Monday, October 6, 2008

Musings: The FUD Effect

I was rather spacey when Koko and I went out walking this hazy, humid morning, having just emerged minutes before from a vivid dream where I was staging a production of “Wizard of Oz” with about 50 inner-city high school students who were grinding crayons into the floor and mixing cement in a sink, among other antics.

Where does this stuff come from? I asked farmer Jerry, whom I encountered on the road for the first time in a long time, but he had no answers, only laughter, which is always a good way to start the day.

My neighbor Andy offered up both laughter and answers, although not to the dream question, which I didn’t ask him, but to what’s next in the Presidential campaign now that Palin has been pressed into service as an attack dog? It seems she's now busy spreading half-truths about Obama’s association with former Weatherman Bill Ayers.

I guess since she doesn’t have any credibility to begin with, the campaign figures they’ve got nothing to lose to set her loose lying. At least the press is calling her on some of her shibai, although whether that gets through to American voters, whom blogger Andy Parx aptly described as “too stupid to live” is another question.

“Well, Obama can always bring up the Keating Five ,” Andy said, in reference to McCain’s role in the savings and loan scandal of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. And voila, when I returned home and scanned the news, sure enough that’s exactly what he’s doing.

The politicos work fast. They’ve already created a website with a YouTube clip and text that notes:

The Keating scandal is eerily similar to today's credit crisis, where a lack of regulation and cozy relationships between the financial industry and Congress has allowed banks to make risky loans and profit by bending the rules.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that:

Seven aides to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have reversed course and agreed to testify in an investigation into whether the Republican vice presidential nominee abused her power by firing a commissioner who refused to dismiss her former brother-in-law.

Guess everybody’s dirty laundry is going to get a good airing, what with the election less than a month away and Obama leading in the polls. As Andy and I agreed, the campaign is only going to get nastier.

Just like the financial news. Seems like the economy is tanking despite the big bailout, which if I recall correctly, was supposed to make everything rosy again. Instead, the stock market continues to plunge and the rest of the world has gotten a serious case of the jitters. And horrors, now Americans have even stopped shopping, which the NY Times says all but guarantees “that the economic situation will get worse before it gets better.”

I find it fascinating that so many people seem to understand that everything is connected in regard to the financial markets, but then they have a big disconnect when it comes to applying that interrelatedness to anything else, like the environment and social issues.

It’s so hard to know how much of this current “economic crisis” is real and fixable, and how much is manufactured fear-mongering hype exacerbated by the usual media feeding frenzy. Yesterday, I interviewed Ira Rohter, a UH political science professor who helped found Hawaii’s Green Party. He was talking about how people can deliberately create a FUD effect — fear, uncertainty and distortion — to confuse voters, and while he wasn’t referring to the financial situation, it certainly seems applicable.

I think the best thing to do is hang tight and remember my favorite bit of roadside graffiti, spray-painted on a concrete block along Kuamoo Road. It says, simply: NO FEAR.


Anonymous said...

From an article in Rolling Stone:

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation's capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It's the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There's a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a "confession" to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn't survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service's highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as "one of the toughest guys I've ever met."
On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

"I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

"Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

"It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

"Why? Where are you going to, John?"

"Oh, I'm going to Rio."

"What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

"I got a better chance of getting laid."

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."

here's the link:

Anonymous said...

Some quotes from an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

Three crashes early in his career led Navy officials to question or fault his judgment.

October 6, 2008

John McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider on an overcast Texas morning in 1960 when he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane's wings.

McCain recounted the accident decades later in his autobiography. "The engine quit while I was practicing landings," he wrote. But an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Center found no evidence of engine failure.

The 23-year-old junior lieutenant wasn't paying attention and erred in using "a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn," investigators concluded.

The crash was one of three early in McCain's aviation career in which his flying skills and judgment were faulted or questioned by Navy officials.

In his most serious lapse, McCain was "clowning" around in a Skyraider over southern Spain about December 1961 and flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout, according to McCain's own account as well as those of naval officers and enlistees aboard the carrier Intrepid. In another incident, in 1965, McCain crashed a T-2 trainer jet in Virginia.

In today's military, a lapse in judgment that causes a crash can end a pilot's career. Though standards were looser and crashes more frequent in the 1960s, McCain's record stands out.

"Three mishaps are unusual," said Michael L. Barr, a former Air Force pilot with 137 combat missions in Vietnam and an internationally known aviation safety expert who teaches in USC's Aviation Safety and Security Program. "After the third accident, you would say: Is there a trend here in terms of his flying skills and his judgment?"

Full text at:,0,876358,full.story

Anonymous said...

Obama’s obfuscation regarding Ayers is, in a sense, the homage that vice pays to virtue - a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that the political culture of Chicago, and especially of Hyde Park, is more accommodating than perhaps it should be to a morally dubious figure like Ayers, and that having accommodated himself to those accommodations Obama now recognizes the need to behave as if he didn’t.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of morally dubious, here's something that McCain should address in light of his promise to clean up Washington and Wall Street:

As William K. Black watches John McCain move toward the Republican presidential nomination, he thinks of a day 21 years ago that he considers one of the most troubling of his life.

Black, a senior federal savings and loan regulator at the time, attended a meeting at which he felt McCain and four other senators pressured federal regulators to back off from investigating the troubled Lincoln Savings and Loan.

"I remain very upset that what they did caused such damage," said Black, now a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, recalling how Lincoln's bankruptcy cost the government $3 billion. Moreover, he said he believes McCain intervened partly because his wife had invested money with Lincoln chairman Charles Keating, a campaign contributor who let the McCains use his home in the Bahamas.

the link:

Anonymous said...

"You betcha!" *wink-wink!*
- Sarah Palin
Republican Candidate for Vice President of the United States of America
October 2, 2008

Katy said...

Anyone interested in pursuing a more nuanced understanding of Ayers and the Weathermen should check out the documentary "The Weather Underground."

In the extensive current-day interviews with Ayers, Doehern, Gilbert, Rudd and others, the viewer can see the serious reflections and reassessments these people have engaged in over the past quarter century.

One thing is clear: in their teens and twenties, they acted in the way they believed would help bring a revolution toward racial justice and liberation. As they aged, they came to see some of their tactics as fatally flawed - but their fundamental principles remained, for the most part.

I suggest not accepting the simplistic right-wing, and even liberal, narrative about Ayers without seriously considering what the Weathermen have to say about those times themselves.

I am just as curious, by the way, about how rightist institutions, organizations and people view their own tactics and strategies, which are often quite violent.