being thwarted in their holy crusade, and they're pushing with the righteous power of God on their side -- hubris be damned!!!

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.


Get Real

In this week's sign that the apocalypse will be televised, the networks plan to add over two-dozen new reality shows to their lineups this summer. Reality television is extremely easy and inexpensive to produce, yet it yields high ratings. Hence the mantra, "go deep and go cheap." However, in this case I think "cheap" refers to more than just cost. In characteristic network overkill, the execs are running like rabid morons, running to outdo each other as they pile on the "reality" pap.

If the "Showdown Iraq" reality show makes it past sweeps, it could give them all a run for their money.


Blame Clear Channel!!!

A new study explores the impacts of having a song stuck in your head (no, I'm not kidding...).

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The vast majority of people say they have been mentally tortured at one point in their lives by a song that keeps repeating itself over and over in their heads. Read more...

This is an obvious side effect of the fact that most radio stations today (not to mention, MTV) boast a seven song playlist that they just repeat over and over again.

I propose a follow-up study that examines the impact of a suffering person repeatedly singing the offending songs to people he or she shares space with.

"Who let the dogs out..." BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG, click, reload, BANG BANG...


Baseball Players Attend Media School

In order to better deal with the "carnivorous Knights of the Keyboard who've covered the team so thoroughly, critically, and sometimes contentiously through the years" the Boston Red Sox have begun sending their players to media school. The Yankees and Mets of New York should send their players to media boot camp to deal with the ferocious NY press.

We've reached new levels of insanity as a society when men who are paid millions of dollars to play a game need classes to deal with the big bad hurtful press. Suck it up, fellas... I know it's tough work for the pay, but really!

Sunday, February 23, 2003

It's Miller Time

Mark Crispin Miller talks to Buzzflash about Shrub and the mass media's "endless blow job."

The media cartel is on its knees for Bush, delivering him an endless blow job far more scandalous and dangerous than anything that ever happened between Bill and Monica. The parent companies will give Bush what he wants for many reasons-because he's giving them big-time "de-regulation," and because of the successful propaganda drive against "the liberal media," and because the media stars themselves make too much money to be good reporters, and because the White House goons are very, very good at muscling journalists. Not that the media system was any great shakes under Clinton. If Gore had been allowed to serve, he also surely would have had to cater to the likes of Murdoch. Clinton's record on the media system was as bad as Reagan's -- a reflection on the deep corruption of both parties. But while the media cartel would not have had much reason to complain if there were Democrats in charge, the fact is that the GOP is even better for them -- and, therefore, even worse for all the rest of us.

Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon and professor of Communications at NYU is holding a one-man-show, Bush are Us, at New York City's Cherry Lane Theatre next month.


Bloomberg Pulls NYU Funding Out of Spite

In yet another case of a wealthy Republican using power and prestige to silence detractors...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's private company pulled funding for NYU's Business Journalism program because of comments made by professor Mark Crispin Miller (a professor of Media Ecology in an entirely different college within the university).

NEW YORK - Bloomberg L.P. has stopped supporting a business journalism program at New York University — a decision made shortly after a professor criticized the company and its founder, New York City's mayor. Read more...

Money that was contributed for fellowships was pulled and students from the program were barred from interning with Bloomberg. So New York's mayor will turn his back on innocent students because he disagrees with the ideals of one professor who teaches in a different school within the university. This is a man whose position is supposedly in the public service of New York City.

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