Dennis Hans

A Fake Reporter for a Fake Magazine

On May 11, the same day the New York Times devoted four pages to Jayson Blair's errors and deceptions, CBS's "60 Minutes"devoted a segment to the Blair of the 1990s, Stephen Glass of the New Republic. But correspondent Steve Kroft missed the really big story: The magazine Glass wrote for is every bit as fraudulent as Glass himself.

We'll get to the New Republic shortly, but let's first consider Glass. Here's his explanation to Kroft as to how he created at the New Republic the appearance of credibility:

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Lying Us Into War

President George W. Bush and his foreign-policy team have systematically and knowingly deceived the American people in order to gain support for an unprovoked attack on Iraq.

Before I catalog the Bush administration’s “Techniques of Deceit,” let me acknowledge that no U.N. resolution requires the president to be honest with the American people. The fine print of Resolution 1441 imposes no obligation to treat Americans as citizens to be informed rather than suckers to be conned. He may mislead, distort, suppress, exaggerate and lie to his heart’s content without violating a single sentence in 1441.

So if compliance with 1441 is all that matters to you, read no further. Turn on the TV and tune in Brokaw, Rather, Jennings, Blitzer or Lehrer, to name five of the journalistic imposters who control what you hear and see, who seem psychologically incapable of conceiving of Bush as a liar, and who wouldn’t have the guts to call him one even if they reached that conclusion.

But if you are an American citizen who believes in the bedrock democratic principle of “the informed consent of the governed,” read on.

Why lie?

The president and many of his top advisers have wanted to invade and overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein for a long time. But they knew they couldn’t sell such a war against Iraq to a majority of Americans and a majority in both houses of Congress if they acknowledged just how pitifully weak and unthreatening Iraq really is. If, however, the administration could portray Iraq as an imminent, mortal threat to the United States -- and even a shadowy accomplice in the terrorist attacks of 9-11 -- then a majority of the population might come to see an invasion of Iraq not as unprovoked U.S. aggression but as a wholly justified response to what Iraq did to us.

That is precisely what the administration has done. In an October poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, “66 percent believed [Saddam] was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.” Yes, two-thirds of Americans had come to believe a horrible thing about Saddam that the Bush administration knew for a fact was false, even as it encouraged its lesser spokespeople to continue to promote the connection. According to a Knight-Ridder poll conducted in January (.http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/4911975.htm.), 41 percent of us believe Iraq has a nuclear weapon RIGHT NOW and another 35 percent are unsure or refused to answer the question. Only 24 percent know what Bush knows for an absolute fact: Iraq has no nukes. And even many in that 24 percent might not realize that Iraq would still be several years away from developing a nuke even if we did the unthinkable and allowed them to import the vast array of high-tech equipment needed just to get started.

How do people get such ridiculous thoughts in their head? A dishonest administration plants them there with a steady drumbeat of exaggerations, distortions and lies. In a process I call “lie and rely” (.http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0301/S00062.htm.), the administration relies on a cowed and craven news media to present their lies to the American people as fact -- or at a minimum, as still-to-be-confirmed assertions by respected officials with a reputation for truth-telling. A handful of print reporters occasionally exposing the most egregious lies can’t begin to overcome the effect of the steady drumbeat of lies reported as truth day after day on television.

If we factored out of the opinion polls all the people who have internalized White House disinformation as fact, support for the president’s position would plummet. Without the support of these misled millions, Bush wouldn’t have been able to ramrod through Congress a blank-check declaration. He wouldn’t have had that blank check to use as a bludgeon against the U.N., and the U.S. wouldn’t be on the verge of committing an act of unprovoked aggression.

How Bush lies: The Techniques of Deceit

Although Bush presents himself to the world as a plain-spoken, straight-shooting friend of the common man, he regularly employs a variety of techniques to deceive the very people most inclined to trust him.

So far, I have tallied 14 techniques. But there are more to be uncovered, and there are far more examples than I can include here. Consider this the tip of a deceitful iceberg.

In the paragraphs that follow I first will describe the technique of deceit. Then I will illustrate it with one or more quotations or propaganda themes, placing within brackets that portion of the quote that illustrates the technique. Then I will explain how the president applied the technique. Unless otherwise noted, the president’s words are from the State of the Union address.

1) Stating as fact what are allegations -- often highly dubious ones (this is a staple of Bush’s speeches and Powell’s U.N. presentation; I’ll limit myself to three):

a) “From three Iraqi defectors [we know] that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein [has not disclosed] these facilities. He [has given no evidence] that he has destroyed them.”

What we “know” is that defectors make this unproven claim. We don’t know if they were paid or coached to make the claim, or volunteered it on their own. For more on this, see Point 9 of the analysis ( .http://www.traprockpeace.org/firstresponse.html.) of Powell’s address by Dr. Glen Rangwala, Lecturer in Politics at Cambridge University, an advisor to Labor Party opponents of Tony Blair and perhaps the world’s foremost authority on U.S. claims about Iraq, which may explain why one never sees him in the U.S. media. Rangwala notes that one defector made no mention of the labs in his first press conferences. It was several months later, after “debriefings” by the U.S. and the Iraqi National Congress, that he started talking about mobile labs. Hans Blix told the Guardian newspaper of Britain (.http://truthout.org/docs_02/020603A.htm.) he has seen no evidence that these mobile labs exist. Acting on tips from the U.S. about labs disguised as food-testing trucks, he investigated. “Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing has been found,” he said. That doesn’t mean that such labs don’t exist, but at this point there simply is no proof of that claim. It is NOT an established fact.

b) “The British government [has learned] that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Wrong verb. What he should have said is the Brits assert this but have produced no evidence of its veracity. The Brits have offered no date for these efforts, but “recently,” in this case, may well mean “the 1980s.” IAEA director Mohamed Elbaradei has for weeks been asking -- so far, in vain -- for the U.S. and Britain to provide “specifics of when and where.” He said in a Jan. 12 interview, “We need actionable information.” (Interview cited by Rangwala in his invaluable “Counter-Dossier II,” ( .http://traprockpeace.org/weapons.html.)

c) “We've [learned] that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.” (Bush’s televised October speech)

The L.A. Times reported a few days after that speech that CIA director “Tenet's letter was more equivocal, saying only that there has been ‘reporting’ that such training has taken place. Unlike other passages of the letter, he did not describe the reporting as ‘solid’ or ‘credible.’” .http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/la-na-cia11oct11.story.

2) Withholding the key fact that destroys the moral underpinning of an argument (and, in Powell’s case, reveals him to be a blood-drenched hypocrite):

“Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant, who [has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people.]” (Bush’s October speech)

The problem here is that much of Bush’s national-security team aided and abetted those crimes. After the worst attack, on Halabja in 1988 near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan team covered for Saddam by implicating Iran, then prevented Congress from imposing tough sanctions on Iraq. Joost R. Hiltermann, an official with Human Rights Watch, shows in a recent column for the International Herald Tribune (.http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0117-01.htm.) that Saddam was likely emboldened to use ever more lethal concoctions to polish off the Kurds because he knew from past gassing experience in 1983, 1984 and 1987 that he could always count on the support of Reagan, Powell and George H. W. Bush. The latter’s son has yet to mention this in any of his righteous condemnations of Saddam. There are any number of governments who have the moral standing to condemn Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds. The one headed by George W. Bush does not.

Powell, of course, is the current administration’s knight in shining armor, the trusted figure who commands the respect even of the European leaders who cannot stomach Bush. But give a listen to Peter W. Galbraith, former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and now professor of national-security studies at the National War College in Washington, D.C.:

“the Kurds have not forgotten that Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds.” .http://www.boston.com/globe/magazine/2002/1215/coverstory_entire.htm.

3) Misrepresentation/Invention:

a) “I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access, a [report] came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA that they were [six months away from developing a weapon]. I don't know what more [evidence] we need.” (Bush speaking at a news conference Sept. 7 with Tony Blair)

As Joseph Curl reported three weeks later in the conservative Washington Times, there was no such IAEA report: “In October 1998, just before Saddam kicked U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq [actually, they were withdrawn], the IAEA laid out a case opposite of Mr. Bush’s Sept. 7 declaration: ‘There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance,’ IAEA Director-General Mohammed Elbaradei wrote in a report to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan” (.http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020927-500715.htm.). To this day, the administration has yet to produce a convincing explanation for Bush’s bogus assertion.

4) Delegated lying/Team lying:

Iraq was involved with 9-11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, via an Iraqi agent who met him in Prague in the spring of 2001, and thus the Iraqi regime may have participated in some fashion in 9-11. (summary of major, long-lasting propaganda theme)

For the most outrageous, easily disproved, yet highly effective lies, such as the Iraqi connection to 9-11, sometimes the wise course is to assign personnel far removed from the president to push the lie. That way, the president’s credibility won’t suffer when the facts -- known to the administration months before it stopped peddling the lie -- come out. And in a perverse fashion, the man at the top of this disinformation pyramid, the president, GAINS credibility for the disinformation in his own speeches, because commentators will note what a cautious and careful performance it was, given that he steered clear of the not-yet-confirmed 9-11 connection.

The farther out of the loop the designated lie-pushers are, the better: The administration can more easily keep from them the intelligence data that flat-out refutes the lie, which helpsthose lie-pushers who are more convincing when they THINK what they’re saying might be true than when they know for a fact it’s not true. For our purposes, whether the speaker believes what he says is irrelevant. What matters is that the administration is consciously deceiving the public.

The most aggressive pushers of this story have been neoconservative extremists Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Ken Adelman and Frank Gaffney, who either serve on the Defense Policy Board or are otherwise tangentially connected to the administration. (Gaffney has even tried to link Iraq to the 1995 terror bombing in Oklahoma City.) See this article ( .http://slate.msn.com/id/2070410/.) for details on how this myth stayed alive long after intelligence pros definitely disproved it. Of course, now that the Atta link has petered out, another al Qaeda “connection” of comparable validity is being spread -- this time by Powell and Bush.

5) Straw man:

“The risks of doing nothing, the risks of assuming the best from Saddam Hussein, it’s just not a risk worth taking.”

Notice that Bush doesn’t name anyone who advocates “doing nothing.” The whole idea behind DOING inspections and containment is that everyone knows we can’t take Saddam at his word. Here, for instance, is former President Jimmy Carter’s eminently sensible and non-violent “do-something” strategy to ensure the security of Iraq’s neighbors as well as the United States: .http://alternet.org/print.html?StoryID=15084..

6) Withholding the key fact that would alert viewers that the purported grave threat is non-existent:

“We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We are concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using UAVs for missions [targeting the United States].” (October speech)

Bush omits the fact that the vehicles have limited range, thus requiring Saddam to transport the vehicles to our coast line WITHOUT BEING DETECTED. The odds of that happening start at a billion to one. (Dana Millbank exposed this lie last October in the Washington Post. The Post link has expired, but you can read this summary of the lies Millbank exposed: .http://www.thedubyareport.com/malleablefacts.html..

7) Using mistranslation and misquotation to plant a frightening impression in the minds of trusting citizens that is the exact opposite of what you know to be true:

“Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls [his ‘nuclear mujahedeen’ -- his nuclear holy warriors].” (October speech)

Here Bush plays on two fears of the public: of Islamist holy warriors and nuclear weapons. But Saddam runs a secular state and has no ties to Islamist terrorists such as al Qaeda (despite other lies to the contrary). As for nukes, Iraq’s production capabilities had been destroyed completely by 1998, and today Elbaradei is in the process of verifying that Iraq has not taken even the first baby steps in what would be a mammoth effort to rebuild a nuclear infrastructure -- an infrastructure that would be virtually impossible to hide.

Equally insidious on Bush’s part is the mistranslation and misquotation. In “Counter-Dossier II” ( .http://traprockpeace.org/weapons.html.), Dr. Glen Rangwala, observes that the speech Bush is referring to was delivered by Saddam “on 10 September 2000 and was about, in part, nuclear energy. The transcription of the speech was made at the time by the BBC monitoring service. Saddam Hussein actually refers to ‘nuclear energy mujahidin,’ and doesn’t mention the development of weaponry. In addition, the term ‘mujahidin’ is often used in a non-combatant sense, to mean anyone who struggles for a cause. Saddam Hussein, for example, often refers to the mujahidin developing Iraq's medical facilities. There is nothing in the speech to indicate that Iraq is attempting to develop or threaten the use of nuclear weapons.”

Was Bush aware of the mistranslation and misquotation? We’d have to inject him with truth serum to find out. Even if some senior intelligence official did the deed and kept the accuratequote and translation from Bush, it’s obvious who is setting the deceitful tone in the administration. The official would have every reason to believe that this is just the sort of dirty trick -- played on the unsuspecting American citizenry, not Saddam Hussein -- that this president would love.

8) Putting the most frightening interpretation on a piece of evidence while pretending that no other interpretation exists:

“Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes [suitable for nuclear weapons production].”

Those tubes, unaltered, happen to be a perfect fit for a conventional artillery rocket program. For details, see the tubes section in my essay “An Open Letter to the U.N. About Colin Powell” ( .http://commondreams.org/views03/0204-07.htm.).

The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick ( .http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35360-2003Jan23.html.) adds this: “The tubes were made of an aluminum-zinc alloy known as 7000-series, which is used in a wide range of industrial applications. But the dimensions and technical features, such as metal thickness and surface coatings, made them an unlikely choice for centrifuges, several nuclear experts said. Iraq used a different aluminum alloy in its centrifuges in the 1980s before switching to more advanced metals known as maraging steel and carbon fibers, which are better suited for the task, the experts said. Significantly, there is no evidence so far that Iraq sought other materials required for centrifuges, such as motors, metal caps and special magnets, U.S. and international officials said.”

Following Powell’s address, Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times ( .http://www.sptimes.com/2003/02/06/Worldandnation/A_strong_case__but_is.shtml.) reported this: “Powell's speech was 'not quite accurate' on two points, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonpartisan organization in Washington that deals with technical aspects of nuclear proliferation. Contrary to Powell's claim, anodized tubes are not appropriate for centrifuges and the anodization, designed to prevent corrosion, would have to be removed before the tubes could be used, said Corey Hinderstein, assistant director: 'It's not to say it would be impossible to use anodized tubes for centrifuges but it adds an extra step.' She also challenged Powell's comment that the tubes must be intended for a nuclear program because they meet higher specifications than the United States sets for its own rocketry. 'In fact, we found European-designed rockets that had exactly this high degree of specificity,' Hinderstein said.”

9) Withholding highly relevant information that would weaken your case, because what you really want to obtain from the citizenry is “the UNINFORMED consent of the governed”:

North Korea’s “secret” nuclear-weapons program wasn’t a secret to the administration last fall. Yet it kept the information to itself, waiting till very late in the congressional debate over Iraq to inform not the entire public and Congress, but merely a relative few members of Congress. Thus, the Bush team didn’t have to explain -- well before each House even began to debate the various Iraq resolutions -- exactly why the administration had no problem seeking a non-invasion solution to a crisis far more grave and imminent than Iraq.

10) Bold declarations of hot air:

a) “[The only possible explanation], the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack.”

“Deterrence” is also a generally understood reason to develop WMD. Just ask the leaders of North Korea, Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia and the U.S. Deterrence and regional “balance of power” considerations were obvious factors in Saddam’s efforts in the 1980s to develop nuclear weapons. Not the only factors, but factors nonetheless.


b) “Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or [makes] is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991.” (October speech, national television)

As Rahul Mahajan correctly observes ( .http://www.accuracy.org/bush/.), “There are no credible allegations that Iraq produced chemical or biological agents while inspectors were in the country, until December 1998. The reason we don’t know whether they are producing those agents or not since then is that inspectors were withdrawn at the U.S. behest preparatory to the Desert Fox bombing campaign.” Visit the Institute for Public Accuracy website ( .http://www.accuracy.org.) for detailed critiques of Bush’s major addresses on Iraq.

11) Creating in the public mind an intense but unfounded fear:

“[Knowing these realities], America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a [mushroom cloud].” (October speech)

Iraq cannot turn American cities into mushroom clouds because it has no nuclear weapons and no long-range missiles to fire the nukes it does not have. The world is not about to let Iraq under Saddam resurrect its nuclear-weapons program. But even if the world did, Iraq would still be several years away from being able to develop that bomb.

12) Citing old news as if it’s relevant today, while leaving out the reason it’s not:

a) “The International Atomic Energy Agency [confirmed] in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein [had] an advanced nuclear weapons development program, [had] a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.”

IAEA has also confirmed, that they shut the program down and destroyed all the production facilities - seemingly relevant facts: In October 1998, Elbaradei reported to the U.N: “There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance” ( .http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020927-500715.htm.).

13) Transference:

“[This nation fights reluctantly], because [we] know the cost, and [we] dread the days of mourning that always come.”

Bush is deliberately confusing the sensible, compassionate American people with his bellicose, bullying self.

14) Hallucinatory lying:

Bush’s assertion, based on absolutely no evidence, that Saddam hopes to deploy al Qaeda as his “forward army” against the West: “We need to think about Saddam Hussein using al Qaeda to do his dirty work, to not leave fingerprints behind,” he told a Republican audience in Michigan prior to the congressional elections. (See David Corn’s report at The Nation’s website: .http://thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=124..)

“We need to think about” Bush using Adelman, Woolsey, Perle and Gaffney to do Bush’s dirty work, so as to not leave presidential fingerprints on the hoariest lie of all -- that Iraq was an accomplice in 9-11.

15) Withholding the key fact that would show your principled pose to be a pose devoid of principle:


“Saddam Hussein [attacked Iran in 1980] and Kuwait in 1990.” (U.N. speech, Sept. 12, 2002)

The Swedish government is entitled to condemn Iraq for invading Iran. The current U.S. government -- featuring key players from the very Reagan administration that supported Iraqi aggression through much of the 1980s-- is not. If you surround yourself with officials who supported the aggression in real time, you’re not entitled to be angered by it 20 years later.

Conclusion: What to do with a president who is trying to lie us into a war

It is not one single lie that has an effect on the public. It is the cumulative effect of dozens of lies, big and small, reiterated daily and challenged rarely. That is the effect that has brought us to where we are today.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking January 19 on ABC ( .http://www.democraticunderground.com/articles/03/01/25_rumsfeld.html.), offered the media splendid advice on how they should handle in their broadcasts and articles a leader that lies:

“Well, first, Saddam Hussein is a liar. He lies every single day. . . . He is still claiming that he won the war. His people are being told every day that they won. It was a great victory in 1991 when he was thrown out of Kuwait and chased back to Baghdad. Now, it seems to me that almost every time you quote something from him, you should preface it by saying ‘here’s a man who has lied all the time and consistently.’”

That’s good advice for Brokaw and company, but what about the citizenry? What should we do?

Do we as a nation want to follow our dishonest president into an aggressive, unnecessary war? I say the wiser course is to stop the war train in its tracks and intensify inspections, which will give the American people the breathing space to decide what exactly we should do with a leader who has sunk this low.

Dennis Hans is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Post (Canada) and online at TomPaine.com, Slate and The Black World Today (tbwt.com), among other outlets. He has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, and can be reached at .HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu..

The White Hawk Club

Who got to preview and review President George W. Bush's State of the Union address?

To answer that question, I channel-surfed across ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and cable news channels CNBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC. That's a lot of surfing for one TV viewer, so I may have missed a few faces. But by my conscientious but unscientific count, there were 76 American talking heads and three foreigners (seasoned correspondents interviewed on ABC Nightline).

Of the 76 Americans, 72 were white, one was an Arab-American and three were African Americans. That's 95 percent white, five percent were "other."

As a group, the white talking heads were far more eager for war than white America as a whole (see polling data below). As for the Arab American and three African Americans, they didn't begin to reflect the unease in their respective communities.

A word on my methodology: If someone appeared on more than one network or channel, I counted once for each network/channel he or she appeared on. I also counted anchors and hosts, who may be the most important talking heads of all, because they influence or determine outright who gets to pontificate. All of these crucial "gatekeeper" positions were reserved for whites. I did not count as "talking heads" the cross-section of ordinary Americans who gathered in the NBC and MSNBC studios and got to spit out some brief soundbytes. Someone else might wish to investigate why Tom Brokaw (who now turns to Rush Limbaugh for election-night analysis) deems it appropriate to use Frank Luntz -- a rightwing, highly partisan Republican pollster -- to organize and moderate NBC's "voice of the people" segments

The Talking Heads Roll Call

First, a list of who was on and on which channel:

CNBC: Larry Kudlow, Jim Cramer (a Krauthammer admirer who represents "the left" on Kudlow & Cramer show), Ron Insana, Alan Murray, Ed Gillespie, Martha MacCallum, Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman

NBC: Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Frank Luntz (Republican pollster), Ted Kennedy

Fox: Brit Hume, Tony Snow, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Juan Williams, Cece Connolly, Jim Angle, Bill O‚Reilly, DeeDee Myers, Michael Waldman, Bill Bennett, Peggy Noonan, Sean Hannity, Allen Colmes, Jon Corzine, Kay Bailey Hutchison

MSNBC: Chris Matthews, Peggy Noonan, Pat Caddell, Donna Brazile, Dick Armey, Norman Schwarzkopf, Barbara Boxer, Howard Fineman, Rahm Emanuel, John Warner, Dianne Feinstein

CNN: Larry King, John McCain, John Warner, Dianne Feinstein, Bill Frist, Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Aaron Brown, Christiane Amanpour, Judith Miller (New York Times reporter), Kevin Peraino (Newsweek reporter), former senators Alan Simpson and George McGovern

ABC: Peter Jennings, George Will, Cokie Roberts

ABC Nightline: Ted Koppel, David Gergen, John Podesta (I think); foreign journalists Justin Webb of the BBC, Tom Buhrow of ARD German TV, Said Arikat of Arab daily Al Quds

CBS: Dan Rather, Fouad Ajami

PBS: Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields, David Brooks

PBS Charlie Rose: Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, Alan Brinkley, Roger Cohen, David Brooks, David Frum, Jim Hoagland, Michael Kinsley

Pro-war Trumps Anti-war

The range of views of the 76 talking heads didn‚t come close to reflecting the thinking of the public at large. According to the latest Newsweek poll, four out of five polled (81 percent) want the United States to join its major allies and get full U.N. support before possibly attacking Iraq, and a majority approve of giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time.

While 77 percent of those polled agree that Americans would be safer and more secure if Saddam were ousted, sixty-six percent think it's more important to allow more time. Only 32 percent say moving forward quickly with military action is the only way to effectively deal with Iraq."

The segments before and after Bush's address and the lame Democratic response were filled with hardline rightwingers and mainstream conservatives. There were quite a few Democrats who are moderately liberal on domestic issues but generally right-of-center and hawkish on international issues, including Iraq.

There were very few strong, capable opponents of war. Barbara Boxer was one, and Chris Matthews and Pat Caddell had their moments. The line-up included Ted Kennedy, who has emerged as a stellar opponent of the looming war, and George McGovern, a World War II vet who can be counted on to reach fence-sitters in the heartland.

The sharpest skeptics were a trio of mainstream foreign journalists who appeared on ABC's Nightline. They pointed out that Bush presented no evidence, which is precisely what Europe and the Arab world were waiting to see. These foreign reporters with no axe to grind were far more skeptical about the content of Bush's speech (as opposed to how well he recited the script) than were most of the talking heads put on the air for the express purpose of challenging Bush! The Arab journalist, Said Arikat, reflected the view of most of the Arab world when he declared that war simply isn't required to resolve this hyped-up crisis over Iraq.

Minority Misrepresentation

As noted above, of the 76 American talking heads who got to comment on the speech, 72 were white. Not one was Hispanic, Native American or Asian, though the Democrats did select Washington state's Gary Locke, the nation's first Chinese-American governor, to deliver their rebuttal. But the Democratic response touched on Iraq just long enough to congratulate Bush for being on the right track.

Here's a brief look at the four non-white talking heads who participated in pre- and post-speech commentary:

Fouad Ajami: A regular commentator on CBS, Ajami is widely regarded as the last man on earth Arab-Americans would select as their sole media spokesperson. He is about as far-removed from the thinking of the Arab or Arab-American "street" as Dan Rather.

Rep. Harold Ford: The Tennessee Democrat and media darling plays it down the center on domestic issues, but runs hard to his right on international issues and backs Bush on Iraq.

Donna Brazile: The director of Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid is a self-described "moderate." She has liberal tendencies on domestic issues, but centerist tendencies on foreign policy. Possessing neither the knowledge nor inclination to make a strong anti-war case, she'll happily go along if the U.S. is able to strongarm and bribe the U.N. to authorize an attack.

Juan Williams: The versatile Williams plays two roles on Fox: token liberal and token black. I didn't hear his views on this occasion, but he's likely near the bottom of the list of who blacks, liberals, and black liberals wish to see amid the sea of white conservative Fox jingoists.

African Americans are the strongest anti-war demographic in the country. On the night of the State of the Union address, they were under-represented both in number and in the strength of their anti-war conviction.

A Call For Competent Critics

Are major-media gatekeepers interested in presenting competent critics of Bush's rush to war -- men and women who aren't afraid to call the president a liar? Critics who can show viewers precisely how the president twisted, omitted or invented facts and why he did so? Critics such as political scientist Stephen Zunes, who demonstrates in this devastating "annotated overview" that Bush delivered a fundamentally dishonest speech?

If the news media were a meritocracy, where people were promoted based on their proven ability to unearth unpleasant truths that governments and corporations prefer to keep hidden, rank-and-file reporters at places like NBC and CNN would have documented Bush's verbal trickery immediately. Then again, if our news media were a meritocracy, Americans would never have heard of Tom Brokaw or Charlie Rose. And Wolf Blitzer would be a minor functionary in the Pentagon's PR department.

The news media can do better. The question is: Do they want to?

Dennis Hans is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, TomPaine.com, Slate and The Black World Today, among other outlets.

Weapons of Teeny Boo-boos

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called today for swift congressional approval of the president's $396 billion defense budget. "We need every last dollar to replenish our stock of Weapons of Teeny Boo-boos and begin research on a generation of even gentler arms," Rumsfeld told a crowd of admirers at his weekly Pentagon news conference.

"No later than 2005," the secretary pledged, "America will be prepared to fire laser-guided Weapons of Eensy Teensy Boo-boos. Potential adversaries will be awed into submission by the combined high-tech wizardry and high-minded humanitarianism that is the essence of the WETB."

Earlier today, Jack Welch, CEO of munitions maker General Electric, told NBC's Katie Couric, "This next generation of weaponry will strike with such gentility that a 120-pound woman receiving a direct hit would suspect -- but not know for certain -- that she had just been goosed."

Welch attributed the astronomical cost of WETBs to the sophisticated technology required to take the sting out of weapons. "We hate like the dickens to charge so much," he said. "But I hate to pay Lipton a small fortune every morning for tea bags with the caffeine removed. It all evens out in the end."

The hunky Rumsfeld aroused the assembled Pentagon reporters with a tongue-lashing of Iran, Iraq and North Korea. "While civilized nations develop ever more gentle arms for deployment and export," he said, "the irrational leaders of the Axis of Evil persist in producing Weapons of Mass Destruction."

The U.S., of course, last fired conventional and atomic WMDs during World War II, a bloody affair provoked by aggression from the original Axis -- Germany, Italy and Japan. By the end of that war there were but two superpowers, and wise leaders in Washington and Moscow agreed the time had come to abolish all WMDs.

The 1946 Potsdam Pact ushered in the short-lived era of Weapons of Modest Destruction. U.S. and communist forces restricted themselves to those in the Korean Conflict, and instead of tens of millions deaths, as in World War II, only 7,853 civilians and soldiers perished.

That was still too many, so in 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed that future conflicts would be fought with Weapons of Scant Destruction. Nevertheless, a crisis erupted in 1962 when the U.S. detected WSDs in Cuba pointed directly at JFK's indoor swimming pool. Fortunately, cool heads prevailed, war was averted, and a new agreement led to the era of Weapons of Nasty Scratches.

WNSs were deployed in overwhelming numbers by the U.S. in Vietnam, and in modest numbers by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese. (In 1967, John McCain dropped a WNS load on Hanoi moments before his plane was shot down.) In the course of that long, bitter war, two million Vietnamese civilians received nasty scratches; 924 developed infections from scratches and had to be treated with antibiotics.

Humane leaders in Washington and Moscow, vowing "Never again," converted their stockpiled WNSs to Weapons of Bumps and Bruises. From 1979 to 1989 the U.S.S.R. used WBBs in Afghanistan, leaving 1.3 million Afghans rubbing a sore knee or elbow and shaking a fist in Moscow's direction. The U.S., meanwhile, exported WBBs to our good neighbors in Central America, and the incessant sound of 200,000 peasants shouting "Ouch!" could be heard as far away as Texas.

In 1989, fearing that lingering bitterness from WBB strikes could lead to future conflict, the U.S. and the crumbling Soviet Union decided the time had come for Weapons of Teeny Boo-boos. WTBs cause a struck individual to cry and run to Mommy, who can make it all better with a hug.

The first President Bush unleashed WTBs to end Panamanian participation in the drug trade and return Kuwait to its rightful ruling family. Russia's Vladimir Putin continues to use WTBs to win Chechen hearts and minds. Most spectacularly, President George W. Bush rained WTBs on Taliban targets to topple a tyrannical regime and free Afghani females -- prompting acclaimed African-American novelist Toni Morrison, who earlier had dubbed Bill Clinton "our first black president," to hail Bush as "our first woman president."

The president joined Rumsfeld near the end of today's Pentagon briefing and struck a surprisingly conciliatory note. "We need to convince these evil fellas that Weapons of Teeny Boo-boos work," he said. "If Mister Hussein, Mister Kim and Mister Hockamamie will dump them dang Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mister Putin and I will welcome them back to the civilized world -- except for maybe Mister Hussein."

Dennis Hans is a freelance satirist and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, TomPaine.com, Slate and The Black World Today, among other outlets.

Bob Kerrey Reminds Me of My Uncle Sam

The recent controversy over what Bob Kerrey did or did not do on an evening in Vietnam 32 years ago has led the usual suspects to suggest the United States government itself owes Vietnam an apology -- perhaps even reparations -- not just for that night, but for the entire war.

Poppycock. We no more owe Vietnam an apology than my own Uncle Sam owes me one.

In the 1960s, when I was a youngster, Uncle Sam was a squatter in my parents' ancestral home. Way back in 1954 Sam had been given a door key by Mr. French, who had seized the house from my forebearers many decades before.

In the first half of the 20th century, Mr. French was one mean live-in landlord. He charged steep rent and forced his tenants to work long hours on the very land Mr. French had stolen from them.

In 1945, after years of struggle, Grandpa, Grandma and their seven sons (one of whom would become my dad) finally drove Mr. French out. Uncle Sam, who controlled quite a few houses himself those days, was not amused. He encouraged Mr. French' thugs to retake the house. They broke into the two-story home and gunned down my grandma and two of her boys. They seized control of most of the first floor and used it as their base to attempt a total takeover.

By 1953 Sam was paying 75 percent of Mr. French's thugs' expenses. But the tide was turning in my ancestors' favor. In 1954 they trapped the thugs in a closet, and a desperate Mr. French proposed this peaceful resolution: The thugs would mind their manners if they could stay on the first floor two more years. They wouldn't bother Grandpa's three sons who now shared a bedroom on that floor, and after two years the thugs would leave. Family members would then elect a house leader.

Grandpa accepted the offer, knowing he'd win handily in 1956.

Sam pooh-poohed the pact -- particularly the election provision -- and set about to sabotage it. He replaced Mr. French's thugs with his own -- including several of Dad's cousins -- and annointed one of them top dog. Known as Mr. No, his first act was to declare that the family residence was in fact two distinct houses: Everyone on the first floor resided at 1700 Maple Street; Grandpa and his two remaining sons living upstairs were at 1702.

With strong support from Sam, Mr. No canceled the 1956 vote.

Dad had married Mom in 1953, and I was born in 1955. It wasn't long before I had a brother and sister, and the five of us lived on the first floor under Mr. No's thumb. If we even suggested a family reunion, his thugs would beat us with Sam's belts.

Sam wasn't content with just one floor, so he sent saboteurs disguised as salesmen up the stairs to persuade my uncles to rebel against Grandpa. They refused, and the family bond grew stronger.

Sam was a frequent visitor in the late 1950s, and in 1960 he moved in for good. In 1963 he heard rumors that Mr. No had put out peace feelers to Grandpa and even hinted at giving Sam the heave-ho. Sam beat Mr. No to the punch, but the thugs exceeded Sam's eviction order. They killed Mr. No.

Soon as Sam would settle on one thug as his new floor monitor, he'd change his mind. For the next several years he played musical thugs. To suggest reconciliation sufficed to seal a monitor's fate.

The mid-to-late 1960s was a tough time on the first floor, as Sam and his minions thrashed Mom, Dad, my little brother and sister and me on a nightly basis. Sam also invited his own sons into our home, and they pelted us with cherry bombs, poisoned our vegetable garden and shackled us in dog houses. Sam went ballistic -- shooting Roman candles up the stairs -- when he discovered Grandpa was sending supplies and an occasional son or grandson through the vent to help us survive.

Across town, by 1967 Sam's own home had become a house divided. With each passing year more of his kin demanded he bring himself and his boys back home. He nearly jumped at a 1972 peace offer, but concluded he'd get a better deal if he gave Grandpa one last beating. The Christmas mugging backfired; Grandpa stood his ground. In January 1973 Sam relented, agreeing to a phased withdrawal. By 1975 he and his boys were gone.

If we judge Uncle Sam by his actions, is it not clear he only wanted what was best for my family and me? I wouldn't dream of seeking an apology.

Dennis Hans is a freelance writer whose essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and TomPaine.com among other outlets. He can be reached at HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu.

The Annotated Brian Bosworth

Editor's note: Every Monday, Oxford University wordsmith Dennis Hans dissects for XFL fans the obscure cultural and historical references of Brian Bosworth, the delightfully droll UPN color commentator. This essay is reprinted, without permission, from Funk&Wagnalls.com.

"It's like prom night at the Mustang Ranch: Everybody's getting banged." -- Las Vegas Outlaws vs. Memphis Maniax

Greetings and salutations, XFL aficionados. Before we get to this week's inscrutable quote, please allow me to clear up a misconception:

I am not -- repeat, not -- bitter over losing out to Locke Peterseim in the competition to pen "The Annotated Dennis Miller" column for Britannica.com. Only one of us was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, but if pedigree matters not to the Britannica brass, who am I to argue? In any event, allow me to be the first to congratulate Mr. Peterseim on a thoroughly adequate performance this past season elucidating for the masses exactly what Monday Night Football's twit-wit was talking about.

I am delighted to report I have landed on my feet and have been entrusted by the good people at Funk&Wagnalls.com to write "The Annotated Brian Bosworth." As devotees of American-style football know, Mr. Bosworth, is the color commentator for UPN's XFL Game of the Week, and it is my honor to attempt to decipher his obscure, confounding and ever-so-clever references.

This week's bon mot was delivered at the end of the second quarter of the contest between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the Memphis Maniax, at the midpoint of UPN's 8 to 9 p.m. family viewing hour. As the players exited the field after a fiercely fought first half, Mr. Bosworth observed, "It's like prom night at the Mustang Ranch: Everybody's getting banged."

The literal-minded viewer may have conjured up an image of a fenced-in prarie lot filled with colts, stallions, fillies and mares. After all, Noah Webster points out that a mustang is "the small, wild or half-wild horse of the American plains, descended from Spanish stock." A ranch, he notes, is "an establishment maintained for production of livestock under range conditions where grass is the main source of feed."

Frankly, a mustang ranch is the last place one would expect to hold a "prom" -- an American colloquialism meaning "a ball or dance at school." The word prom itself is short for promenade, or should I say promenade's fourth-most prominent definition: "a march of guests into a ballroom constituting the opening of a formal ball."

Proms are supervised by school faculty and staff, who would tend to discourage any musical forms, such as speed metal or death metal, likely to inspire a good deal of dance-floor banging to and fro. Besides, metal enthusiasts rarely proffer or receive prom invitations and would look askance at one of their kind who accepted an invitation.

So what exactly is our man Bosworth getting at?

The careful reader will have noted that my transcription of Mr. Bosworth's quote capitalizes "Mustang Ranch." This, I must confess, is my (highly) educated guess. A judgment call, if you will. And why not? Funk&Wagnalls.com would not pay me a considerable sum if it did not wish me to exercise said judgment, which tells me Mr. Bosworth is not referring to any old ranch of mustangs, but the world-renowned "Mustang Ranch," which features horseplay of an altogether different sort.

The Mustang Ranch is a legal brothel not far from Las Vegas, Nevada, home of the XFL Outlaws. For our young readers unfamiliar with the term, a brothel is "a house of prostitution"; a prostitute is "a woman or man who engages in sexual acts for money as a livelihood." Thus it is humans, not horsies, who are mounted at the Mustang Ranch, which remains a popular post-prom destination for male students denied a bit of what-not by their dates.

At the Ranch, neither patrons nor employees are "banged" in the literal sense ("struck or beaten resoundedly"), though British gents on holiday often drop by for a spanking -- particularly if we've been naughty. No, it appears the wily Mr. Bosworth has dipped deeply into the Adults Only section of American Popular Slang and retrieved a synonym for "sexual intercourse."

For the benefit of young readers (and here we take our leave of the language of Mr. Webster, for he offers none), the act of sexual intercourse commences when the excited male inserts his elongated and engorged willy into the aroused female's moistened shepherd's pie. He then thrusts to and fro for a spell (in the case of high school seniors, an average of one minute and 27 seconds). Because of the extraordinary recuperative powers of the adolescent male, he may repeat his abbreviated yet climactic performance as many as eight times in the course of a single sojourn to the Mustang Ranch, assuming sufficient funds.

In summation, when Mr. Bosworth exclaimed, upon intermission, "It's like prom night at the Mustang Ranch: Everybody's getting banged," it is our considered opinion his intention was to honor the footballers for knocking their foes on their bums and competing with the vim and vigor of a schoolboy humping his first harlot.

Jolly good, Mr. Bosworth!

Dennis Hans is a freelance writer who has taught American Foreign Policy at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Somebody Give Charles Oakley a Doobie

Has anyone noticed that the player most exercised about marijuana smoking by NBA players is the one who would most benefit from a pre-game joint?

Charles Oakley, a power forward with the Toronto Raptors, has made a career out of being a bully. He's a mean-spirited, trash-talking, flagrant-foul-committing thug. You might say he plays basketball like an angry drunk.

Now I'm not accusing him of being a drunk. First, unlike Oakley, I don't shoot from the hip on subjects about which I know next to nothing. Second, Oakley has many qualities as a player that suggest he is a non- or light drinker: He's in terrific shape, hustles every minute he's on the court and is always focused on the business at hand. In his 16th season and still going strong, he obviously takes pride in taking care of his body. He'd be the ideal role model if he weren't a thug.

If it had been legal in 1985, medicinal marijuana should have been prescribed for Oakley in rookie camp, when he first displayed belligerent tendencies. Marijuana has mellowing qualities. Unlike, alcohol, a recreational drug used far more widely in the NBA and society at large, marijuana is not intimately linked with violence. The guy at the party who's had too much to drink might give you a dirty look and snarl, "You talkin' to me?" The guy who's blissfully stoned will smile and say, "Easy, dude. Everything's cool." Potheads defuse tense situations. Drunks create and stoke them.

Of course, we don't want to transform Oakley into a pothead anymore than we want light social drinkers to become alcoholics. Moderation is the better path, abstinence most always the best. But for an on-court ruffian, a low dose of mild marijuana two hours before tipoff might temper his competiveness with compassion and make him less prone to hoop assault.

The latest round of NBA Reefer Madness was sparked when Oakley told the New York Post (February 22), "You got guys out there playing high every night.... You got 60 percent of your league on marijuana. What can you do?"

NBA commissioner David Stern responded, "If Charles has any facts to back up these very serious allegations, he should turn them over to the league as well as to Billy Hunter and the executive council of the union."

To put Oakley's charges in historical perspective, let us review the first round of NBA Reefer Madness, sparked by the October 26, 1997 New York Times story "NBA's Uncontrolled Substance." This caused a much greater uproar than this latest round, in part because the misguided public considers the Times a credible source.

Though the "uncontrolled substance" in the headline refers to pot, buried in the fine print of the article is proof that the real uncontrolled substance is alcohol, the official drug of the NBA. (To be precise and to give credit where it's due, Budweiser is the league's "official beer sponsor.")

What the Times alleged in its tendentious 1997 report was that 60 to 70 percent of players "smoke marijuana and drink excessively." The Times did not write that 60 to 70 percent "smoke marijuana excessively and drink." So despite the story's misleading headline and emphasis, the Times was in fact saying that alcohol accounts for the bulk of NBA drug use and abuse.

In the story's fine print, Buck Williams, who at the time was a teammate of Oakley's on the New York Knicks and is now retired, stated the obvious truth: "Alcohol is a much larger problem [in the league] than marijuana." Vagabond forward Dennis Scott, who has since overcome his own drinking problem, added anecdotal evidence: "After a game, especially if a guy has had a bad night, I've seen players drink until they pass out in their chair. If they're lucky, someone is watching their back, ready to haul them back to their hotel room."

Commissioner Stern disputed the figures in the Times report, and rightly so. The estimates of pot smoking and excessive drinking were ridiculously high, even for the "young male" demographic to which the players belong, which has the highest rates of substance use and abuse. (That demographic's most prevalent form of drug abuse is frequent, heavy binging on the official drug of the NBA.)

A year later, Clinton's drug czar, Barry McCaffrey, used the Times report as the basis for a Washington Post column. In an essay ironically titled "A Clean and Sober NBA" (Sept. 30, 1998), McCaffrey never once allows the word "alcohol" to parse his lips. He ignored the Times' allegations of rampant abuse of the drug alcohol and chose instead to focus on allegations of widespread use of the drug marijuana -- allegations which he then exaggerated and distorted to reach this baseless conclusion: It is "routine for players to build an addiction [to marijuana] bad enough to run afoul of the law before their problem receives attention."

In fact, none of the players in question had ever acknowledged a problem with pot, let alone an "addiction." McCaffrey knew he could smear black professional athletes as drug addicts -- based on no evidence whatsoever -- and not be challenged by any Post editor. Now that's power.

Here's another fact that escaped McCaffrey and the Post: Many experts say that excessive use of marijuana may lead to "psychological dependence," but it is not physically addictive in the manner of heroin or alcohol, the official drug of the Washington party scene. Take pot away from a long-term heavy toker and he'll get irritable. Take booze away from an alcoholic and he'll suffer delirium tremens.

Getting back to Oakley, it's safe to assume his psycho approach to basketball was influenced by his long association with General Pat Riley, the dysfunctional coach of the Miami Heat who commanded Oakley when both were with the New York Knicks. Riley transformed a once-proud team into a vicious street gang. Along with Marine Sergeant Chuck Daly of the late-1980s "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons, he turned the wonderful, free-flowing NBA game into brutal, dirty, hand-to-hand combat.

Just as pot may be the answer for NBA bullies like Oakley, it could do wonders for the control-freak coaches who have ruined the game. If these guys were a little less uptight, they might turn their players loose and let them play a more natural, reactive style. Maybe even let them run a fastbreak or two.

What do you say, Oak? For the good of the game, would you share that doobie with your former coach?

A Name is a Terrible Thing To Waste

Dear Friends,

Many of you have asked, "How did Debbie and you do it? How can two poorly paid educators with three consumption-crazy kids retire at 40?"

It's simple. Instead of cashing in our chips, we cashed in our names.

By marketing to the max all things Hans, my wife and I can lead the leisurely lives we've earned while imposing only the slightest inconvenience on our kids. All of us enter this brave new global family marketplace with new identities, collectively and individually, so allow us a moment to reintroduce ourselves.

Say goodbye to the Hans Family and hello to your State Farm Good Neighbors. As in the past, we'll be there for you when you need the ladder or a cup of sugar. But now when you seek a fourth for bridge, we'll send State Farm's agent Manny in our stead. Hey, he's a "good neighbor," too!

We've christened our three-bedroom colonial the Dutch Boy Happy Home. Should you forget the new name, just drive by. The moniker is conveniently painted on the front of the house in bold emerald green against a parchment-beige background. Twenty years from now, when our neighbors' facades have faded badly, the Dutch Boy Happy Home· will shine on brightly.

Fido, our loveable, dim-witted terrier who never answered to Fido anyway, is now the Kibbles & Bits Family Pet. He's even more loveable with his shiny new coat, compliments of the Protein Power· packed in every tasty morsel of Kibbles & Bits Supreme, the canine cuisine for dog owners who care.

I'm delighted to announce that my beloved is now Bayer's Better Half. Raising children amid the insanity of modern suburbia can give even a bona fide Supermom a headache. Next time you suffer the mother of all migraines, do like Bayer's Better Half: Reach for a Bayer.

As MasterCard Man of the House, I'm tickled pink that every day has become Groovy Golf Pants Day. Did I mention MasterCard is accepted wherever plaid slacks are sold?

We're so proud of our 18-year-old chemistry whiz, who used to answer to "Davey." As Harvard's inaugural Crest-bright Fellow·, for the next four years he'll wear the Crest sweater with pride to every class and college function. The Crimson will be whiter than ever (the teeth, friends, the teeth) with the Crest-bright Fellow· dispensing free samples of that minty, plaque-blasting paste. And won't the coeds coo when he crisscrosses campus crying "Floss fiercely, Harvard. Brush, brush, brush!"

We're particularly pleased Mattel has recognized the mass appeal of our eight-year-old, the former Samantha. As the breathing embodiment of Bull Market Barbie, she's attending third grade in power suits that shout "Look at me! I'm a Wall Street player!" Now you're probably thinking eight is too young for breast implants. But when Mattel sweetened the pot to get that realistic look, we couldn't say no. You go, Bull Market Barbie girl!

Our 16-year-old, whose birth name is on the tip of my tongue, has had the easiest adjustment of all. As Bingy, the newest creation of Budweiser ad genius DDB Needham, he just has to keep doing what he's been doing since he turned 14: get drunk every weekend with his buds. And since he already looked a little like a lizard anyway, a few surgical nips and tucks was all it took to complete the transformation. Hey Bingy, Whass-uppppp?!

I do feel a twinge of regret that the good name of Hans is no more. But you know, friends, even if I kept it I wouldn't be able to take it with me. All I could do is pass it on to the same kids who tried to milk me dry.

Sincerely,

MasterCard Man of the House

p.s. Worry no more about the church rebuilding fund. While I still can't fathom why our pastor let the "Act of God" insurance lapse during hurricane season, let us thank the Market we live in an age where the Almighty isn't the only provider. We'll have Bingo and boxing seven nights a week at Trump Church of the Redeemer.

FDA Scrambles Drug Ads

So you fellas want to advertise your drug on TV? Terrific! In case you didn't already know, there are different advertising standards for different drugs. Let me tell you about them.

If your commercial is for a prescription pharmaceutical drug, it must provide a fair assessment of the benefits and risks and describe the side effects that can occur when the consumer uses the drug as prescribed. The Food and Drug Administration regulates these ads -- after they've gone out over the airwaves for a spell. If an ad is misleading, the FDA has the authority to yank it off the air. But just between you and me, as watchdogs go the FDA is on the sleepy side. Unless you tell a whopper it won't even bark, let alone bite.

If you want to advertise the drug nicotine, the message must be 100 percent negative. Some of the best sponsors on teen-oriented shows are the anti-tobacco groups. Governments give them big bucks to produce and air commercials on the dangers of smoking and the wickedness of tobacco executives. That's only fair, considering for many years that networks ran nothing but seductive ads that helped persuade millions of youngsters to light up. That wouldn't have been such a bad thing except nicotine has one of the highest addiction rates. Now that wouldn't be such a bad thing given that nicotine fiends, unlike crackheads and alcoholics, aren't dangerous to themselves or others when under the influence. Of course, the long haul is another story: One in three smokers dies before his or her time, and that's reason enough to focus solely on the downside.

The networks also run ads by the tobacco companies themselves urging youngsters not to smoke. Mind you, they want youngsters to smoke. Companies know they gotta hook 'em early, because hardly anyone waits till adulthood to give cigs a try. No, these ads are an insurance policy against future lawsuits: They can say, "Didn't we warn you when you were ten not to take up smoking?"

One tobacco giant, Philip Morris, also spends hundreds of millions on ads to tell viewers about the million or two it spends to help women battered by disturbed, drunken husbands and boyfriends.

Now let's say you want to advertise a mind-altering recreational drug.

Boob-tube barons accept ads for illicit street drugs -- negative ads, that is, produced for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The Partnership is a band of dedicated advertising and communication professionals who donate their time and talents to warn youngsters about the dangers of those drugs that don't enrich the advertising industry.

The government has zero tolerance for balanced presentations of the risks, benefits and side effects of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine or heroin. You won't see any Tinseltown testimonials about coke being the perfect pick-me-up after a hard day on the set. The more negative the ad, the better. Why you can even imply that all illegal drugs are equally dangerous. For some strange reason most of these ads focus on marijuana, which is the least dangerous mind-altering drug -- legal or illegal.

The other recreational drug advertised on TV is alcohol. Now alcohol is alcohol, whether it comes in a shot of whiskey, a glass of wine or a can of beer. Nevertheless, the networks decided long ago not to accept ads for liquor, only beer and wine. Don't ask me why.

A while ago I said it's the job of the FDA to require pharmaceutical makers to describe the risks as well as the benefits of their drugs. Well, even though alcohol is a drug and the "D" in FDA stands for "Drug," the FDA does not regulate ads for beer and wine. Now that could be because alcohol isn't as dangerous as Claritin. No, wait a minute. It couldn't.

Even though the "D" in ONDCP stands for "Drug," that office doesn't regulate beer and wine ads. Nor does ONDCP include alcohol in its "anti-drug" ads. Now that could be because alcohol isn't as dangerous as marijuana or ecstasy. No, wait a minute. It couldn't. Why even Barry McCaffrey, the pot-obsessed former drug czar, calls alcohol the "most destructive drug in America."

Anyway, the Federal Trade Commission oversees alcohol advertising. Did I say oversees? I meant overlooks. Once in a blue moon it will take a company to task for blatantly unfair or deceptive ads, but the FTC believes "self-regulation" is best for brewers and wine merchants, who couldn't agree more.

The brewers drew up a hard-hitting voluntary code that permits them to run ads on shows where 49.9 percent of viewers are under the drinking age and to use humor and animated characters that appeal to kiddies -- so long as the humor and characters also appeal to 21-year-olds.

Beer ads accentuate the positive. Make no mistake, there is a positive side: It's a tasty beverage that gives shy guys the courage to talk to pretty gals. If you use good judgment you can enjoy it in good health for a lifetime. But somewhere in the ads you'd think a conscientious corporation would insert the words "drug," "addictive" and "cirrhosis," or remind women that fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading cause of birth defects. Maybe tell kids and teens they can die from an overdose, and that alcohol is a prime factor in the leading causes of death for young people -- not just drunk driving, but drownings, falls, homicide and suicide.

Alcohol is, by far, our most widely abused mind-altering drug. Yet beer commercials give viewers the impression everybody drinks -- white guys who throw sofas out of third-floor windows and black guys who say "Whassup," not to mention dogs, frogs, lizards, lobsters, and beavers -- and no one ever develops a problem.

Brewers are a lot like Norman Vincent Peale: They believe in the power of positive advertising.

So, fellas, those are the standards. Now which drug would you like to push?

Dennis Hans is a freelance writer whose essays have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Post (Canada) and elsewhere. He has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida.

Obscure Candidate Proud To Be a Swinger

Editor's note: The author is one of 237 independent candidates for president. He delivered the following address at a recent National Press Club gathering.

For the past three weeks my rivals for president have engaged in a sleazy whispering campaign about my social life. I've invited the news media here today not to refute the rumors but to confirm them: I am a swinger.

Is this a confession? Hardly. It is a ringing declaration.

Nothing compares to the rush I get from "mini-dipping" a dozen dames. Three nights a week, 52 weeks a year -- it never gets old. Why a stallion like Al would limit himself to Tipper for a single night, let alone a lifetime, is beyond me.

The more the merrier, that's my philosophy. Bring it on, Barbara. You're next, Janet. Keep your motor running, Kimberly. Rrrrrrr.

I get goosebumps just thinking about my partners' specialties. Mary digs the "tunnel." Pat's my "pretzel" princess. I love rockin' Robin in the "cradle" and "beatin eggs" with Beth.

George Washington said "Avoid entangling alliances." I say enjoy 'em. Heck, half the fun of entering is figuring how to pull out!

Of course, where there's yin there's yang, and swinging has awakened a side of me I never knew existed:

One club for swingers celebrates male birthdays by inviting ladies to encircle the lucky guy and take turns treating him to a quickie. To add spice, sometimes gents will join in. Until my birthday last month, I had never had the "Texas Tommy" done to me. Wow! Hey fellas, don't make me wait a year for a repeat performance.

If a member of the media will join me on stage, I'd love to demonstrate the Texas Tommy. Sam? Cokie? How 'bout you, Dan? You know the camera loves you. Dan? My goodness, what shy glamourpusses!

As Sam, Cokie and Dan have just discovered, I don't embarrass easily. My rivals know this, so why do they even bother to dish what they misperceive as dirt? Their motive, as I see it, speaks directly to the character issue: They think they can hurt me by hurting the most important person in my life -- my little old gray-haired mother.

Well, I've got news for Mr. Subliminable and the Tennessee Stud: Mom approves. Why just the other day she was saying she's sure I'll meet my "Miss Right" if I just keep swinging.

Surprised? You may suffer from preconceived notions, so let me set the record straight. Now I'm the first to admit that swingers are a bit more, shall we say, "active" than most. But in every other respect we are remarkably like you. Coming in every size, shape and color, we look even more like America than Bill Clinton's Cabinet. We inspect your meat, lube your chassis, mentor your teens.

And yes, we run for president.

Let the chips and polls fall where they may, a proud swinger I remain. To my friends in the media, before you consign my campaign to the dustbin of history, you owe it to the masses who hang on your every insight to swing for yourselves. Later tonight, I promise to take all who are willing "around the world."

At the swing dance.

What did you think I was talking about?

Obscure presidential hopeful Dennis Hans hopes you consult your local dance instructor to master the moves he mentions.
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