December 16, 2005

Round Em Up

Ariana looks at how the Pentagon is now spying on peaceful activists, among others, and recalls the bad old days of J. Edgar Hoover:
Now it looks like those ugly days of government paranoia and officially sanctioned lawbreaking might be making a comeback. A secret DoD database obtained by NBC News indicates that Pentagon intelligence and local law enforcement agencies are using the guise of the war on terror to keep an eye on the constitutionally protected activities of anti-war activists. And, despite strict restrictions on the military maintaining records on domestic civilian political activity, evidence suggests the Pentagon is doing just that. According to NBC, the DoD database includes "at least 20 references to U.S. citizens," while other documents indicate that "vehicle descriptions" are also being noted and analyzed.

And it's not just the Pentagon. Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has also been recording the names and license plate numbers of peaceful anti-war protesters.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield: There's something happening here... and what it is is painfully clear.
Leon Hadar reviews Karen Hughe's disastrous PR trip through the Middle East:
Sworn in early in September, Hughes became the latest top official charged with repairing a U.S. image abroad soured by the war in Iraq and complaints in Europe and the Middle East over Bush’s policies and leadership. In fact, she is the third person that President Bush has appointed to this position since 9/11—more proof that what the White House needs is not another Madison Avenue PR executive or K Street spinmeister. Hughes’s predecessors—Charlotte Beers, a successful advertising hand who helped produce a pathetic propaganda film targeted at Muslim audiences, and Margaret Tutwiler, Secretary of State James Baker’s impressive spokeswoman, were driven out of office not because they couldn’t get a handle on the mechanisms of public diplomacy as a way of fostering goodwill toward the United States and its culture and values. “The problem here is not American popular culture—beloved and emulated everywhere—or even American political culture, imbued with the richest ideas about freedom, democracy, and individual rights,” wrote Arab columnist Fawaz Turki about Hughes’s tour of the Middle East. “The problem rather is American foreign policy, that remains, where it is not bellicose, overtly and unabashedly moralistic in tone,” he stressed, adding, “Let the record show that no one has identified the gushy Hughes as an ‘ugly American,’ just an inane one.” To put it differently, the fault, dear President Bush, does not lie in the American people or even in our “public diplomacy” and its managers, but in your disastrous Middle East diplomacy. “What the United States should be doing is changing policy, not dressing it up to look better,” is the way Cairo’s Al-Ahram put it.
But President Bush had already concluded long ago that they hate us in the Middle East and in other parts of the world because of “who we are”—and not because of what we do. Forget about the bloody occupation of Iraq, the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, or the support for the corrupt Arab regimes. And let’s not dwell on Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or Intifada II. It’s all the fault of Al Jazeera that keeps showing those “anti-American” images. Let’s just have a good spinning a la Karl Rove to counter those images with great “pro-American” newsbites, visuals, and catchy slogans. Hey, we could even try to plant an enterprising journalist searching for the truth, Judith Miller-style, at Al Jazeera.
And speaking of alienating the aliens, the US Ambassador to Canada has been interfering in their coming elections (just as the US Ambassador to Australia did in ours). Ambassador Wilkins said:
"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner. But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship. It shouldn't be lost on any of us that some of your politicians use my country to score political points."
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin responded:
"When it comes to defending Canadian values, when it comes to standing up for Canadian interests, I'm going to call it like I see it. I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects I should raise."
Scotty McLellan cops another flogging prom the press corps after Bush broke with his own White House policy:
After months of refusing to comment on the Plame/CIA probe, and the indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby--saying he did not want to “prejudge” an "ongoing investigation"--President Bush on Wednesday night unabashedly told Fox News’ Brit Hume that he believed Rep. Tom DeLay was not guilty of charges against him.

This sparked a storm of questioning at the daily briefing on Thursday by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, with NBCs David Gregory leading the way, accusing the administration of being “hypocritical” and “inconsistent” on this matter, “ad nauseum.”

McClellan fired back, denying the charge and suggesting that the newsman was getting “all dramatic about it.”
And did you know that one in twenty US citizens is illiterate in English?
From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book, or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.

The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks, such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.

Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who dropped out of high school.

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