how to say junta
Saturday, May 6 2006
The continuing story about the surprise resignation of Porter Goss as head of the Central Intelligence Agency has brought a beam of media light to bear on what has been happening there, and (not surprisingly) it's not exactly a happy story. An intelligence agency depends on observation and cool-headed reporting of observed reality. Notice the words "observation" and "reality." Neither are held in much regard by the Bush administration, where facts spring from the gut and observations are ignored unless they agree, thereby "creating our own reality." You can imagine the frustration of a career CIA agent dealing with these jokers. His job it is to produce a sober picture of the way things really are, but if his picture doesn't support administration talking points, his loyalty is called into question. Since, from an objective standpoint, the present administration has been a royal failure in virtually all of its international objectives, one has to imagine that good CIA agents are producing a lot of very scary pictures of reality, and then paying the career consequences. Through Darwinian selection, then, those remaining in the CIA are largely the yes men, the freshly-minted, the mediocre, and the dead wrong. I imagine the quality of intelligence flowing to our country's deciders is now of a noticeably inferior quality, something about which even those deciders are becoming aware. After all, they have memories of the way the CIA functioned back in 2001 before it suffered the loss of all its experienced employees. They can fire Porter Goss and they can fire anyone else in the CIA, but they can't fire their way to a functioning intelligence apparatus. That would require a massive change in worldview across the welcoming frontier of the Enlightenment.
The CIA, of course, isn't the only federal organ to suffer at the hands of the Bush cabal. There was the famous case of the Iraqi Provisional Authority, one of the few bureaucracies the Bush Administration got to build completely from scratch. Instead of hiring Arab speakers, urban planners, sociologists, and economists, they mined Christian bible colleges and Republican campaign committees for ideologically-acceptable staffers. This is not a demographic known for its sensitivities towards other cultures, and the Provisional Authority was, not surprisingly, an unmitigated disaster. (Hopefully some of those staffers had their minds expanded by their all-expense-paid trips to a country overseas.)
The deterioration of federal institutions is not just something you read about in newspapers, you can also hear it for yourself. Today as I was tidying the wires running to the antennas on the solar deck I was listening to the KCRW World News stream, which pads NPR and PRI news with feeds from the BBC and the Voice of America. I've written about this before, but there was a time when the Voice of America was a credible international news source. It was this way because it needed to distinguish itself from the flagrant propaganda of Radio Moscow. Now, though, it apparently doesn't feel the need to distinguish itself at all. I get the sense that all their good reporters and even their on-air personalities have left or been fired, because the professionalism of those still manning the controls is not much better than that of a college radio station. Case in point: I've never heard an ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, or even MSNBC reporter pronounce the word "junta" with the same j as is used in the word "jump," but I heard an announcer on Voice of America pronounce it that way today. Then there are the proper names whose pronunciation they've never heard and don't feel the need to research. Instead they employ a faith-based approach, pronouncing, say, "Tamil Tigers" as "tMILL Tigers." It's embarrassing, not just for me as a guy listening, but also as a member of a country being represented by an international radio broadcast. Of course, it's not as if I felt I had much national dignity left to lose.
I should point out that many of the announcers on Voice of America sound like they hail from the American South and have had extensive voice coaching to erase their accents. My guess is that many of them were communications majors from southern bible colleges.
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