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Thursday, April 24, 2008

To be VP: Obama's path to the Presidency

Writing in Smirking Chimp, RJ Eskow explained one reason for difference between pre-voting polls and the final result in Pennslvania: the Bradley effect, "where white voters are reluctant to tell pollsters that they won't vote for a black candidate."

I'd gone on in detail about voting discrepancies in the New Hampshire primary. The pre-polls were strongly in Obama's favor yet the end result told different, with Hillary winning strongly. The closet racists "laying bare their inner demons behind the voting curtain" that I talked about in my last post could be reflected in those people who don't admit that they don't want to vote for Obama because he's black.

Both exit- and pre-polls could be distorted by this factor, to which Eskow attributed an accurate election differential of 9.5% in Hillary's favor even as polls were projecting a narrower spread.

I think voters hiding their prejudices to pollsters could explain some of the New Hampshire discrepancy. But could this be the sole factor explaining why people didn't vote for Obama? Reports of voting irregularities in some of the largely African American communities did come out of Pennslyvania. Reports of electronic vote fraud persist as they did in New Hampshire. {For more information, bradblog.com covers voting problems which go unaddressed by the mainstream media.} While disenfranchisement and voting irregularities might explain a few points, the remaining schism between polls and actual results might be attributed to the race factor.

Did Obama blink?

The momentum seems to have shifted in Clinton's favor. I did notice that Obama's speech after losing in Pennslyvania seemed a little short of self-exultation. Obama hedged a little, and inserted "the Democratic candidate" a few times instead of mentioning himself, which might show newly emerging doubt in his belief in the certainty of victory.

There does seem to be a general shift toward an inevitable end to the Obama magic that's held the Democrats spell-bound. It could all end here in Indiana. Suspicions that Obama might be waiting to capitulate to Hillary have begun to circulate.

Commenting under a Rob Kall article on OpEdNews.com, Mark Sashine describes a scenario where Obama would step down, and the Democrats cave in to the GOP:
Obama and his people openly announce what we all understand- that Clintonians are aiming for the defeat in November- he will not be a nominee. It is as clear as a whistle. It is not clear if Obama is a part of the whole plan (GOP-Dem deal) or he and his people are just naive as Hell. Most likely both. The MSM works like a perfect orchestra. slowly but surely sqeezing Obama out of the game and preparing the public for the 'strategic' Denver decision when Obama is going to be acknowledged but for the good of the party Hillary will become a nominee.

Sashine's idea that Hillary is going through an 18-month primary season (and just about her whole wad as well) just to bow out to McCain is ridiculous. Still, Sashine does have a point that the leadership of the Democrats--the Democratic National Leadership Committee--and the GOP are corporatists sympathetic to the Right wing and in many ways no different from each other.

Another factor accounting for suspicions about Clinton is the fact that Hillary's husband Bill is in the opinion of many on the left a sell-out to corporate interests. Hillary does have plenty of reasons to be disliked, but fewer en toto than McCain.

Hillary's present hawkishness could be perceived as the product of ties to the Business Right, military industrial complex, etc.. While the hawkishness might be very real concerning the enemies of Israel, I believe Hillary is positioning herself politically and it's all done for show, to appeal to a specific segment--the Reagan Democrats, God and guns people.

The conservative wing of the Democratic party may be the key to victory in November. Reagan Democrats make up a vital constituency in the swing states, which are where Obama has done somewhat worse than Hillary. The Obama camp could claim that their victories over Hillary in the key battlegrounds of Virginia and Colorado qualify their candidate. But is Obama's popularity enough to lead him to victory over McCain?

Much of Hillary's posturing is meant to drive the key conservative demographic to her side. I don't think her allegiance to a particularly conservative position goes beyond the superficial. She wants to be seen as a hawk on defense, so she advocated "demolishing" Iran should it strike Israel.

Even if Hillary is posing, and is a dove at heart and will pursue non-intervention and a speedy withdrawal from Iraq once she ascends to the Presidency, she's politically savvy enough to embrace militarism superficially, for purely political reasons, to get her elected. This isn't to say she's not hawkish, but merely asserts the truth that hawkishness is a virtue in Red state politics.

Both Obama and Hillary have been clever to latch onto "fear fatigue" the approach used by the GOP to motivate voters since 9/11. Approaching the resolution of problem without frightening Americans has become good political common sense, with much the Bush nightmare passing into history. Criticizing the failure of Iraq policy and its high costs in troops and treasure will rally the Democratic base but could also alienate people who voted for Bush believing that the Iraq War was necessary in the battle against terror. More clever and effective is poking holes in the Bush-era habit of fear-mongering with its near-constant crying of wolf. Much of this political opportunism has been laid out in Olbermann's Nexus of Politics and Terror about which I've said much.

Most Americans can't understand international geopolitics so Hillary must be careful not to cast blame on voter ignorance for the Iraq debacle. Instead Hillary will need to channel anti-Iraq War rage against Bush and McCain, who appears willing to carry the status quo forward. The current approach in Iraq with its constantly delayed and elusive "victory" mean that staying the course will only get more of the same--more dead Americans, more resistance to our presence in Iraq. This means McCain will be carrying considerable baggage into the General Election, with opposition to Iraq leveraged in Hillary's favor, assuming she's the nominee.

In 2004, Bush dodged the blowback that has cursed the United States in the global political arena and diminished its stature. GOP strategists shifted the debate to Kerry's Vietnam record and the war on terror. By so doing Bush won over the key "God and Guns" demographic in the heartland. These are people who'd identify more with the ongoing exercise of American military force, even with highly dubious result circa 2004, rather than confront the possibility of Vietnam-like defeat. Four years later, enough of these people, led perhaps by their wives, have reconsidered the foolishness of Bush's foreign policy, and will expect some significant policy improvements out of McCain.

There will of course be a hardcore element supporting endless war no matter what the results in the short-term. These ultra-nationalists will dig their heels in, but they vote GOP in most elections, so they might not be drawn to the Democratic ticket no matter who's on it.

Obama, the Natural Choice for VP

Obama walking away from his candidacy for President would be a high price to pay for him, but he could receive political dividends should he stand down and Hillary win.

To accept second place would be an act of remarkable compromise. I think Obama's reputation would be no worse for it, though I'm sure many in his camp would be revolted by the possibility of having to work with the "Wicked Witch of the East."

Obama would make an excellent Vice President. He'd retain a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. I can't think of a better person to send abroad and to deal with domestic race issues. Four or eight years in that position would give him the polish he needs, in areas outside his obviously perfect oratory and speech delivery. Diplomacy and foreign affairs are vital components to every President's skill set, and with only four years in the Senate, Obama isn't well enough prepared--yet.

A VP selection would also allow Obama unprecedented access to the Office of the President. He could help shape policies which so desperately need revision after eight years of Bush rule. Working within the federal government would give Obama far more political power than he could accumulate over two or three terms in the Senate.

VP would also allow him to nurture and build a very strong corps of young Americans, who're clearly the future of our country. As a young Boomer, Obama can act as a conduit for younger people; he's clearly excellent at articulating what younger people want. As a Senator from Illinois, Obama will still be a national figure should he run in 2016, assuming Hillary gets a second term. Eight years might seem like eternity in the minds of young people, who may be voting for the first time largely because of Obama.

Honestly America needs Hillary, but Obama completes the picture. The two do have a close personal relationship. Battered though it may have been by Hillary's negative attack ads, the Obama-Hillary friendship will continue. As a matter of fact, I think we'll see in the fall election that Hillary was far less negative in her primary fight with Obama then McCain, who she'll savage.

I think we'll see in the force of Hillary's attack on McCain just how mean she can be. Like many other Democrats tired of defeat, I want someone who'll take it to McCain. Most importantly they must be able to win.

Final Chapter on Obama?

Here's the narrative most likely to emerge in the Media: Obama almost beat her. Then the establishment politics kicked in. The key swing states sided with her over Obama. Democratic party leaders and superdelegate insiders went with Hillary based on the likelihood of her winning in the states the Democrats must take: Ohio and Florida.

It's valuable to note that primary results in the states likely to go Red anyway don't matter much. Whatever strength a Democratic candidate can muster in very conservative Red states is highly diluted come general election time.

Primaries and general elections are radically different beasts. What wins in a state that has maybe 40% black Democratic primary voters may fail utterly when the General Election reduces the proportion of African Americans to 20% or so. North Carolina is an excellent example. Even when native son John Edwards found his way on the national ticket as a Vice Presidential candidate in 2004, North Carolina went for Bush. Could Obama do any better--at the top of the ticket no less?

Fortunately Obama's popularity in Illinois is beyond contention, so Illinois will go Democratic should Obama get the VP slot (or not.)

Obama's success in the inter-mountain west primaries could auger well for the Democratic cause in those places come November should he get on the ticket. Most Westerners are very distrusting of D.C. and the federal government. Obama, being far less of an establishment candidate than either Hillary or McCain, could feasibly do quite well. Unfortunately for Obama, the populations of most of those states is quite low and would therefore make little impact on the overall electoral vote for the Presidency. Hillary could gain much from him in those places though.

Bottom line is that a Democrat wins the Presidency. At this point I really don't care if it's Obama or Hillary who wins except by virtue of the Hillary greater popularity where it really matters. I do think the more electable of the two should win the nomination.

I've said that Hillary would do better in the key battleground states, but of course something could happen to change her popularity for the worse. Risk is not reduced by selecting here, but comparatively speaking there are perhaps very few skeletons left in her closet. The Obamas, on the other hand, have never confronted the kind of swift-boating that Rove (no he hasn't descended to hell yet, or left the political arena) have waiting in store for them.

Wearing the Vice presidential label will help insulate the Obamas from Republican attacks and fear-mongering, when they choose to run for the top slot again. Al Gore fielded far fewer negative attacks from George W. Bush than Kerry in 2004; harder it was to attack a two-term Vice President than Kerry or Dukakis.

If Hillary's attacks are any precursor, the GOP will use Rev. Wright, slumlord Rezko, and who knows who else to frame the Obamas in the most negative light imaginable, even if they have to lie and distort the facts. Just look back at the 1984 Dukakis candidacy and the more recent '04 swift-boating for a hint of what the GOP might do to denounce Obama, largely in part to alienate him from conservative white voters in the swing states.

Obama needs to convert his present popularity into elder statesman-type diplomatic and political credibility. No office short of the Vice President could be as effective a medium to hone his skills and tackle real problems using innovative solutions. Obama is a very bright man who could do more as VP than as a Senator.

Global warming is clearly an issue that could be far better managed by someone like Obama at the helm. McCain might do more to confront global warming than Bush, but that isn't saying much. Besides, McCain may be forced to subjigate his pro-environment policies to Big Business lobbies like Big Coal (mountaintop removal, mercury) and Big Oil. Still, even companies within those industries have begun to seek out guidance from the federal government regarding greenhouse gas emissions, so the they've recognized the need to make changes and set targets post-Bush.

Windfall and carbon taxes passed by a Democratic regime are the greatest fear for Big Coal and Oil. Abandoning the nation's counterproductive ethanol policy threatens Big Agra, who've reaped billions from corn subsidies. Like Big Energy, political threats to profitability motivate their lobbying efforts. Despite the greenwashing about clean coal and petroleum alternatives, the real environmental consequences only matter as they pertain to the potential economic and financial impacts of non-compliance. The time for voluntary compliance has come and gone with no one in the White House offering any leadership.

Wrapping it up

The idea of an Obama alliance with Hillary is attractive despite the bitter rhetoric flowing between the two at the moment. Clearly the threat is the damage the squabbling could do to the cohesion of the party. Hillary going negative may not sway many people to her side out of anything but fear of a black man, which is basically the same tactic McCain might use against him.

As I've said, McCain could shut down some of the race-based attacks which may have helped Clinton gain an edge over Obama. McCain has already chastized at least one anti-Obama 527 group for the way they characterized the Democratic candidate.

As much as I'd like to think that the election transcends race, it doesn't and won't. Perhaps we have advanced to the point we can transcend a candidate's sex in our choice of Presidents. That would be a considerable achievement in itself and greatly improve the likelihood of an Obama Presidency in 2016.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama vs. Hillary

I've concluded the Obama can't beat McCain in the general election. I'm basing this opinion on nothing more than my personal experiences living in a very Red State, Indiana. Indiana, for the first time in years, also happens to be a vital state for any would-be Democratic Presidential candidate.

Indiana, you need to understand, is the state that people on the coasts think of as backward, and provincial. It is in many ways politically so. But that's not the point and making it the point will only exacerbate the image of elitism projected by a Democratic party which is dominated by an East Coast establishment.

Now I wouldn't stereotype the people here beyond their political orientation because deep down inside, people are people and all people everywhere have redeeming properties (as hard as that is to believe sometimes.) This stereotyping has become a hot button in the primary struggle between Obama and Clinton, leading to accusations of elitism levelled by the opposing camps.

Overcoming differences between us involves more than ascending race. Much of Obama's support comes from people who are eager to show that race is no longer a factor in their choice of candidate. Honorable yes, but choosing Obama based on the fact he is black does require rejecting Hillary on the grounds of her race. If the candidates are to be compared in a way that transcends race, Obama's race shouldn't matter. This is the point Geraldine Ferraro tired to make when she said that Obama would not be in the position he now is if he'd been white--or, to be more accurate--a white man with the same qualifications.

I don't think we've come to a point in American society that race doesn't matter. Obama supporters could say that I'm rejecting a black man but I don't do so because he's black. I'm not supporting Obama largely because his race is a factor, not with me, but with millions who harbor racial prejudices. I don't doubt that Obama has the ability to perform the job. As much as my heart yearns for an America that can elect a black man, we haven't come far enough. Call it realpolitics or racism, the truth is that America isn't ready. Obama might not be either. In 2012, assuming Hillary is not the incumbent, or 2016, Obama will be the man to beat, more experienced, and more effective.

Most of the discrimination Obama has faced--and will continue to fight against--isn't overt, but it's there. The Red states don't have a monopoly on racism. In the Blue states, support from blacks and the young might compensate for those who oppose Obama because he's black. With fewer blacks, and fewer young people, the Red states are more vulnerable to racial prejudices that might sink Obama.

Racists are more likely to be anti-female and anti-Hillary as well. I guess the issue is whether race will be a bigger obstacle than sex. Among less well educated white females, Hillary does well; support from this group could well compensate for the racists who'll vote their prejudices come November should Obama win the nomination. Gauging the extent of race's impact on voter preference through polls might be hard. Many closet racists won't lay bare their inner demons until voting curtain closes.

The Republicans can stimulate racial animosities quite subtly, like the way Hillary's people darkened Obama's complexion in a television ad opposing him. I've written about McCain's adopted daughter and her Bangladeshi descent as a big reason for his outright rejection of racially-based smear tactics. However McCain doesn't control the 527 groups that will contribute massively to his campaign in the form of attack ads like those that made up John Kerry's swift-boating.

Better that the Democrats, the party which has done the most to fight racial discrimination, confront America's problem with race early on, before Obama has to fight deep-seated, race-based prejudices in the general election. Some people might identify with Obama regardless of his race, but the majority of American won't choose him head to head with McCain.

Avoiding the Elitist Tag

The Obama/Clinton dialogue might go like this:
"You, you're even more elite. You went to Wellesley," Obama might say, wandering shirtless on a beach.
"You went to Harvard...Law," Clinton might say, fiddling with a gun.
"You and that retired President husband of yours have made $100 million since 2000," Obama might say. 'That qualifies you to be highly elitist."
"Yeah, maybe, but at least I don't act like an elitist," Hillary could say, downing a shot as the cameras roll.
"Yeah, it's your pretending not to be an elitist that proves you are the elitist you say you aren't," Obama might reply, adjusting his designer suit and Gucci tie.

So on and so forth. The two race for the bottom in the quest for identity politics (to not seem so elite) and perception management (for the camera), this time of their public images.

The last two candidates that the Democrats have offered to oppose Bush have been retroactively labelled as "elitist." Nothing is a bigger wedge in identity politics today than being elitist. Worse even than "pro-gay marriage," the Rove-inspired wedge from '04.

"Elitism" accusations have surfaced in the squabbling between Hillary and Obama, used like a hammer as if one of the Senators were "less elite" than the other, and that simply accusing the other of elitism would somehow diminish their own eliteness.

Almost every Presidential candidate has been elite. Would it be wise for our country to be led by someone who wasn't an elite? Look at Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia. While Carter did hold the line on federal spending--unlike Reagan, who exploded the deficit--his Presidency is viewed largely as a failure.

Our fragile American psyche makes us want to believe the perception even if the reality is wholly different. Bush has been quite effective at disguising his liberal New England origins to the point most everyone sees him as pure West Texas. Image is everything. By seeming red-necky, the idea is that average people, identifying more with rednecks than with East Coast elitists, will vote with the person who's most like them, even if they aren't like them at all.

At least the Democratic party leadership has become more sensitive to the way their East Coast elitist candidates are perceived out here in the vastness of the heartland. It's worth remembering Gore didn't win Tennessee though he'd been from there prior to his term as Vice President; his father had been a popular Senator from there.

I heard one conservative Democrat here attribute Kerry's 2004 loss to his failure to kill any ducks for the camera. He recommended that Kerry brag about killing some little innocent animals simply to identify more with people from the Red states. It's not that people here are necessarily sadistic, it's just that many do wear a big chip on their shoulders when it comes to the Second Amendment. Hunting is viewed largely as an expression of the right to bear arms. Any candidate that doesn't support hunting and gun rights is in trouble out here. So kill the duck, do it publicly, the messier the better.

I'd explained identity politics in a post a little while back. The idea is that a politician doesn't win based on his positions, but rather the way he identifies with the voter. Kerry could make a more logical case for why he should be elected, but voters are motivated more by emotional affinity than by logic. So just as Kerry could make appeal for reason, Bush could joke, chuckle, and call him a flip-flopper, or assail his character to great effect.

Hillary has just recently talked about guns. The media naturally made jokes about her and Annie Oakley. That may have got some grins around the New York City newsrooms, but woefully underestimates the power of the gun in the Red states that determine the presidency, regardless of the attitudes among more educated people on the coast. Hillary is clearly steering towards the pro-gun demographic that Democrats likely "misunderestimated" in their last two defeats, to borrow the Bushism. She will need to at least not alienate this crowd to win Ohio and have a chance to win in other states which went to Bush in 2004.

Now on to the bar drinking episode. Nothing could have displayed the importance of identity politics than doing a shot of Crown. I could almost like her for that alone, despite all the issues of hers which I disagree with. Surrounded by beer-bellied bar patrons gives a impression of Hillary as Everywoman, someone who's not without her faults, but also as someone whom the voter can identify with.

Drinking shows a non-elitist side just as accusations of Barack's elitism found their way into the media dialogue, the product of his "embittered small town" comment. Living in a small town, and even if Obama had been correct in his stereotyping, he did rub my ego the wrong way. Surely Obama could have done a better job not to alienate small towns, places where he should at least try to improve his popularity, considering rural areas and small towns do constitute a much larger proportion of the heartland than the areas where he has done is best, with their large African American minorities.

Anyone who's spent any amount of time around Chicagoland also knows that the kind of people in the bar where a hardy blue collar crew, compromised of steel workers, cogs in the rusting machine in the heart of the Rust Belt. This area is called "da region" in no small part due to its affinity with the Chicago Bears, the monsters of the midway since the days of Dick Butkus. The people are largely descendants Polish immigrants, tough, and not the type to back down in a fight. I've counted those I've known as good, loyal friends; they'd make the worst enemies I could imagine.

Back Home Again

Indiana is the root of the nation in many ways. Politics do tend to be very conservative, but there are bastions of Democrats in the northern portion of the State (da region), Bloomington (Indiana University) and Indianapolis. Conservative Democrats do tend to do much better than traditional liberals, evidenced by the 2006 success of Congressional candidates Baron Hill and Brad Ellingsworth.

We are also a loyal state, giving up far more to the federal coffers than we ever take in. This ratio is expressed as a "patriotism" index. Indiana has been on the bottom for decades, although I did see on the Tax Foundation website that we'd moved up in the rankings to 35th by 2005, after spending decades at no better than 43rd in the total amount of federal tax dollars that are spent here per capita. On that scale, things have been looking up for the state since 1982 when we were 46th in the nation in getting our money back.

The Tax Foundation data shows that "Spending Received Per Dollar of Tax Paid" of $1.05 received per dollar of taxes paid. The nickel Indiana gets back in addition to revenues it sent in must be borrowed.

The $1.05 still isn't enough to qualify Indiana for the top half. Giving more out than they take in has become the new benchmark of the Federal government. To get back what we put in is simply not enough for most recipients of Federal monies. States expect to get back more than what they put in, even if it means the Feds will boorow it and the deficit will grow. This borrowing is of course deferred taxation, plus the interest our children will have to pay on that debt. Another method of reducing the debt burden is to just printed the stuff up, resulting in inflation, a more innocuous form of theft than outright taxation.

In an era of growing budget deficits, the patriotism index has become a race to the bottom. Whoever gets the most out of federal spending is also responsible for the most debt that our children and their children will have to pay off. This reality means that the states compromising this country really are in it for themselves, like greedy individuals, and will take as much as they can, now, regardless to the long-term impact on the whole of these United States.

Back to Obama

I've been forced to support Hillary for no other reason than my prediction that Obama can't win here. Hillary might still lose to McCain, being that Indiana is very socially conservative and Republican, but she will do better than Obama, if primary results in Ohio are any indicator of future returns here.

By winning in Ohio, and emerging victorious in Indiana, Hillary could flout her Red State credentials over Obama. Red states are where Presidencies are won or lost. Black voters might be taken for granted and eat away at Democratic support should Hillary win, but I'd rather lose some black support than reduce the chances of a Democratic victory in states like Indiana, Ohio and Florida.

I know the poll data has shown that Obama can be competitive, but Kerry and Gore were competitive. Progressives need a victory, not a competitive candidate. Yes, Clinton may not be much of a progressive, but she is more progressive than McCain, isn't she?

Progressives who are thinking about a protest vote on Nader should think again. The idea that somehow a vote cast away will punish the Democrats for being less progressive is sheer idiocy. Upset though many are with Hillary's establishment background, progressive must unite under her if she's the best candidate.

By taking votes away from Gore, this obstructionist rabble enabled the ascension of George Bush, who went on to win a Nobel Prize for his work fighting global warming. The result of the protest action was a triumph for the Republicans, who will be egging on and funding Nader in the upcoming election too. As in 2000, the Naderites will have the Republicans grinning over the defections.

Don't expect the GOP to protect the environment, which they tend to see victimized as the natural consequence of free market economic growth. To this group, economic expansion comes only at the expense of the environment.

As I understand it, private ownership in the traditional libertarian view is the right to do anything with what one owns, regardless of the environmental impact on others. I've tried to reason with Lew Rockwell but never seem to get a response back. I'll therefore surmise Lew doesn't live in the ever-shortening shadow of a mountain pulverized daily by explosions to get at its coal, even as the slurry and dust pile up and doom the surrounding community to permanent ecological disaster.

Easy it is to live within your principles if you don't have to contend directly with the direct negative consequences. most notably the impact on the environment. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) not only describes self-obsessiveness over property ownership but also implies a willingness to put neighbors at a distance. A YOYO (You're on your own) world incents the individual to forsake the group for the purposes of wealth generation and retention. It's worth noting that the United States was first settled as a commune, and almost didn't survive as a result. Only private ownership entitled individuals sufficent reward for their own productive effort. The Colonies prospered. Times have changed.

Patriotism is easy without having to sacrifice. Launch a draft and watch the previously patriotic scream in rage against their sons and daughters being sent off to war. With the oil setting new highs almost daily, the inflation that Bush's wars have caused will produce genuine concern about where the President's military and energy policies have taken this country. Until the impact of Bush's decisions are felt, they don't exist, but felt it will one day be! Runaway spending and open-ended, extralegal treaty agreements with Maliki's regime in Iraq will resolve itself financially. As it did during Vietnam, the economic impact of too much borrowing will lead us into a prolonged recessionary spiral that ended up affecting all.

I'd love a system of proportional representation which would allow Libertarians, Greens, whoever, to have their representatives. Being that non-associated candidates rarely win in our two-party system, Americans who don't live in Vermont (Bernie Sanders) or Kucinich's district are out of luck. They are therefore destined to a future devoid of representation at the federal level. While the trend may be looking up for independent candidates, the two-party system is too entrenched to allow a threat to emerge to its duopoly.

While the duopoly and the false dichotomy it represents may be an inadequate system, the fact remains that political actors need to exert influence through that system to affect changes. Ignoring the political basis in reality that modulates the exercise of politics is self-destructive. Progressives shouldn't assume that the GOP is a dead end, although there is of course a socially conservative movement which has seized the helm of the Republicans' national leadership. After the 2006 debaccle, their future may be limited if the GOP has follow-on failures in 2008.

Message to Would-be Protest Voters

Nader voters are people I'd consider my friends if they'd leave their naive assumption on their doorsteps instead of denying the need for compromise in the battle against the real enemy, which is in Marxian terms the exploitation of the working classes by the rich. It's not like they have to go out for dinner together afterwards, to quote a recently departed Vietnam Veteran and antiwar activist from Chicago.

If you like what Bush II has done, vote for Bush III (McCain) by not voting for the Democrat in the fall. Responsibility for the consequences, which include mountaintop removal, removal of EPA standards, perversion of FDA oversight responsibilities, abandonment of New Orleans, two wars, torture, surveillance society, falls to the protest voters, particularly in Florida, who could have prevented it all.

In the present political system, rejecting the Democrat because they aren't progressive enough is tantamount to voting Republican, in a close election. While being true to one's beliefs is honorable, it doesn't help get a Democrat elected as President, which will invariably mean that a Republican will be more likely to win.

McCain may be what some environmentalists want. He's certainly an improvement over Bush. But to assume McCain better represents progressive values simply because Hillary isn't an ideal progressive would be a mistake. My advice to those who really care, and are perhaps wise enough to value compromise, is to hold back on their pride, avoid the protest vote, and work to get independents and Greens elected at the local level, where the bulk of meaningful change tends to originate.

Voting Nader might make a progressive feel good, but results do matter. A choice of lesser evils might be a bad choice, but it is a choice that must be made nonetheless. Better to have one's vote count than to not be counted. In the fall, progressives should vote for the most progressive candidate available, not against her, should it be Hillary.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Self-destructing media pulls us closer together

In a follow-up to last week's media critique, CBS stations are downsizing their news division, according to The New York Times. I'd been talking precisely about the profit imperative forced upon news divisions. Also, the content of news has been going down. It seems the ads are run more often as well.

While the CBS network isn't in itself cutting news personnel, its member stations are, which may be more of an indicator of broader trend towards curtailing local news coverage. In a profit oriented environment, minimizing the amount of localized content allows lower overhead, reduces a drain of cash flow. Localizing is a less financially viable strategy.

The flip side is that content suffers, and people notice. Ratings drop. This is the downside to consolidation, especially if the short-term profit motive rules. Over the long-term, however, the dumbing down, conversion to more entertainment news, depletes the attractiveness of the MSM stream. Advertisers are thus drawn away, reducing revenues, and spurring yet more reductions in overhead and degradation of content.

According to the New York Times, CBS is denying that it is in talks to outsource news gathering to CNN or other networks. This should be the ultimate concession to consolidation but in reality for CBS' national news to be suffering hints at some more severe problem than seeking out economies of scale or more fiscal efficiency.

It could well be that the weakened content is both a product and ongoing cause of shifting priorities determined by executive management. The weaker the news, the less appeal it has and in that way lowered viewership/readership actually justifies the additional cuts, etc..

Maybe the media moguls have an agenda to so weaken the news channels (control of which increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer decision-makers) that viewers are driven away from news entirely. More likely, the corporate strategy of dumbing down content has back-fired and people have gone to the web. Reacting, the MSM companies race to the web, only to find the bloggers there already, dispensing more accurate content on a tiny fraction of their budget. The catch: they have to tell the truth there--sound bytes and creative majesty aren't enough to satisfy.

News is clearly more expensive to produce, but localization is clearly necessary. These are uncertain times we live in, and the general feeling I get is that something could happen at every given moment. While national news networks might focus in on a local news story, it will do so only under exceptional circumstances. Likewise, national sports might not cover local events, and the idea of cutting sports coverage would be counterproductive. I know many readers wouldn't subscribe to their newspapers were it not for the local sports content.

Media conglomerates must be attempting to forge a media environment that transcends geography, much in the same way transnational chains create the same ugly sprawl which makes one town indistinguishable from the next. On TV, such a monoculture should be easier and cheaper to manage as less localized content is needed.

It's unclear if the de-localization of news content will appeal to the local TV markets who collectively comprise a national audience, but one with little regional differences that might not respond favorably to monoculturalization.

Eroding local content might reduces competition with national networks that the MSM controls. The profitability of local stations might also seem secondary to the profitability of the whole entity. Clearly the advertising machine that are the MSM channels today is built towards a national audience. It may be easier to produce ads for a national audience, but people do identify with people who are near them perhaps more than they do with people who are like them. We've all seen those sports networks on our local TVs from a town that just isn't part of the general area that we live in. Why watch if you don't care? For the love of the sport? Perhaps. Yet for most locals the idea that we're just supposed to become amiable little fans for that distant city is ridiculous, as if we could switch allegiances as easily as we could change where we lived.

Socialization: From TV to the Internet

TV has long chaperoned the individualism of American society; TV allows a vast range of content. Yet it's worth remembering the TV began as inherently social gesture, a modern day equivalent of the radio or, to go farther back, the family hearth where some family member would tell a story.

A trend towards cocooning and atomization exists in our society. So much Internet-based entertainment now is instantaneous and anti-social to a degree. Yes, we can do many things online with our friends, but for the most part we are alone when we are on the internet. But even then we interact with people on the other end in instantaneous exchanges of digital communications, in chat rooms and forums. So there is no escaping the social relations element of media delivery, called peer networking in technobabble.

One would think the atomization means people enjoy the separation that comes with selfishly pursuing one's own interests in the media, to the exclusion of all other. Over time, people grow out of tune with one another, tuned out of what goes on in their communities.

People yearn for that other person on the other end. The internet does allow for unprecedented levels of anonymity, which can offer ample opportunity to disguise misdeeds as well as provide near total privacy. Yet the anonymity is really for the strangers, the people with whom we associate with no intent of wanting to make them into our friends.

On the other hand, the charm of the internet is really in the way it brings people who share common interests closer together. A doll collector, for instance, may only know a few who share their passion in their town. Given the internet, the doll collector is but a few clicks away from tens of thousands who share her interest all over the world--geography is not a limiting factor.

Also the web does not sleep, so people are limited more in their association with other by their daily schedules than they ever are by physical location. Not only is the communication ongoing and instantaneous, it's worldwide. There's a real power in talking to someone who share your beliefs despite the differences in culture.

Over time, web relationships can grow in ways that quickly outgrown whatever shared interest brought the web communicators together initially. Whether it's a political forum or a game of online gaming, people do get closer. I've played hundreds of hours with a Canadian named Greg and know more about him than I do some not-so distant relatives.

Enjoying the company of friends on the Web greatly improves the Web's stickiness. The Web does a better job of uniting strangers, but we shouldn't forget the power of localization. People who live together do in fact need interactions that build on their shared sense of identity. When the local team wins the Superbowl, you want to be part of the excitement. When a tragic event occurs, you want to know about it, and your neighbors too, so you can grieve or complain (a classic American pastime) together. TV--particularly local TV--has filled that gap between people. We are brought together through sharing the experience, even if it is delivered to us separately. Even when we confront some tragedy, the world is better off for having brought us closer to one another, in an age when we seem so separated.

Maybe it's this clinging to a primordial sense of family togetherness that has me wondering if the death of local news is really even possible. Perhaps I'm simply sentimental for the days when interacting with fellow humans was a deserving goal in itslef, and we perhaps did not need to share some common interest in order to associate with one another. For those who've ever been in network sales, simple conversation with a stranger or neighbor becomes a sales lead. Exploitive, perhaps, but isn't communicating with one another inherently valuable, if not crucial in the weaving the fabric of a society? We clearly don't do enough.

We Americans may well have lost our ability to small talk. It may be no coincidence that we also seem to be grievously lacking in our appreciation of the simpler pleasures and a slower life. Every technological advancement seems to bring with it more attention deficit disorder, more urgency to move on to the next greatest thing, to shop and to consume. The media has gravitated to commericalism over time, and as the number of channels has exploded so too has the quantity of commercial messages that bombard us every day. I wonder if it's not the intent of the media in general to fan our every little want into a immediate need--I must have it now!

Even as we drive ourselves to ever greater feats of consumption, we're forced to confront the massive resource depletion that accompanies a society that worships such a lifestyle. To this collective groan we Americans--creative problem-solvers that we are--answer "Go Green!" And we do, shifting gradually towards a more sustainable lifestyle. As our country greens, it does so more in reaction to the distances that have grown between us, in response not just to environmental challenges but the dearth of connectivity that we yearn for in a society that is high on consumerism and dead on more wholesome values.

Miniaturizing one's world to just exist withing one small realm on the Internet isn't practical beyond some freaks in Tokyo, who dwell in near perpetuity obsessed with some teenage idol or bizarre cult-like fixation on manga characters, etc.. Friends don't matter to these people, they do not however describe the mainstream in Japan or anywhere else. They'd rather not face the outside world, escape in their compulsive behavior. Society tolerates them, assuming their fixation involves no innocents, and the phenomena goes on.

Sustaining Myth

The media networks want us to consume the news much like we'd consume any other product. This theory would have us buy into media brands over the long-term, instilling personal loyalty into the brand. Obviously to stimulate a more captive audience, feel-good news and human interest stories appeal more than addressing hard facts and hardcore international events about which most Americans really know very little. We Americans do feel compelled to safeguard emotions, because we tend to value happiness over realism, given the choice.

Now as Iraq unfolds into the fiasco it's always been, many average Americans will turn to the story. The more they learn about what really goes on there, the more they are likely to be antiwar. It's the people who don't care to know that are suspicious because they carry their ignorance with pride. Unfortunately, in many parts of American, dissent has been equated with disloyalty to the point that many are skeptical of the mass media's "liberal agenda" and simply dismiss negative news.

The MSM has greatly reduced Iraq coverage in recent months. Perhaps John McCain best summarized the opinions of millions of Americans when he said Iraq is returning to normal. What's expected is for a Republican to back the war, perhaps what's a surprise is the truly astounding depths of McCain's ignorance concerning the situation. Americans who get their news from the MSM, which effectively censors negative news from Iraq simply by not covering the war, are more likely not to know the extent of the tragedy that unfolds there, and are thus more likely to nurture the impression of progess.

McCain, who on his previous visit to Iraq toured a Baghdad market with attack helicopter hovering behind him, makes no effort whatsoever to explain his opinions. It's as is he says, come with me my children, to the wonderful world of make-believe where we are the good guys and we always win (but for lack of faith.) That world, and the Great Lie that nurtures it, has become a new religion for the stalwart defenders on the Right, who persist in the belief that for every problem in the world, the US military has a solution that is right, just, and inevitably successful.

The impunity with which McCain is willing to violate the public trust, and persist in the Great Lie, is a great indicator of character. He's essentially broadcasting the idea that the US will set victory terms unconditionally, on its terms, regardless. This is logically perverse, as one would thing that "returning to normal" would be indicative of progress towards victory, which can be the only way out for McCain, defined in whatever way he chooses (yet he, like Bush, consistently refuses to define the conditions under any circumstances.)

The domestic political message McCain wants sent is that no matter how long it takes, he will support the ongoing use of military force. Results are really secondary. His likely supporters in the fall identify with this position, even if they know the position isn't supported by the facts, or that 100 years in Iraq isn't such a good idea. It's simply the butchness factor, the idea that by equating commitment level to the probability of success. Not so easily done, Vietnam proved. Unfortunately McCain and his headstrong cadre want to push their loyalty ever father should he be elected. Under this philosophy, we might still be in Vietnam, if we hadn't been bankrupted or our society ripped apart by our differences of opinion on the war.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Surge Myth Busted; Spotlight on the Media

Interpress Service reports the reality that the surge isn't working in its article titled "Despite Huge Media Campaign, Facts Show Massive Failure in Iraq."

The choice of title is important is separating the content from mass produced, perception-managed gunk from the MSM. The writers at Interpress are 1) honest and 2) not beholden to editorial oversight like that seen in all branches of mainstream media. Dahr Jamail, co-author of the Interpress article alongside Ali al-Fadhily, was the only unembedded American reporter in the entirety of Iraq for an extended period which included the rape of Fallujah circa 2004.

Good follow-up reporting, abandoned in entirety by the MSM, from Jamail reflects his true passion for honesty--keeping the story in a place close to the heart, for both his subjects and his readers. Jamail's perspective has generated fantastic original content about Iraq, much of which violated in its entirety the government's "we are winning" myth long before Olbermann and others dared challenge the status quo.

Watchers of the media aren't surprised by the wholesale sell-out to officialdom by the Mainstream Media since 9/11. Trying to get away with what it could in the wake of that event, the Bush administration seized on Iraq invasion plans that neocons had been itching to use. Looking at the consequences of being mired in Iraq (for up to 100 years apparently), the public needs to scutinize Big Media's relationship with the President and his closest advisers. The neocon's witchcraft needs to be exorcised out of the system. Neocon villains must be brought forth to hang in the public square in order to properly end the Iraq failure, ~the end~.

The inability--or is it unwillingness--of the media to question Bush's countless lies about WMD in Iraq was the precedent for the present abuse of the public trust in establishing the premise that a surge has worked. The cozy relationship between government and the mainstream media offers plenty of precedent.

We saw in the Plame Outing the consequence of intermingling by press people like Judith Miller (and her editors who were at a minimum extremely careless with their management of the facts) with her "trees-in-Aspen" confidante Scooter Libby. Cheney's chief of staff, now disbarred, Libby had been part of a White House Iraq Group headed by Cheney which sought to talk up the threat posed by Iraq.

Eager to defend the administration from Joe Wilson's criticism in his famous op-ed, Bob Novak outed Plame after being encouraged to believe Plame's husband Joe Wilson had been sent on a junket to discredit Bush's famous sixteen words about yellowcake in Niger. The statement which had been allowed to bypass advanced screening by the CIA, a traditional responsibility of theirs which had been applied to all previous State of the Union addresses. (This breach of protocol might have led Novak to believe that the CIA sought revenge by discrediting the administration's case for war, by sending Wilson to Niger to discredit the claims.)

Why is the Plame story so important today? Because it demonstrates a pattern of media/government complicity in the distribution of lies (not called that but instead faulty intelligence, propaganda, etc.) that continue to this day. Plame need not have been outed but for the willful manipulation by White House insiders Richard Armitage and Scooter Libby, who fed "false intelligence" to Judith Miller, whose stories on Iraq WMD routinely made their way to the front page of the NYT. Miller's assertions were neither fact-checked nor scrutinized, despite their obvious value in serving the Administration's cause in spreading the WMD lie, nor to this day has the NYT issued an extraction.

By 2004, a dubious alliance between mainstream press and their mogul managers with strong ties to the GOP had cemented. The result was the continuation of government-directed myths and propaganda into the stream of media reporting. The official myths were better propagated through changes in FCC ownership rules which gave Media owners what they wanted. In return, the limited media channels would order their employees to go soft on Bush, particularly in regard to Iraq, through the '04 Election.

Coincidentally, CBS/Viacom, a major winner in the consolidation wars, held off on a 60 Minutes episode exposing Bush's National Guard Service on the grounds the story would prejudice voters too close to the Election. MSNBC's Olberman, a somewhat late arrival to the now fairly common crowd of Bush-bashers, only really sank his teeth in after Bush had taken Ohio.

The pattern of media-government complicity is well documented during the Cold War, when the CIA and Pentagon actively produced news meant for direct consumption by the American public, called Operation Cointelpro. So sophisticated was the operation that the government controlled entire magazines and reputable media people as conduits for their propaganda.

It's the quid pro quo between Big Media and the Presidency that should disturb Americans who are concerned with the truth, as it has allowed the confidence of millions of Americans in their country and President to become built upon a web of deceit and lies. The media is a huge player in preserving the vitality of any functioning democracy. When lies become truth, the trust Americans have in their government erodes, and we see serious damage to the national psyche, not at all unlike the period after Vietnam.

At some point even the Mainstream Media has to report the truth, as they did when the Tet offensive in 1968 showed clearly the strength of the Viet Cong throughout Vietnam. No lie can go on forever without being contested. Nazi propagandist Goebbels said that propaganda needed to be composed of truth, at least in part, to be effective.

As in the early portions of the Korea and Vietnam interventions, the MSM was inclined to make announcements of progress. Yet in the present case, the corner may have been turned, a corner which reflects historical precedent and war fatigue.

Back to Iraq

The Iraq War has reached the point where no lie can shroud the powder keg. The bodies have piled up to the point no coverage can avoid confronting the true scale of the destruction and the neverending flow of dead Americans for what are dubious results at best.

The absence of transparency paralles the absence of accountability for the war, and getting us into this mess. How many more years before supporters of the war will answer for the failures of their policies? The reality--as I'm sure Bush and the war's architects knew all along--is that they'd be gone long before the 10-year period--given by self-proclaimed "experts" as the minimum time frame required to defeat the insurgency--had elapsed. How convenient.

A Reuters reports 933 civilians killed in March in Iraq, "up 31% from February and the dealiest month since August 2007." (source.)

The MSM reporting does introduce a spin that suggests the surge's failure is a surprise. The Reuters article goes on:
"The figures are a blow to the Iraqi government and the United States, which have pointed to reduced overall levels of violence in recent months as evidence that a major security offensive has made significant progress."

My translation--backed by facts which have appeared in countless alternative media for months--is that the surge has not worked. This fundamental truth is only controversial to the talking heads and gurus of corporate media who've passed on the lies of our own government about the surge.

For those who've embraced the facts, the success of the surge was a myth. The shattering of the surge myth is neither news nor newsworthy except among those who've sustained the lie, and the dwindling number of people who actually believe what they see on their TV screens. While average Americans once appeared willing to believe what their commmander-in-chief has told them, the War President's announcements of impending victory have increasingly been washed out by economic concerns and rising gas prices.

I did see Bush talk in Romania on April 1st and he sounded quite convincing, though I was not swayed. It's hard not be impressed with how logical he sounds. Whatever perception management and media massaging Bush can do, he cannot hide his failures in Iraq.

Bush made the NATO effort in Afghanistan and Iraq seem gallant. Truly amazing in their hypocrisy were his ruminations about saving innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians from evil terrorists who Bush claims are still out there, eager to attack cities in Europe or North America. Nowhere in Bush's self-sanctifying, war-glorifying speech was there any mention of the possibility of failure. Contrary to being peacekeepers and life-savers, military operations by NATO members are actually the greatest cause of suffering and loss of life Iraq and Afghanistan. How long can this metric be dismissed? Without winning the hearts and minds, no counterinsurgency can succeed.

Why the Pro-Government Spin?

Many employees of the MSM companies who've been responsible for passing on the surge success myth are well aware of the failure of the surge. The issue therefore so troubling is why those responsible for one of the three pillars of democracy has chosen to pass on falsehood as fact. This media hypocrisy demonstrates a willingness to disregard the truth. Perhaps more than blaming the individual writers and reporters, the chief focus needs to be the upper levels of media companies--managements and directors--yet these are same people who can blacklist any would-be detractor in the media field.

Owners of the media companies should be concerned about federal influence over their content. Virtually all major newspapers have seen massive drop-offs in viewership and readership, which may or may not be the result of weakened content. Most news items on TV are offered as if they were food items in a buffet or a row of shoes in a shop, to be chosen or ignored at the whim of typical viewer with the attention span of a bat.

People are moving to the web, following the news junkies and techies who for years have known it to be the preminent source of information. Today's mainstream media is .

Judging by the extent of media consolidation, newsrooms have suffered as they've been turned into profit centers as they run the quarterly race for earnings, each divisions of the parent conglomerate challenged to produce endless growing buckets of money. {I attribute most of my understanding of corporatization and consolidation trends I first learned in a University of Illinois conference back in 2005, offered by McChesney and the freepress people, who're back in the news here, in Ben Scott's fight for Internet neutrality. I wrote an article on the 2005 event.}

Much of the media changes can be explained by the drive toward profitability by the parent companies. Eager not to alienate potential advertizers, corporate media entities have tried to tone down the intensity of their news divisions. In the end the news is simply dumbed down, dumbed-down, offered as entertainment product designed to accelerate sales of books, music, and movies offered by associated business groups. Fewer people watch, and those that do are more likely to be stimulated by lower impulses, which by no coincidence generate consumption of the media conglomerate brand and its commercial sponsors.

I'm no analyst of the newspaper market, but it takes no genius to see reports of shrinking prescription bases, with their ultimately economic consequences. I'll advance the hypothesis that the failure of the media to perform its traditional responsibility has led to its diminished profitability. The news isn't doing what it must, what it needs to do in order to entertain, in its traditional way.

Where is the grinding and gnashing of teeth by shady executives cold-sweating a 60 Minutes session? How many of us have gone to sleep with a schadenfreude smile on our lips thinking about some corporate scheister exposed by some prodding journalist? I for one would greatly enjoy news that's willing to challenge the status quo. I don't see how news directors can provide satisfying content by obeying corporate dictates from management. Maybe this flaccid approach to confronting the powerful has denied American media the greatest source of its popular appeal: its fearlessness. Just going along with what the government tells us is scarcely different from accepting the obvious lies of some Faslow/Kozlowski-type of greedy executive that virtually everybody in America wants to see cruxified on the media. As a matter of fact, there might well be far fewer Enrons and Tycos if the media took to heart their absolutely vital role as cruxifiers of greedy middle-aged white men whose humiliation in the public square we all savor underneath it all.

Consolidation has played into the hands of very Republican and even more significantly, pro-Zionist media moguls. Just as managerial control over the newsroom peaked as company swallowed company, control by stalwart partisan negated negative coverage of Bush and the wars he started. The goal of media ownership by the Right is clearly to enable the agenda of the Right by shaping public perception.

I've mentioned in the past the war profiteering element which motivates companies like GE to seek billions in contracts from Iraq. I guess it's therefore it should come as no surprsie then that Jack Welch was a major George Bush supporter and his network fired Phil Donahue just before the war.

As the Plame Outing did to the intelligence community, the Donahue firing sent a message industry-wide that the brass were not going to tolerate any insubordination. Truth and objectivity were the first casualties of the Iraq War-media coverage suffered as a result. While unprecedented levels of transparency were achieved through embeds and 24/7 updates, the real quality of reporting suffered. At some point subsequent to the invasion, self-censorship began to be exercised, so that negative coverage could be curtailed and the illusion of success perpetuated through uncontested facts and propaganda.

Into the present the consistent pro-war bias has marched. Media consolidation has continued, which has meant more control and power for the few. This is a typical pattern for capitalists dear to Bush and his system of crony capitalism which dispenses huge sums in government contracts to friends who share his political philosophy. In short, our government is being looted by these capitalists-par-excellence, who've evolved the office of the President into one huge funnel for enrichment of those nearest and dearest.

Ironically, the media moguls have sacrificed the profitability of their companies by dumbing down the news and converting it into infotainment. A rebound in viewer-/readership is vital to sustaining the industry, but it may already be too late for people who've fled the MSM for the internet. It's really too bad the public doesn't want to learn more, but the dumbing down of the news may be the major cause of long-standing ignorance.

At the very least, introducing more truth to the MSM networks would help build back public confidence, an essential element if the media is to do its duty in our democracy. While many newspapers are transitioning to webspace, they bring with them the diminished credibility of their parent companies. Rather than resemble a standard for quality, MSM brands have become liabilities as more and more Americans are turned off by the disconnect between what they see on TV and in their papers and the actual results in Iraq. The MSM does provide invaluable resources but with them come increased uncertainty in the veracity of the content.

The recent destruction of the myth of the successful surge is but one of many dispellings of government misrepresentations echoed by the mainstream media. For those who've chosen to find the truth, despite its potential for dreaded unhappiness, the news presented by the mainstream is quickly debunked as nothing more than what the government wants said, unconditionally. Increasingly the exercise of pre-judgment can lead to instant dismissal of the news by virtue of its source. It's simply easier to believe a Dahr Ismail than a news division that has a well-established record of replaying the frothing half-truths and outright lies of our leaders as if they were uncontested facts issued from "On High"--beyond any scrutiny by mere mortals like you and me.

Wars can't be won by domestic perception management alone. They slink and slither to and fro, subject to the many whims and forces affecting any major geopolitical event. Succeed as it might in controlling the bulk of media content in the early days of the war, the government is losing its ability to determine what is said about the state of war. In this regard, we've reached the "Tet moment" were the patent falsehoods of our government's assertions have been shattered by the equivalent of guerillas emerging in major urban areas, striking the Green Zone, just like the Viet Cong did to our embassy in '68, fighting pitched battles in the streets, in places deemed safe and under "friendly" control.

We saw a similar pattern in Vietnam, where the mainstream media seemed particularly uncritical of the war up through the Tet offensive. Then Walter Cronkite's coverage was delivered into the homes of millions of Americans more or less uncut and with it any illusions of easy victory or progress. At that point, echoing propanda that the US intervention in Vietnam was successful would have contrasted idiotically with what any average America could have seen at the time simply by turning on their TVs.

Given a choice between believing what media and the government says and what unfolds in full view on a TV screen, I think virtually everyone would trust their eyes. This fear of exposing the lies and propaganda for what they really are has historically led governments down the path of censorship. Even successful military actions coverage is highly controlled, in a large part due to the transparency of Vietnam War coverage. Shaping media coverage is now considered a vital task in establishing "full spectrum dominance" over the "battlescape", to borrow the Pentagon's terminology.

The surge myth has ambled along more or less unmolested in the mainstream until the recent blow-up in Iraq revealed it to be the obvious lie it's always been. Whatever gains were made subsequent to the increase in US troops strength which began circa early 2007 could have been attributed to other reasons. One potential reason for the slowdown in violence was that Shia/Sunni ethnic cleansing had largely run its course. After most epic blood-lettings, there are simply too few left to kill for the killing to continue on forever. Likely any potential victims of ethnic cleansing have most likely fled if they "got the message" or gotten themselves killed, a stark choice indeed.

Well, our allies in control of the Iraqi government--those with whom we are committed to protect under a new long-term agreement--have found new people to kill. No longer is the onus on divisions between Sunni and Shia, but now al-Maliki wants to battle rival Shia in Basra who dare oppose him. I've read that the agreement which stopped the fighting was a major political defeat for the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The present deterioration in the security environment demonstrates whatever progress had been made as transient, if it ever existed. More likely everything said pertaining to the surge has been rhetorical in purpose--designed to convince Americans that we were achieving something by continuing to occupy Iraq. Well, we aren't.

If you believe the MSM, you need to start following the facts now instead, if you want the truth. It may just be easier to go along, but sooner or later the war's continuation will touch us all. I would hope Americans regret supporting the decision to go war, and have been affected by the war in their conscience at least.