Since fear and deception are once again being used to manipulate the electorate it is worth examining what such tactics have engendered. A terrorist attack on our shores frightened many into accepting policy decisions that have done little to resolve the larger issues of our times and often exacerbated conditions we sought to control.
And in the course of carrying on a deadly and expensive foreign exercise, domestic concerns have been neglected, and governmental excesses have either been condoned or explained away. It isn’t idle speculation that makes one feel we have lost something as a nation when our judicial system becomes an arm of the executive, when the president attaches signing statements to laws that make him in effect a legislator or when rights and privileges are sacrificed because someone in the administration makes a case that sounds plausible but fails constitutional muster in retrospect.
As the war continues on its tumultuous course, supporters of the president continue to grasp at any straws of hope thrown their way. Republicans were joyful about a NY Times op/ed by O’Hanlon and Pollack that claimed Iraq was “a war we might just win”, an article that played up signs of military successes. But, hold on. More recently, O’Hanlon added “Unfortunately politics trumps all else. If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued I don’t see how I could write another op/ed saying the same thing.”
The president, unyielding in his position on Iraq and his putative “war on terror” hurried new FISA provisions to Congress at the end of July. And so into the long night before its summer hiatus legislators were cudgeled into accepting FISA revisions – – surveillance techniques couched in vague and meandering terms. Even more astonishing the decision making power regarding what determines an actionable surveillance target is left to our ineffectual and incompetent Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. No matter what other reasons lawmakers had to pass the legislation, that one aspect should have brought it to a screeching halt.
You have to love such terms defining targets of warrant-less wiretapping as those persons “reasonably believed” to be outside the country. We’ve seen the tortured logic of this administration when it tries to make its case based on some dubious rationale. The best thing about the new FISA law is that it sunsets in six months at which time one can only hope more members of Congress, especially Democrats, will come to their senses and firm up the loose ends of this bill and insist on more careful and informed oversight.
Another matter about which little is heard deserves immediate congressional attention. Reservists returning from active duty often find their jobs gone. The Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Act is meant to protect the jobs of reservists for up to five years. However, “the government has failed to protect reservists … covered up the evidence”, and refused to make the records of lost employment public. (WashingtonPost.com. 7/4/07) How can anyone in the administration or our elected legislative bodies continue to say they support the troops when those who have served find no source of livelihood upon their return, and no-one stands up for them when they seek redress from employers or in the courts?
Something is terribly out of kilter in a country where such inequities exist. Words and assurances have lost their meaning when they are spoken publicly as part of a patriotic mantra but yield so little of substance. The government tries to save pennies at the expense of those in need, whether they be veterans or members of the struggling middle class. And yet some politicians still get mileage out of their promise to “cut taxes” and run away from unmet human needs and the problems of a crumbling infrastructure. When the cry goes up about “creeping socialism” and “big government” how do such naysayers think the big jobs of a big country get done? The “market forces” argument seems to have led us to a place where bridges go un-inspected, water mains fall into disrepair and our coastlines deteriorate because of over-development and lack of foresight.
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of how our society has deteriorated, both figuratively and literally is the way truth has become something to be used only when convenient. In a bizarre ruling a Florida appeals court overturned a jury verdict and ruled in favor of a Fox News affiliate. The case involved a reporter who refused to edit her story in ways that conflicted with evidence regarding a growth hormone administered to cows and to include an opinion, not supported by the facts, from Montsanto, manufacturer of the hormone. When the reporter threatened to go to the FCC, she was fired.
In its ruling the Appeals Court said the reporter was not entitled to damages and that “the FCC policy does not rise to the level of a law, rule or regulation” but was rather just a “policy” – – there is, one must assume, no real or implied standard requiring members of the media to be truthful in their reporting. While it has been obvious for some time that Fox News is the grand distortioneer who would have thought a court would find this acceptable.
Ah the joys of “news” operations owned by Rupert Murdoch. Truth needn’t be part of the operational equation. Wall Street Journal readers of that once-august publication might do well to get a second opinion when seeking financial advice.

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