'The Right Choice?'

Yesterday I received an emailed article which encapsulates just about every criticism thrown at Barack Obama by an increasingly desperate right wing.

I was tempted to send back a two-word response: “Double-barreled bullsh*t!”

Then, some words kept running through my head, words spoken by Michael Douglas in Rob Reiner’s “The American President:”

“We've got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me … “

Here, then, is the article, followed by my response. Well, mine and those of 18 conservatives.


The Obama Temptation

by Mark R. Levin, right-wing radio talk show host, 25 October 2008 (LINK)

I've been thinking this for a while so I might as well air it here. I honestly never thought we'd see such a thing in our country - not yet anyway - but I sense what's occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places. I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical. And the pull appears to be rather strong. Ken Adelman, Doug Kmiec and others reach for the usual platitudes in explaining themselves but are utterly incoherent. Even non-conservatives with significant public policy and real world experiences, such as Colin Powell and Charles Fried, find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way. (BJ: See Colin Powell’s explanation on my post, “What Powell said,” LINK)

There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.

Even the media are drawn to the allure that is Obama. Yes, the media are liberal. Even so, it is obvious that this election is different. The media are open and brazen in their attempts to influence the outcome of this election. I've never seen anything like it. Virtually all evidence of Obama's past influences and radicalism — from Jeremiah Wright to William Ayers — have been raised by non-traditional news sources. The media's role has been to ignore it as long as possible, then mention it if they must, and finally dismiss it and those who raise it in the first place. It's as if the media use the Obama campaign's talking points — its preposterous assertions that Obama didn't hear Wright from the pulpit railing about black liberation, whites, Jews, etc., that Obama had no idea Ayers was a domestic terrorist despite their close political, social and working relationship, etc. — to protect Obama from legitimate and routine scrutiny. And because journalists have also become commentators, it is hard to miss their almost uniform admiration for Obama and excitement about an Obama presidency. So in the tank are the media for Obama that for months we've read news stories and opinion pieces insisting that if Obama is not elected president it will be due to white racism. And, of course, while experience is crucial in assessing Sarah Palin's qualifications for vice president, no such standard is applied to Obama's qualifications for president. (No longer is it acceptable to minimize the work of a community organizer.) Charles Gibson and Katie Couric sought to humiliate Palin. They would never and have never tried such an approach with Obama.

But beyond the elites and the media, my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government. Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created. Rather than pursue the American Dream, he insists that the American Dream has arbitrary limits, limits Obama would set for the rest of us — today it's $250,000 for businesses and even less for individuals. If the individual dares to succeed beyond the limits set by Obama, he is punished for he's now officially "rich." The value of his physical and intellectual labor must be confiscated in greater amounts for the good of the proletariat (the middle class). And so it is that the middle class, the birth-child of capitalism, is both celebrated and enslaved — for its own good and the greater good. The "hope" Obama represents, therefore, is not hope at all. It is the misery of his utopianism imposed on the individual.

Unlike past Democrat presidential candidates, Obama is a hardened ideologue. He's not interested in playing around the edges. He seeks "fundamental change," i.e., to remake society. And if the Democrats control Congress with super-majorities led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, he will get much of what he demands.

The question is whether enough Americans understand what's at stake in this election and, if they do, whether they care. Is the allure of a charismatic demagogue so strong that the usually sober American people are willing to risk an Obama presidency? After all, it ensnared Adelman, Kmiec, Powell, Fried and numerous others. And while America will certainly survive, it will do so, in many respects, as a different place. –End-


I just read the article you sent. This just scares you to death, doesn’t it? That is what it aims to do. That is the purpose of such propaganda. This is desperation from a political party whose own members admit has practically run this nation into the ground – financially, diplomatically and morally.

The right-wing blogosphere is permeated with this Mark R. Levin article, which, as planned, targets both the ignorant and the innocent.

The ignorant do not think for themselves, fact-check unsigned and undocumented claims or bother to keep abreast with what is going on in the government of this nation. They are happy to let Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity do it for them.

The innocent, unlike me, are just too busy with their own lives, their jobs, their families, to spend their waking hours just trying to keep up with the multilayered scandals manifested in the current administration. I am happy to do it for them.

Sadly, the article will find an audience. The good news is the audience it will find – and it is posted across the Web - is among the 25 percent of Americans who STILL think George W. Bush is doing a good job (Gallup, October 2008, LINK). This core constituency will vote for McCain-Palin no matter what the platforms of either party.

So, this piece of propaganda is not going to affect the outcome of this election.

This is merely a way to deflect the fact that intelligent persons who are very much aware of what is going on in America and in our government are, in great numbers, supporting Barack Obama. This includes many able members of the Republican Party and many right-wing thinkers.

I am not swayed by such propaganda. Don’t you think after eight years of dedicated research and objective thinking, of examining the performance of the current administration and the path the Republican Party has taken, I am capable of deciding the leadership which is best for this country?

Let me scare you. Ask yourself if you really are a conservative, for the path the Republican Party has taken over the last eight years has absolutely nothing to do with traditional conservatism.

I do not always agree with that most outspoken conservative Pat Buchanan, but I respect his strength of conviction and his love for this country. Buchanan, in his The American Conservative magazine, has this to say about conservatism as it has evolved in the Republican Party:

"The conservative movement has been hijacked and turned into a globalist interventionist, open-borders ideology, which is not the conservative movement I grew up with."

Buchanan is joined by an ever-growing cadre of conservatives who are disenchanted with the Republican Party and our current president, particularly in the area of fiscal responsibility.

The cover story in the November 3, 2008, issue of Buchanan’s The American Conservative magazine is titled “The Right Choice?” (LINK) Quoting the “lede” of the story:

“Traditional conservatives have no clear favorite in the November election. Is there a lesser evil? Should we vote third party? Would we be better off just staying home? TAC asked 18 conservatives, libertarians and independent thinkers how they plan to vote and why.”

I have read the 18 responders’ statements – they are both brief and enlightening - and if you want a true picture of what’s at stake in this election, I recommend you read them, too. What is an hour of your time when it comes to making “The Right Choice?” (LINK TO STATEMENTS)

Of the 18 persons:

6 will vote “third party.”
4 say they will not vote.
3 will vote for John McCain.
5 will vote for Barack Obama.

All 18 right-wing contributors hold in disdain both the Bush administration and John McCain. Most said Barack Obama is “the lesser of two evils.”

Of the three who are voting for John McCain, here’s what two had to say about their vote:

“An exercise in futility.”

“A better writer said of a charmless woman that rousing any affection for her would be like ‘smoking an unlit cigar, walking a dead dog, swimming in an empty pool, or listening to the radio when it is off.’ The same goes for the Republican nominee. When John McCain appears on screen, all vacant grin and Eeyore cadence, I reach for the mute button. I hate his wars. I don’t trust his maverick pose. When he says ‘my friends,’ he doesn’t mean me. But, I am voting for him.” This woman calls her vote “damage control” against what she believes will be a sweeping victory for Democrats in Congress.

Of the four who say they will not vote on Nov. 4, one quoted a character from Richard Linklater’s “Slacker:”

“Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy.”

In conclusion, if the article you sent me scares you, let me frighten the hell out you. The article is the product of right-wing desperation: the inability to stand on its merits.

In the eight years of the Bush presidency – six of which saw a Republican majority in both the House and Senate – this country has been in a downward spiral – a far cry from the country you grew up in, or the country you expect your grandchildren to grow up in. A vote for McCain-Palin is a guarantee that the policies which brought about this decline will continue.

That is why Barack Obama’s message of “change” is resonating across America, and that is why the core right-wing, Palin and McCain are fighting him nail and tooth with all they have to offer – an unprecedented smear campaign.

Just a few days ago I posted an essay, “How to Detect Propaganda.” (LINK) It is important to point out here that the devices of propaganda are not only rampant in the above article, but appeared throughout Obama’s 30-minute TV appeal last night. Propaganda, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It is the “predetermined ends” it seeks to accomplish, which should be examined, and those ends can be either good or evil. The essay equips you to know the difference.

In my opinion, Obama’s message for this country appeals to our better selves.

Will the smears against Obama stick? Maybe, if voters do not take the time to fact-check them.

But, don’t take my word for it. Your vote is your American birthright. It is both a duty and a privilege. Some time in the remaining days before you vote, spend an hour or so reading what 18 of your fellow right-wing Americans have to say about the McCain-Palin ticket: LINK


'The Spooniad'

Outside the first chilling temps of fall and a lulling rain marked the moment I finished Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.” The same pervasive and palatable atmosphere hung over “The Hill” as I stepped away from the graves there.

From that Spoon River, Illinois, cemetery Masters’ 244 townsfolk had spoken their epitaphs, and I left the souls there to rest in peace.

In them, I had seen myself and so many others.

This singular work won Masters highest praise in the poetry genre. More than poetry, this series of simple tales, spoken by the dead and woven together, capture from another era small-town life and morals, or the lack thereof.

In the book’s finale, “The Spooniad,“ Masters cleverly allows his fictional character Jonathan Swift Somers, to leave behind “a fragment” of what was intended to be a 24-volume epic showing that the entangled lives of simple folk can reach Homeric heights.

One of the themes from beyond the veil of death was the greed and deception which led to the collapse of the town’s bank.

In “The Spooniad,” the fictional Somers writes:

“ … and the fall Of Rhodes, bank that brought unnumbered woes and loss to many, with engendered hate
that flamed into the torch in Anarch hands to burn the courthouse, on whose blackened wreck a fairer temple rose and Progress stood.”

Greed, deception, bank collapse. Unnumbered woes and loss.

The tales are timeless. That’s what makes a classic a classic.


Happy Birthday, Frodo, hobbit, lover of words, Keeper of the Ring!


'To making it count!'

On my archived blog, “I See My Dreams,” I ran a feature atop my left sidebar titled “daily brief.” Three times in 18 months, I posed in that feature this question:

“What issue always makes headlines a couple of weeks before a general election, then as soon as the polls close goes away?”

Not once did readers of that blog attempt, in comments, to answer that question or even inquire about it.

Well, it’s happened again, and it’s probably the one pre-election story which ticks me off the most.

In the 1960s the Warren Court ruled on a series of cases dealing with "reapportionment," decisions which required electoral districts to have equal populations. In writing the opinion of the Court in Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Chief Justice Earl Warren set forth the principle, “One man, one vote.”

To a younger generation of voters coming along, that principle might seem today “a no-brainer.” But, is it?

Yes, once more, two weeks before Election Day, there are suddenly stories across the nation involving early voting snafus, voting machine foul-ups, long lines where people on lunch breaks are “disenfranchised” because they have to give up and return to work before voting. Machines still not equipped to yield voter-verified paper ballots. Ad nauseam.

These problems might better be dealt with if the media would focus on them at the beginning of an election cycle rather than at its end.

No citizen should leave a polling place wondering, “Did my vote count?”

As my mother used to say, “It’s enough to make a preacher cuss!”


The greatest nation

“America didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by using your money to spread the wealth around.” – John McCain, campaign speeches, October 2008.


That’s exactly how it became the greatest nation on earth, and that’s how it will remain the greatest nation on earth.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That’s how we got the name “United States.” And, that’s where your money goes. And, we all share in the wealth.



Detecting propaganda

When I was a young mother in the mid-60s, I stumbled across something in a book of essays which has since profoundly affected my perception.

In fact, the essay would find itself on my list when one of those questionnaires asks what three things I’ve read have had the most impact on my life.

In 1946, the essay writer, Clyde Raymond Miller, wrote the bible on propaganda and its detection. Miller’s book, The Process of Persuasion, Crown Publishers, New York City, continues to be used today as the definitive work on the subject.

Let me stop here and say that “propaganda” is often uniquely associated with Josef Goebbels, Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. That is a mistake. Propanda has universal usage and can bring about outcomes good or bad.

The essay Miller wrote, which so profoundly affected my thinking, follows. I have made no attempt to update his 1946 perspective. Just for fun, as you read through his “seven devices of propaganda,” make a list of current labels, situations and events which come to mind.

Aside from 1940s references, the essay itself is timeless and should be essential reading for every American.

I give you Clyde Raymond Miller:


Clyde Raymond Miller

If American citizens are to have clear understanding of present-day conditions and what to do about them, they must be able to recognize propaganda, to analyze it, and to appraise it.

But, what is propaganda?

As generally understood, propaganda is expression of opinion or action by individuals or groups deliberately designed to influence opinions or actions of other individuals or groups with reference to predetermined ends.

Thus, propaganda differs from scientific analysis. The propagandist is trying to “put something across,” good or bad, whereas the scientist is trying to discover truth and fact. Often, the propagandist does not want careful scrutiny and criticism; he wants to bring about a specific action. Because the action may be socially beneficial or socially harmful to millions of people, it is necessary to focus upon the propagandist and his activities the searchlight of scientific scrutiny. Socially desirable propaganda will not suffer from such examination, but the opposite type will be detected and revealed for what it is.

We are fooled by propaganda chiefly because we don’t recognize it when we see it. It may be fun to be fooled but, as the cigarette ads used to say, it is more fun to know. We can more easily recognize propaganda when we see it if we are familiar with the seven common propaganda devices. These are:

1. The Name Calling Device
2. The Glittering Generalities Device
3. The Transfer Device
4. The Testimonial Device
5. The Plain Folks Device
6. The Card Stacking Device
7. The Band Wagon Device

Why are we fooled by these devices? Because they appeal to our emotions rather than to our reason. They make us believe and do something we would not believe or do if we thought about it calmly, dispassionately. In examining these devices, note that they work most effectively at those times when we are too lazy to think for ourselves; also, they tie into emotions which sway us to be “for” or “against” nations, races, religions, ideals, economic and political policies and practices, and so on through automobiles, cigarettes, radios, toothpastes, presidents, and wars. With our emotions stirred, it may be fun and infinitely more to our own interests to know how they work.

Lincoln must have had in mind citizens who could balance their emotions with intelligence when he made his remark: “… but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”


“Name Calling” is a device to make us form a judgment without examining the evidence on which it should be based. Here the propagandist appeals to our hate and fear. He does this by giving “bad names” to those individuals, groups, nations, races, policies, practices, beliefs, and ideals which he would have us condemn and reject. For centuries the name “heretic” was bad. Thousands were oppressed, tortured, or put to death as heretics. Anybody who dissented from popular or group belief or practice was in danger of being called a heretic. In the light of today’s knowledge, some heresies were bad and some were good. Many of the pioneers of modern science were called heretics; witness the cases of Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno. Today’s bad names include: Fascist, demagogue, dictator, Red, financial oligarchy, Communist, muckraker, alien, outside agitator, economic royalist, Utopian, rabble-rouser, trouble-maker, Tory, Constitution wrecker.

“Al” Smith called (Franklin D.) Roosevelt a Communist by implication when he said in his Liberty League speech, “There can only be one capital, Washington or Moscow.” When “Al” Smith was running for the presidency many called him a tool of the pope, saying in effect, “We must choose between Washington and Rome.” That implied that Mr. Smith, if elected president, would take his orders from the pope. Likewise, Mr. Justice Hugo Black has been associated with a bad name, Ku Klux Klan. In these cases some propagandists have tried to make us form judgments without examining essential evidence and implications. “Al Smith is a Catholic. He must never be president.” “Roosevelt is a Red. Defeat his program.” “Hugo Black is or was a Klansman. Take him out of the Supreme Court.”

Use of “bad names” without presentation of their essential meaning, without all their pertinent implications, comprises perhaps the most common of all propaganda devices. Those who want to maintain the status quo apply bad names to those who would change it. For example, the (William Randolph) Hearst press applies bad names to Communists and Socialists. Those who want to change the status quo apply bad names to those who would maintain it. For example, the Daily Worker and the American Guardian apply bad names to conservative Republicans and Democrats.


“Glittering Generalities” is a device by which the propagandist identifies his program with virtue by use of “virtue words.” Here, he appeals to our emotions of love, generosity, and brotherhood. He uses words like truth, freedom, honor, liberty, social justice, public service, the right to work, loyalty, progress, democracy, the American way, Constitution defender. These words suggest shining ideals. All persons of good will believe in these ideals. Hence, the propagandist, by identifying his individual group, nation, race, policy, practice, or belief with such ideals, seeks to win us to his cause. As Name Calling is a device to make us form a judgment to reject and condemn, without examining the evidence, Glittering Generalities is a device to make us accept and approve, without examining the evidence.

For example, use of the phrases, “the right to work” and “social justice,” may be a device to make us accept programs for meeting the labor-capital problem which, if we examined them critically, we would not accept at all.

In the Name Calling and Glittering Generalities devices, words are used to stir up our emotions and to befog our thinking. In one device “bad words” are used to make us mad; in the other, “good words” are used to make us glad.

The propagandist is most effective in the use of these devices when his words make us create devils to fight or gods to adore. By his use of the “bad words,” we personify as a “devil” some nation, race, group, individual, policy, practice, or ideal; we are made fighting mad to destroy it. By use of “good words,” we personify as a godlike idol some nation, race, group, etc. Words which are “bad” to some are “good” to others, or may be made so. Thus, to some the New Deal is “a prophecy of social salvation” while to others it is “an omen of social disaster.”

From consideration of names, “bad” and “good,” we pass to institutions and symbols, also “bad” and “good.” We see these in the next device.


“Transfer” is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. For example, most of us respect and revere our church and our nation. If the propagandist succeeds in getting church or nation to approve a campaign in behalf of some program, he thereby transfers its authority, sanction, and prestige to that program. Thus, we may accept something which otherwise we might reject.

In the Transfer device, symbols are constantly used. The cross represents the Christian Church. The flag represents the nation. Cartoons like Uncle Sam represent a consensus of public opinion. These symbols stir emotions. At their very sight, with the speed of light, is aroused the whole complex of feelings we have with respect to church or nation. A cartoonist by having Uncle Sam disapprove a budget for unemployment relief would have us feel that the whole United States disapproves relief costs. By drawing an Uncle Sam who approves the same budget, the cartoonist would have us feel that the American people approve it. Thus, the Transfer device is used both for and against causes and ideas.


The “Testimonial” is a device to make us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy. In this device the propagandist makes use of testimonials. “When I feel tired, I smoke a Camel and get the grandest ‘lift.’” “We believe the John L. Lewis plan of labor organization is splendid; the CIO should be supported.” This device works in reverse also; counter-testimonials may be employed. Seldom are these used against commercial products like patent medicines and cigarettes, but they are constantly employed in social, economic, and political issues. “We believe that the John L. Lewis plan of labor organization is bad; the CIO should not be supported.” (BJ: I would only note here that famous people are often used in the testimonial device, like actress Sally Field selling us bone-strengthening medicine.)


“Plain Folks” is a device used by politicians, labor leaders, businessmen, and even by ministers and educators to win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves – “just plain folks among the neighbors.” In election years especially do candidates show their devotion to little children and the common, homey things of life. They have front porch campaigns. For the newspaper men, they raid the kitchen cupboard, finding there some of the good wife’s apple pie. They go to country picnics; they attend service at the old frame church; they pitch hay and go fishing; they show their belief in home and mother. In short, they would win our votes by showing that they’re just as common as the rest of us – “just plain folks,” – and therefore, wise and good. Business men often are “plain folks” with the factory hands. Even distillers use the device. “It’s our family’s whiskey, neighbor; and neighbor, it’s your price.”


“Card Stacking” is a device in which the propagandist employs all the arts of deception to win our support for himself, his group, nation, race, policy, practice, belief, or ideal. He stacks the cards against the truth. He uses under-emphasis and over-emphasis to dodge issues and evade facts. He resorts to lies, censorship, and distortion. He omits facts. He offers false testimony. He creates a smoke screen of clamor by raising a new issue when he wants an embarrassing matter forgotten. He draws a “red herring” across the trail to confuse and divert those in quest of facts he does not want revealed. He makes the unreal appear real and the real appear unreal. He lets half-truth masquerade as truth. By the Card Stacking device, a mediocre candidate, through the “build-up,” is made to appear an intellectual titan; an ordinary prize fighter a probable world champion; a worthless patent medicine a beneficent cure. By means of this device propagandists would convince us that a ruthless war of aggression is a crusade for righteousness. Some member nations of the Non-Intervention Committee send their troops to intervene in Spain. Card Stacking employs sham, hypocrisy, effrontery. (BJ: “The Big Lie” falls into this category: if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it. The release of falsified documents is included in “The Big Lie.”)


The “Band Wagon” is a device to make us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandist’s program en masse. Here his theme is: “Everybody’s doing it.” His techniques range from those of medicine show to dramatic spectacle. He hires a hall, fills a great stadium, marches a million men in parade. He employs symbols, colors, music, movement, all the dramatic arts. He appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to “follow the crowd.” Because he wants us to “follow the crowd” in masses, he directs his appeal to groups held together by common ties of nationality, religion, race, environment, sex, vocation. Thus, propagandists campaigning for or against a program will appeal to us as Catholics, Protestants or Jews; as members of the Nordic race or as Negroes; as farmers or as school teachers; as housewives or as miners. All the artifices of flattery are used to harness the fears and hatreds, prejudices and biases, convictions and ideals common to the group; thus, emotion is made to push and pull the group on to the Band Wagon. In newspaper articles and in the spoken word this device is also found. “Don’t throw your vote away. Vote for our candidate. He’s sure to win.” Nearly every candidate wins in every election – before the votes are in. (BJ: It is my fervent prayer that “one day a lemming will fly.”)


Observe that in all these devices our emotion is the stuff with which propagandists work. Without it, they are helpless; with it, harnessing it to their purposes, they can make us glow with pride or burn with hatred, they can make us zealots in behalf of the program they espouse. As we said at the beginning, propaganda as generally understood is expression of opinion or action by individuals or groups with reference to predetermined ends. Without the appeal to our emotion – to our fears and to our courage, to our selfishness and unselfishness, to our loves and to our hates – propagandists would influence few opinions and few actions.

To say this is not to condemn emotion, an essential part of life, or to assert that all predetermined ends of propagandists are “bad.” What we mean is that the intelligent citizen does not want propagandists to utilize his emotions, even to the attainment of “good” ends, without knowing what is going on. He does not want to be “used” in the attainment of ends he may later consider “bad.” He does not want to be gullible. He does not want to be fooled. He does not want to be duped, even in a “good” cause. He wants to know the facts and among these is included the fact of the utilization of his emotions.

Keeping in mind the seven common propaganda devices, turn to today’s newspapers and almost immediately you can spot examples of them all. At election time or during any campaign, Plain Folks and Band Wagon are common. Card Stacking is hardest to detect, because it is adroitly executed or because we lack the information necessary to nail the lie. A little practice with the daily newspapers in detecting these propaganda devices soon enables us to detect them elsewhere – in radio, newsreels, books, magazines, and in expression of labor unions, business groups, churches, schools, political parties. (BJ: Written before television, the Internet and email.)


Great thanks to my friend Shari Nevels, who typed the essay onto my computer, error-free, while visiting this summer.


Worth 100,000 words

Lord, how I miss holding a book.

So many of you have asked me whether I can now see photos after my cataract surgery. Alas, I do see them better, better than seeing nothing at all. I can see close-up images, like the sailor and nurse above, but, background details escape me. And, RP affects color perception.

What these two paragraphs have in common is my real regret that I won’t be able to enjoy what must be Life magazine’s most unique photo essay yet.

“Life: The Classic Collection” promises not to be just another coffee-table book. Compiled “by Editors of Life Magazine,” the book contains 100 photos and is unique in that 25 of the photos are removable and suitable for framing, while the image remains on the page behind each.

Here’s Life’s promotion of the new book:

“The most famous, wonderful AND inspiring pictures ever to appear in the pages of LIFE are here. All the great action shots are here - from the sailor kissing the nurse to the first astronaut walking in space. The unsurpassed portraiture - from screen icons like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to world leaders including John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Winston Churchill - are all here as well.

“LIFE has, of course, visited its archives before, but never like this. This edition puts the photographs on display, not only as part of the page layout but as the page itself. The explanatory text will be out of the way, so that each image can be savored. Moreover, prints will be included that are not just suitable for framing, but meant for framing. And, not only will there be photographic prints; there will also be 75 other famous pictures that appeared in LIFE's pages, the story behind each of them and the narrative history of what LIFE's photography has long meant to the country and, indeed, to the world.”

A great Christmas gift idea, but don’t send me one. I would just cry.


PHOTO: “The Kiss,” Alfred Eisenstaedt, V-J Day in Times Square where the crowd had just heard WWII was over. THE SAILOR. THE NURSE.


Still 'a big, fat idiot'

When Tom Brokaw asked Colin Powell on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” about those who would suggest his endorsement of Barack Obama is race-based, the former secretary of state said:

“If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, 10 months ago. I really have been going back and forth between somebody I have the highest respect and regard for, John McCain, and somebody I was getting to know, Barack Obama. And, it was only in the last couple of months that I settled on this.

“And, I can't deny that it will be a historic event for an African-American to become president. And, should that happen, all Americans should be proud - not just African-Americans, but all Americans - that we have reached this point in our national history where such a thing could happen. It will also not only electrify our country, I think it'll electrify the world.”


“I just want to button this up, because the Drive-Bys had a tizzy over my allegation that his nomination was about race. Well, let me say it louder, and let me say it even more plainly: it was totally about race! The Powell nomination, or endorsement, IT WAS TOTALLY ABOUT RACE!”

- Rush Limbaugh, radio talk show host, 20 October 2008.


Gen. Powell’s reasons for endorsing Obama are clear enough and can be found in yesterday’s post.

Rush Limbaugh just doesn’t want his Dittoheads to hear or understand them.

After all, his devotees got that nickname from calling into his radio show and saying, “Ditto, Rush.”


What Powell said

Let’s move beyond the Monday morning headline, “Colin Powell endorses Obama,” splashed in various words across the nation’s front pages.

The importance of Powell’s endorsement lies not only in who he will vote for, but in what he said – powerful words of wisdom, spoken with genuine sincerity.

Many saw Colin Powell’s appearance yesterday with moderator Tom Brokaw on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Many did not. Many today will be limited to soundbites from, in my opinion, one of the most significant statements of this long presidential campaign.

If only every voting-age American could hear Powell’s words.

VIEW THE MSNBC VIDEO, or read the TRANSCRIPT below of Powell’s brief statement:

“Meet the Press,” NBC, 19 October 2008:

MR. TOM BROKAW, moderator: Gen. Powell, actually you gave a campaign contribution to Sen. McCain. You have met twice at least with Barack Obama. Are you prepared to make a public declaration of which of these two candidates that you're prepared to support?

GEN. COLIN POWELL, former Secretary of State: Yes, but let me lead into it this way. I know both of these individuals very well now. I've known John for 25 years as your setup said. And, I've gotten to know Mr. Obama quite well over the past two years. Both of them are distinguished Americans who are patriotic, who are dedicated to the welfare of our country. Either one of them, I think, would be a good president.

I have said to Mr. McCain that I admire all he has done. I have some concerns about the direction that the (Republican) Party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it, but that's a choice the Party makes. And,

I've said to Mr. Obama, "You have to pass a test of “do you have enough experience, and do you bring the judgment to the table that would give us confidence that you would be a good president?" And, I've watched him over the past two years, frankly, and I've had this conversation with him.

I have especially watched over the last six or seven weeks as both of them have really taken a final exam with respect to this economic crisis that we are in and coming out of the conventions. And, I must say that I've gotten a good measure of both. In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to deal with the economic problems that we were having and almost every day there was a different approach to the problem. And, that concerned me, sensing that he didn't have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.

And, I was also concerned at the selection of Gov. Palin. She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired; but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And, so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made.

On the Obama side, I watched Mr. Obama, and I watched him during this seven-week period. And, he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.

I also believe that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower. Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people. He's crossing lines - ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. He's thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values.

And, I've also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Sen. McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about. This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But, Mr. McCain says that he's “a washed-out terrorist.” Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? And, why do we have these robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Sen. Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted? What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And, I think that's inappropriate.

Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But, I think this goes too far. And, I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for. And, I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me. And, the Party has moved even further to the right, and Gov. Palin has indicated a further rightward shift.

I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration.

I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the Party say. And, it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But, the really right answer is, “What if he is?” Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's “No, that's not America.” Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And, as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And, his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourselves in this way. And, John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But, I'm troubled about the fact that, within the Party, we have these kinds of expressions.

So, when I look at all of this, and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But, which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And, I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -and we have to take that into account - as well as his substance - he has both style and substance - he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world, onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason, I'll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama.

Mr. Brokaw met head-on any suggestions that Powell’s endorsement is race-based. For the complete interview, click the links above.


Thank you, Gen. Powell, for reminding us who we are.


Tell us it's just satire, please!

OK, if you read my post yesterday - “The Obama Potentate flag?” - about the Web author who mistook the Ohio state flag for an “Obama Potentate flag,” it’s time to embarrass this guy!

His site is “thatsrightnate,” and you can probe his mind HERE. Good luck!

After being razzed off the planet over his Ohio state flag post, here’s a piece of his mind:

“UPDATE: Since I made this post I have been attacked by many well-known bastions of anti-American socialism like Daily KOS, The Opinion Mill and cookinglight.com. My only regret is that my mistake gave these ideologues fodder for their rage against a country I love so well."

He ends with: "Furthermore, a politician has a responsibility to not only avoid impropriety, but also the appearance of impropriety. The fact that we all so easily believed this about Obama leaves the blame squarely on his doorstep. If he had avoided the appearance of being so vain, none of us would have so easily believed this. I call upon Mister Obama to apologize to people like myself and Bob Grant who had our credibility hurt by this flag fiasco."

Oh, wait. This just gets better! Read on:

I rarely check the Site Meter on DemWit to see my visitors’ locations, but this morning I discovered I had an onslaught of new visitors from all over the country. Being naturally curious, I clicked on a “referring URL” and discovered that a “thread” had been established on cookinglight.com (LINK) which featured my entire post, the photo of the Ohio flag and a link to DemWit. Hence, all the new visitors.

On this site, I found many comments about my “The Obama Potentate flag?” post, including this one which is, well, just priceless:

“OK, it gets better: I found the original blog (thatsrightnate), and someone wrote this comment:

‘You think THAT’s bad. Huh - what ‘til you see the flag Obama had made for campaigning in South Carolina! It has a CRESCENT and a PALM TREE … clearly a REFERENCE to Osama bin Ladin, ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!’

“And after that, the blogger (thatsrightnate) added this update!!”

“UPDATE - A reader has just pointed out to me that Obama has also made a flag for campaigning in South Carolina that contains a flag (sic, he means palm tree) and a crescent moon. I don’t think you can get much clearer evidence of his true motives. As for those of you who are saying it is the Ohio state flag–that doesn’t make it right. I don’t care if Obama makes flags for all 50 states–Old Glory is the only flag I need. When will this man stop? Will he be happy before all 50 states have their own flag? What happened to unity?”

Now, no matter how many times I’ve read this last thatsrightnate post, I can ascertain no other meaning than this: he thinks Obama is having each of the 50 states create a flag supporting him?

Please, I beg of you, dear readers, don’t lose your faith in democracy just because lunatics like this have votes which carry as much weight as your own!

And to thatsrightnate: tell us that your site is clever satire, please. We really would sleep better at night.

JUST FOR LAUGHS: Go back to the cookinglight.com thread HERE. (For some reason, the site opens at the bottom of the page, so scroll up.) All the comments feature photos of the various state flags with hilarious tongue-in-cheek remarks linking them to Obama. For example, these remarks about the California state flag: “A Russian bear and a red star. Need I say more?” Enjoy!


The Obama Potentate flag?

Frequent readers know source links are always supplied here, but in this case I will spare the quoted site author embarrassment.

In keeping with the theme of DemWit, described to your left, I submit the following post, pulled from a Web site, as proof, once more, that ignorance is the greatest enemy of America.

Now Obama Has His Own Flag–I Bet the Colors Run

This has really just gone way too far. At an Ohio campaign stop last week Obama gave a speech with a background of American flags which is quite common. However, if you look closely some of the flags are not American flags. The blue field has been changed to show an Obama seal. Yes, there are also stars but have no pattern and they do not add up to 50. Look at that disgusting thing flying with Old Glory.

I can’t believe that the mainstream media won’t report on this. Fortunately, we conservatives have radio. Stalwart reporter Bob Grant immediately called Obama out on the flag saying, “What is that flag that Obama has been standing in front of that looks like an American flag, but instead of having the field of 50 stars representing the 50 states there’s a circle. Would somebody please tell me what that is? Is that the O for Obama, is that what it is?…Did you notice that Obama is not content with having just several American flags, plain old American flags with 50 states represented by 50 stars…He had the flag painted over and the O for Obama. Now these things are symptomatic of a man who would like to be a potentate, a dictator.”

This is why Bob Grant is a great journalist and great reporter. He’s willing to call it like he sees it and not fall in line behind the Obama party line.

What’s really disgusting to me is while watching the least political of American political institutions–a college football game–I saw a state funded university during their halftime show form the Obama flag. This is beyond disgusting. This is an abuse of our tax dollars. If this was a private institution I could understand it, but this was the Ohio State Marching Band–Woody Hayes’ old school. This must not be tolerated. The phone number for the Ohio State University athletic department is (614) 292-7280. Call them and no (sic) that you do not want federally funded Universities engaging in such blatant politicing.

The above post, errors intact, had only one comment, and here it is:

“That’s the state flag of Ohio, you f***ing moron!”


God bless the USA!


The moccasin mile-walk

Somewhere along the way, I’m sure we’ve all heard the maxim, “Never criticize an Indian until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

If you need a higher authority than me, how about “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” More simply, “Love one another.”

For me, all of these were early lessons about discrimination. They gently put me in my place and have kept me there.

My friend Mat O’Keefe over at “Papamoka Straight Talk” learned about such things on his grandparents’ knees. As immigrants from the counties Claire and Cork in Ireland, they were met in America with overt discrimination.

Papamoka has shared his thoughts on such discrimination in a post, “True colors in politics,” which features two video examples of overt racism by Republicans. (Unfortunately, I am on a dial-up, or low-speed, connection which prevents me from viewing videos.)

Go HERE to read Mat’s straight talk and view the videos and, by all means, leave him a comment expressing your own views.

Here are mine:

Sadly, there will always be those who believe they are the models of perfection for all persons. I don’t believe this is a phenomenon systemic to or based ONLY in the Republican Party.

As a Southerner who lived through – indeed, was an eyewitness to - past civil rights struggles, I can say with some authority that such hatred - or fear - of others is based in ignorance – the lack of education. Not the rudimentaries required to “get a job,” but a well-rounded, liberal education which exposes one to the world outside a narrow-minded existence.

Ironically, as I type this at 4 a.m. Friday, “CBS Up to the Minute” is airing a segment on how poorly America’s education system stacks up against others in the world.

I’ve always heard that “man fears most that which he does not understand.” What is needed is more understanding.

Finally, let’s not make the mistake – in the event Barack Obama is defeated – of blaming every vote for John McCain on racism. The dedication to conservatism in this country remains very strong, and it existed long before an African-American was at the top of a political party ticket.


In every (every!) political race, when candidates are at the post and come out running, there are always promises of meaningful improvements in America’s education systems. In the end, as we juggle all the issues important to us and to this nation, education always seems to fall precipitously to the bottom of the priorities list.

I would argue, it remains the single most important issue, the key to solving all the others.

If this country is so damn great, would someone please explain to me why we continue to neglect the minds of its children?


Read more “Papamoka Straight Talk:” LINK


Joe the Plumber

(Originally published as “Joe Conservative” on “I See My Dreams,” 14 February 2007. Author unknown.)

Joe the Plumber gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffee pot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good, because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take. because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan, because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it, too.

He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat, because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents, because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much his shampoo contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean, because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees – not to mention fuel costs - because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe the Plumber begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacations, because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards, because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check, because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It’s noontime, and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC, because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his below-market federal student loan, because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe also forgets that in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state-funded university.

5:30 p.m. and Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world, because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the taxpayer-funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house, financed by the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension, because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes people should take care of themselves, just like I have."


BJ Update:

Joe the Plumber had his 15 minutes of fame at last night’s presidential debate. He wants to start his own business, but he doesn’t want to pay the taxes candidate McCain claims he’ll be stuck with. “Spread the wealth around,” McCain tells him, equating taxation with socialism. Joe doesn’t bother to visit candidate Obama’s official Web site to find out exactly how he’ll be affected.

Joe sleeps soundly at night. He expects his government to protect him, but be damned if those far-left, bleeding-heart liberals are going to raise his taxes!

Joe fully supported the pre-emptive, unilateral invasion of Iraq, while the U.S. was already engaged in Afghanistan. Wars can be pretty expensive, but Joe prefers that someone else’s taxes pay the tab.

Joe probably doesn’t know that the Bush administration and rubber-stamp Republican Congress worked very hard for years to overturn many of the benefits he enjoys every day.

That radio (or TV) host keeps his mind occupied with those ever-present red herrings: “God, guns and gays,” “the liberal media elite” and, of course, “Democrats want to raise your taxes.”

Joe’s conscience is clear. He knows he’s not one of those “piglets at the nipple” of government benefits his pal Rush Limbaugh warns about.

Joe the Plumber calls it a night, telephone by his bedside, secure in the knowledge three little numbers will put him in touch with government-provided emergency services.

He says his prayers, thanking the Almighty he lives McCain’s “American dream.” He just doesn’t want to help pay for it.


'Great gettin'-up morning'

You’ve heard the phrase. You’ve read it. So many times, it might sound trite. This morning, MY HEART IS FILLED WITH JOY.

Right out of cataract surgery yesterday morning, I began to see improvement in every aspect of my vision. Having lost so much of it in such a brief span of time, I’ve never appreciated sight more than I do this morning.

Outside, the “white fog” has lifted. I can see the pines beyond my porch – green against a blue sky. I can see the neighbor’s car and tell it’s white. How can I put into words what it means to open my front door and not be greeted by a wall of white glare?

At home yesterday I gave myself little “eye tests” all day. I can see television, the faces of the news. Hell, I can read the crawler! I can read can labels. I can enjoy my framed art prints – “Rose” and “Calla Lily,” representing three women I admire: Rose Kennedy, Rosa Parks and Katharine Hepburn. I’m gushing.

I can see a light bulb, no longer in a blinding pool of glare!

Fonts – words – on my computer and videomagnifier are crisp and clear, no longer lost in blurred whiteness. I will have to get used to sitting up straight in my computer chair, my nose no longer touching my monitor’s screen.

On the phone last night, my great-nephew Michael Bradshaw told me to “watch ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’ “ The movie, based on one of my favorite books from last year’s reading (“talking books”) list, was “On Demand” when I was in Mississippi. We all watched it, and Michael remembered me saying, “I just wish I could see it.” I told him, it’s on my agenda!

Can you imagine being excited over paying a bill? I just saw a return address in the corner of an envelope and could see the check I wrote to pay the bill it held!

Effusive? Yes! And, feeling what William Wordsworth felt when he stumbled upon “a host of golden daffodils.”

Thanks to all of you who care. And, to Charlie, Teresa and Chris for their help.

I am thankful to God for leading me to the skilled hand and good judgment of Dr. Boris Ilg.

Retinitis pigmentosa might eventually rob me of my sight, but that fickle foe can never take from me my feelings on this “great gettin’-up morning.”


What's in a name?

Much has been made by those on the right who love to stir up racial and religious fear of the name Barack Hussein Obama.

Yesterday, in a salute to Paul Newman, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) aired “Exodus,” based on Leon Uris’ great novel about the events leading up to the founding of Israel as a Jewish state.

An explanation of his father’s name by the Jewish hero Ari Ben Canaan (played by Newman) caught my ear. His father – Barak Ben Canaan - he explained was named for the Biblical hero who aided the Jewess warrior Deborah in defeat Sisera in Judges, chapter 4. LINK TO SCRIPTURE

Barak, pronounced Barack.

Barack is Semitic in origin and means “to bless” or “blessed.” In the original Hebrew, Barak, or blessed, is found throughout the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis, chapter 1.

Hussein is from the Semitic word Hasan, meaning both “handsome” and “good.”

Casting aspersion upon a person’s name is just a technique used to rile those not versed in history. The same uninformed persons could be made to go ballistic against World War II General Omar Bradley, our faithful ally the late King Hussein of Jordan, or, for that matter, my personal hero Benjamin Franklin, all of whom have names of Semitic origin.

So many American names are of such origin, you know.

Here’s what Juan Cole, president of the Global American Institute, has to say about that (LINK):

“Let us take Benjamin Franklin. His first name is from the Hebrew Bin Yamin, the son of the Right (hand), or son of strength, or the son of the South (yamin, or right, has lots of connotations). The ‘Bin’ means ‘son of,’ just as in modern colloquial Arabic. Bin Yamin Franklin is not a dishonorable name because of its Semitic root. By the way, there are lots of Muslims named Bin Yamin.

“As for an American president bearing a name derived from a Semitic language, that is hardly unprecedented.

“John Adams really only had Semitic names. His first name is from the Hebrew Yochanan, or gift of God, which became Johan and then John. … Adams is from the Biblical Adam, which also just means ‘human being.’ In Arabic, one way of saying ‘human being’ is ‘Bani Adam,’ the children of men.

“Thomas Jefferson's first name is from the Aramaic Tuma, meaning ‘twin.’ Aramaic is a Semitic language spoken by Jesus, which is related to Hebrew and Arabic. In Arabic, twin is tau'am, so you can see the similarity.

“James Madison, James Monroe and James Polk all had a Semitic first name, derived from the Hebrew Ya'aqov or Jacob, which is Ya`qub in Arabic. It became Iacobus in Latin, then was corrupted to Iacomus, and from there became James in English.

“Zachary Taylor's first name is from the Hebrew Zachariah, which means ‘the Lord has remembered.’

“Abraham Lincoln, of course, is named for the patriarch Abraham, from the Semitic word for father, Ab, and the word for ‘multitude,’ raham. Abu, ‘father of,’ is a common element in Arab names today.”

Sure, we have immediate responses to certain names – Jack the Ripper, Quisling, Adolph Hitler, Caligula, Attila the Hun, Marquis de Sade – but our reactions are based on actions.

Barack Hussein Obama II, age 47, is both an American, born in Hawaii, and a Christian. Of these facts, only the last is not a qualification for president, according to the Constitution of the United States of America.

He was named for his daddy and his granddaddy. I was named for my mother’s pet goat. Please don’t hold it against us.

As a candidate for president, he represents the hopes and ideals of millions of good Americans who understand our country must move in new directions to restore its status in the world – and the confidence of its citizens.

If he can accomplish this, his name will go down in history – as a modern-day Founding Father.


'Cronkite's Moment' revisited

To avoid becoming as bogged down in this post as we are in Iraq, I will make my own words as succinct as possible, then offer an article from a trusted source, which I feel is worthy of your time,

Today’s thoughts are in reference to yesterday’s post, “Those were the days, my friend.”

Briefly, that post – off the top of my head and from the bottom of my heart – concerned my agreement with retired CNN anchor Bernard Shaw’s critique of today’s media.

Shaw spoke nostalgically of the days of more ethical and ressponsible journalism, particularly the days of his hero Walter Cronkite at the helm of CBS Evening News.

Neither Shaw nor I approve of the subjectivity, the editorializing which has found its way into today’s straight, or hard, news reporting.

A regular reader left this comment:

“Frodo, for the sake of perspective, notes that it was the sainted Mr.Cronkite who uttered an on-air opinion about the Vietnam War, in the midst of his evening newscast, which Lyndon Johnson later admitted demonstrated the futility of his own policy in the determination of public opinion. It is easy to remember what we want to remember and forget that which doesn't add to our arguments. Journalism has changed, technology has changed the way we all get information, and Frodo thinks change is good. He is also glad that today's talking heads wear short skirts.”

It is, indeed, easy to remember that which we want to remember.

In 1968 when Mr. Cronkite made the cited remarks about Vietnam, television news programs delineated “opinion” from “news” in special “editorial” segments, just as newspapers continue to do today. There is no such delineation in today’s broadcast news. The remarks that Mr. Cronkite made came at the end of his newscast, and he labeled them, up front, as both “opinion” and “subjective.”

Anyone who plays chess knows a “stalemate” is declared when none of the remaining moves on the board will result in checkmate. Mr. Cronkite, contrary to popular belief, never really had a “Cronkite Moment” where he declared all was lost in Vietnam. Rather, he stated the U.S. and North Vietnam were “mired in stalemate.”

President Johnson did state that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost the country. But, there were many other forces at play which affected Johnson, including public opinion.

So, Mr. Cronkite did not utter opinion “in the midst of his evening newscast.” Nor did his remarks bring about an end to the Vietnam war, as some define the myth of “The Cronkite Moment.” That would come five years later, or as long as we’ve been in Iraq.

Here is the transcript of Walter Cronkite’s “editorial,” which closed his newscast on the evening of 27 February 1968: LINK

Editor and Publisher – the bible of print journalists – is and has always been a trusted source. Here is an article (LINK) on the subject of this post witten by its editor for CBS’ “Public Eye:”

CBS “PUBLIC EYE” NOTE: Each week CBS’ Public Eye invites someone from outside PE to weigh in with their thoughts about CBS News and the media at large. Greg Mitchell is the editor of Editor & Publisher and author of seven books on politics and history, including "The Campaign of the Century" and "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady." Today, Mitchell takes a look at the media's comparison of Rep. John Murtha's call for a withdrawal from Iraq to CBS "Evening News" Anchor Walter Cronkite's February 1968 Vietnam epiphany.

What Makes A "Cronkite Moment"?

By Greg Mitchell, editor, Editor & Publisher, December 23, 2005

When the hawkish Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) suddenly came out for a speedy U.S. withdrawal from Iraq last month it caused many media commentators to just-as-hastily call it a possible “Cronkite Moment.” I was one of them; in fact, I was probably the first, in a column at the Editor & Publisher Web site. What we all meant was: This shot across the bow of the Bush war policy from a well-respected mainstream figure might one day be seen as a “turning point” in setting the U.S. on a different path in an unpopular war, similar to what happened, allegedly, following CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s legendary and equally unexpected soul-baring on February 27, 1968.

In one typical instant reaction, on Nov. 19, Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “Situation Room” told his colleague Bill Schneider:
“Bill, you'll remember what President Johnson said when he heard what Walter Cronkite had said at that point, after coming back from Vietnam. He said if he's lost Walter Cronkite, he's probably lost the country. And I suppose that some Republicans are saying now if they've lost John Murtha, a very moderate-conservative Democrat, a strong supporter of the military, they probably realize they've got some serious problems."

Indeed, many Republicans fired back at Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, causing current CBS anchor Bob Schieffer to observe, "Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics."

Of course, this is not the first so-called “Cronkite Moment” since the original. Some even invoked Uncle Walter last summer after Cindy Sheehan, mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, galvanized antiwar protest. In any case, it’s hard to guess what long-term effect the Murtha “Cronkite Moment” will have, but it did, for the first time, put pullout on the national agenda, provoked angry media and congressional debate, and forced the president to outline his own plan for withdrawal (i.e. “A Plan for Victory”).

So, it is possible that it will one day be seen as some kind of major or minor key “Cronkite Moment.” But, the analogy is strained. As many have pointed out, there is no mainstream figure quite like Cronkite today (even Johnny Carson is now gone). As CBS knows all too well, viewership of the nightly news on all networks has plunged and with hundreds of cable channels to choose from, no single media figure will ever come close to Cronkite’s standing and influence. So, sorry Bob, Brian and whoever the hell is anchoring ABC right now.

But, let me stop right here and raise the type of question that should always emerge at this point: Maybe this whole “Cronkite Moment” hype is overblown from its inception. Did the original moment really have the impact claimed for it, mainly by people too young to experience it at the time?

I happen to be old enough to have been involved in the Vietnam struggle as a potential draftee and (not coincidentally) your basic college protester. I can’t say that I remember watching the Cronkite epiphany on that late-February 1968 evening, as I did not have easy access to a TV, or noticing any immediate upheaval. But, I do recall the screaming front-page headlines, a few weeks earlier, about the American setbacks in the Tet offensive, which sparked Cronkite’s trip to Vietnam, which in turn led to his broadcast “moment.”

For those who have only heard about what he said, but never actually read it (no doubt that includes nearly all of you), here is a handy LINK to the transcript.

It climaxes with Cronkite declaring, “To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.” His equivalent of calling for a pullout was to propose negotiating seriously with the enemy, “not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.”

Perhaps this column will inspire someone out there to conduct in-depth study of the lasting impact of those few sentences (if it hasn’t already been done). I know this: Those who claim that it created a seismic shift on the war overlook the fact that there was much opposition to the conflict already. In fact, the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy was about to drive President Lyndon Johnson into retirement.

In the meantime, I’ve done a quick and dirty search of Gallup poll results, producing some interesting hints.

They show that the percentage of those who felt the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to Vietnam jumped from 41% to 47% in October 1967, four months before Cronkite’s moment. That climbed a bit to 49% in a poll completed just before his TV talk in February. It then dipped one point in the next poll (early April), then shot up to 53% in August. But in April 1970, the number stood at 51% -- only two points higher than the last pre-Cronkite epiphany poll.

Another question from Gallup yielded a more dramatic result. Asked in early 1968 if they viewed themselves as hawks or doves, the number of hawks dropped from 58% in February (pre-Cronkite Moment) to 41% in April. Proof at last! But hold on. In the same period, those who said they “approved” LBJ’s handling of the war jumped from 32% to 42%.

So perhaps Cronkite’s effect on Main Street has been wildly overstated -- but that doesn’t mean he didn’t cause tremors in newsrooms, in the military, in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Perhaps someday, the same will be said of Rep. Jack Murtha’s “Cronkite Moment.”


Those were the days, my friend

Remember Bernie Shaw? He was the face of CNN back when news was delivered straight and taken seriously.

Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman were the three sterling journalists holed up on the ninth floor of Baghdad’s Al-Rashid Hotel in 1991, giving the world a front-row seat to the Allied bombing of the city. Their coverage marked an historical event: the first coverage of a war live from both sides.

Peter Arnett was one of those voices silenced at the beginning of the Iraq War - for daring to do the same.

John Holliman was killed in an Atlanta car crash in 1998 at age 49.

Having been with CNN since its launch as a 24-hour news network, Bernie Shaw retired as its principal anchor in 2001, just six months before what would have been the biggest story of his award-winning journalism career.

It was good to hear Shaw’s voice as he joined CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in “The Situation Room” Thursday afternoon to discuss the moderator’s role in the upcoming Biden-Palen debate.

Bernie and I are old-school journalists, inspired at an early age by heroes of a profession which we saw as noble – The Fourth Estate to which we would aspire. He, a Marine who came face to face with Walter Cronkite, and I, a little kid awed by comic-strip reporter Brenda Starr. Both with an appreciation of history and the impact of the printing press.

Perhaps that’s why his words touch me so when Blitzer asked him to critique media coverage of the current presidential campaign.

“Well,” Shaw replied, “my lone regret is that there has been some sloshing over from just straight journalism, news reporting and hard news reporting to actually enabling writers and people on the air - television and radio - out of one side of their mouths to report the news and out of the other to actually tell readers and listeners and viewers what they personally think about the news. I am an old-fashioned journalist when it comes to that. My idols were Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. I don't believe people should know my personal opinions. I have strong personal opinions, and they have no place in reporting the news and certainly not in reporting presidential news, but I am staggered at what I see and read and observe on the Internet.”

Imagine, Bernie, a whole new generation coming along with no idea that’s the way it used to be.

Just two old journalists sharing a moment.

Semper Fi.