Jim Hightower

A Surge Too Far


Here he comes again—the Cheerleader-in-Chief! George W, once a cheerleader at Yale, is doing backflips and waving pom-poms in a PR effort to claim that his troop “surge” strategy in Baghdad is working splendidly.

“American forces are now deployed 24 hours in these neighborhoods and, guess what’s happening? The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence,” Bush cheerfully puts it. Not really, George. A recent ABC poll found that only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in the surge, and nearly 90 percent say they fear for their lives.

No amount of presidential pep talk can hide the fact that George’s disastrous war has lasted longer than World War II and cost more than Vietnam. Yet Bush and the right-wing media war-whoopers insist the surge is working. That’s news to the Baghdad’s residents, who are being killed in record numbers of insurgent car bombings.

The dirty little secret of Bush’s strategy of concentrating troops in the capitol city is that the civil war has simply moved, with increasing deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops outside Baghdad. In the northwestern town of Tal Afar, for example, two massive truck bombs ripped through the town market in late March, killing 48. In response to this Sunni bombing, Shiite militia went on a revenge spree, killing some 60 Sunni residents.

Meanwhile, the decline of Shiite violence in Baghdad is ephemeral. Knowing the surge was coming and would last only a few months, the deadly Shiite militias based there have simply made a tactical withdrawal to other parts of the country, where they foment new violence while waiting out Bush’s surge.

Sis-boom-ba, George! Bring our troops home.

There’s No Escape I yearn for the good ol’ days when a TV was a device under my control. It sat quietly in my home, doing nothing until I beckoned it to perform. If it blared an annoying ad at me, I had the power of the remote to switch channels or hit mute.

Alas, the TV has escaped from the home and positioned itself everywhere to assault us. It can be as annoying as it wants to be, and we have no remote, no mute, no power to turn it off. We’re confronted with screens in elevators, taxicabs, grocery carts, at gas pumps, in the checkout lines of stores—all jabbering at us to buy toilet cleanser.

Digital TV networks are already wired into 20 percent of supermarkets and 11 percent of office buildings. Wal-Mart has 125,000 screens in its stores and encourages advertisers to think of its stores as an advertising medium and its customers as viewers.

“It’s what we call 360 marketing,” says one advertiser, meaning that no matter where you turn, there’ll be an ad. There’s even a company targeting sick people with screens in nearly 11,000 doctor’s offices. “You reach a very targeted audience,” brags an executive with this outfit. “They’re just about to talk to their doctor, and it’s a very credible advertising environment.”

Appropriately, the corporations planning to saturate our environment with ads have such names as Captivate and Monster Media. Believe it or not, some people are so zoned-out that they claim to like the screens. One 24-year-old guy says he sometimes sits on the benches at a mall and watches the ads!

Now that’s pathetic.

NYPD Goobs Time for another Gooberhead Award, presented periodically to people in the news who let their tongues go 100 miles an hour but forget to put their brains in gear.

This award goes to a whole field of Goobers: “The RNC Intelligence Squad” of the New York City Police Department. This is a gang of snoops that spied on protest groups planning to attend the Republican National Convention in 2004. These Goobers didn’t have a whole lot of intelligence—in either meaning of that word.

The rationale for spying on American citizens coming to a political event to exercise their First Amendment rights was that there might be “terrorists” among them—people who were going to engage in criminal violence. But the bulk of the squad’s surveillance was on churches, theater groups, environmentalists, and others with no intention of breaking the law.

Posing as fellow activists, the squad infiltrated such groups, traveling throughout the country on the taxpayers’ dime to spy on the innocent. They filed hundreds of reports ominously marked “NYPD Secret.” Let’s peek into one of these.

It covers the plans of a group with the dangerous name “Bands Against Bush.” The secret report reveals the astonishing news that BAB was planning concerts! Even more damning, these terrorists were scheduling speeches and videos between musical acts. “Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” the report says.

Yes, BAB is an obvious threat to national security! We can’t have people mixing music and political rhetoric! Haul ’em all off to Gitmo, I say!

Holy Woody Guthrie! These Goobers would be hilarious if they weren’t so dangerous to America’s liberties.

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