“Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham

Lewis Lapham draws a portrait of the America press, showing why it provides so little assistance in our attempts at self-government.  He does not tell us if this results from defects in the institution — or in us, their customers.

As usual with his monthly articles, it is both entertaining and provides a valuable perspective on America.  On us.

Elegy for a rubber stamp“, By Lewis H. Lapham, Harper’s Magazine, September 2008 — Subscription only.  Excerpt:

Having seen the original broadcast of the interview with President Bush, I remember Russert’s attitude as that of a trend-setting restaurateur anxious to please his best customer. The President delivered himself of his customary bombast (“Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. . . . A free Iraq will change the world. It’s historic times”); Russert was content to favor the harangue with polite suspensions of disbelief.

The attitude doesn’t lead to the digging up of much news that might be of interest to the American people, but it endeared Russert to his patrons and clients.

… Speaking truth to power doesn’t make successful Sunday-morning television, leads to “jealousy, upsets, persecution,” doesn’t draw a salary of $5 million a year. The notion that journalists were once in the habit of doing so we borrow from the medium of print, from writers in the tradition of Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair, H. L. Mencken, I. F. Stone, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Karp, who assumed that what was once known as “the press” received its accreditation as a fourth estate on the theory that it represented the interests of the citizenry as opposed to those of the government. Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature.

Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.  {end excerpt}

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other posts in this series about America, how we got here and how we can recover it

  1. Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
  2. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  3. A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 3 July 2008
  4. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  5. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  6. A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
  7. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  8. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  9. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
  10. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  11. Fixing America: elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  12. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  13. Fixing America: solutions — elections, revolt, passivity, 18 August 2008
  14. The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008 

For all posts on this subject see America – how can we reform it?.

22 thoughts on ““Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham

  1. I think this is painfully, largely true… made worse by how much the American people seem to believe in this as a healthy model. As one example, consider the recent outing of dozens of retired military officers who knowingly lied in public about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with talking points prepared by the Pentagon and with the full knowledge and consent of the TV channels. It barely raised a yawn that the DOD had systematically undermined the very notion of a free press, and the press went along with it in the name of “access.”

    Or we can look at the numbers of people who advocate propagandizing the American people by only telling positive stories to avoid giving succor to “the enemy.” It is unambiguously lying, and far too many go along with it.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A feeling of outrage seems necessary in republican potical regime, and — like so many aspects of self-government, Americans seem no longer able or willing to muster sufficient energy.

    If you are familar with the scandel of the generals shilling for the war, see “The media discover info ops, with outrage!

  2. customer: a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron.

    It’s a fallacy to believe that we are the press’s customers. The media serves the people who purchase media time/space, and who principally pay the bills, their advertisers. The rates that advertisers pay are based on how many people watch, listen and/or read the product, with these people being a commodity that can be sold by the media to their true customers, their advertisers.

    Advertisers sell more goods and services, and realize more profits, when their target readers/listeners/watchers are happy, content with the status quo and confident that their government is doing the Right Thing. So is it any wonder that Tim Russert went with the flow? His high salary job depended on it. Some, like Phil Donohue, have tried to buck the system. They’re gone.

    There is no general cure for this malady in a society where money can buy anything, including the media and politicians. No amount of outrage can counter the almighty dollar, because money talks and BS walks, every time. So mind yourself. Throw out the teevee and stop the newspaper. Control the input to your brain.

    A good source is Norman Solomon’s “War Made Easy — How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You make a valid and inportant point. Yet advertising only has value to the extent that we watch the media. The newspapers have learned this, as their strong PC and pro-Democratic Party bias — along with technological changes (e.g., Craigslist) — erode their audience and hence profits.

  3. Don’t you reach a point where the culpability of “the people” in their lack of concern about what they are being fed outweighs the culpability of the powers that spread the tainted information? It’s a time to be a citizen rather than a consumer. A consumer has no interest in anything but his/her private well being. A citizen has a wider perspective and a need to congregate and share with others the truth of the times they live in.

    The ability of the media to sway public opinion is a result of the populations unwillingness to educate themselves in the most basic and local issues, let alone things of national importance.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed. We appear to be losing our ability or interest to bear the burdens of self-government. I have written many posts about this and how to fix it. For links see “America – how can we reform it?“.

  4. It seems to me that blame should be dealt out all around here.

    * Certainly the citizenry share in it, allowing a for-profit entertainment medium, based on selling out common resources cheaply through a corrupt legislative process, to take over its ability to know what is going on.

    * Obviously the corrupt political process is also at fault, as well as an educational system that fails to inform the public about phenomena such as group psychology, compliance techniques, and emotional engineering.

    * And the media themselves get a share, putting ratings and profits above any notion of the public good and exercising their function of keeping people informed. Corporate consolidation and remote ownership are additional cancers on the body politic, and were not at all anticipated when our original laws on free speech were drafted.

    And let’s face it, while there is a strong argument to be made for an engaged citizenry, there is also the point of tolerance to be dealt with… people who are not employed by the government, the media, think tanks, universities and so on actually have families to raise, houses to run, bills to pay… at some point, representative government has to actually function and accomplish something.

    The passivity with which the gutting of our economy and ideals over the past eight years has been greeted is symptomatic of an emotional despair, and of conditioning/brainwashing by an administration and electronic media that are far more skilled at controlling the feelings of the peasantry than the peasants are at controlling the behavior of corporations and politicians. Nothing will improve until this balance is somehow redressed.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: All good points. Now, how do we re-start the republican engines?

  5. A republic such as ours cannot survive when the voters are uninformed or are spun by political rhetoric to the point where they can no longer make intelligent choices.

    But the article and comments above show that we are well past the point where the voters can predict which candidates/choices will have a positive impact on their own futures. It appears that the public is slowly becoming aware of how badly mislead they are but are so exhausted and/or confused that they cannot seem to do anything about it.

    It does not help that the news media is under considerable pressure to be more profitable. This has led to a continuing cycle of cutbacks and layoffs that has crippled the industry by retaining only employees who are viewed as profitable regardless of whether or not they are reporting news. This has led to news industry to essentially become dependent on the government to tell it what is going on rather than vice versa (attending news conferences is much cheaper than sending a reporter out to get the facts for yourself).

    I agree with Greg Panfile that fixing the spin in the media and helping it to recover it’s role of informing the public might be the single most important task in rebuilding America but I cannot see a reliable way to do this within the current for-profit news infrastructure.

    Something new and radically different is desperately needed and the only way it can come into being is for desperate times to occur. And I fear that we will not recognize either the desperate times or the new mechanism for delivering information in our increasingly propagandized world.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You make two distinct but powerful points.

    First, can voters “predict which candidates/choices will have a positive impact on their own futures.” This question is of extreme importance. The easy answer is “no”, since what candidates say and do has diverged over the past 60 years. FDR ran in 1932 as a economic conservative and in 1940 as a peace candidate. And it has gotten worse since then.

    But — again — we are responsible, imo. We prefer candidates who lie to us. Look at McCain, “Mr. Straight Talk” — with his well-documented record of lies and flip-flopping to suit the audience (see “John McCain vs. John McCain” and “McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare“). On the other hand, see the horrified reaction to a candidate that speaks truthfully to us — as in Carter’s interview in Playboy: “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” (Being an intelligent man, he learned and afterwards gave us the treacle we prefer)

    When we demand honesty and fidelity to campaign promises — that means laughing at the absurd “something for nothing” promises that now dominate the campaigns — then we might be back on track.

    Second, the problem with the media. Note that its financial problems comes largely from us — a shrinking audience, no longer satisfied with their product. This might point to the solution: the Internet. Hence the importance of my series asking “if the Internet makes us smarter — or dumber?

  6. I also need to take time to disagree with Rob D about the culpability of the citizen/consumer in our current mess.

    According to our current for-profit news/entertainment model, the media corporations provide us with both news and entertainment. We, the citizen/consumer, vote by watching the shows and the other corporations vote by providing advertising dollars. But we only get to see the final outcome of the negotiations between the media and the advertising companies.

    If, for example, a media company wants to show an expose on, say the need for immigration reform, they have to find companies that are willing to support the show with their advertising dollars. If advertisers can’t see a way that such a show would benefit them then the show doesn’t get made and the media companies mark that topic off of their list of profitable themes.

    The net result is a narrowing of American news media until about all they talk about is Paris Hilton and daily Presidential polls (but not the issues underlying those polls, that might imply that a potential advertiser isn’t doing well and we wouldn’t want to think about that) without the citizen/consumer having any impact on the process.

    There will be no change within the current news infrastructure until the day that thousands of protesters march on companies like Proctor & Gamble with placards reading “We want more news!” An event that is, unfortunately, unlikely to occur in the near future and would probably only spawn a documentary about how Proctor & Gamble is a really nice company that cares deeply about mom, apple pie, and sunny days and explains why you should buy more of their products.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Are you kidding?

    “The net result is a narrowing of American news media”

    Most boomers grew up in a world in which there were only two dozen national communitication networks: 3 TV networks, two wire services, several major newspapers in each city, a dozen major magazines. Since many of these had common owners, the news was effectively managed in the decades following WWII.

    Now we a 4th major TV network (Fox, 1996), many independent radio voices (take-off circa 1990), and (due to technology) far more periodicals (many online with large curculations). Most important, we have the Internet (At the start of 1994 there were 700 websites; today there are hundreds of millions.)

    The rise of “viral marketing” results from the increased number of rapid communication channels. News and insights move as rapidly on these networks as commercial products.

    Many of the complaints about this new era are from beneficiaries of the past era, longing for their lost control. “All that chaos now, when things were so calm and controlled before.”

    While many of the US news networks have concentrated ownership (as you note), the Internet and access to foreign sources (esp UK news) more than offsets that. Fox provides a conservative view, the the Inter Press Service provides a leftish-perspective on the news. Using the post office or the Internet we have access to foreign media. Do the the US corps own the BBC? Der Spiegel? The Financial Times? The Times of London? The Independent? The Guardian? Agence France-Presse (AFP)?

    Yahoo News draws on many of these sources. Google News is in effect a subscription to the world’s major papers.

  7. It’s the story of the three blind men and the elephant all over again, because the folks I discuss the news with see a twist, a slant, and for the media in general a definite mis-reporting of events. I don’t believe that any advertiser influences the pattern of reporting in the New York Times or Los Angeles Times, nor other U.S. newspapers and TV Channels.

    During the 1973 gas crisis I used one of my ads to chastise the nation’s media and it was struck down. I called them “censors” and the head of the advertising department arranged a luncheon in the Executive Dining Room with me as a guest of the Editor. I refused to back down, and said it was my right to use my ad to voice my opinion, that the media was causing panic and that it was affecting the nation’s economy. Yes, they gave in and printed my ad on Page 3 of the main news section, instead of the Calendar Section, the only ad (and personal opinion) ever to be printed there, titled “NO GAS”.

    The Editorial Staff will fight to the death to protect the free press from influence by the advertisers.

    What I read about the war in Iraq and heard from friends in Iraq, citizens of Iraq, was not the same as the news here. What Michael Yon reported from Iraq was different from what I read in my morning copy of the L.A.T. On TV the voices of dissent are everywhere, but in the majority as Liberal as can be, yes, as Liberal as can be!

    And now we have the Virgin birth of a Candidate who is appointed President of the University six months after he begins his Freshman year. How would Tim Russert have handled this one?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree with your analogy, and used it in this post: “Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant“.

    You raise an important point. The Left accuses the media of bias, that they reflect the opinions and needs of their corporate sponsors. The right accuses the media of bias, reflecting the “guild-like” structure of its employees — which marginalizes conservative voices. Both have evidence, although the objective long-term analysis I have seen more strongly supports the latter (esp. analysis using Nexis of how people and events are described).

    Both sides see the media coverage of the Iraq war as biased. “Dovish” analysts are underrepresented on the TV networks and major print media, where conservative and military dominate. On the other hand, news accounts have often tilted the other way. Perhaps they offset each other, to some extent.

    The nature of the media reporting and analysis about the war is something on which I have written extensively. You can see those articles here.

    We see the same phenomenon in the election coverage. Both McCain and Obama are media darlings, and the coverage reflects the soft glow the major media typically (not always) cast over both candidates. I see no obvious evidence of net bias so far.

    I will believe that the media strongly favors Obama when we see TV reports about Mr. Straight Talk like this: “John McCain vs. John McCain” and “McCain’s YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare“). Vice versa, more sceptical coverage of Obama’s maddeningly vague plans to reform America.

  8. Follow-up to Morseburg’s comment:

    He sent me a copy of his ad in the LA Times, for which I thank him!

    It is a bit of history about an important period. The gas lines in the US were powerful evidence of how public policy errors can turn a problem into a disaster. Almost every other nation responded better to the two 1970’s oil shocks. We did not get back on track until Reagan — against the recommendations of his experts — dismantled the oil price and production controls.

    As we enter another period of economic shocks, let us hope and pray that we do not again make such large policy errors.

  9. Another example of Media over-kill is the oil spill in Alaska, but what few know is that the Valdez was three years in building, specifically designed for that run, and that stupidly and blindly following the eco-freakish reasoning, Congress “outlawed” the Valdez from those waters, making it almost useless for service and resulting in scrapping the vessel a few years later. What a ridiculous waste of resources!

    As an ex-merchant seaman from WWII, it makes my stomach churn to think of what might happen to the environment if one of today’s goliath-sized vessels ever ran aground. Drilling offshore minimizes the risk by far over the danger these ships pose to the oceans of the world. We would know the true meaning of the word, holocaust then. We would also know what a depression really was, not here, but world-wide.

    We need a common sense energy policy, now, in place, one that Congressional morons cannot tamper with. We bought gas at 8 cents a gallon in 1939 while going to High School, and they even wiped the windshield and checked the oil at EVERY filling station then. If they want electric cars, then we need more coal burning plants, unless we go muclear, as we should, but again, those moronic environmentalists have us hedged in there as well. Damn. Most of them weren’t born yet-in 1972-and did not see block long lines at every single filling station, hour or more waits, and then a NO GAS sign go up on the pumps.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree on all points. Unfortunately we lack the foundation of data and analysis required to formulate an energy policy (nor is this ignorance limited to energy). We spent over $100 million to shoot down a satellite recently, just as a demonstration and test of our capability to do so. A fraction of that applied to research would help steer America into the 21st century, giving us valuable information for a multi-disciplinary team to analyze.

    Instead, I suspect, we will wait until we face a crisis, then develop a policy based on inspired guesses and interest-group politics. I doubt the result will work well.

  10. In response to a recent posting of mine, FM asked: “how do we re-start the republican engines?” As the late Rick Nelson sang, “fools rush in where wise men never go.” Obviously, I don’t know, but given the absence of any wise men rushing in, here are some possible approaches:

    1. Triage: elect Obama and a Democratic congress, and give them four years to reverse the kleptocracy and do what he says he will and should be evaluated on. Roll back the imperialism, make significant progress on health care and energy. If so, four more years; if not, give some Republicans who actually have some interest and ability in governing a chance, a la Hagel, Lugar, even Romney or Schwarzenegger (amend the Constitution if need be!).

    2. Reform: Break up the media conglomerates, all of them… limit ownership by a single company to exactly one TV station OR one newspaper. As part of licensing bandwidth to them, insist on robust citizen access to the airwaves, locally originated programming, etc. Reserve half the bandwidth for nonprofits of all types, no matter how loopy or loony, so long as they don’t advocate anything illegal. Take an OODA approach, and be ready to apply lessons learned for further steps.

    3. Initiate, perhaps under the guidance of Second Lady Jill Biden, a national movement to educate children about psychology in order to protect them from the usual suspect boogeymen: terrorists, pedophiles, drugs, cults, toy manufacturers. Figure out ways to take the important points in such books as Influence (Cialdini) and The Manipulated Mind (Winn) and project them in age-appropriate ways into high school and middle school curricula. Then, again, watch and wait, and fix it as you go along in Boyd style.

    Note the common theme of awareness of limits above. There can only be a few priorities, and one can only take one step at a time, keep strategy steady but adapt tactics based on feedback…and certain things are going to take longer than we want them to… as that woman in the gum commercial so wisely states, “no matter what!”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Who can say what will work. The first is a practical step, workable — but I suspect Obama will disappoint you. I am sceptical of the other two recommendations.

    The second is IMO, as I said in reply to Pluto’s comment above, largely misguided. The diversity and range of information sources available to us today — including mass-media like Yahoo news and Google news — dwarf anything available to Americans or anyone else in history. Blaming that for our problems seems like a desperate grasp at scapegoats.

    The third is that old stand-by, children’s education — the core tool for most social reformers during the past 20+ years. As a result the schools are a battlefield of competing special interests (some winners, some defeated). Like most war zones, the result is rubble — a wasteland of children unable to read, write, or do simple math. Of course, the combatants feel no responsibility for the outcome.

  11. Rubber stamp — what a laugh!

    (”Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. . . . A free Iraq will change the world. It’s historic times”);
    Was Saddam not dangerous? Wasn’t he pretending to be lying about not having nukes, or was he only seeming to? OK, AFTER we invaded and searched, we didn’t find nukes, tho we did find massive Oil-for-food fraud & bribery against the UN & various French & Russian companies.
    Not even ‘against a dumb war’ B.O. has been claiming that Saddam was NOT dangerous, nor a mass murderer (if not a madman).

    Bush told the truth about him being dangerous, told the truth about the US not leaving him in power.
    And it looks to me like the truth about a free & democratic Iraq changing the world. Bush also said it was going to be Long War — and it has been, and will be.

    Yes, blame the voters, and the consumers, and the ‘want it all RIGHT NOW’ folk.

    To claim that anti-war, or anti-Bush voices haven’t had plenty of air-time is silly. The fact is that many folks, like the 60+ million Bush voters of 2004, agreed more with Bush than the opposite.

    Greg P. stated clearly an issue which many Americans disagree:
    The passivity with which the gutting of our economy and ideals over the past eight years has been greeted is symptomatic of an emotional despair,

    These are two hugely separate points. The gutting of the economy was anything but passive — consumers ACTIVELY took out equity loans to consume today, rather than save/invest. Poor people stay poor because they do not save for the future.

    And where were Dems, 2002-2006, in opposition? Never talking about the problem of too fast house price increases, never leading for more savings, never advocating more drilling for oil in America nor more nuclear power (two currently cost-effective power policies).

    Where?
    a) screaming about global warming (with many news articles dishonestly attributing to Bush the US refusal to ratify Kyoto, which happened under Clinton), anti-warming w/o advocating behavior changing but unpopular higher gas prices,
    b) from the 2003 Iraq invasion, constantly calling for US surrender/ withdrawal/ defeat. As Iraqis murdered Iraqis, every bomb was blamed on Bush, rather than on the bombers.
    c) from the 2004 Abu Ghraib small-torture, big hazing pictures, this “gutting … of our ideals” has been a cacophony of shrill, unbalanced voices. Yes, unbalanced. Letting dogs bite prisoners is torture, but having a dog threaten isn’t quite torture. Where is a definition of torture that has been agreed to by Congress (and when)? Water boarding to point of lungs receiving water is torture, to me, but if it is then stopped, and the victim is revived, there is no permanent physical damage. One strict definition of torture might say it requires permanent physical damage, like cutting off an arm — which Saddam did to many, yet few anti-torture folk were interested when 6 of these real torture victims of Saddam condemned him.

    JFK said “we will pay any price, bear any burden” — those ideals are long gone from the Dems. Ask any Dem or anti-Iraq war these two questions:

    Is Iraqi Freedom good? When the answers come back: they’re not free yet, yada yada. Bush supporters are not such weasels. Iraqi Freedom is good. But we’re not there yet. Before going to the second question, the first question is Value question: good or bad. No mention of cost. Freedom, yes or no?

    Only if Freedom is good, if there is a Yes to Freedom, should the second question come up:
    How much is it worth? anti-war answers: 5000 men is too many; $1 trillion is too much, yada yada.

    From my view, we have ‘freedom loving’ Americans, mostly Dems (but also many Libertarians like Ron Paul) unwilling to pay the price, or to pay any price, for Iraqi Freedom.

    And too many Bush-bashers seem to be mere Rubber Stamp critics: Bush is bad, baa baa bad — sheep. I enjoy Fab’s site for being a more thoughtful critic of Bush, the Reps, the current disappointing shape of America — but ‘sad’ shape should be based on a comparison to other, non-sad or better countries. And from my EU view, it’s not clear to me that Sweden or France really is better overall, and I suspect that almost all are worse overall in the next 10 year time frame for middle class comfort.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Too much in here — many large issues! — for a brief reply. Three brief comments. First, I agree that our situation results from bi-partisan policies. Our government’s structure means that most large public policies are such, from the invasion of Iraq to the annual budget.

    Second, while a comparison with other nations provides an important and useful perspective — ulitmately it is irrelevant. If the eurofolk go into the dustbin of history, America should not follow them just to be good buddies.

    Third, freedom for the Iraq people might be worth them “bearing any burden”. That is for them to decide. It is not IMO worth us doing so. Their are billions of people in the world, and each nation much find its own way. Committing America to pay any price in blood and money to free the world’s people sets us on a path to certain destruction, IMO. The war was not sold to us on that basis, nor do I believe the American people would have approved had it been done so.

  12. For a wonderful illustration of the rot in the major media read “Why Bother Researching Anything, Anyway“, Joshua Foust, Registan, 24 August 2008.

    In the comments I note that it is wonderful that a reporter admits his almost total ignorance about the topic of his article. Problem discovery is the first step to a solution. Unfortunately, this is gallows humor. The article shows no sign that this journalist regards this as a problem. Which is a bleak indication of the magnitude of the problem.

  13. FM, all points well taken.

    Obama may indeed disappoint, and it is certain that all sorts of lobbyists etc. will do everything they can to maintain the status quo and obstruct. The question will be how he reacts to that: if he can defeat it the first time, and what he does if he cannot. The leading indicator will be if he appeals directly to the people, pointing out the obstructions, and explaining that it will not be easy, it will not be immediate, and he needs the populace to work and sacrifice. If he does that we all win. If he doesn’t, again, one term and we try something different.

    The wide variety of sophisticated media available don’t mean that people will use them, and that we should passively allow the mega-trusts to control our information pipelines. Breaking them up cannot be otherwise than good, and it’s a first step to seeing what more can be done. The people who most need to be educated and informed are (for obvious reasons) those least likely to exert the effort required to become so. Information about what is going on and the bandwidth used to deliver it are public resources essential to the health of the republic. Throwing the moneychangers out of the temple may not deify the populace, but what happens if we leave them in there?

    Anent the education thing, I would contend that the material discussed is at least as vital as reading and writing and arithmetic… indeed, how the human mind works and can be worked in individual and group situations may even be more important, as it is far more useful to the average citizen than, say, geometry; this from a dyed in the wool neo-Pythagorean;-). Again, it may not work, and there will be challenges and shortcomings… but the alternative is negligence of ignorance, and we know where that leads… it’s what got us here.

    If optimism does indeed widen options, on these three fronts I’m prepared to assume ‘yes we can’ until the facts prove otherwise. What’s the alternative?

  14. This blind faith that Obama can perform miracles keeps coming up, but what, what has he ever done to justify this assumption? Let’s appoint him head of Ford or GM for four years first and see how he does there, before we give him the most powerful job in the world, based soley upon his movie star looks, his complexion, and his ability to remember parts of previous political speeches.

    Our medical system is always one of the top three in the world (giving myself some latitude), but he thinks it needs fixing. The number of uninsured children is of no consequence; the only figure that counts is the number of untreated children or neglected children. Again, here we do a great job.

    Education? What is needs is more disciptine in the classroom, more control at home, and everyone to be behind an agenda that extolls the virtue of knowledge rather than a daily diet of foul-landguage in rap music. We’ll attack these problems from every angle except head-on.

    And, energy? Yes, wait until there is an emergency before we do anything about it. We have 100 million cars to replace if we decide to go electric, and that will take around twenty years at least. Make one mistake and we will have people starving because we cannot get the food to market, or the fuel to heat or cool their homes, causing untold deaths. An energy policy can meander along, as it has, but the day it becomes an emergency situation we’ve lost the ball game. Let Iran’s suicidal President block the Straits at the narrow entrance to the Persian Gulf and the whole world suffers within days or weeks.

    Yes, “Obama may indeed disappoint” (the new English form of speech, right?), well I say, Why the Hell take the chance? I ran businesses and I did not pick up someone from the street to run them. I wanted credentials showing experience. May indeed disappoint, I should say so. One big mistake and we’ve all been had. Kennedy made one when he failed at the Bay of Pigs, which led to the Missile Crisis, 13 days of world tension, with Castro screaming “Pull the switch, pull the switch”.

    This time all the stakes are a hundred times greater, and we look at far greater consequences. Joe Biden will only be the V.P., not at the helm. This guy, Obama, has never been under fire leading a platoon, let alone ALL the Armed Forces. Let him mature and show some of his skills before doing what we’re about to do.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It is extraordinary that we will entrust the nation to someone with so little experience (much of whose brief political career has been spent running for relection or higher office — not legislating). As Morseburg notes, few large businesses would make someone with so little experience a senior officer — let alone CEO.

  15. To Howard E. Morseburg : sir, it is great to have someone of your age and experience on this site. I have benefited form your comments above and on the other posts (honest to god, I hope you do not assume I’m patronizing you).

    But if BO isn’t fit to lead this Nation of yours, who is?

    The other candidate behaves like George “Blood n’ Guts” Patton (YOUR Blood, HIS Guts) on all issues pertaining to the international arena, like the recent Russian trouncing of Georgia.

    And I do not recall said candidate, correct me if I’m mistaken, ever having led a platoon under fire. Just being in the cockpit of a fighter plane and landing bombs on Vietnamese peasants does not IMHO place laurels upon him and qualify for membership to the Valhalla of great American Heroes (Patton, Eisenhower, et.al.).

    I am (unfortunately) not a citizen of the US, but I would like to suggest someone more balanced in views to lead this Nation of yours. He recently lost his son in Iraq a couple of years ago. But unfortunately, it seems that no one has even mentioned his name for the candidacy. An individual who has received the baptism of fire on the ground in Vietnam, and having more enlightened views of global affairs would IMO be more suited for the role of POTUS.

    What’s your take on this? Yours Truly

    To FM : haven’t heard much from OldSkeptic of late, wondering how he’s doing? Send him my regards, will ya?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is the election from hell. A post goes up soon with documentation.

  16. No, I would never assume that anyone is patronizing me, and I do thank you for your courteous attention to my opinions. At 7 or 8 I began a world-wide correspondence in trading stamps, and later, met some of my correspondents. My father worked for the Electric Ferries running from New Jersey to New York, and he brought home four or five newspapers each day, left by commuters on the seats. I learned to follow the news closely.

    Sen. John McCain certainly has a lot more years in the Senate, if he had nothing else to recommend him. He learned discipline in the military, whereas BHO mentions his lack of interest in school, his propensity for a bit of drug experimentation, and totally lacks experience in any field of endeavor, nor has he at any time shown an once of ability as a leader. McCain had skills as a pilot, even if only attacking North Vietnamese troops (I note your use of the word peasants), bravery in facing and evading missiles on every mission, and in all his military flying, had to make swift decisions even when simply landing on a carrier deck. You ignore bravery, a valued asset in any man. You ignore patriotism, a valuable attribute in any country. You ignore this experience, and that is what you value most when selecting your doctor, your lawyer, or your bus driver. (McCain’s son is in Iraq at this time, I believe.)

    Gen. Patton was known for being up there with his troops, but that is another issue. He did make one mistake that bedeviled him until the day he died. For that I would not condemn him; his valor remains unquestioned. Yes, we had heroes, and I’ve met some of them, ones with a sash and the Medal of Honor around their necks.

    I also have sat and talked to two Russian Naval Captains, men who commanded Nuclear subs during the Cold War (both named Igor, and both of whom had wives named Irina). I’ve listened to the Russian Admiral speak, the very man who sat alongside Fidel Castro during those 13 days. None of them spoke English, but my Russian friend, Irina (too) translated for us. Oh yes, 5 million Georgians died at the hands of the Russians under Stalin, so that situation goes back many years.

    Valhalla? You forgot to add (sarc.)

    If elected, I predict that McCain will be his own man, that he will seek to resolve differences diplomatically, that he will steer a good course for this nation. His real baptism under fire was in Hanoi, and one of his cellmates during those long years of exile and imprisonment was Spike Nasmyth, a good friend of mine. No, if you and I were in a calamitous situation and OHB was pointing in one direction and JMc the other, I have no doubt which one I’d follow, nor do I hesitate to say, you’d be by my side too. This is not the time for the 10,000 Generals to find their way out of Persia.

    Thanks for your sentiments, your kindness in selecting me out, and my apologies to Fabius if I have violated any of his rules. I guess I’ll have to get back to YouTube. Those are your initials, YT, aren’t they?

  17. To Howard E. Morseburg :

    strong points, sir. Yes, experience in government service is an important trait. But perhaps in these interesting times, perhaps a call for someone with a different outlook on issues both foreign and domestic is needed. I’m rooting that someone like BO who is NOT colored (no pun intended) by experience to come out with creative solutions. (Despite his lack of interest in formal education and leanings towards substance experimentation.) Many leaders in the history were unconventional in character, e.g. a certain individual who acquired territory for the British Empire, whose name unfortunately I can’t recall at present (help me, FM). And the prime minister of Britain during WWII, now he WAS truly an anomaly, a penchant for cigars and wine , if I recall correctly. Boldness yes, but RECKLESSNESS (or is this a ploy to gain voters?) uh – uh. Yes, patriotism is important; unfortunately when taken to extremes, very damaging to relations with potential allies/foes (I believe one of my heroes, that cavalry commander in WWII had this flaw). A double – edged sword.

    One of my associates claims patriotism to his ancestral land, often droning at lengths about how glorious (I share the same ethnicity with him, unfortunately) our civilization is, the lifespan of the Empires, the influence on neighboring powers, the genius of our generals and strategists from aeons before, yada yada yada. I’ve actually yet to see him even defend anyone of said ethnicity yet; so I’ve always been skeptical of those who proclaim to the rest of the world ’bout their patriotism.

    I pray for the safety of JMcC’s son, for I’ve heard all manner of sufferings about the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. (PTSD, along with those unfortunate souls who have lost their limbs.) On the other hand, I suspect due to his father’s influence, he may presently be in rather safe circumstances away from the hotspots. Just my two roubles.

    ‘Bout Josef Stalin (Mr. One Death = Tragedy, a Million Mere Statistic), well I recall that a certain Mrs. President of Georgia recently claiming that he was Georgian too. (How true is this?)

    Enough said though, if at the end of the day I were involved in some predicament and I had to choose between the directions indicated by said candidates, I’d rather choose my own path. Yes, FM is quite correct in viewing this as an election from hell. I’ve lost faith in politicos all posing as prophets leading their nations out of crisis. Perhaps it is time for the People of the US to lead Themselves instead? (As to how this is possible is unknown, perhaps a highly evolved form of Democracy is needed?)

    I’ll be one of ’em Generals finding my own path out of Persia instead of relying on some fella posin’ as a Xenophon. ‘Tis sad that the Strategist whom I find most worthy for the seat of POTUS was not even suggested. He would, I believe, not only be America’s Xenophon but even Her Belisarius as well.

    Still, I wholeheartedly respect your views, and do hope to see your comments soon for I have once again gleaned much from them. I wish you many blessed years ahead.

    Y.T.

    “We’ll either find a way or make one”. : attributed to Hannibal Barca

  18. There is no substitute for experience. The Day of the Prophets is well behind us. BHO is working under a self-delusion and is barely out of his Toastmaster period, but his good looks remind those who worshipped JFK of a risen Christ figure. Strong words, yes, but this is what many are seeking, a supposed Savior. Change? Will it be a change for the better or the worse?

    During WWII there were two ladies who were as good as speakers and as inspiring as Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, or didn’t you know that? The first was Gracie Fields, when she sang, “There’ll be bluebirds over. . .the white cliffs of Dover” and the other was Kate Smith, who sang, “God Bless America”. Those four voices inspired millions (16 million American men and women were in uniform) to stand together and defeat the Axis powers. Far out at sea any one of those voices would make your heart beat stronger! They all were truly inspiring, even though my family did not support Roosevelt and my Dad leaned towards Isolationism.

    I’d rate Pres. Bush as an uninspiring speaker, Sen. John McCain a bit better. Obama? He has a built a vocal facade that misleads the unwary, makes promises that instill hope but that have no foundation in past performance, and wishes to lead an officer Corps with far more experience, that will immediately became aware of his many deficiencies if he is elected, and a Nation that cannot afford to experiment with a man who claims to be “a natural born leader” without justification for such..

    Disparaging McCain as “bombing peasants” is ridiculous. It takes extreme courage to simply fly fighter-jets from an air base, even more skill and courage from a flight deck, and superior intelligence to master all the technical aspects of handling an aircraft. Pardon me, but I would call one a pilot, the other barely a hot-air balloonist at a County Fair.

    One trip, a few weeks at sea, some Union members, in am emotional meeting, decided that our Captain, 56 years old (who had first gone to sea at the age of 12 in 1899 on sailing ships), should be relieved of command. Some of these guys had just six months to two years aboard ships and were 18 to 20 years old. It was ludicrous. That’s what we have now, 18 to 20 year olds deciding who should be Captain of our ship, emotion, not rational thinking.

    But those WWII leaders at least kept the war in Europe, away from these shores. It is my belief that fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan was a better alternative than giving them time to muster forces in the mid-East and then slipping them into our midst for a shot at another 9/11. Our next President’s job will be to see it to a finish and avoid another Khyber Pass when we leave.

    As to Belisarius, please, I hate to have to Google when I have so much in my head already!

  19. Nobody has the right to doubt McCain’s bravery, but his history of crashes show a high degree of risk acceptance, the one where he hit power lines was pure recklessness.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A powerful observation. In my opinion his legislative history and statements suggest that he will govern as he flew: recklessly. And there will probably be crashes.

  20. It is true that with more to prove Obama could be unpredictable and the one to overreact.

    Succeeding to such an extent as he has at a young age he may lack the caution that comes from experience and get frustrated when the inevitable setbacks come.

  21. To Howard E. Morseburg & Barry :

    I concur, gentlemen. ‘Tis true as the Greeks say that “youth and skill are no match for age and treachery”.

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