If Only The Press Were Consistently This Aggressive With Our Political Leaders

December 8, 2007 at 8:22 pm | Posted in Media, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney felt the heat today from the press our political leaders should ALWAYS feel. If only the press were to be this aggressive all the time.

An Amazing Article on Why Americans Hate the Media

November 25, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Posted in Media | Leave a comment

This was written by James Fallows back in February 1996, but it an amazing piece. I won’t highlight any of it, but rather recommend that you read it in full.

Quote of the Day – “You People Are Really Nuts!”

November 9, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Posted in American politics, Media | 10 Comments

A waitress in Iowa when asked if Clinton left a tip at the restaurant:

You people are really nuts. There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.

The Real Fake Hero

July 23, 2007 at 9:54 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, King George, Lord of the Rings, Media, Middle East, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Republicans, secret combinations, Thoughts, War, War on Terror | 14 Comments

This past Saturday my wife and I went and saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The movie was pretty well done, though I do wonder what the “Order of the Phoenix” actually had to do with the plot of the movie—the actual Order members appear at the very beginning and then at the end to save the day (but that’s another story). In any case, the movie was pretty good. I got thinking about a particular aspect of our modern fictional heroes and villains. See I’m also reading Hugh Nibley’s books on the Jaredites and their origins in ancient Asiatic cultures and kingdoms. Absolutely fascinating stuff! Mr. Nibley has opened a window to a world I did not really know about but have been quite curious about for the longest time. The steppes of ancient Asia were quite a bloody, violent, and unstable times, with ruling kings dueling with rivals, capturing kings, having them live in captivity all their lives, so on and so forth. These ancient Asiatic and Jaredite kings were unafraid of battle. In fact, it was their culture that the king took the lead in the battle. They reveled in besting their rivals on the field of battle. In fact, in the account of the Jaredites the two remaining kings, Coriantumr and Shiz battled to the ultimate death and destruction of the Jaredite nation.

In any case, I’ve noticed quite a trend in our stories of late regardless of medium, be it film, television or book. The hero (and the villain too) usually takes the lead, usually is willing to go through hellfire and damnation to achieve near impossible tasks. (These same heroes apparently come out rather unscathed psychologically, but again that is also another story). Jack Bauer takes the lead on “24”. Harry Potter leads the ragtag children of Hogwarts against far more advanced Death Eaters at impossible odds. Maybe their young age makes them not think twice about the fact that they could die very easily at the hands of a Death Eater. And let me just say, if I were a Death Eater, I doubt I would let little kids get in my way of things. But that would ruin the story, wouldn’t it? Leonidas takes charge of the 300 Spartan warriors against one million Persians. Leonidas and his men die in their efforts but their efforts were able to weaken the Persians enough that a few years later they were defeated. Aragorn charges wildly into the mass of orcs in Return of the King, even though it is a foolish move if you think about it. He doesn’t though, because dramatically speaking, charging against the mass of orcs is a far more powerful scene than sitting back strategizing the perils of the kingdom of Gondor at large if the king were to die in battle.

Reality is that when the king leads the battle, the kingdom has a good chance of completely failing, of complete collapse. This is what we learn about ancient Asiatic kingdoms. People wait around until a strongman appears who takes charge, quickly amassing a powerful army that takes control of half of Asia. In no time at all, upon the king’s quick death in battle, the kingdom falls. Modern nations are a vastly different institution, where the ultimate leader stays in the back of the battle sending off the underlings to die for the cause, the homeland, for the state.

I wonder what it is doing to our culture and our mindset when we tie in our hearts and culture the worship of the hero, the soldier, the warrior, the one who, risking all, darts off to battle “evil”, coming back conqueror. Even the most insanest of us all tends to be quite realistic when it comes to his or her own survival. Thus I am befuddled when I see for example this video of College Republicans who speak so easily of our cause against terrorism, but who they themselves do not wish to pick up a weapon and fight.

I don’t mean to pick necessarily on Republicans with this point, it’s just that their example is the most blatant right now. Who do they expect to do the fighting for the cause they speak so proudly of?

We see so many examples in our entertainment, in all mediums, books, television and film, of a worship of the warrior that I really do think it has clouded our understanding of both warfare and tolerating situations we really have no power to control. So many speak of doing “something” about Iran, for example, as if it were not tolerable to have an Iran with nuclear technology. When we speak of not tolerating a nuclear Iran, what does that mean? Do we really have the power to 1) stop Iran from learning nuclear technology? 2) and not further decay our own power?

Reality bites hard. We may have deposed Saddam Hussein. Few doubted our military might and our ability to defeat someone as weak as Saddam. But I wonder if the fakery of fictional characters has so clouded our vision that we think taking massive risks means the risks won’t actually take place? I was watching “A Bug’s Life” with my daughter the other day and I thought some more about this. Flick made a grave mistake when his contraption caused the offering to fall into the river below. That’s fine, a big problem, but fixable. But Flick does not learn the lesson of his mistake, and that is that taking risks could be destructive to the whole tribe. It was quite opportune for Flick and the ants that a bird lived close by, because really, without the bird, something Flick could not control, all his plans were doomed to fail.

Pundits favoring the actions in Iraq talked so often and frequently about how this action would utterly change the Middle East that one really has to wonder how they were believed. Then again no one really asked these pundits just what evidence they had that forcible invasion of a very nationalistic tribalistic state would magically create a pro-Western democratic haven right smack in the middle of a whole slew of other ultra-nationalistic tribalistic states whose influences were and still are far greater and more powerful than the invading army’s influence. We took a high priced risk. We were the hero who rushed wildly at the mass of orcs thinking that, hey it worked in the fictional account, it should work in reality. Aragorn won’t die. He can’t. Frodo will somehow magically make it to the Mount of Doom to melt the ring of Sauron’s power. And more importantly that action would somehow make all the orcs stop attacking to kill Aragorn. Or that Han Solo would appear at the right moment to “surge” and deflect just enough of Vader’s ship to give Luke the opportunity to shoot his guns into the plot-appropriate hole that magically destroys the entire Death Star. We hear plenty in real life from war supporters who say, hey “bomb them all to hell.” “Just nuke the place, that will solve all our problems.”

I used to think that we should restart a draft into American culture, because I used to believe that forcing Americans to serve in defense of their country would make them wisen up about risking so much in wars of choices. After all, interestingly, many of today’s leaders did NOT fight in Vietnam (Dick Cheney had five deferments for “other priorities” for example). But I now don’t think the problem with our rush to wars is lack of fighting by Americans. I think it is our worship of the hero, the warrior, the soldier. Ironically, the Army’s new slogan is an “Army of One.” Heh, it couldn’t be more fitting for our culture of hero worship.

This is not going to change soon. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Which is too bad, because we’re now in decline in the world around us. The risks were not neutralized, but instead materialized as we were warned. We’ve got many problems ahead of us.

Raw Power vs The Rule of Law, or Why Democrats Can’t Do a Single Thing About Bush

July 19, 2007 at 9:49 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, Congress, conservatives, corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, King George, liberals, Media, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Republicans, Scooter Libby, secret combinations, Thoughts, Torture, violence, Voter Suppression, War, War on Terror, Washington DC, World Events | 8 Comments

I have closely observed the goings on of my government (as best as I can seeing how secretive they want to be) these past five years, ever since Bush decided to go to war with Iraq back in the summer of 2002. (Read Bill Schneider’s “Marketing Iraq: Why Now?” where you can read Andrew Card’s comment: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” They decided over the summer to attack Iraq. The rest was all a matter of marketing, selling it to the American public). They got the war rammed down Americans’ throats, with an extremely complicit media rooting the Administration on, damned be anyone that stood in their way.

The corrupting influence of raw power began immediately after 9/11. I’m sure in the very first seconds of realizing the potential power the Executive could yield, the Administration probably had good intents, but those were just a few seconds. They realized just how much power they really had: raw power. And they realized they must keep it a secret, for if it really got out, they would be forced to follow the rule of law, and not the rule of raw power. They took advantage of all the support (90% approval ratings and support from many nations around the world) and ran with it as far as they thought they could go. Karl Rove told Republicans in January of 2002 to run with the war in the November elections and they would win seats. They did and they won seats. They got the war they wanted, on the cheap, small force, shock and awe military might that defeated a ragtag worn down Iraqi military in three weeks. No surprise there. No wonder so many neo-conservatives and their allies chortled after the war, and drank in their wine of success.

Reports and studies, however, were there from the beginning that all was not well, and that continuing down this path would lead to serious problems for America. The most serious is the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Unchecked, the Bush administration began, right from the start, right from 2001 and early 2002, to employ power beyond what is written in the Constitution. Why? Because they saw what raw power there was in the Executive Branch and they took it. Even so, they knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn’t be so secretive about it. Only those with something to hide, hide something. So right from the start, the United States of America began torturing people, employing techniques learned from the Soviets and the Nazis. They kept this as much of a secret as they could. For they knew if this were to get out, they would be in trouble. The American public still had more raw power over the administration, at least until after the 2004 presidential election. Once that election passed and Bush won, their raw power achieved the ultimate. For the next four years, no one could stop them. So some of their secrets could get out. In fact, by slowly getting out, the secrets became acceptable. Like any watcher of pornography, you can justify the soft porn at first, but you cannot justify the hardcore. Once you get enough of the soft porn, the hardcore becomes acceptable and even desirable. It soon becomes a part of who you are.

In 2006 something wonderful happened. America broke out of the spell of this administration and its evils. A lot of Democrats and liberals (and many independents) were hopeful to see a change.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen. You see, the Bush administration has tasted of raw power and they will not let go. In fact, even if the Democrats get a veto proof majority in these next 18 months, there is nothing to hold back the Bush administration from simply defying the veto overrides of Congress. Note with what impunity the administration is telling private citizens not to show up for Congressional subpoenas! They even claim executive privilege over documents related to Pat Tillman’s debacle. Why? Because they can. There is no raw power above them, so why should they listen to anyone or do anything for anyone? They answer to none but themselves.

We must realize that there is only one thing that can actually end this raw power by this administration over these next 18 months and that is a full on revolution where the American people rise up and kicks this administration out of power. Congress has no raw power to impeach this president. He will simply defy their will. Why should he bother with Congress? He has no incentive. He has nothing to lose.

America has not been in as dangerous and precarious position as it is today. We must go back to the rule of law. For the rule of law to have any real effect, those who broke the rule of law must be punished and held accountable. Otherwise, what is the purpose of law? Without any punishment, there is no law. Unfortunately this will not happen, and we will have to deal with the administration as currently constituted for the next 18 months. We will have to deal with a possible military strike on Iran. We will have to deal with attempts by this administration to fix the next election so that they ensure a Republican president and a security and secrecy over what they have done these past six years. What Republican candidate today is going to actually hold anyone in the Bush administration accountable for their crimes? What Republican candidate today will punish anyone in this administration?

For that matter, what Democrat will truly do what needs to be done? I bet that even they will come up with some rationale about healing the wounds of Bush’s divisiveness and let them get away with it. Again, if there is no punishment, can there really be a law? If there is no law, what do we have?

Jack Balkin writes about why this is so important:

At this point in Bush’s Presidency three things matter above all others. They motivate this final round of constitutional hardball: The first is keeping secret what the President and his advisers have done. The second is running out the clock to prevent any significant dismantling of his policies until his term ends. The third is doing whatever he can proactively to ensure that later governments do not hold him or his associates accountable for any acts of constitutional hardball or other illegalities practiced during his term in office.

If the NSA program and the Torture Memos were examples of the second round of constitutional hardball, the Libby commutation and Harriet Meiers’ refusal to testify before Congress are examples of the third round. Although his Presidency now seems to be a failure, Bush’s third round of constitutional hardball may be every bit as important as the first two. That is because if Bush is never held accountable for what he did in office, future presidents will be greatly tempted to adopt features of his practices. If they temper his innovations and his excesses only slightly, they will still seem quite admirable and restrained in comparison to Bush. As a result, if Congress and the public do not decisively reject Bush’s policies and practices, some particularly unsavory features of his Presidency will survive in future Administrations. If that happens, Bush’s previous acts of constitutional hardball will have paid off after all. He may not have created a new and lasting constitutional regime, but he will have introduced long-lasting weaknesses and elements of decay into our constitutional system.

This administration is by far the worst that America has ever seen. But it is far more dangerous than that. Their policies and their use of raw power has done serious and potentially permanent damage and harm to the rule of law and the Constitution. Note for example the audacity of Sara Taylor claiming her oath to the president rather than to the Constitution. When corrected, now how smugly she replied:

Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you’re correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what–

Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?

Taylor: I did not. I–

Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.

Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.

Leahy: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government — it’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.

This was an unscripted moment showing the reality of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Loyalty is NOT to the Constitution, but to the president. Because the real raw power is not in the Constitution, but in Bush and Cheney. Note also Cheney’s ludicrous claim that is was not part of the executive branch, and thus cannot be held in check by any rules or regulations. These are but a few examples of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. (Heck, let’s not even bring up Scooter Libby!).

What can be done? At this point we must continue to reveal the secrets, show Americans just how much the Bush administration is not for the Constitution they took an oath to uphold. Continue forcing them to explain themselves. History will be the judge. If the administration attempts to start a fight with Iran, we must take to the streets and say NO! It won’t do much to actually stop them, but that’s all we can do, unless we’re riping for a real revolution.

A Realistic Assessment on Progress in Iraq

July 14, 2007 at 5:23 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, Democrats, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, King George, Media, Military, neo-conservatives, Republicans, Saudi Arabia, secret combinations, Thoughts, violence, War, War on Terror, World Events | 3 Comments

Whatever you do, if you want a real assessment about the situation in Iraq, do NOT listen to the President of the United States. Read Patrick Cockburn instead, for example. What will you learn? You’ll learn that, yes, Iraqis did progress on a few of the 18 benchmarks, but all the areas where they improved were insignificant, and the areas where Iraqis must have improved, about six benchmarks, Iraqis made absolutely no improvement at all. Things like security and politics. The very important stuff. No improvement at all.

The White House yesterday sought to suggest possible change for the better in Iraq by saying that there had been satisfactory progress on eight of the 18 goals set by Congress. Unsatisfactory progress is reported on six, unsatisfactory but with some progress on two and “too early to assess” on a further two.

The picture it hopes to give – and this has been uncritically reported by the US media – is of a mixture of progress and frustration in Iraq.

The wholly misleading suggestion is that the war could go either way. In reality the six failures are on issues critical to the survival of Iraq while the eight successes are on largely trivial matters.

Thus unsatisfactory progress is reported on “the Iraqi security forces even handedly enforcing the law” and on the number of Iraqi units willing to fight independently of the Americans. This means that there is no Iraqi national army but one consisting of Kurds, Shia and Sunni who will never act against their own communities. Despite three years of training, the Iraqi security forces cannot defend the government.

Set against these vitally important failures are almost ludicrously trivial or meaningless successes. For instance, “the rights of minority political parties are being defended” but these groups have no political influence. The alliance of Shia religious and Kurdish nationalist parties that make up the government is not keen to share power with anybody. This is scarcely surprising since they triumphantly won the election in 2005.

There have been some real improvements over the past six months. Sectarian killings in Iraq have declined to 650 in June compared with 2,100 in January. So-called “high-profile” bombings, including suicide bomb attacks on Shia markets, fell to 90 in June compared with 180 in March. But it is doubtful if these are entirely or even mainly due to the US surge.

The fall in sectarian killings, mostly of Sunni by Shia, may be largely the result of the Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr being told by their leader to curb their murder campaign. It is also true that last year, after the attack on the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006, there was a battle for Baghdad which the Shia won and the Sunni lost.

Baghdad is more and more Shia-dominated and the Sunni are pinned into the south-west of the city and a few other enclaves. As Sunni and Shia are killed or driven out of mixed areas, there are less of them to kill. Some 4.2 million people in Iraq are now refugees, of whom about half have fled the country.

The real and appalling situation on the ground in Iraq has been all too evident this week. Thirty bodies, the harvest of the death squads, were found in the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday. The figure for Tuesday was 26 and, in addition, 20 rockets and mortar bombs were fired into the Green Zone killing three people. This was significant because they were fired by the Mehdi Army, who had been upset by criticism made on them by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki. By way of gentle reproof they shelled his offices in the Green Zone.

What does this mean? It means that the surge is not having the intended effect. That is, if the intended effect was indeed a progress in security and political resolutions in Iraq, the surge has not succeeded, and probably will not succeed no matter how long we continue pressing this surge. The problem we are facing here at home is two fold. The public is now dead set against the war, and the military does not have any new fresh troops for the fight. A government cannot go to war without the nation behind it. Once it loses the nation, it will fairly quickly lose the war. The reason is that the soldiers come from the nation. Now, the military will run out of new soldiers to send to Iraq next April. Once April comes around what is the military going to do? They don’t say. Why not? Because their civilian bosses at the White House order them to remain silent. Why? Because it would hurt them politically.

Listen guys, the Republicans, by continuing this charade will lose badly in the November 2008 elections. They don’t seem to realize this. They believe that the American public will somehow never ever consider dropping them all. They figure that the more they filibuster Democratic legislation the more they can paint the Democrats as unable to rule. But this time the Americans will not forget (as they usually do with their massively short term attention span) that it was the Republicans who pressed for this war. This is important because if it were not for the Republicans, we’d get more honest assessments about this war and about what to do with our dear soldiers who fight for us. Instead, April will come around and well, we’ll still be living in denial while our soldiers come home wounded and weakened, stretched to the limit, and not the fighting force that can or will win our battles for us. This is very dangerous. Republicans would rather not talk about that. Neither their cohorts who control the media (see for example this latest evidence that even the New York Times would rather portray a political situation in Republican light—liberal media indeed).

What should happen?

In the real world, what should happen, especially when it comes to war, is to end the politicization. Republicans must stop using the soldiers as political fodder against Democrats. It must end. Were regular Americans to realize just how much the soldiers have been used by Republicans for political points, well, maybe many of them, the conservative kind, don’t mind the hypocrisy. In any case, it must end. It won’t unfortunately. But this is what should happen. We should look realistically at our situation now. We should assess just where this war has taken us, just what the costs have been. Will we actually do that? Not likely. Why not? Because partisan politics has gripped our nation at just the wrong time. Who is to blame for that? Karl Rove of course. As long as he is still employed we will never get an honest assessment.

The best solution for America right now in regards to Iraq is to begin talking about a way out of Iraq. The British were able to do so. We could learn a lot from the British it seems. One of the lessons is that you have to plan a good escape from the situation. The problem with Vietnam, and unfortunately the problem we will face with Iraq, is that we did not have a good plan of escape. So in the end you had a helicopter on top of the embassy with thousands of people trying to take it. What a shameful way to leave. Who is to blame for that? None other than Nixon of course. He orchestrated the ending of the war so that it would cast a bad light on the Democrats. But it was he, in the end, who left Vietnam the way he left it. George Bush does not wish to talk about how to leave Iraq. He would rather punt that on to the next administration (at this point assuredly a Democratic one). The moment the next administration withdraws the troops, he, from the sidelines, will criticize and demonize the next administration for failing in Iraq, and for not continuing his “grand crusade—er mission.” Why would he do this? Because in his heart, George W. Bush does not care about the troops as much as he cares about scoring political points for his Republican party.

The British withdrawal from southern Iraq also opens a window into our future for us to see what would happen with a withdrawal of foreign occupying troops. The Shi’ite militias turn on each other. This is the expected outcome. Why? Well, we go back to our realistic assessments. We keep pretending to believe that somehow the new Iraqi “army” will be loyal to the “government.” But please, let’s be honest. The real power lies in the militias, and will do so until the Americans leave to let the militias work it out on their own just how to run a large country the size of Iraq. What may really end up happening is that Iraq breaks down to tribal groups, as before World War I. Who knows, that may be what is actually best for a region like Iraq. The problem is that our world today prefers the nation-state. How would tribal organizations manage in such a system? Especially one like Iraq with all those lucrative resources?

In any case, Iraq will not fall to Al-Qaida. Al-Qaida’s presence in Iraq is small, and homogeneous. Their power is nowhere near that of the Shi’ite militias or the Kurdish militias. Will the Shi’ites try to murder all the remaining Sunnis? Not if the Sunnis have their own militias who protect their own. Also, if Iraq goes tribal, it won’t remain so for long. Here is where you get into the danger of a possible regional conflict. Iran will most likely eat up the Shi’ite south and east while Saudi Arabia will take in the Sunnis in the west. Will Saudi Arabia (or the United States) allow Iran to take possession of such a large amount of land with oil? Of course not. What about Turkey and Kurdistan? Turkey does currently have 140,000 troops on the border with Kurdistan. Turkish leaders have to think more of domestic politics than their obligations to foreign powers. The domestic politics demand action against the Kurds.

It really is unfortunate, and very tragic that we cannot have a realistic assessment about our actions in Iraq. The American people deserve to know the entire situation so they can make a realistic decision on whether or not to follow the president’s plan or some other. Whipping up the frenzy of Al-Qaida does nothing to solve the problem. I really hope Republicans can understand this. At this point, I am not holding my breath.

Bill Moyers’ “Buying the War” Documentary

April 25, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Media, War, War on Terror | 11 Comments

(UPDATED)

I just finished watching Bill Moyers’ “Buying the War” documentary.

In “Buying the War” Bill Moyers and producer Kathleen Hughes document the reporting of Walcott, Landay and Strobel, the Knight Ridder team that burrowed deep into the intelligence agencies to try and determine whether there was any evidence for the Bush Administration’s case for war. “Many of the things that were said about Iraq didn’t make sense,” says Walcott. “And that really prompts you to ask, ‘Wait a minute. Is this true? Does everyone agree that this is true? Does anyone think this is not true?'”

In the run-up to war, skepticism was a rarity among journalists inside the Beltway. Journalist Bob Simon of 60 Minutes, who was based in the Middle East, questioned the reporting he was seeing and reading. “I mean we knew things or suspected things that perhaps the Washington press corps could not suspect. For example, the absurdity of putting up a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda,” he tells Moyers. “Saddam…was a total control freak. To introduce a wild card like Al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I just didn’t believe it for an instant.” The program analyzes the stream of unchecked information from administration sources and Iraqi defectors to the mainstream print and broadcast press, which was then seized upon and amplified by an army of pundits. While almost all the claims would eventually prove to be false, the drumbeat of misinformation about WMDs went virtually unchallenged by the media. THE NEW YORK TIMES reported on Iraq’s “worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb,” but according to Landay, claims by the administration about the possibility of nuclear weapons were highly questionable. Yet, his story citing the “lack of hard evidence of Iraqi weapons” got little play. In fact, throughout the media landscape, stories challenging the official view were often pushed aside while the administration’s claims were given prominence. “From August 2002 until the war was launched in March of 2003 there were about 140 front page pieces in THE WASHINGTON POST making the administration’s case for war,” says Howard Kurtz, the POST’s media critic. “But there was only a handful of stories that ran on the front page that made the opposite case. Or, if not making the opposite case, raised questions.”

“Buying the War” examines the press coverage in the lead-up to the war as evidence of a paradigm shift in the role of journalists in democracy and asks, four years after the invasion, what’s changed? “More and more the media become, I think, common carriers of administration statements and critics of the administration,” says THE WASHINGTON POST’s Walter Pincus. “We’ve sort of given up being independent on our own.”

This was an excellent documentary. It wasn’t refined, spectacular, but just good hard journalism at work. ( Here is the transcript ) The most astounding part came right at the start. The documentary starts with Bush’s press conference two weeks before the war begins. You can hear Bush himself state it, “it’s a script.” The press conference was scripted just so. Bush would call on certain “journalists” who would lob softballs at him, questions such as “how does your faith help you in this moment?” and other such astoundingly absurd questions to ask two weeks before the war starts.

I remember well those awful dark days before the run up to the war. I kept asking myself, what is going on? How can this be? I remember Colin Powell stating in February 2001 about the sanctions in Iraq working. He said:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions — the fact that the sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

That one briefing that he gave (along with his comments about North Korea in March 2001, which Bush himself publicly rebuked Powell the day after) led me to believe that this Bush administration was not going to be forthcoming, and that I should not trust what they said.

This documentary shows quite well that most Americans had no clue, because well, the media did not give them a big enough clue, that the Bush administration was lying through their teeth. They were doing it so frequently, and they had the platform to do it in (the media) that dissenting views were stifled. Another masterful point in the documentary came when talking about Phil Donahue’s show on MSNBC. He was told by his higher-ups that if he were to have a Scott Ritter on the show, he must have a war proponent there with Mr. Ritter. However, if he were to have a Richard Perle on his show, he didn’t need to find a war dissenter to counter Mr. Perle. More importantly, he was to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. Now, why did MSNBC feel the need to do this? Why because of none other than Fox News, their main competitor.

These last six years will be viewed as an embarrassment by all future generations of Americans. I hope we become more skeptical of anything that comes out of the mouths of our political and military leaders, and not trust the media to tell us the truth in the future, but I’m not holding my breath.

Finally, these are my comments to Mr. Moyers on his program this evening:

Thank you for your efforts. They did not go unnoticed. I remember reading many of your stories and wondering the very same thing.

Two important points I wish this documentary addressed.

1. In the documentary, Mr. Moyers talks about the UN Inspectors leaving Iraq in 1998. His wording seemed to reflect the “conventional wisdom” pressed hard by neo-conservatives that Saddam kicked the inspectors out, which was not the case at all. In fact, it was President Clinton who ordered them out after the Americans were discovered to be spying on Iraq. I wonder why this bit of information was not disclosed in this documentary. It shows that this failure on the part of the media was certainly around from even before 9/11.

2. Colin Powell stated in February 2001 in a press conference with the Egyptian foreign minister that sanctions in Iraq worked and that Saddam was not really a threat. His own words:

We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions — the fact that the sanctions exist — not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq…

I was disappointed that this bit of information was also not present in the documentary. Ms. Rice also said something to the same effect in the summer of 2001 (all of course before the paradigm-shifting 9/11, as Donald Rumsfeld liked to point out often).

Otherwise, I appreciate greatly the efforts of Mr. Moyers and all those who participated with him in shedding more light on one of our darkest hours.

(Update)

Christy Hardin Smith writes at Firedoglake about her thoughts on the documentary:

Having done graduate work in security studies and had classes through the years with people who have actually looked at these issues for a living, I can honestly tell you that certainty of the evidence on something like this is a dead giveaway that someone is selling you a load of crap.

The White House Iraq Group did an excellent sales job. And the people that should have been the most skeptical fell for it hook, line, and sinker…because it was easier that way on their immediate personal connections, on their reputations, on their corporate bottom line. And on their immediate political aspirations, in the case of far too many elected representatives.

After watching the Moyers special last night, I was infuriated. This morning, sipping my first cup of coffee and trying to make some sense of it all, I’m still angry. So I’m going to watch it again later, with a pot of tea, and see if I can glean something beyond “the truth really, really hurts…all of us.”

Barry Yourgrau writes in the Huffington Post about the notable absence of a review on the New York Times of Moyers’ documentary.

Welcome to the post-David Halberstam NY Times. Where today they write up the rapper-Imus nexus and some “controversial” book about mothers who stay at home. And a PBS show about Roosevelt.

But nada about this country being conned into a war: a conjob in broad daylight, that is, with cameras running.

The con job continues right in front of our eyes, right in broad daylight.

Digby writes:

I guess it’s not so surprising that the NY Times didn’t bother to review this. It’s cowardly, however.

Those of us who have been following this story in depth from the beginning know most of this, of course. But I’m glad that Moyers has amassed the footage and put it all in one place so that people can see it again in its glory. It’s a big story and I’ll be interested to see how many of the most dizzying moments during that long national acid trip Moyers was able to capture…

A whole bunch of America sat there watching these sycophantic performances with our jaws agape, wondering if we had lost our minds. Bush was barely articulate, as usual, mouthing the worst kind of puerile platitudes (when he was coherent at all) while the press corps slavered over him as if he were Cicero. Bush, the clearly in-over-his-head man-child was molded into a hero and cheered by the media as he led this country into the dark, morass of an illegal war in the middle east. It was the most disorienting thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

There are many similar memories of that bizarre period, which, looking back, I realize were a strange kind of book-end to the equally freakish Clinton impeachment — the earlier story marked by its triviality and the latter by its terrible seriousness. Yet the press behaved in both as if they were cheerleaders for the Republican line not skeptics or fact-finders (and certainly not truth-tellers) while half the American public and most of the world looked on in utter disbelief. It was a very bad time. And I wasn’t sure if we would ever be able to sort it all out. I’m still not.

Matt Taibbi wrote about the shady press conference way back in 2003:

The Bush press conference to me was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism, a final announcement that the press no longer performs anything akin to a real function. Particularly revolting was the spectacle of the cream of the national press corps submitting politely to the indignity of obviously pre-approved questions, with Bush not even bothering to conceal that the affair was scripted.

Abandoning the time-honored pretense of spontaneity, Bush chose the order of questioners not by scanning the room and picking out raised hands, but by looking down and reading from a predetermined list. Reporters, nonetheless, raised their hands in between questions–as though hoping to suddenly catch the president’s attention.

In other words, not only were reporters going out of their way to make sure their softballs were pre-approved, but they even went so far as to act on Bush’s behalf, raising their hands and jockeying in their seats in order to better give the appearance of a spontaneous news conference.

Even Bush couldn’t ignore the absurdity of it all. In a remarkable exchange that somehow managed to avoid being commented upon in news accounts the next day, Bush chided CNN political correspondent John King when the latter overacted his part, too enthusiastically waving his hand when it apparently was, according to the script, his turn anyway.

KING: “Mr. President.”

BUSH: “We’ll be there in a minute. King, John King. This is a scripted…”

A ripple of nervous laughter shot through the East Room. Moments later, the camera angle of the conference shifted to a side shot, revealing a ring of potted plants around the presidential podium. It would be hard to imagine an image that more perfectly describes American political journalism today: George Bush, surrounded by a row of potted plants, in turn surrounded by the White House press corps.

“This is scripted.” Indeed, Mr. President. Indeed.

(Update)

Digby writes about another incident of someone speaking out and losing her job because she spoke out against the media establishment and the way they drove the war. Highly recommended reading.

Perhaps someone with more stature than Banfield could have gotten away with that speech and maybe it might have even been taken seriously, who knows? But the object lesson could not have been missed by any of the ambitious up and comers in the news business. If a TV journalist publicly spoke the truth anywhere about war, the news, even their competitors — and Banfield spoke the truth in that speech — their career was dead in the water. Even the girl hero of 9/11 (maybe especially the girl hero of 9/11) could not get away with breaking the CW code of omerta and she had to pay.

She’s now a co-anchor on a Court TV show.

The Patriotism Police

April 23, 2007 at 1:32 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Iraq, Media, War | 1 Comment

Over at the Carpetbagger Report we read about a new PBS special called “Buying the War” on the way the media ran things from 2001 to 2003. Yet another example of how our media was overrun by the White House and the Pentagon into accepting war with Iraq.

Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, “We didn’t question our sources enough.” But why? Isaacson notes there was “almost a patriotism police” after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’”

Moyers then mentions that Isaacson had sent a memo to staff, leaked to the Washington Post, in which he declared, “It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan” and ordered them to balance any such images with reminders of 9/11. Moyers also asserts that editors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, “Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails.”

Moyers asked CBS’s Bob Simon, who had strong doubts about the evidence for war, if he pushed any of the top brass at CBS to “dig deeper,” and he replies, “No, in all honesty, with a thousand mea culpas….nope, I don’t think we followed up on this.”

Instead he covered the marketing of the war in a “softer” way, explaining to Moyers: “I think we all felt from the beginning that to deal with a subject as explosive as this, we should keep it, in a way, almost light — if that doesn’t seem ridiculous.”

It’s a war. It does seem ridiculous.

Phil Donahue recalls that he was told he could not feature war dissenters alone on his MSNBC talk show and always had to have “two conservatives for every liberal.” Moyers resurrects a leaked NBC memo about Donahue’s firing that claimed he “presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

Moyers also throws some stats around: In the year before the invasion William Safire (who predicted a “quick war” with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote “a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war.” The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration’s case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would “editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times.”

Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept., Moyers tells Russert, who offers no coherent reply.

The program closes on a sad note, with Moyers pointing out that “so many of the advocates and apologists for the war are still flourishing in the media.” He then runs a pre-war clip of President Bush declaring, “We cannot wait for the final proof: the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Then he explains: “The man who came up with it was Michael Gerson, President Bush’s top speechwriter.

“He has left the White House and has been hired by the Washington Post as a columnist.”

Granted, noting the media’s negligence in its pre-war coverage is hardly new, but Moyers’ report seems to have some unreported details. For example, I’d never heard about MSNBC instructing Phil Donahue to intentionally feature “two conservatives for every liberal.” I’d also not heard about CNN’s Isaacson backing down to the “big people in corporations” who didn’t want the network to broadcast news on civilian casualties.

Even with all this bombardment (no pun intended) on the airwaves for war WAR WAR! there were still enough reports out there to show the evidence was against Bush’s assertions.

So sad. The worst part, I don’t think Americans overall have yet learned the lesson well enough for this not to happen again. I fear it will happen again in the future. So sad.

Bereft of Substance

April 18, 2007 at 9:03 am | Posted in American politics, conservatives, Media | Leave a comment

Glenn Greenwald, digging even deeper into the anatomy of the beltway media conventional wisdom has a doozy today. He pulls apart the latest right-wing attack against Edwards and Obama revealing the man behind the curtain. Continue Reading Bereft of Substance…

The Media, Pumping Up Stories

April 17, 2007 at 12:12 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Iraq, Media, War | Leave a comment

Howard Kurtz writes in the Washington Post on the media. Sometimes he writes critically, but for the most part, he really doesn’t do the job he supposedly signed himself up to do, and that is to report when the media’s story is overblown, etc. That duty has been picked up by Glenn Greenwald who recently has really attacked the media for their complicity with the Bush administration in specific, and generally failed to report facts. Take his most recent, titled, The Warped Reality of Our Media Stars.

In any case, Howard Kurtz writes today about the Virginia Tech massacre and states the following, a most revealing look at the way our media works:

When there’s a big story like this, there’s no need for hype and sensationalism. If you’re trying to turn a single murder, rape or missing young woman into a national melodrama, you need to pump it up. When there is a massacre of this magnitude, there is no need for embellishment and reporters can assume their traditional role of assembling the facts.

No need to “hype or sensationalize” a “massacre of this magnitude.” Journalists can “assume their traditional role of assembling facts.” But if you have one incident (say a beautiful white girl missing in Aruba), well, then you’ve got to “pump it up,” turn it into “a national melodrama.”

If this is the usual modus operandi of the media, why should we trust any word that comes out of their mouth? There has been a real failure on the national media, more specifically the Washington media (including you Mr. Kurtz) to just stick with the facts, and more importantly, be “their traditional role of assembling facts.” That includes questioning sources and their motives. Why would someone like Cheney demand of his reporters to call him a “senior administration official even though there was nothing secret about his words? And they go along…Why?

This sensationalism is especially important because it is the way America was bamboozled into accepting the war in Iraq. Take a look at the timeline yourself and see how they deceived America. I think a lot of these media personalities have got to realize they aren’t there to tell us a fictional story that is “compelling drama.” They are there to provide the facts.

But The Media Has Mentioned These

April 8, 2007 at 11:22 am | Posted in American politics, Iraq, McCain, Media, Military, War | Leave a comment

John McCain writes an op-ed in today’s Washington Post about Iraq, and the supposed bias the media has against our policies in Iraq. This is a typical conservative tactic. However, let’s see if it passes muster. John McCain states:

The new political-military strategy is beginning to show results. But most Americans are not aware because much of the media are not reporting it or devote far more attention to car bombs and mortar attacks that reveal little about the strategic direction of the war. I am not saying that bad news should not be reported or that horrific terrorist attacks are not newsworthy. But news coverage should also include evidence of progress. Whether Americans choose to support or oppose our efforts in Iraq, I hope they could make their decision based on as complete a picture of the situation in Iraq as is possible to report.

Okay, so let’s see what examples he gives of the media supposedly not informing Americans about:

· Sunni sheikhs in Anbar are now fighting al-Qaeda. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Anbar’s capital, Ramadi, to meet with Sunni tribal leaders. The newly proposed de-Baathification legislation grew out of that meeting. Police recruitment in Ramadi has increased dramatically over the past four months.

Huh, that’s interesting, because here is the New York Times reporting on just this:

The sheik needs as much protection as loyalty and prayers can bring, not to mention money. He is the public face of the Sunni Arab tribes in lawless Anbar Province who have turned against the Sunni jihadists of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, many of whom belong to other, sometimes more militant Iraqi tribes.

“I swear to God, if we have good weapons, if we have good vehicles, if we have good support, I can fight Al Qaeda all the way to Afghanistan,” he said recently as he sat smoking in a dark jacket and brown robes while meeting with a sheik from another Sunni tribe in his hotel room.

Sheik Abdul Sattar, a wiry 35-year-old with a thin goatee who comes from the provincial capital, Ramadi, is the most outspoken Sunni tribal figure in the country who is fighting, at least for now, on the side of the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the American military.

Alrighty, let’s try McCain’s next example:

· More than 50 joint U.S.-Iraqi stations have been established in Baghdad. Regular patrols establish connections with the surrounding neighborhood, resulting in a significant increase in security and actionable intelligence.

Frankly, I don’t know which paper or news source did NOT talk about the new stations established in Baghdad.

· Extremist Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr is in hiding, his followers are not contesting American forces, sectarian violence has dropped in Baghdad and we are working with the Shiite mayor of Sadr City.

Again, which paper has NOT talked about the whereabouts of Al-Sadr or that his militia is “laying low” and not contesting against American forces. Seriously, Mr. McCain, just what papers are YOU reading?

· Iraqi army and police forces are increasingly fighting on their own and with American forces, and their size and capability are growing. Iraqi army and police casualties have increased because they are fighting more.

This has also been reported.

Do you have any other examples, Mr. McCain? I am sure I can find anything you ask for written about in the New York Times or the Washington Post. What other paper do you wish to deride? I understand that you wish Iraq were better than it is, but don’t blame the messenger for portraying things as they are.

The Complicity of the Media in the Run Up to the War in Iraq

April 5, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Posted in American politics, conservatives, Iraq, Media, War | 1 Comment

FAIR has compiled a page full of citations showing just how complicit the media was in the buildup to the war in Iraq.

Let me tell you, a stroll down nightmare lane. I remember many of those articles and kept wondering what the heck was wrong with the media, our leaders and generally American citizens at large. What were they thinking? The citations for May 1, 2003 I think are very instructive:

George W. Bush delivers his “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. The media reaction is ecstatic—CNN’s Lou Dobbs says, “He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews goes further:

We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple. We’re not like the Brits.

—Richard Perle writes an op-ed for USA Today headlined “Relax, Celebrate Victory,” in which he comments: “It ended quickly with few civilian casualties and with little damage to Iraq’s cities, towns, or infrastructure. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us, as the war’s critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted, without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting they warned us to expect.”

I think Chris Matthews’ comments are apropo vis a vis recent events.

I just wanted to put this up to remind myself that I knew what I heard back then, while conservatives today rewrite history. I’m thankful for FAIR in doing all this work to compile all the evidence.

Quote of the Day – John Shadegg and Pete Hoekstra

February 15, 2007 at 8:50 am | Posted in American politics, conservatives, Iraq, Media | Leave a comment

“Thanks to the liberal mainstream media, Americans fully understand the consequences of continuing our efforts in Iraq — both in American lives and dollars.”

heh, yeah, that dastardly liberal mainstream media! How dare they fully inform the American public about the consequences of our continuing efforts in Iraq! Thanks to Horse’s Mouth for the link

How the Washington Media Failed the American People

February 8, 2007 at 9:48 pm | Posted in Bush Administration, Media | 2 Comments

UPDATED
Republican-led Congress couldn’t do it. The only ones left to even come close to keeping the Bush administration in check was the Washington Media. They failed utterly. Eric Boehlert writes on how and why the media failed.

Let’s face it, as special counsel in charge of investigating the Valerie Plame CIA leak, and now the lead prosecutor in D.C. federal court methodically laying out the damning evidence of perjury, obstruction, and lying against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Fitzgerald has consistently shown more interest — and determination — in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant D.C. newsroom of The New York Times.

Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid D.C. press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men — not journalists — who were running down leads, asking tough questions and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.

It’s true that Fitzgerald’s team had subpoena power that no journalist could match. But reporters in this case had a trump card of their own: inside information. Sadly, most journalists remained mum about the coveted and often damning facts, dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House’s obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame.

So as the facts of the White House cover-up now tumble out into open court, it’s important to remember that if it hadn’t been for Fitzgerald’s work, there’s little doubt the Plame story would have simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.

In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse. Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.

And that’s why the Plame investigation then, and the Libby perjury trial now, so perfectly capture what went wrong with the timorous press corps during the Bush years as it routinely walked away from its responsibility of holding people in power accountable and ferreting out the facts.

Read the whole thing. A damning account. Everyone should breathe a sigh of relief and thank God in their prayers that someone like Fitzgerald exists. Imagine how much would still lie uncovered, how many crimes committed yet never acted upon because too many were afraid to speak out…..

Glen Greenwald writes the following:

For the last 15 years or so — since the early years of the Clinton administration — our public political discourse has been centrally driven by an ever-growing network of scandal-mongers and filth-peddling purveyors of baseless, petty innuendo churned out by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, various right-wing operatives and, more recently, the right-wing press led by Fox News. Every issue of significance is either shaped and wildly distorted by that process, or the public is distracted from important issues by contrived and unbelievably vapid, petty scandals. Our political discourse has long been infected by this potent toxin, one which has grown in strength and degraded most of our political and media institutions.

For anyone who thinks that that is overstated, the definitive refutation is provided by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin and The Washington Post’s former National Politics Editor John Harris, who provided this description in their recent book about how their national media world operates:

Matt Drudge is the gatekeeper… he is the Walter Cronkite of his era.

In the fragmented, remote-control, click-on-this, did you hear? political media world in which we live, revered Uncle Walter has been replaced by odd nephew Matt. . . .

Matt Drudge rules our world . . . With the exception of the Associated Press, there is no outlet other than the Drudge Report whose dispatches instantly can command the attention and energies of the most established newspapers and television newscasts.

So many media elites check the Drudge Report consistently that a reporter is aware his bosses, his competitors, his sources, his friends on Wall Street, lobbyists, White House officials, congressional aides, cousins, and everyone who is anyone has seen it, too.

This is why our political process has been so broken and corrupt. The worst elements of what has become the pro-Bush right wing have been shaping and driving how national journalists view events, the stories they cover, and the narratives they disseminate.

What kind of government and political system — what kind of country — is going to arise from a political landscape shaped by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, Fox News, Michelle Malkin, and their similar right-wing appendages in talk radio, print and the blogosphere? Allowing those elements to dominate our political debates and drive media coverage guarantees a decrepit, rotted, and deeply corrupt country. That is just a basic matter of cause and effect.

Peter Daou wrote what I think is one of the definitive articles detailing the mechanics of that process (Tom Tomorrow provided the illustration), but whatever the details, its dominance simply cannot be reasonably doubted. The last two presidential elections were overwhelmed by the pettiest and most fictitious “controversies” (things like Al Gore’s invention of the Internet and Love Story claims, John Kerry’s windsurfing and war wounds, John Edwards’ hair brushing and Howard Dean’s scream), and our discussions of the most critical issues are continuously clouded by distortive sideshows concocted by this filth-peddling network. Their endless lynch mob crusades supplant rational and substantive political debates, and the most wild fictions are passively conveyed by a lazy and co-opted national media.

Well said. I wrote long ago about how things changed so quickly from 1995 to 1997 while I was out of the country:

I knew something was wrong in America ever since I came home from my mission, ten years ago. America got mean. America turned nasty and divisive. People turned on members of their own religion, calling them names and judging their spiritual worth unrighteously.

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