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by Muhammad Asadi

( Please note that links for details and documentation are embedded in the text in blue and underlined )

Karen Hughes, the public face of the Bush Presidential Campaign (in 2000), was sworn in as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy on September 8, 2005. The president explained during the swearing in ceremony that Hughes is being appointed to explain "our policies and fundamental values" to people around the world,
specifically to the Arab and Muslim world. Before embarking on this huge task, Ms. Hughes would do well to begin at home. Recent polls suggest that not only are people around the world weary of the policies pursued by this American administration, its own citizens are beginning to show discontent and are questioning its "values and policies".

The recent Hurricane Katrina disaster has not helped the government either, as revealed by the latest
Pew poll (September 8, 2005) numbers. Many now question the delayed, impersonal response of an administration that had been reminding them since 9/11, through multi-colored codes and alert-levels, that their safety was the government's number one priority. Americans, in large numbers, for possibly the first time ever, are wondering whether their government actually cares about them or merely feigns concern for ulterior motives ( USA TODAY and this AP-Ipsos Poll). They are also beginning to understand how foreigners feel about American 'values and policies' after they've witnessed first hand the destruction of an entire city due to the misplaced 'values' and neglect of its decision makers. People around the world have suffered the destruction of countless cities as a direct result of the American war machine and its 'values' of sanctioning the powerless. The American people have legitimate concerns; maybe Karen Hughes can address them:

Why are 47 to 82 million Americans (per year or parts of it) without Health Insurance (National Coalition of Healthcare), when our military budgets run around half a trillion dollars?

Percentage of Those Without Health Insurance
By Age, Income & Employment

Age Percentage

Under 18 ..... 12%
18-24 ..... 30%
25-34 ..... 25%
35-44 ..... 18%
45-64 ..... 14%
65+ ..... 1%

Household Income

Under $25,000 ..... 24%
$25,000-49,999 ..... 19%
$50,000-74,999 ..... 12%
$75,000+ ..... 8%


Worked Full-Time ..... 17%
Worked Part-Time ..... 24%
Did Not Work ..... 26%
Source: US Census Bureau & Washington Post
Why are 36.2 million in the US, chronically malnourished? This number by the way is larger than the entire population of Iraq.

According to a Norweigan study, malnutrition among Iraqi children
increased from 4% before the US occupation to 7.7% after.

Why does the wealthiest 1% of our society own around 50 % of our wealth, while the bottom 40% owns 0.2 % (less than a third of a percent) of wealth? The richest 1% of the population now owns as much wealth as the bottom 95% of all Americans combined.

A federal government study of mortality rates (1993) showed that for people aged 25 to 64, death rates for those with incomes of less than $9000 a year were TRIPLE the rates for people with incomes of $25,000 a year or more. The prevalence of disease (particularly diabetes and heart disease) is almost similarly related to income. Can access to the “American Dream” and the "liberty and freedom" that supposedly comes with it be equal under such circumstances, when access to "life", the most basic human right, is unequal? The condition of the poor has worsened and many more have entered their rank during the reign of George Bush.

Of what value is our "freedom of speech", when a handful of corporations (the big media) dominate information and reach millions while the rest of us reach practically no one and can play no meaningful part in the production of information?
In one of the wealthiest countries of the world, why are over 35 million (U.S. Department of Education) American adults functionally illiterate and 50 million barely literate and severely limited in their ability to read and write?

How come two parties dominate politics and political rule? How come successfully running in elections requires millions of dollars and heavy corporate funding, and access to the corporate media (monopoly)? There is little difference between a two-party state and the one-party state (which is often termed a dictatorship).
Why do the top 2% of corporations dominate 98% of all business, while small business amount to almost nothing, as far as market share goes? How does that blend with the “free market” values that you want to educate the world about? How come 6 out of 10 corporations pay zero taxes (numbers provided by the government General Accounting Office) and sometimes negative-taxes, getting huge subsidies from the government, even though their revenues are in the trillions of dollars? Why do the working poor and the struggling middle-class have to pay huge chunks of their income as taxes, while corporations, as a percentage of their revenues pay little or nothing?
While you talk about “freedom” abroad, please explain to us why the American system is busy incarcerating people at home. The “land of the free” has the biggest prison population in the world and the highest rate of prisoners per capita of all countries. One of every 32 adults in the U.S. is either in jail, on parole or on probation (BBC news report, 26 August, 2002). Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. population grew by 21% but federal inmates soared by 312%; not taking into account military prisons and INS detentions, which makes this increase even greater. Since ours is a highly bureaucratized society, with rules and regulations governing every aspect of life, and the resulting uniformity that comes with it, there is little substantive freedom (which is a separate discussion but true nonetheless).
As you talk about women's rights abroad and earn gratitude from women in Afghanistan, please explain to us why around 4 million women are severely battered every year in the U.S (these reported numbers are much lower than actual numbers since many don’t report the abuse, according to independent surveys); 5000 to 7000 of them die. Nearly 31 percent of all American women are abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey. Since these numbers are huge, this “public issue” is the responsibility of the government and solutions needs to be society-wide. What ‘policies’ out of the ones that you are going to talk about abroad are being offered to ‘liberate’ women here at home from brutal assault?

Data studies in the United States also show that 25 percent to 35 percent of girls are sexually abused (Kilbourne 1999:253). Twenty five percent to thirty-five percent of U.S. women comes to a total number greater than the combined female populations of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. A high percentage of women so assaulted in the U.S. suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (the same disorder that a large number of war veterans suffer from). Thus this condition of women in the U.S. simulates a psychological reaction similar to that in a combat zone. This brings to mind the images of women from the Taliban era that the corporate media played over and over as they informed us about how political enemies abroad abused women.

As you propagate the benefits of the "American Dream" abroad, please explain to us why the tens of millions who live in the inner cities in the US, minorities whose communities suffer from the effects of chronic crime, drugs, disease, homelessness, and unemployment, at levels (in many cases) worse than the levels in the ‘Third World’, do not get access to any part of that “dream”? We have a whole series of
social indicators: birth rates, death rates, infant mortality rates, life expectancy, human development indices, education and income differentials etc that prove that many minority communities in the US live lives of extreme deprivation. However the administration cut their benefits even as it converted a huge surplus into a record deficit because of military spending (going to a handful of corporations) ,tax breaks and huge subsidies to the rich. Please explain to the world how this translates into "protecting" the American people when you are assigning millions to a life of misery and disease through deprivation?
If it is difficult to relate these facts to the ‘policies and values’ that Hughes was hired to proselytize Arabs and Muslims with, understand it in the context of these quotes from C. Wright Mills:

“…the dogmas by which these (‘values and policies’) are legitimated are so widely accepted that no counter-balance of mind prevails against them...They have replaced the responsible interpretation of events with the disguise of events by a maze of public relations…”
(C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite 1956: 356)

“Those in authority within institutions and social structures attempt to justify their rule by linking it, as if it were a necessary consequence, with moral symbols, sacred emblems, or legal formulae which are widely believed and deeply internalized (by the masses). These central conceptions may refer to a god or gods, “the votes of the majority”, (“freedom”, “democracy”)… or the alleged extraordinary endowment of the person of the ruler himself. Various thinkers have used different terms to refer to this phenomena: Mosca’s “political formula” or “great superstition”, Locke’s “principal of sovereignty”,Sorel’s “ruling myth”,Weber’s “legitimations”, Durkheim’s “collective representations”, Marx’s “dominant ideas”…Mannheim’s “ideology”, Herbert Spencer’s “public sentiments” (Gramsci’s “hegemony”) all point to the central place of master symbols in social analysis.”

(Hans Gerth & C. Wright Mills, Character & Social Structure, 1964:277)

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
(Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger, 1916, Ch.9)

Karen Hughes is the latest attempt by this elite to "disguise events by a maze of public relations", as C. Wright Mills put it; we hope that people everywhere will recognize these attempts for what they are and not be duped by these visions of the "American Dream" that exists only in the minds of these "crackpot realists", we can thus prevent what Mark Twain describes above as "grotesque self-deception".

“Of course there may be corrupt men in sound institutions but when institutions are corrupting, many of the men who live and work in them are necessarily corrupted... Within the corporate world of business, war making and politics, the private conscience is attenuated and the Higher Immorality is institutionalized. It is not merely a question of a corrupt administration in corporation or army or state, it is a (institutionalized) feature of the corporate rich...deeply intertwined with the politics of the military state.”
(C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite 1956:343)
The FBI estimates that burglary and robbery -street crimes- costs the nation $3.8 billion a year, compare this to just TWO cases of corporate crime: Health care fraud every year $40 billion to $100 billion (National League of Cities Report), securities fraud $15 billion a year (Mokhiber, Corporate Crime Reporter) and just ONE case: the Savings & Loan bailout which will cost the nation up to $500 Billion (government estimates). The FBI estimates that 19,000. Americans are murdered every year. Compare that to the over 55,000 killed every year on the job by job related causes like asbestos poisoning, unsafe work environment etc and the over 100,000 killed by medical malpractice (National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine), and hundreds of thousands of others killed by dumping, pollution, hazardous consumer products (Alcohol & Tobacco alone kill over 400,000 a year) and medicines etc. Not mentioned in the above are the numerous wars of the corporate dominated political-economy, which have since World War II, directly or indirectly, killed tens of millions and “distributional deprivation” of the corporate dominated world economic system that has killed hundreds of millions: over 40,000 die everyday due to deprivation related causes.

Opportunity: Fair & Balanced
M. Asadi

By M. Asadi

Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Writing in the 1950s, sociologist C. Wright Mills suggested that the Power Elite in America possesses a specific and clear 'class consciousness'. Class consciousness entails that they consider themselves separate (and superior) to the rest of society, whose needs they purport to present as their own, which is highly unlikely given such class separation. Similarly, in their world-view they consider Iraqis and other Arabs 'aliens' and expendable (as their actions reveal), yet they presented the invasion of Iraq as something carried out by them as a sacrifice "for the Iraqi people". This 'class consciousness' was clearly evident in the Democratic and Republican conventions held recently. The Power Elite, which transcends both parties, tried to actively manipulate public opinion by pretending to cut across class lines, trying to appeal to the public that they were 'like them'. John Kerry "reported for duty", even though he fails to "report for duty" to his senate sessions, while Bush tried to convince people that he would protect them even though his policies have ensured that over 45 million Americans remain at risk of severe harm because of no health insurance, while over 34 million are under-nourished; numbers literally tens of millions of times greater than the people that will ever be harmed by terrorism (past or future). We are never allowed to forget about terror threats yet millions of impoverished people and their misery are effectively hidden from view. Similarly, Arnold Schwarzeneggar tried to convince immigrants that if they would 'play by the rules' and work hard (in fast food jobs) that someday they would make governor of California. In this recent struggle to manipulate the masses, the Republicans succeeded (as the Bush poll numbers reveal), while the Democrats failed. The social profile of American elites shows that most of them come from privileged backgrounds and the very few among them that do not, only succeeded in the system because they got "socially cloned" in the image of those who do come (from privilege). They were picked not because of 'equal opportunity' but rather to ensure the survival of the current class-system. As the concentration of wealth towards the very top in America proceeds unabated, so that one percent at the top now owns over 40 percent of wealth, the members of this elite gets narrower and narrower. As such, a few replacements from the lower levels have to be allowed to maintain a critical mass of power. However for statistical aggregates i.e. groups as a whole, there is no mobility into elitehood. Strict reproduction of privilege is expected in a highly bureaucratized, capitalist society. People in such societies are never "self made" they are system molded. Opportunity allocation in the "land of opportunity" has never been "fair and balanced".

Fudging the Numbers: Fox News' O'Reilly claims too much is spent on the poor
M. Asadi

O’Reilly states on his program (Sept 14, 2005) that entitlement spending for the poor have actually increased during the Bush administration's 2006 budget compared to the Clinton administration's 1996 budget. Stating that poverty figures in the US under Clinton in 1996 were at 13.7 % of the population while now they are at 12.7%, he concludes that America is looking after its poor by, spending a "massive amount" ($368 billion was the number he quoted) even in the midst of a "war on terror". Stating that "dollars don't lie", O’Reilly concludes that the "no spin zone" has rescued Americans from misinformation spread by “liberals”.

This common tactic is often used by the main stream media: numbers are automatically supposed to impart authority on what are otherwise nonsensical claims. What is implied by the conclusions in these arguments is that blame lies not on the rich or their government, but on the poor, not only for their own ills, but for the ills of society at large. It is claimed that in their own irresponsibility, the poor squander all this money and help that the “generous” government gives them. Rather than outrage at why 37 million Americans are poor and chronically hungry in one of the wealthiest countries of the world, there is gloating over a fictitious one percentage improvement compared to a previous administration. In their petty squabbling among themselves, the elite in America often forget that the deprivation of the poor have life and death consequences for millions, and represents much more than sound bytes on a news program. Why neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have fixed this "public issue" and made it a priority is never discussed. The argument used by O’Reilly who is in a command position in the corporate news media in the US, is deceptively simplistic and brings to mind what C. Wright Mills wrote about this media half a century back. He said: "The second-rate mind is in command (through the mass media) of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle." (The Power Elite, 1956)

It is true, as O’Reilly mentions that "dollars" don't lie, but numbers thrown out by themselves are mere bits of information. It is in the interpretation of the numbers that the lie is found. Poverty, a meticulously well-hidden phenomena in the US, both in social consciousness and actual visibility (due to segregation), signifies, even in the official figures of 12.7%, a failure of a social system that spends $2.2 trillion dollars a year, transferring wealth from the masses to the very rich, but cannot even feed a large percentage of its citizens. (Conveniently ignored by O'Reilly was the fact that wealth-fare, the subsidies and tax breaks to the rich are several times what is spent on the poor: $448 billion a year in 1996, when O'Reilly says $191 billion was spent by Clinton on entitlements to the poor.
By 1999, that wealthfare number had grown to $603 billion. The 2003 estimate of $815 billion shows an 82 percent increase in just seven years). If we use "real" measures of poverty, based upon average incomes in the US and a current basket of goods, including health and childcare, this percentage is actually double that of the official figures (many private studies and models based on them have documented this). No mention was made by O’Reilly of the fact that the four years that Bush has been in office, poverty has consistently risen from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.7% today, a greater increase than the 1% improvement over 1996 that he was gloating over. Also not mentioned by O’Reilly was the fact that even though the population from 2000 to 2006 increased by around 5%, the number of the poor (during the same period) increased by 19 % (31 million then, 37 million now). The real increase of course is much greater and masked by official measures as stated above.

The increase in spending that O’Reilly is talking about is the part of the budget that is “non discretionary” (i.e. mandatory) spending. That means that unless the law is changed by Congress, the current administration cannot increase or decrease it, it is based on predetermined formulas. As the number of the poor goes up, according to the formulas used, non-discretionary spending goes up as well. What those numbers show is not an improvement in the help given to the poor but merely the fact that their numbers have gone up, as has the cost of living. According to the office of Management and Budget, not only did this administration propose cuts in discretionary spending to help the poor, they made recommendations for reductions in “non-discretionary” spending as well (something that the executive branch has no authority over). Excluding MEDICAID, spending on entitlements has remained at 1.3% of GDP since 1975, according to the budget report and non discretionary spending has not even kept pace with the rate of inflation (according to the Office of Management & Budget).

These miserly "private solutions” that keep the percentage of the poor more or less constant regardless of the regime in charge, reveals as C. Wright Mills suggested, that these programs, rather than help the poor, actually help the rich in rescuing capitalism from itself. In the same context, we can understand the global situation and the preponderance of international relief agencies. They are part of the same system that keeps the world capitalist system intact. Global poverty has actually become worse and not improved, even as these relief agencies have increased in numbers. According to the United Nations Least Developed Countries Report (2004), 81% of the population in the LDCs was living on less than $2 a day, adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (1985 dollars), it comes to an average consumption of $1.03 a day- this can buy what $1.03 would have bought in 1985 in the US.As a result, many of the captains of the World System, the Rockefellers, the Carnegies and the Fords etc. have set up shops as relief providers. Structural change in the world system would fix all the deprivation needs faced by humanity (at the current time) but since such structural change is distasteful to the elite, they encourage private solutions and relief agencies that might help with people's suffering on a smaller scale but prevent upheavals that might change the structure of the system and the ideology that keeps it intact.