Author Archives: pettyct

Final Project

Sports blogs in the public sphere

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Culture Jamming

The idea of culture jamming is one that is very important in today’s public sphere.  The book mentioned that this postmodern movement is often discredited by modernists who believe that it does not constitute true political involvement.  I wholeheartedly disagree with this view by the modernists.  As we have talked about in class much of todays political climate is overshadowed by pundits shouting back and forth across the aisle.  Congress can barely agree to get anything done.  Politicians are so stuck to their party line that there is no real political discussion going on.  The recent explosion of the power of the internet has enabled the youth culture to affect the world in ways that have never before been possible.  Actual political involvement, i.e. legislation and local party politics, has become so discouraging that people have found an alternative.

A quote from the chapter that I really liked was, “You can change minds much faster by celebration and smashing people’s sense of reality.”  In today’s political climate it is often hard to grab people’s attention.  The old way of political involvement is not as effective as it used to be.  Technology has the potential to be an invaluable tool to the democratic process.  People with ideas can now easily spread them to thousands of others which in turn can create a movement.

One example of this culture jamming technique was last year’s “Rally To Restore Sanity And / Or Fear” in Washington D.C.  While this event was put on by two comedians, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it did have an important underlying point.  American citizens are tired of political personalities on T.V. controlling the political atmosphere in America.  As stated on rallytorestoresanity.com, “We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.”  While the humor tactic was used to grab people’s attention at first, it did cause people to get involved and try to make a change.  Although this is not the traditional political involvement, it can serve just as good of a purpose in changing the political climate of America.

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Living in a World without Trust

I thought that the epilogue to the book was a perfect summary of Manjoo’s ideas.  That being said, the idea that he presents  is somewhat depressing.  It is most commonly thought that all of the technological innovations that have been created recently are making our world better.  We can now check our email on our iPhone or play angry birds on our Droid while we’re waiting for the bus.  Manjoo presents the idea that many of these technological advances are fragmenting our world and creating a sense of distrust.  This is troubling because, as he points out, the most successful societies are the ones where citizens trust each other the most.  There was a time when people actually believed some of the news that they were hearing.  Today many people simply brush of the news as hearsay and move on.  A sense of distrust has been created between the media and the general public that is so strong that we simply believe that almost nothing is true anymore.  It’s sad to me that our country lives in such a pessimistic and discouraging state.

The catalyst for a change in this thinking has to be the government.  People have grown so accustomed to a distrust of their government that they believe that they cannot do anything right.  As Manjoo writes in the book, the time in recent American history when people trusted each other the most was the 1960s and 70s.  Since then the percentage of people who believe that most people can be trusted has fallen all the way down to 32 percent in 2006.  The reason why there was more trust in the 60s and 70s was because adults believed that the country was on the rise.  They believed that their children had a chance to live a better life than they did.  Today our country is involved in two wars, has been through one of the worst recessions in American history, is in total disagreement in health care strategy, and is facing a multi-trillion dollar debt.  In order for there to be trust among Americans again, something needs to be done about these problems.  I’m not going to pretend I have the answers to these issues because I don’t.  I just hope that someone comes along who does or the sense of distrust among U.S. citizens could grow even larger which is something our country cannot afford.

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Bachman is Queen of the Crazies

Despite finishing near the bottom in all recent Republican primary polls, Michele Bachman is holding strong that her political strategy will carry her straight through to the White House.

Bachman is following in the footsteps of fellow female republican Sarah Pain in hoping that if she believes it’s true, then it is true.  Many of her recent statement have brought her publicity from many major media outlets.  That publicity, she hopes, will eventually get her elected.   “I feel like I’m just as crazy as she [Palin] is.  I mean, I’ve said some pretty ridiculous things, right?” said Bachman.

Palin was the courageous candidate that pioneered this brave new strategy in 2008 when she was the Republican candidate for vice president.  In defense of her foreign policy experience, Palin attempted to describe the geographic location of Alaska in relation to Russia.  “As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where – where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border.”  Brilliant!

Bachman looked to start off her campaign strong in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.  During her speech she said, “Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.”  The John Wayne that many thought she was referring to was the movie star John Wayne, who actually grew up three hours away in Winterset, Iowa.  The John Wayne that grew up in Waterloo was the famous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.

Although it’s hard to follow up the mama grizzly bear, Bachman is giving it her best efforts.  After a republican presidential debate, Bachman commented on fellow candidate Rick Perry mandating young girls receive the HPV vaccine.

“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine.  She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”

The statement was immediately dismissed by many in the scientific community but those were only minor details to the Bachman campaign and her supporters.

“I thought it was terrific strategy,” said Palin.  “Whether it was true or not is up for debate but it sure grabbed voters’ attention.  With that kind of effort she’ll be in the oval office in no time.”

In a republican field filled with a former pizza executive and a racist ranch owning Texan, it’s hard to get the spotlight but Bachman feels she is holding her own.  “When Herman Cain came along I thought I was really in trouble,” said Bachman.  “But I knew that we had a strong strategy and I had to stick to it.  Everyone in this field is crazy but I pride myself on being able to say that I’m the craziest.”

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Occupy Canada: Protesters head North to fight latest injustice

BALTIMORE, MD (October 31, 2011)  In response to the recent occupy movements popping up across the nation, U.S. citizens have taken to the north and started an, “Occupy Canada,” campaign.

Over 20,000 people have crossed the border and are now occupying the capital city of Canada, Ottawa.  The movement started almost a week ago and is gaining support by the thousands each day.  City officials in Ottawa continue to try and devise a strategy to get rid of the protesters.  “Honestly we’re too scared to even talk to them,” said Stephen Harper, the prime minister of the country.  “They’ve been peaceful so far and we are just going to wait and hope they eventually leave.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement began this year in New York City where thousands of people took to the streets to protest the inequity of wealth distribution in America.  “We are the 99%,” became the protester’s slogan, referring to the fact that one percent of the country’s population holds much of the wealth.

The Occupy Canada protest has a similar slogan, “We are the Americans.”  The protesters believe that Canada is occupying land that should in fact belong to the U.S.  “We’re tired of these French-Canadian pussies living on our land,” said Occupy Canada leader Mike Ward.  “Christopher Columbus discovered this land so that it could be held by real Americans, not these damn Canadians.”

The protesters in the movement have demands and are attempting to negotiate with Canadian officials who continue to try and avoid any confrontation.   “We want what is ours and that is all of Canada’s land,” said protestor Eric Berthume.  “We are prepared to be here as long as it takes.  We’re not afraid to use violence to get what we want.”

The group’s website, OccupyCanada.net, states that the occupation of Canada is a response to the United States’ failing economy.  After taking back the country, the protestors plan to send all of its residents down to Mexico and use the land to develop a new region of America.  The jobs that would be created would be enough to get the U.S. out of its significant national debt.

Occupy Canada has set a deadline of December 3 for Canada to hand over the country or violence could ensue.  “It would be unfortunate if we had to use force but we’re not afraid to,” said Ward.  “It’s important to get back what is ours and we’re going to use any means necessary.”

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“Audience Roles in…” Respsone

One of the more compelling points that I found in the article was that media audiences now are more geared towards polarization.  People now tend to only listen to views that are in agreement with their own.  Unfortunately this is often true in today’s world.  An interesting quote from the article that dealt with this was the idea that one day there could be, “deliberative enclaves where like-minded people hunker down together in cyberspace to hear echoes of opinions consonant with their own.”  The hope is that all people can be open to each others opinion and have an informed discussion.  I think there are certain places on the internet where this can happen.  It all depends on the subject and the type of people who like to post on the site.  For instance, I would consider our blog here to be a place for educated, informed discussion where people represent and consider different views or opinions.  However, almost any Youtube video you bring up has a comments section that is in disarray, with people spending most of their time insulting one another.

It’s interesting to consider the power that online communication now has, no matter how trivial the subject.  This year my high school had a home football game and the opposing team started a Facebook group in order to get more fans from their school to come to the game.  What started out as a harmless invite to fellow students soon turned ugly.  The opposing team started insulting player’s from my high school and talking trash about the game.  Since the group they made was public, anyone could post on the wall.  Soon the teams were trading insults back and forth and along the way one of the players made a racist comment.  Both schools then gained knowledge of the group and decided to suspend one player from my high school and three from the other team.  Those three also were rumored to face further punishment from the school including possible expulsion.  One of the player’s facing those consequences is the number one high school lacrosse recruit in the nation.  The game was dramatically effected, as all four players usually played significant minutes.  It’s interesting to me to think about where Facebook and other social media sites started and where they are now.  Although they can be used to discuss serious social and political issues, there is also the idea that, as the article states, “there is a growing concern that critical reasoning has been replaced by mere opinion, unwarranted emotions, and subjective comments…”  Some of these unwarranted emotional comments can have serious consequences for anyone who chooses to share them in a public forum.

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Chris Petty

WRTC 320

9/30/11

WMDs in Iraq?

The Iraq War has been one of the most controversial military decisions in the history of the United States.  It happened under the administration of George Bush after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The major reason that Bush cited for invading Iraq was the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that were being harbored by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.  In subsequent years it has come out that there were in fact no weapons of any such kind, leading some to question why the United States went to Iraq in the first place.  There is significant evidence from multiple sources to support Bush and his administration had credible information that there were no WMDs.  Bush chose to ignore this information because he wanted the United States to invade Iraq.

On March 23, 2003, George Bush gave a speech from the Cross Hall in the White House in which he gave Saddam Hussein and his sons an ultimatum to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military action from the U.S.  During his speech he said that since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqi government had promised to destroy all of its WMDs.  The U.S. along with the U.N. had sent over weapons inspectors as well as passed over twelve resolutions in hopes that the Iraqis would come through on their promise (“Full Text: Bush’s”).  Bush said that, “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised” (“Full Text: Bush’s”).   He also said that there was evidence that Hussein had used these WMDs against people of his own country (“Full Text; Bush’s”).

The only solution to this problem, reasoned Bush, was military action.  “Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again — because we are not dealing with peaceful men” (“Full Text: Bush’s”).  He urged the citizens of Iraq that this was not an attack on their country but rather an effort to stop the tyrants who ran it.  The Iraqi military was encouraged to side with the U.S. soldiers and cooperate with their efforts (“Full Text: Bush’s”).  As Bush put it, “I urge every member of the Iraqi military and intelligence services, if war comes, do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life” (“Full Text: Bush’s”).

During his speech Bush made it absolutely clear that there was no doubt in his mind whatsoever of the existence of WMDs being held by Sadam Hussein.  This was his biggest reason for the U.S. to take military action in Iraq.  This was an issue of national security and it was Bush’s job as commander in chief to protect his nation.  Despite this assuredness of Bush, there was credible information that severely contradicts many of the claims he made in his speech.

In an article entitled, “Bush Knew Saddam Had No Weapons of Mass Destruction,”  published on September 6, 2007, Sidney Blumenthal wrote that Bush knew that Saddam Hussein did not have any WMDs before the United States went into Iraq.  On September, 18, 2002, George Tenet, the director of the CIA, briefed Bush with intelligence stating that two former senior CIA agents had credible information that Hussein did not possess any WMDs.  Bush totally dismissed this information and Tenet never spoke of it to the President again (Blumenthal, Sidney).

The information that Tent briefed the President on came from Hussein’s foreign minister, Naji Sarbi, who was followed up on and confirmed by several CIA agents, including Tyler Drumheller, who was the CIA chief of clandestine operations in Europe.  After getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from the French Intelligence service and the CIA, Sabris gave the agencies documents about the WMD programs being built under Hussein (Blumenthal, Sindey).  One of the former CIA agents who was involved with case told Blumenthal, “The information detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons” (Blumenthal, Sidney).

This intelligence was never shared with the House of Representatives or the Senate before they voted on passing the use of military force in Iraq.  Instead, the source that the government chose to listen to, codenamed “Curveball”, was later found out to be a man posing as a chemical engineer who was actually a former Iraqi taxi driver (Blumenthal, Sindey).  One of the former CIA officers was quoted in the article as saying, “Bush didn’t give a f*** about intelligence.  He had his mind made up” (Blumenthal, Sidney).  In the coming months Drumheller would continue to fight against the use of the information coming from, “Curveball”, but to no avail.  In his state of the union address on Jan. 28, 2003, Bush said that there was evidence of, “several mobile biological labs”, citing “three Iraqi defectors” (Blumenthal, Sidney).  It was later discovered that there were no labs and the only source being used was “Curveball.”  Just before the Iraq War began, the CIA made an attempt to bring Sabri from his home of Qatar to the United States to confirm his information but he would not leave without all of his family (Blumenthal. Sidney).

This article was very telling of Bush’s attitude towards the Iraq.  He was absolutely certain that he was right about Sadam Hussein having WMDs and refused to listen to any source that he himself did not deem credible.  A President is surrounded by agencies and cabinets so that they can help him do his job.  The CIA’s job is to gather national intelligence and here is the director of the CIA telling Bush about important information regarding the existence of WMDs, yet Bush simply waves his hand and dismisses it.   In Blumenthal’s argument, Tenet said that Bush called Sabri’s information, “the same old thing.”  He, “insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think” (Blumenthal, Sidney).  As President, Bush holds the enormous responsibility of being Commander in Chief.  Before he sent American citizens off to the Iraq War he should have investigated every credible source on the existence of WMDs in the country.  Writing Sabri off as not a credible source seems impossible since he was part of Hussein’s closest circle as Iraq’s foreign minister.

Yet another red flag sent up by this article was the fact that the report filed by Sabri and the CIA was tampered with and rewritten before presented to Richard Dearlove, the chief of the British Secret Intelligence service (M16).  Dearlove then presented this report, which was written to support the fact that Hussein did indeed possess WMDs, to Prime Minister Tony Blair (Blumenthal, Sidney).  It seems odd that Britain, who turned out to be America’s ally in the early stages of the Iraq War, was influenced to go into the War based on a false report.  Whether this was the result of something done by the Bush administration is hard to tell but it certainly does seem strange.

What could’ve been prevented by the Bush administration was the fact that Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, was never briefed on Sabri’s knowledge of a lack of WMDs in Iraq.  Powell’s speech to the United Nations Security Council about the existence of WMDs on February 5, 2003, went on without Tenet ever telling him the existence of the knowledge the CIA had gained from Sabri (Blumenthal, Sidney).  It would seem important for the Secretary of State giving a speech to the United Nations Security Council on WMDs, to know all pertinent information on the topic beforehand.  This speech was a key event that eventually led to the Iraq War and Powell and his audience at the United Nations never had a key piece of information that could have helped guide them in their decisions.  If Bush had taken Tenet seriously when he had briefed him on Sabri’s information, which had been verified by two top CIA agents, then Powell too would have known.  Instead, Bush simply ignored the information because he was determined that he was right about WMDs and he was going to make sure that America went to war to destroy them.

In addition this information, another document was released almost a year after the war had begun that contained more opposition to Bush’s opinions on WMDs in Iraq.  A Top Secret October 2002 document concerning the national intelligence on WMDs revealed that there were organizations that disagreed with Bush and his administrations estimates of where Iraq’s WMD program was.  The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR) and the Department of Energy were the two organizations that disagreed with the vast majority of the intelligence community (Richelson, Jeffrey).  According to an article posted on the George Washington University website, edited by Jeffrey Richelson, “…(INR) argued that while Saddam wished to acquire a nuclear weapon, it did not believe that Iraq’s recent activities made a compelling case that a comprehensive attempt to acquire nuclear weapons was being made.”  The Department of Energy, as well as the INR, also argued whether the aluminum tubes that Iraq had been attempting to purchase would even work for any type of uranium enrichment program (Richelson, Jeffrey).

This was another case in which Bush had expert organizations telling him information in which they expressed their doubt that Iraq had any WMDs.  The fact that a professor from George Washington University trusts this information enough to put it into his article makes the source that much more credible.  It seems that no matter how many people told President Bush that there weren’t any WMDs in Iraq, it was not going to make a difference.

After two years spent searching for WMDs in Iraq, an article by the Associated Press posted on MSNBCs website stated that the investigation had gone as far as it could and had found nothing (“CIA’s Final Report:”).  Charles Duelfer, the head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said, “After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted” (CIA’s Final Report:”).  The finality of that statement, which effectively ended any hope of finding any WMDs, was back up by the CIA’s top weapons inspector who commented that the search had, “gone as far as feasible.”  As far as the question of whether or not Iraq had shipped any WMDs out before the U.S. invasion, the ISG ruled that it was “unlikely.”  Although the chase for the WMDs was essentially done, a small group was left behind to investigate any leads that might come up (CIA’s Final Report:”).

This is the final straw in the search for WMDs in Iraq.  The head weapons inspector for the CIA as well as the head of ISG ruled that they had found absolutely nothing.  This information only makes it more unbelievable that Bush and his administration did not listen to the multiple attempts to tell them that this was the case before the U.S. even went into Iraq.  It demonstrates one of the greatest lacks of communication in United States government history, which caused the United States to go into war in Iraq.  The major reason that Bush listed for going into Iraq was because Saddam Hussein had WMDs which the President cited as a concern for national security.  This point now seemed null and void due to the fact that there were never any WMDs found in Iraq through two years of searching.

The invasion of Iraq and the subsequent search for WMDs will be looked back upon as one the most questionable decisions in Presidential history.  Multiple credible sources, including former top CIA agents and Saddam Hussein’s own foreign minister, told George Bush about information saying that there was no existence of WMDs in Iraq but the President chose to ignore them.  The source that the President did trust turned out to be a con man.  Even after two years of searching, the government still could not turn up any evidence of the weapons.  All this points to the fact that George Bush had knowledge of sources saying there were no WMDs but chose to ignore that information because he wanted to invade Iraq.

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