It is a time of freedom and fear, of Gaia and of borders, of many paths and the widening of a universal toll road, emptying country and swelling cities, of the public bought into privacy and the privacy of the public sold into invisible data banks and knowing algorithms. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection.

These are the times when maps fade and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread.

Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.

Not the Best Way to Counter Mistrust
Friday, March 26, 2004
This story begins with rumors circulating around that George W. Bush had used taxpayer money to hire a public relations firm to somehow help sell the idea that tripling the rate of logging in the Sierra Nevada would be beneficial to the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, getting wind of such a potential abuse of government funds, filed an official Freedom of Information Act request to find out whether this was true.

Responding to the request as required by law, the Bush Administration avowed that no taxpayer funds were being used for any such public relations effort.

Then the head of the SNFPC got an anonymous package with documents in the mail.

It turns out, as the Bush Administration eventually admitted, that well over a hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer funds were indeed paid to a public relations firm, "OneWorld Communications," for exactly that purpose.

Among the tasks of OneWorld Communications in producing a video and promotional posters:

* Convince the public that triple-logging the Sierra Nevada forest would be good for the Sierra Nevada forest
* Counter "an apparent atmosphere of mistrust and cynicism about the government's real intentions"
* Counter the notion that the Bush Administration was acting "due to some hidden politically motivated agenda"

Mistrust about the government's real intentions? Hidden agendas? Rather than countering such suspicions, Bush's secret plan and illegal denial of its existence have done nothing but to fan those flames.

(Source: Associated Press March 10, 2004)

Posted by Matthew Cook at 12:42 PM. # (permalink)

George W. Bush and the Seven-Headed Plagiarism Hydra
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Last year, the Republican Party started getting its followers to send text written by GOP staffers to newspapers across the country, with authorship deceptively claimed by people who live in the area. This unethical practice was quickly dubbed "astroturf" for its ability to generate the fake appearance of grassroots support for the Bush agenda.

Earlier this year, the Bush Campaign embraced astroturf as part of its dirty tricks toolbag, allowing thousands of letters to be sent to newspaper editors' pages in support of Bush's education policy. (The John Kerry campaign doesn't use astroturf as a tactic, in case you were wondering.)

Now George W. Bush and the Republicans have yet again managed to take astroturf to new lows. At the official campaign site officially authorized by George W. Bush, seven tabs appear at the top. Under each of these seven tabs, there's a box with the title "TAKE ACTION ON ________". In that box, there's a link called "write editors," which takes you to a DIFFERENT PIECE OF PLAGIARIST CANNED ASTROTURF for each of the seven subjects. That's right, George W. Bush's astroturf monster has been morphed into a seven-headed hydra.

It's going to take everyone's concerted effort to cut all seven heads off the body of Bush's synthesized, amoral publicity machine. Here's what to do:

1. Hold your nose and click here to visit George W. Bush's campaign web page.

2. Click on one of the seven tabs at the top of the page, each with a theme.

3. You'll be taken to a new page. Ignore the propaganda and look for the box that says "TAKE ACTION ON _________", and click the link that says "Write Editors."

4. You'll again be taken to a new page, one that shows a bunch of local newspapers and newsletters. Click on the box next to each and every one.

5. Scroll down the page a bit and enter the appropriate information in the "Write your Newspaper Editors" section. I suggest that as a subject, you enter a phrase of warning. To be maximally effective in the "Letter" section, let the newsrooms know that plagiarized material is on the way from the Bush campaign and include the canned text (which is in the window to the right) so the editors of these papers know what to look out for. I've included the letter I wrote to newspapers in my area over to the left, but FOR PETE'S SAKE write your own letter -- nothing would be worse that astroturfing in an effort to stop astroturf.

6. Enter your contact information, make sure "email letter" is selected, then click the "Send It!" button.

And that's it! Now you've done your part to shut the Seven-Headed Bush Plagiarism Hydra down and restore integrity to the journalistic enterprise in your neck of the woods. Doesn't that make you feel a bit better?

UPDATE: In case you were wondering, among the seven canned letters George W. Bush asks his followers to send with their names as authors, there's one with a subject of the environment. But even that canned letter, written by the Bush campaign, cannot manage to mention even one environmentally-friendly Bush administration policy by name. The astroturf letter on the environment is the shortest of all seven, and that's pretty telling.

Posted by Matthew Cook at 7:45 PM. # (permalink)

Yadda Yadda Yadda?
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
"I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda..."

- Bush spokesman Terry Holt, mocking John Kerry's service in comments to reporters March 23, 2004

"I lost three million jobs, turned record surpluses into record deficits, denied affordable health care and prescription drug coverage to most Americans, yadda, yadda, yadda..."

- Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, mocking George W. Bush's presidential record in comments to reporters March 23, 2004

(Source: U.S. Newswire March 23, 2004)

Posted by Matthew Cook at 9:17 PM# (permalink)

New Feature on Irregular Times: Irregular News
We're tickled to introduce a new feature on Irregular Times: Irregular News. Irregular News is quick way for you to check headlines, follow the blogosphere and gather information from disparate places like Africa, Asia and Europe as well as on a series of topics tied to progressive politics, such as the environment, irreligiosity, civil liberties and that son of a Bush. Hundreds of news and opinion pieces will be updated to the site every day.

Before we really roll this puppy out, we'd like you to check it out and tell us what you think. What would make it better? Are there sources we're missing? Additional categories needed to flesh things out?

In order to make this work in the long term as a community resource, we need your input. So please, Visit the Irregular News First Draft... then come back here and tell us what you think!

Posted by Matthew Cook at 7:58 PM# (permalink)

The Middle-School Presidency: Zut Alors!
In the spring of 2003, the Boston Herald reported a whispering campaign by unnamed Bush Administration officials in which they would let reporters know that in their opinion "John Kerry looks French."

They're at it again, this time out in the open. Bush's Commerce Secretary Donald Evans has taken to observing that "John Kerry looks French." This is a statement worthy of an eighth grader, not a cabinet official responsible for international economic relations. For goodness' sake!

(Source: today's Washington Post)

Posted by Matthew Cook at 8:49 AM. # (permalink)

Bush was warned about impending Al Quaida attacks, and ignored warnings!
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Richard Clarke, a Reagan appointee who was the top official of counter-terrorism activities for the Bush Administration at the time of September 11, 2001, has revealed that he, CIA director George Tenet, and other intelligence officials warned George W. Bush that an attack by Osama Bin Laden's Al Quaida terrorist organization was likely imminent. According to Clarke, Bush failed to order counter-terrorist units to battle stations, the action that is the standard reaction to an imminent terrorist attack.

Clarke reveals that Bush was soft on Al Quaida, and did not do what his counter-terrorism officials recommended to stop September 11 from happening.

Clarke explains that he has decided to reveal George W. Bush's terrible mistakes in combatting terrorism that he is outraged that Bush has the audacity to campaign on the basis of his reaction to September 11, 2001. He says, "I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop September 11." Clarke revealed that just days after George W. Bush came into office, he sent a memo labeled "urgent" to National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, asking for a cabinet-level meeting to discuss the serious danger that Al Quaida posed to the United States. Bush Administration officials did not bother holding such a meeting until one week before September 11, 2001.

Clarke further comments that George W. Bush pressured him and other intelligence officials to create an official report linking Iraq and Al Quaida. When Clarke's report clearly stated that Iraq had no relationship with Al Quaida, he was told that his report had the "wrong answer" and that he should come back with a new report. Clarke says that all the intelligence Bush had told him that Iraq "did nothing to threaten us."

Richard Clarke's assessment of George W. Bush's record on national security? He says that George W. Bush "has made us less safe."

Clarke's ultimate assessment of George W. Bush's record on defending America from terrorism: "I think he's done a terrible job on the war on terrorism."

For the record, Richard Clarke was never fired. He worked in counter terrorism for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He chose to resign from the White House of George W. Bush in 2003. There are no sour grapes here, just a leader with experience who is finally willing to tell the truth about George W. Bush's weakness in the face of terrorism.

Posted by J. Clifford Cook at 7:32 PM. # (permalink)

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