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February 17, 2006, 7:35 A.M.

The federal government recently reported that between 2003 and early 2005 it had spent 1.6 billion, that’s billion, dollars on public relations and ad campaigns. This included $10,000.00 prize giveaways by the Air Force, extensive expenditures on pseudo news releases (a/k/a propaganda) and the placement of so called “success stories in Iraqi newspapers. This number includes about 1 billion in pentagon contracts for the creation of news releases and radio and T.V. time used to support government (administration) programs.

The propaganda money also included ads specifically created to spin the government’s position on everything from cutting social security to the recovery effort following hurricane Katrina. The biggest problem (not that there are not a whole pile of other problems0 with this practice is that the re is no way to tell that the spots are actually Ads and not actual news reports. The prime example is a purported news program entitled “recovery T.V., funded by FEMA in an attempt to put a positive spin on the post Katrina recovery effort.

Give me a break. How far would 1.6 billion dollars go in actually funding a recovery, rather than funding public relations firms whose job it is to conceal the truth about our governments numerous policy failures?

February 17, 2006, 7:30 A.M.

Hey, how about those 2 million missing Mexicans? The Mexican government has reported that its most recent census is about 2 million people short of the anticipated count. Apparently the Mexican census bureau has suggested that the reason for the shortfall may be “migration.” Ya think?

In a related story, there was a lawsuit foiled in Florida recently by farm owners on behalf of their illegal immigrant farm workers requesting that they be paid for certain losses they incurred as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That is the farmers want the illegal immigrants who work for them to be compensated the same as US citizens for their damages. The farmers are suing because the illegals are prohibited from filing this type of damage suit in US Courts because they are not citizens. Apparently a huge percentage (in the 80% range) of the farm workers in Florida are illegal immigrants.

Two problems: One, It is illegal to hire undocumented workers. Two, Why should US taxpayers pay workers who don’t pay taxes for losses they incurred while in this country illegally?

The solutions to these problems are simple and related. Farmers should not be permitted to maintain lawsuits for the purpose of furthering their criminal practices, and the Federal government should help the workers and the government of Mexico. We should help the workers out of the country, which will also help Mexico locate its missing 2 million people.

February 15, 2006, 12:50 P.M.

Okay, so we haven't written for a while. It's not that there haven't been some great things to write about, it's that we have been very busy at work and at home and just let it slide.

I want to start back with a great (as usual) letter from Brian on Palistinian elections. We have also put up a link to a new book on our booklist. Check it out.

February 15, 2006, 12:55 P.M.

From the mailbag: Brian writes:

Dear Ed,

I'd like to "weigh in" on the Hamas victory in Palestine, as this development will probably have a significant long-term effect on US policy in the greater Middle East.

The first issue to look at is the "who wins and who loses" tote board. As I see it, the biggest winner other than, of course, Hamas itself, is the Likud Party in Israel. I feel that Netanyahu's prospects in the upcoming election are now excellent, particularly when adding to the mix Ariel Sharon's de facto demise. Although the Hamas victory portends well for Likud, particularly in the short run, I have my doubts as to whether the victory is a good omen for the State of Israel. Because rather than approaching common ground, the Israelis and the Palestinians are moving toward more polarization, which, of course, could quickly spin out of control.

Elsewhere, I believe that Iran is a big winner, as Iran is shaping itself out to be the strongest nation-state player in the Muslim world. Although Hamas is Sunni and Iran Shi'a, Iran will have much more moral sway with Hamas than will, say, the EU.

Likewise is the Hamas victory an advance for the Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt, the popular movement which Husni Mubarak has done so much to squelch. Actually, Hamas is thought to be an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus if the Hamas victory is good for the Muslim Brotherhood, it does not portend well for Mubarak and the Egyptian regime.

It seems to me that Hisb'Allah in Lebanon is well-satisfied with the election result, as is Islamic Jihad, closely related to Hisb'Allah.

The result as it pertains to the EU is, in my view, presently neutral. The EU, whose leadership tends to demonstrate more wisdom than Washington, will probably try to work with Hamas, by providing financial assistance as well as political pressure on Israel to go to the negotiating table in earnest. If the EU is successful here, it will be a major victory for Europe and will signify a major diminution of Washington's regional power.

I should mention that the current thawing of relations between the EU and the US shows only a friendship of convenience: the prize that both are vying for is -- not the energy resources themselves -- but control over those resources and their distribution. Thus, the EU will play the Hamas/Palestine card with a view toward improving relations with the Islamic world, which will work to the exclusion of Washington.

Regarding the US, I don't see how the Hamas victory can be viewed as anyting other than an ignominous defeat. Bush and his entourage have been cackling about fostering democracy in the Middle East as the best way to achieve a regional peace. The Hamas victory shows that Palstinians have democratic aspirations, and now those aspirations are being jammed down Bush's throat.

In likelihood, Bush will play his hand foolishly, as will his successor, be he or she a Republican or Democrat. Bush will advocate the application of financial pressure on Palestine, as well as Israel's throttling of Palestinian public services such as water and sewage, all in an effort to destabilize the Hamas-dominated Palestinian government. The problem here, however, is that now Palestine has a legitimacy that it hasn't had before: they're playing by the same democratic rules that their critics have for so long chastized them for breaking. So if Bush moves to squash a duly-elected democratic government which happens to be Muslim, it will be quite plain to the Muslim world where Bush's true sympathies truly lie.

To conclude, the developments in Palestine will probably not amount to much in the short term. But in the longer term, the election can be seen as a rejection of a US-dominated Middle East in favor of a Middle East that chooses to carve out its own course.


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