Media and the Message. CNN; Retain Bush Tax Cuts


CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says the easiest way to cut the deficit is to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

The day was Sunday, August 1, 2010.  Former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan appeared on Meet the Press.  When asked to discuss the Congressional debate on tax cuts, the man known to move markets, a person who leans to the “Right,” offered a decisive decree.  In direct disagreement with Republican officials and the profitable corporations that fund countless political campaigns, Mister Greenspan declared, “Look, I’m very much in favor of tax cuts,  but not with borrowed money.  And the problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day, that proves disastrous.  And my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here on it.”  

This statement was as a slap in the face to corporations, or more correctly to the tycoons who head these firms.  Multi-millionaire media moguls might understand this best.  These television and radio Executives experience firsthand that influence over an industry can translate into influence over an outcome.  Cable News Network Chief Officers are among those who actively make use of this truth.  Tax cuts expired?  “Never;” say network Administrators and the newscasters such as Allan Chernoff, who do their bidding.

Prominent persons in the Press know a snappy slogan, a simple statement repeated over and over again, an authoritative analysis, will yield a colossal return.  If the powerful exert pressure, they can sway the public and those who will persuade Congress to act, or not take action.   Without resorting to force, the wealthy need not worry. Forceful levy loopholes and tax rate reducers were long ago secured and still loom large.

Companies, most of which pay no United States taxes are often led by the affluent who, for years, sought greater protection for their wealth..  Indeed, many corporations forfeit less in levies in 2010 than in previous years.  Deductions are a delightful indulgence.  Even the electorate has grown to appreciate this pleasurable pursuit.

Individuals influenced by industry infomercials have insisted on the luxury.  Tax bills in 2009 are at the lowest level since 1950.  Regardless, many moneyed Americans want these lowered, if not eliminated in total. Thus, the public sees what they have for days, or is it weeks, a flood of news stories that speak in contrast to Economist Greenspan’s pronouncement.  The powerful understand that the former Fed Chairs statement was quite a severe blow to those invested in a taxless ideology.

On the same date, on Cable News Network’s a distinguished Anchor, Newsweek and Washington Post Columnist, Fareed Zakaria concurred.   The time to cut the deficit and let the Bush tax cuts expire is now.  Editor of Newsweek International and a New York Times bestselling Author, Mister Zakaria asserts, “Were the tax cuts to expire, the budget deficit would instantly shrink by about 30 percent, or more than $300 billion. But Republicans are now adamantly opposed to any expiration of the Bush tax cuts because they say that would weaken the economy.”  This contention, with consideration for a credible source, was a second slam to commercial interests and to the political Party that promotes their causes.  

Mister Zakaria’s editorial would not be aired endlessly on various outlets. Nor would Alan Greenspan’s words be heard on many a local channel.  Another expert on policy, one who also speaks for the “Right”,  David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan would also be kept out of sight.

Only a day earlier, an article penned by Mister Stockman appeared in The New York Times.  In the missive, Stockman, once identified as a man with “Lincolnesque credentials”  expressed the angst he feels when his cohorts’ claim the need to extend the tax cuts.  The Reagan Budget Director cynically summarizes “How my Republican Party destroyed the American economy.”  The treatise titled Four Deformations of the Apocalypse, was the final strike.  

These slams could not stand, high salaried Chief Executives and their shills, such as Cable News Network, calculated.  Turner Broadcasting Systems decided to turn the ultimate key.  Media is the message.  The Press is able to manufacture promotional presentations and produce alternative authenticities.  The company realized the need to take restrained; yet aggressive action.  Slick salespersons, public relations professionals in the Press are well aware of the sound adage; a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.  People like sweetened solutions.

While true; each of the three esteemed experts spoke eloquently, and with abundant authority, the more persuasive and popular drone can and does drown out a meaningful message.  Cable News Network has vast resources and knowledge of how to deliver decisively, the populace demands, words of woe and whoa!  The Turner channels, with Corporate Chiefs interest at heart, transmits, as many Republicans, Democrats, and Independents wish to believe; life as we have come to know it cannot change.  

Regardless of Party affiliation, in America the public professes, “We are taxed enough.” En masse, citizens clamor;  “No new taxes!” “No tax increases!” We do not want to pay the price, is the consensus.  Most do not want to acknowledge, as Alan Greenspan and Fareed Zakaria have, Americans have paid for their own indulgence and chosen ignorance dearly.

In accordance with the adopted corporate mission, the wishes of Chief Executives, and possibly his own penchant, Correspondent Allan Chernoff compiled   a report that would please the common folk. This puff-piece touts as the public wishes to believe; the people need not contribute to the greater good of the community.  The innocent “documentation” that passes for fact, or is passed on as the truth, floods the airwaves.  It appears on local stations and hour after hour on network programs.  

This “news story” [sic] makes no mention of how the quoted sources benefit from a promoted belief, “In planning to let taxes rise, President Obama hopes to chop the budget deficit. But if families have to cut back on spending to pay those taxes, that may hurt the economy. It could de-rail the recovery.”

The Press hides what threatens the wealthy; the words of Alan Greenspan, He said “The problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is that spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day that proves disastrous and my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here.”  

The “Right” and media moguls who used to anxiously await Alan Greenspan’s advise now reject the man once titled an oracle.   David Stockman, once characterized as a wunderkind is no longer welcome at the White House, on Wall Street, or in the Mainstream Media studios.

Interesting, or possibly, as expected, the words of the esteemed Mister Zakaria are also void in the less than honest, well honed, and more aired, Cable News Network account. “Federal tax receipts as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest point since 1950, and they had dropped to very low levels even before the recession. Half of Americans now pay no income taxes.”

Instead, the report that invites Americans to retain Bush Tax cuts is broadcast farther and wider than the more informed elucidations.  Contrary to the tax cutters claims that President Obama plans to punish the Middle Class, Bloomberg reports, “Obama and congressional Democrats want to extend [the tax cuts] for households earning up to $250,000 and let them end for wealthier taxpayers.”  Fareed Zakaria and perchance more surprisingly, in another forum, David Stockman, wish this were true.

Truthfulness is often tweaked when expert and powerful prose point to a vapid veracity, one that is less desirable to the self-defined blissful spenders who were featured in the ubiquitous Cable News Network account.  

The no tax and spend only on self throng condemn the acumen Mister Zakaria avows; “We have to be willing to pay for the government we want, which by the way is among the smallest in the industrialized world or we have to dramatically cut the government, which means cutting popular middle- class programs, since that’s where the money is.”

No, the pious people proclaim loudly, we will not pay taxes, then assert, we want no government in our lives.  Tax cuts advocates forget the foundation that our forefathers fashioned.  Essayist, Pamphleteer, Philosopher Paine espoused as Fareed Zakaria did today.   The two understood and addressed the necessary apprehension for Administrative rule while each concedes the commonweal must care to invest in the greater good.  Were we to forget that no man is an island, we will forsake the future as we have in recent decades.  Rarely remembered or recited is the founder’s resolve to embrace an elected Legislative and Executive Branch.  Perchance today, Fareed Zakaria spoke to the practical reality.

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.

A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing.  This necessity . . . will point out the necessity, of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

Instead of Paine’s and Zakaria’s profundity, the language Americans long for is the sentiment expressed by profiteers highlighted in the Chernoff commentary.  Scott Hodge, President of Tax Foundation, an institute that Nobel Prize recipient Paul Krugman acknowledged as an unreliable source, reinforced the accepted alarm.  Mister Hodge affirmed, “If Congress does nothing, it could lead to one of the largest tax increases in American history.”  Robert Traphagen, a partner with Traphagen Financial, and a man who makes money when affluent clients invest in purely personal wealth, affirmed, “If new tax legislation is not implemented, it would be a dramatic effect to the middle class.” Indeed, it would.

Were we to adopt as Fareed Zakaria, Doctor Greenspan, and David Stockman think wise, Americans would have more money for schools, streets, services. The middle class would thrive.  Media moguls would have less money to survive. Hence, the mantra, the message, If Bush tax cuts expire this will  hurt America

References for varied realities . . .

Roland Martin; Racism, Tears and Fears

Sherrod  to Martin: ‘You are dead wrong!”

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

Once you label me you negate me.

~ Søren Aabye Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher 1813 to 1855]

The much acclaimed Roland Martin, a Cable News Network Analyst, reacted to a partial report.  Apparently, Mister Martin, acknowledged for his insightful and provocative assessments, heard but a bit of an edited video and responded on a national stage.  Admittedly, barely informed, and unaware of the background, the CNN Correspondent spoke of his antipathy for what he defined as a racist reality. The frequently featured Journalist offered his fervent judgment of Federal Department of Agriculture Director Shirley Sherrod’s actions, none of which occurred.  On Tuesday, July 20, 2010, late in the afternoon, given an opportunity to listen to and speak with the object of his scorn, Shirley Sherrod, the righteous Roland Martin refused to open his mind and ears.  Mister Martin avowed racism is racism regardless of when it occurs or if it is repeated years later.  The consequence, tears and fears flourished.  These were my own.

Having been captivated by the Sherrod’s story, impressed with the woman’s courage, spunk and openness I had tuned into Cable News Network’s Rick’s List.   I was anxious to hear, what I had hoped would be an apology from the White House, which Ms Sherrod had been told early in the day required her resignation.  I also thought possibly, the NAACP, the National Association of Colored Persons would acknowledge the errors of its statements.  After all, I, as million more saw the supposed objects of Shirley Sherrod’s discriminatory deeds speak in her defense.  However, these occurrences did not appear on the television screen.  Instead, Roland Martin and his vociferous rant appeared.


Martin:the position that I stated, again — and I was very clear on that. And it is no different whether it was 24 years ago for me — allow me to finish.


Sherrod: I’m not saying that because I’m a black person. I want you to understand that I have never leaned on my blackness.

Martin: The point I’m making is whether something is 24 years ago, whether it is something today, in terms of when people are making decisions against someone else, saying I didn’t do enough or I have preconceived notions, that to me was the issue that I spoke to. And for me —  . . .

I will still say, Rick, whether or not I hear the whole thing or not, what I want people to do, whether they are somebody who was born in the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s or whether today, is not make judgments, not make a decision as to how I’m going to help somebody more or less based upon those preconceived notions.

Shocked and surprised by the superciliousness of the situation and the man who speaks of faith, his latest tome being, Listening to the Spirit Within I stood speechless, my mouth agape.  All day I had the followed news.  Regardless of what each of the parties involved in the actual interaction proclaimed, Roland Martin Stood stalwart.  The thoughts Ms Sherrod expressed and the fact that the now former Director did not act on her expressed bias  did not change Mister Martin’s chosen reality.  The same spiritual man,  who preached that no one has the right to judge, a man of the Lord proclaimed Ms Shirley Sherrod wrong.  Apparently, Roland Martin had forgotten his own faith and feelings.

I stand here today not as a Republican or a liberal. And don’t bother calling me a Democrat or a conservative. I am a man, an African-American man who has professed that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that’s to whom I bow down.

Mister Martin, the he who cast the stones led me to respond, for the first time online at Ricks List. I share what I fear may have fallen on deaf ears.  I scribed and sent out into cyberspace. . .

I was stunned to the point of tears when Roland Martin offered Shirley Sherrod, a berated Agriculture Department associate, what for me was an unbelievable remark.  “It makes no difference . . .” in essence, it does not matter to Mister Martin whether Shirley Sherrod had said, done, or only intended something she later, indeed, almost immediately, regretted twenty-four years ago?!  

I cannot find the words to express the silliness that I feel is Mister Martin’s observation.  I inquire; is Roland Martin the same person he was yesterday, will be tomorrow, or was some score ago?  

I think Roland Martin has sent a message to his progeny, through television, to yours, mine, and ours of defeatism.  In short, he has said that he believes no one grows, changes, evolves, and can years later, teach through experience.  As an Educator, as a human being, as one who has faith that our errors are opportunities to learn . . . to say I am . . . I can only cry!  

Mister Martin, I look forward to the day that you think through your truth.  [I anxiously await the moment when each of us grows greater.  I yearn for the time when bigotry, racial or rationalizations offered as reasons to rebuke another do not rule us.] I wonder; have you not already had life altering experiences that have helped you teach others?  If not. . I invite your reflection.  

May life bring you peace, prosperity, pleasant dreams becoming the best of your reality.  May your life reflect the goodness that is you . . . Betsy

Mister Martin, may you practice as you preach.  Please do not judge, or perchance, choose introspection over the an Announcer’s analysis.  Possibly, if a judgment is to be made, judge the one who today unjustly judges,   That person, at least in the exchange aired earlier appears to be you.  Again, I cry tears and express my fears for fury without a foundation.  I “pray” that you, as Shirley Sherrod has, will embrace personal evolutions and learn from these.

References . . .

Palin discusses potential plans for America.

CNN/Palin Interview “you gave Biden a pass

Sarah Palin one-on-one

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

Sarah Palin speaks and America listens.  This evening, on October 21, 2008, the Vice Presidential aspirant shared what she believes are her strengths in an interview with Cable News Network Drew Griffin.

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin vowed on Tuesday to use her executive experience to tackle government reform and energy independence if she and Sen. John McCain win this year’s presidential election.

“It’s going to be government reform because that, that is what I’ve been able to do as a mayor and as a governor, you, you take on the special interests and the self-dealings.  Yep, you ruffle feathers and you have the scars to prove it,” Palin said Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Drew Griffin.

“You have to take that on to give the American people that faith back in their own government.  This is their government and we’ve got to put it back on their side,” she said.

The American people are the allies Palin seeks in her pursuit of the Vice Presidency.  However, she realized, belatedly, earlier in this month she offended a few.  Sarah Palin expressed her sincere sorrow.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin apologized yesterday for implying that some parts of the country are more American than others . . .

The Chief Executive from Alaska, Palin proclaimed, surely, her words were misconstrued.  She never meant to imply that the patriotic values of some are evident in “the real America,” the “pro-America areas of this great nation.”  

Perchance her words were not interpreted accurately.  The potential Vice President proposed that Democrats and the press demonize her.  The lovely lady Governor Palin prodded the Journalist who sat before her.

Drew, you need to ask your colleagues and I guess your bosses or whoever is — whoever is in charge of all of this, why does Joe Biden get a pass on such a thing?

Can you imagine if I would have said such a thing?  No, I think that we would be hounded and held accountable for, what in the world did you mean by that, V.P., presidential candidate?  

The former Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin denied that was her intention to divide the citizenry.  She did not wish to incite a culture clash.  “I don’t want that misunderstood,” Governor Palin said.  “If that’s the way it came across, I apologize.”

In a desire to advance a more authentic sense of what Sarah Palin meant to state, she explained.  “I do not want that misunderstood.

When I go to these rallies, and we see the patriotism just shining through these people’s faces and the Vietnam veterans wearing their hats so proudly, and they have tears in their eyes as we sing our national anthem, and it is so inspiring.  And I say that this is true America.  You get it.  You understand how important it is that, in the next four years, we have a leader who will fight for you.

I certainly don’t want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another.”  Yet, the words might still worry some that do not feel they fit the definition Governor Palin provides.  Some may wonder what of those who are not veterans, do not attend a McCain Palin jamboree.  If an individual does not sing the sacred American song and cry in Palin’s presence do they not love this country.  

Please view the video; ponder the interview.  Then decide for yourself, did the press give Sarah Palin a pass or did the Governor garner praise for what was less than laudable.

References for a Sarah Palin Reality. . .

Bhutto Died; Cable News Network [CNN] Made Clinton President

Hillary calls for investigation into Bhutto’s assassination

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Often a King, a Queen, a Prime Minister, or even a President is anointed for they have what it takes.  A bloodline qualifies a person for a position of authority.  An individual may have married well.  A network of acquaintances often secures an honorable appointment.   After all, people profess, “It is not what you know, but who you know.”  A court may declare an individual all-powerful, or a media mogul, with monetary ties to those who “count” may commit him or herself to a candidate, or to a campaign.  

The reasons for a selection may not be obvious, or at least a naïve public would not fathom the possible influences.  Yet, we observe the obscure rendezvous daily.   The so-called objective press tells us what to think and whom we must consider a credible source.  On Friday, December 28, 2007, America was reminded that Hillary Clinton was the chose one.  She alone is more than qualified to be Commander-In-Chief.  

Less than a week before the Iowa caucus, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, was invited to speak to a global audience, to an expectant nation, to the American people.  She did so with conviction.  Cable News Network featured the former First Lady in an exclusive interview.  The presumed future occupant of the Oval Office appeared Presidential indeed.  

Definitively, Clinton discussed the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.  As she assessed the nations’ next necessary move, the New York State Senator was treated as though she was Commander-In-Chief, President of the United States of America.

One might ask, “Who died and left Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office?”  Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was slain, or accidentally, she took her last breath, or insert the theory of your choice.  Hence, “The Most Trusted Name in News” chose to select our next President, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Regardless of Hillary Clinton’s recent slip in national polls and the possible cancellation of the previously planned coronation, Wolf Blitzer, Ted Turner, or parent company Time Warner thought the former First Lady was the best person to advise Americans on the crisis in Pakistan. In truth, there has long been an alliance between the Cable News Network and the Clinton clan.  

Some might recall another discussion during the most recent New York Senatorial campaign.  In a cover story, Time Magazine the crown jewel periodical in the Time Warner media kingdom, explained to “uninformed” voters, Senator Clinton had “virtually nonexistent opposition for her senate seat.”  Hence, Time Warner’s NY1 TV news channel [“the CNN of New York”] vehemently refused to host a Democratic New York Senate race debate stating there was no need.  Clinton did not have a viable opponent.

Notwithstanding numerous protests, and cries of foul, the New York Cable News Network claimed her antiwar challenger, union leader Jonathan Tasini, has not raised enough money to be considered creditable.  The station capriciously stated, a candidate must raise a half-million dollars before they are worthy of note, or are granted an opportunity to speak to the television audience.  Apparently, actual money buys airtime that support from the electorate cannot.

Ironically, NY1 has already hosted and televised a Democratic New York gubernatorial debate between frontrunner Eliot Spitzer and a Democratic challenger who was at only 10% in the polls.  But that candidate had raised about $6 million.  So spending millions to get just 10% in popular support was rewarded by Time Warner’s channel, while building a more effective grassroots campaign, largely of volunteers, was punished.  (One wonders how much of the money went to NY1.)

Did I mention that Time Warner’s Political Action Committee [PAC] is one of the many corporate PACs that underwrites Hillary Clinton’s reelection campaign against the “virtually nonexistent opposition”?

While Hillary Clinton does face a field of qualified opponents in this national Presidential campaign, according to Cable News Network she is still classified as the presumed winner again and again, at least in CNN polls.  

The American public may never have a chance to ask “Which came first, the media’s preference or the people’s opinion?”  A Clinton victory may have been cinched before the public campaign began.

In an earlier era, Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, the candidate with “experience,” lived in the White House for eight long years.  While she may not be George W. Bush, the man who, current Chief Executive Officer of Time Warner, Richard Parsons has long supported; nor is she John McCain, a Republican nominee that Parsons now backs, of those considered electable, Clinton may be the best Bush clone.  That alone may be important enough to an elite entrepreneur who wishes to ensure his interests will be protected.  Hillary Clinton has corporate connections more meaty than all other contenders.  

A bevy of current and former Hillary advisers, including her communications guru, Howard Wolfson, are linked to a prominent lobbying and PR firm–the Glover Park Group–that has cozied up to the pharmaceutical industry and Rupert Murdoch. Her fundraiser in chief, Terry McAuliffe, has the priciest Rolodex in Washington, luring high-rolling contributors to Clinton’s campaign. Her husband, since leaving the presidency, has made millions giving speeches and counsel to investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. They house, in addition to other Wall Street firms, the Clintons’ closest economic advisers, such as Bob Rubin and Roger Altman, whose DC brain trust, the Hamilton Project, is Clinton’s economic team in waiting.

Even the liberal in her camp, former deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, has lobbied for the telecom and healthcare industries, including a for-profit nursing home association indicted in Texas for improperly funneling money to disgraced former House majority leader Tom DeLay. “She’s got a deeper bench of big money and corporate supporters than her competitors,” says Eli Attie, a former speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. Not only is Hillary more reliant on large donations and corporate money than her Democratic rivals, but advisers in her inner circle are closely affiliated with unionbusters, GOP operatives, conservative media and other Democratic Party antagonists.

For Richards Parsons, the list of Clinton’s top contributors establishes Hillary Clinton is an attractive aspirant.  She is solidly in the Conservative Camp.  This is likely the reason that Parsons, the individual, also invested in her Senate campaign in 2006.  Now, in 2007, he and his network can further assist the candidate in her endeavors . . . and they are.

After the death of Benazir Bhutto, Americans were invited into the Situation Room, not the one located in the White House.  We, the viewing public entered the halls of the  Cable News Network.  There we discovered who died, and who was made President.  As the Time Warner, Cable News Network broadcast began Journalist Wolf Blitzer announced right from the outset who was in charge of the nation and foreign policy.  Blitzer proudly declared  . . .

Hillary Clinton’s get-tough approach to Pakistan — in our exclusive interview, she has some harsh words for President Musharraf and for the Bush administration . . .

The television audience then saw the presumed “future” President of the United States. Her face filled the screen.  The United States flag was visible over her shoulder.   A golden ambiance set the tone; then the words of our “leader” echoed through the air.  Former First Lady, soon to be Madame President Clinton proclaimed her beliefs.  She shared her policy and offered instructions to  the world at large.

I don’t think the Pakistani government, at this time, under President Musharraf, has any credibility at all.  They have disbanded an independent judiciary.  They have oppressed a free press.? ?Therefore, I’m calling for a full independent international investigation, perhaps along the lines of what the United Nations has been doing with respect to the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in Lebanon.

I think it’s critically important that we get answers.  And, really, those answers are due, first and foremost, to the people of Pakistan, not only those who were supportive of Benazir Bhutto and her party, but every Pakistani, because we cannot expect to move towards stability without some reckoning as to who was responsible for this assassination.

And, therefore, I call on President Musharraf and the Pakistani government to realize that this is in the interests of Pakistan to understand whether or not it was al Qaeda or some other offshoot extremist group that is attempting to further destabilize and even overthrow the Pakistani government, or whether it came from within, either explicitly or implicitly the security forces or the military in Pakistan.

You know, the thing I have not been able to understand, Wolf — I have met with President Musharraf — I obviously knew Benazir Bhutto and admired her leadership — is that President Musharraf, in every meeting I have had with him, the elites in Pakistan, who still wield tremendous power, plus the leadership of the military, act as though they can destabilize Pakistan and retain their positions, their positions of privilege, their positions of authority. . .

That is not the way it will work.

Or is it Senator Clinton.  It seems if you and your cronies, your contributors wish to retain positions of privilege, and positions of authority a destabilizing death may be to your advantage.  Perchance, it already was.  You certainly appeared to be in control, as a Commander-In-Chief addressing the nation in our time of need.  Americans awaited an explanation after the Bhutto assassination, and before we could blink, we had the answer.  “Who Died and made you President?”

Sources of Authority . . .

Primary Elections Lost; Electability Lives

2008 election primary disaster for democracy

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Tonight we witnessed a change.  Apathy is no longer part of the American election process.  Cable News Network brought citizens to the tube and the televised Democratic debates to you, the voter.  We, the people were given an opportunity to participate as we have never done before.  Throughout the airwaves, the word is “This event was a success.”  The format helped to develop a dialogue.  The conversation flowed.  The panel was far more authentic.  Responses were not rehearsed; the interaction was more real.  Thus, we have reached a consensus.  All agree, except for at least one, me.  I think this broadcast was the pinnacle of what has been standard in politics since 1960.  The medium is the message.  Image makes a President.

A candidate is sold to an expectant public.  Theatrical events are exciting, exhilarating, even entertaining.  Everyone rushes to be part of the process, so much so that America holds primary elections in name only.  Primaries in the year 2007 are the main event.  Each state is vying for eminence.  They want to be the earliest to lure Presidential hopefuls to their region.  Mostly, each territory yearns to select the national nominee.  Apparently, it is a privilege to claim, ‘we picked the President.’

The 2008 presidential race will be shaped, in unpredictable ways, by a parallel competition among states leapfrogging one another in pursuit of a greater voice in the nominating process.

The maneuvering threatens the traditional roles of Iowa and New Hampshire as gatekeepers of the White House competition. It has the potential to change the dynamics of the battle among the candidates and significantly alter its terrain of issues.

Measures now poised for consideration in legislatures across the county would mean that voters in some of the largest states would be able to cast primary ballots weeks before the first Iowan enters a precinct caucus.

Gone are the days when a nominee represented the whole, the Party wrote the platform, people were able to meet, greet, and speak with the contenders personally.  The public once shaped a national strategy.  Now advisors and advertisers do.

In this nation, we spend months and much money in an attempt to determine who we think will win.  Politics are polls.  Primaries pick the person representing the Party.  Our countrymen and women do not familiarize themselves with the depth and breath of a candidate’s position.  Indeed, if a Presidential aspirant does not meet the presumed height or weight requirement, they do not have a chance of being heard, let alone seen.

Those of us who watched the recent debate might have noticed, the production was well staged.  The mis-en-scene was marvelous.  Every aspect, lighting, color, placement, the particulars were well crafted.  The “decided” “front-runners” were placed front and center.  They dressed in vibrant shades; clothes make a statement.  The top performers were more comfortable in their position.  Body language spoke volumes. Perchance, hand motions were a reflection of their perceived rank among registered voters or their prominence in the political community.  The camera followed those who stand tall in the eyes of promoters, and oh, yes, thanks to advocates that “delegate” authority these candidate now are considered powerful and perfect in the minds of future voters. 

The moderator, articulate, and handsome Anderson Cooper favored the big three.  If a citizen video asked an individual a question, that person answered.  However, if the query was not meant for one of the notables, the fave few were still given an opportunity to reflect aloud.  Time restraints were less tight for the preferred.  An inquiry intended for all was infrequently addressed to each of the possible respondents.  However, we could be certain the privileged had a chance to discuss and deliberate.  That’s entertainment.

We have heard that at least two of the top contenders wish to lessen the number of hopefuls on a stage.  For them, Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, the process is nearly over.  The point is to be seen or heard widely on screens nationwide.  These candidates know image sells, issues are irrelevant.  A scant sense of where a campaigner stands is enough to garner support.  There is no need for more.

Thus, this televised debate was, as elections are in recent years, staged and set.  Decisions are made.  Content is excluded.  Context is crucial.  The primary, as far as the public is concerned is the general election.

Currently, campaigns are produced and directed by the mainstream media, public relation persons, marketers, advertisers, and promoters.  The people, unknowingly are pawns.  The process is void.  In these times, primaries promote a single agenda, electability.

In days of old electing a President was a progression.  Primary elections allowed even the most unrecognized candidate an opportunity to be known.  Those on the stump traveled to the early primary states.  They gathered in regions that held caucuses.  They met the people, the common folk.  Aspirants kissed babies, hugged mothers, and shook the hands of papas.  A Presidential participant could be seen in a local dinner, in the home of your neighbor and on the streets. 

The campaigns were not a snapshot or two.  Sound-bites did not dominate television screens.  Crowds gathered without be invited or screened.  The people on either side of a Presidential hopeful were genuinely interested in the candidate’s position.  Town people were not purposely placed to create an impression.  In the past, decisions were grounded in dialogue.  Citizens did not choose to support an entrant because he or she had great hair, a nice smile, or wonderful commercials.

The process of electing the President is essentially divided into four stages:
(1) the pre-nomination phase, in which candidates compete in state primary elections and caucuses for delegates to the national party conventions;
(2) the national conventions?held in the summer of the election year?in which the two major parties nominate candidates for President and Vice President and ratify a platform of the parties? policy positions and goals;
(3) the general election campaign, in which the major party nominees, as well as any minor party or independent contenders, compete for votes from the entire electorate, culminating in the popular vote on election day in November; and
(4) the electoral college phase, in which the President and Vice President are officially elected.

That was then.  This is now.  Admittedly, there were problems in the past.  America is an expansive territory.  There is much land to cover, many people to meet.  Sadly, only a few citizens followed their potential leaders.  Often the wealthy and influential wielded much power.  Principally, the affluent brokered the election, and the apathetic remained poorly represented.  Much has changed, or so it would seem.  Indeed little is different.

In this, the Information Age, people consider themselves connected, cognizant, and active.  Grassroots organizations flourish.  Some say elections today are as the founding fathers intended them to be.  Participation is far broader than it was in early American history.  More individuals, from every walk of life, now help determine who the nominees will be.  Witness last evening’s glorious broadcast.  Cable News Network reached out to you, the common man, everyman, and made it possible for any of us to speak to the nominees.  We could watch from the comfort of our homes and determine whom we would support in the “primary” election.  That is, unless we had already decided.  It seems most of us had.

If we had any doubt about which candidate we want in the White House, there is one thing the majority of people agree on; they want to win.  If a Presidential hopeful leans towards the presumed party platform, they have a chance.  However, if they are thought too far astray, they alienate the voters.  If a contender genuinely embraces the issues that people say are important to them, that petitioner may be thought too bold.  A true Liberal is extremely far left.  An actual Conservative is a kook.  “Electability is essential.

The longer a particularly party is out of office, the more desperate they become.  Witness the Democrats in 2004, or in this, the 2008 campaign.

Democrats’ Litmus: Electability
Key Issue for 2008 Race
Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama
By Jackie Calmes
January 11, 2007

WASHINGTON — For a party long known for subjecting presidential wannabes to a battery of litmus tests, on issues from abortion to trade, Democrats are uniting in raising one big issue for 2008: electability.

Who can win? That question is paramount for many activists, donors, and voters, desperate to reclaim the White House. In addition, it’s one that poses a big hurdle for both Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

Widespread concerns about whether either could get elected — Mrs. Clinton because she is a woman, and a polarizing figure; Mr. Obama for being African-American, and relatively inexperienced — potentially prevent either from running away with the Democratic nomination. That, in turn, is what keeps hope alive for about a half-dozen rivals maneuvering for advantage should the leaders stumble. Of that pack, polls and early organization suggest the best-positioned is former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice-presidential nominee. Today Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut officially joins the race with his announcement on the syndicated radio show “Imus in the Morning.”

That was the belief in January 2007,only seven short months ago.  In the winter of this year, who could have predicted the fate that would eventually befall Don Imus.  In July, who might know with certainty whether Hillary Clinton will perform as promised.  In this era, it may not even matter.  Winning is what counts, even in the primaries, at least so say the Democrats.

The primaries have taken on the aura of a national election.  Citizens no longer care if one candidate has a position more reflective of their personal philosophy.  Potential participant plans go unread, unless the possible nominee shows promise.  The public wants to be assured that the contender might take the Presidential prize. 

Much is based on image.  Senator Clinton appears Presidential, and indeed she may well be.  The former First Lady knows how to persuade and please a crowd.  Senator Clinton had a successful career as a lawyer.  She met husband, former President of the United States, Bill in law school.  While serving as the First Lady Hillary Clinton learned much, she did plenty.  During the July debate, Senator Clinton reminded the audience that she is well traveled; she has met with many world leaders.  Clinton confirmed she was greeted with confidence; dignitaries had no doubt that she was their equal.

In last evening’s debate, Clinton dressed to impress and used large sweeping hand gestures that suggest she is strong and confident.  The Senator stood center stage; camera angles were flattering.  The cool and calm Clinton could be seen clearly, no matter where a viewer might look.  The day after the July 2007, debate people said Hillary looks and sounds “Presidential.”

There was a key moment, however, and once again it pitted Clinton, the New York senator, against Barack Obama, her counterpart from Illinois.  The question was whether they’d promise to meet in the first year of their presidency with the leaders of such enemy nations as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

“I would,” Obama said, foolishly showing his inexperience, and perhaps his naiveté as well, in foreign affairs.  After all, he said, President Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and still talked to Soviet leaders. “I think it’s a disgrace we haven’t talked” to leaders of the five anti-American countries, Obama said.

Clinton benefited from getting to answer after Obama, and she made the most of it. She said, firmly and coolly, that she wouldn’t promise to meet with them. Clinton said the new president had to be careful not to be exploited by hostile leaders for propaganda purposes and not to do anything “that would make the situation worse.” Before any meeting, she’d have to know “what the way forward would be.”

The verdict on whose answer was better, Obama’s or Clinton’s, came from John Edwards, the next candidate to speak. He echoed Clinton.

Seemingly, unshaken and perhaps contemplating that Hillary Clinton could in practice, craft a policy reminiscent of the Bush Administration,  ruling out “early” talks and possibly even later diplomatic discussions with nations defined as ‘rogue,’ Obama stood steady.  Senator Obama may understand what occurs when America waits to engage in diplomacy.

Barack Obama appeared quite “fine” with his answer, and did I mention is quite fine-looking  The Senator, also an Attorney, and former State Legislator, is a long, and lean man.  He is keen on the issues.  Senator Obama eased any concerns; he is experienced enough, and well seasoned.  The long primary process alone has helped hone his skills.  Barack Obama can cook a goose, even if it belongs to the former First Lady.  Senator Obama is indeed a rising star.

Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton
By John Harwood
The Wall Street Journal
April 26, 2007; Page A6

Orangeburg, S.C. — Sen. Barack Obama has pulled close to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that suggests doubts about his electability are diminishing.

As all Democratic presidential candidates gather here for their first televised debate tonight, the poll shows Mr. Obama trailing Mrs. Clinton by 31% to 36%; 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards runs a solid third with 20%.  Last month, Mr. Obama lagged 12 percentage points behind.

Moreover, the poll shows that rank-and-file Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters don’t perceive a wide gap between the two front-runners in their ability to defeat the Republican nominee in next year’s general election; 39% say Mrs. Clinton has the “best chance,” while 32% say Mr. Obama does.  The finding indicates that, just as the first-term Illinois senator’s robust early fund-raising has undercut one of Mrs. Clinton’s presumed advantages, his relative inexperience hasn’t emerged as a major impediment in his competition with the former first lady who now represents New York in the Senate.

Mr. Obama “seems to be gathering momentum as the candidate of change,” says Neil Newhouse, the Republican pollster who helps to conduct the Journal/NBC survey.  At a time when Americans want a new direction on Iraq and in Washington generally, adds his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, “Sen. Obama comes closest to matching what voters are looking for in the broad political environment.”  The telephone survey of 1,004 American adults, conducted April 20 to 23, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The percentage of voters supporting John Edwards is high in some communities; however, not in all.  John Edwards is definitely a looker, and he is smart.  Each may work to his advantage.  Nonetheless, as of yet he is not considered the media darling.  Perchance, his loss in the 2004 Vice Presidential bid had a lasting effect. 

Senator Edwards received much sympathy when his wife Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer.  Nonetheless, his decision to continue with the campaign drew ample criticism.  Neither may be the reason for his current standing.  It may simply be that being a white man holds him back.  America has seen many a Caucasian male in office.  The people say they want a change.  clearly considering Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are far more moderate than the other Democratic hopefuls, a novel approach in policy is not enough to convince an expectant public that you are Presidential.

As the former Vice Presidential participant, Senator, Edwards perceives a need to strengthen his position, to change the way people see him.  Interestingly, John Edwards chooses to focus on an issue the front-runners avoid.  The hope is this will solidify the impression he is authentic.

Edwards’ travels could bolster his image as the most liberal of the leading Democratic candidates, a shift from his 2004 run for president.  He has staked the position with uncompromising opposition to the Iraq war and an expansive healthcare proposal.

Though poverty may not resonate as an issue with most Americans, “there are few groups that are more concerned about the poor than Democratic primary voters,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Edwards could also benefit from talking about poverty, precisely because there is apparently so little political gain, demonstrating a personal conviction that transcends polling.

He has laid out perhaps the most comprehensive program of any Democrat running.  His goal is eradicating poverty within 30 years through tax credits and other incentives, programs expanding access to healthcare and higher education, and government creation of 1 million “stepping-stone jobs” for adults who have struggled to find work.

In the Information Internet, always connected, cyberspace age candidates are running as fast as they can.  The delegates at a national political convention no longer choose the Party’s nominee, you and I do.  We sit in front of the television or at a computer screen and consume audio-visual information.  The media massage the message they believe we want to see or hear, as do the advertisers, public relations persons, and decidedly, the aspirant.  America has no time to waste.  Winning is all that counts.

If a candidate is short or stout, small or diminutive they do not have a chance.  A scream can destroy the democratic process.  There is no defending what some think “inappropriate behavior” for a Presidential campaigner.  Electric shock treatment is inexcusable.  Americans hesitate to vote for a candidate that sweats or sighs during a debate.  A scowl also can cause criticism. 

If you are not a macho man, never, ever dress in camouflage fatigues and place yourself in a tank.  Cameras are everywhere.  The American public can be less than forgiving, especially when the tape is rolling.  In the Information Age, the medium is the message.  A picture is worth far more than a thousand words.  Considering few citizens read periodicals, let alone Presidential platform papers, this adage is truer than ever.

Nonetheless, Americans think themselves knowledgeable; convincing them that they are not is quite a challenge.  People have fragile egos and are firm in their commitment to electability.  Everyone you ask will tell you they are informed.  “I watch the news, read the papers, and peruse the Internet.”  In January 2004, Americans surveyed by Pew Charitable Trust reported just how connected they are.

Cable news networks are the most frequently cited source of campaign news for young people, but the Internet and comedy programs also are important conduits of election news for Americans under 30.

One-in-five young people say they regularly get campaign news from the Internet, and about as many (21%) say the same about comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show.  For Americans under 30, these comedy shows are now mentioned almost as frequently as newspapers and evening network news programs as regular sources for election news. 

But people who regularly learn about the election from entertainment programs ­ whether young or not ­ are poorly informed about campaign developments.

In general, Americans show little awareness of campaign events and key aspects of the candidates’ backgrounds: About three-in-ten (31%) can correctly identify Wesley Clark as the Democratic candidate who had served as an Army general and 26% know Richard Gephardt is the candidate who had served as House majority leader.  People who say they regularly learn about the campaign from entertainment programs are among the least likely to correctly answer these questions.

In contrast, those who learn about the campaign on the Internet are considerably more knowledgeable than the average, even when their higher level of education is taken into account.

Nonetheless, even among the more educated the desire to support a winner can influence who they choose.  Pragmatism is the prominent consideration, particularly for Democrats.  In 2008, after four plus four years of George W. Bush the cry continues, “Anyone but Bush.”  Progressives, Liberals, Blues, and Greens feel they must move forward, regardless.  Issues be damned; these are important, but not worth the sacrifice.  Democrats declare, ‘We must beat Bush.’

As for the liberals who make up Democrats’ base, for all their passion about jobs and global trade, health care, the environment, abortion and gay rights and especially the war, these days the left cares “big time” about whether a candidate can get elected, says Robert Borosage, co-director of the union-supported advocacy group Campaign for America’s Future.

Likewise, feminist leader Kate Michelman says that in her travels, “I hear people talking about ‘electability’ all the time, and Democrats are going to continue talking about it.” Even among audiences eager to see a female president, she says, skeptics ask, “Do you think the country is really ready for a woman?” Ms. Michelman is supporting former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards — not, she says, because she considers the front-runners unelectable but because Mr. Edwards is the best candidate for women’s issues, and electable.

Even the most ardent activist cannot deny the electability factor filters his or her familiarity or that more than half a year before the primary her mind is made up.  Indeed America has changed.  The primaries no longer provide the average American citizen with a voice.  We, the people do not build a Party platform.  The guiding principles are established before we reach the polls. 

John Kerry was thought to be electable, and some say the Senator won the popular vote in 2004, I among them.  Nonetheless, can we, will we continue to negate that the win was not a landslide.  Electability does not guarantee a win.  Electability is a myth.  The numbers do not always add up.  Please do the math, take the measure of a man or woman into consideration.  Subtract the electability factor and then decide whom you will choose.  A candidate may look good on screen; they may be well trained.  However, if they do not represent you as a whole do you really want, them in the White House.

Please America let us not settle.  Images are nice, but they will not exit Iraq immediately. Nor will they meet with Heads of State, unless they think the time is right, if it ever is.  America has seen the damage caused by such a stalwart stance. 

A perfect Presidential posture does not endorse marriage for all people, no matter their sexual preferences.  A suave Sue or Sam will not necessarily work diligently to insure all citizens universally have health care.  An attractive and accomplished Joe or Jane  may not have a care for  our well-being.  A lack of Social Security or Medicare will not be their undoing.  They will be paid and cared for regardless of the reverence they show for us, the people that elect them.

Contenders say, ending poverty must be a priority.  However, did you hear the candidates speak?  The vast majority of these contenders were never poor.  They are willing to work for minimum wage because they can.  How many millions sit in their bank accounts gaining interest?  Without supplementing the windfall from these funds, many struggling Americans could easily survive on the principal alone.  If the future President did chose to live on a minimum wage, it seems certain their “constituents” would donate to their cause.

Educating the Whole Child and improving schools is surely an issue that affects most Americans.  Yet, almost all these aspirants sent their own children to private schools.  A few stated that when their children were younger they attended public school for a time.  However, more than one mentioned they were glad they later transferred their children to a private institution.  You know how the media can badger a famous offspring. 

Global warming is definitely a crisis.  The rise in water temperature directly correlates to our use of oil.  Nonetheless, little was proposed beside fuel efficiency.  Our dependence on petroleum will likely not be dealt with.  Candidates that ask Americans to sacrifice their cushy lifestyle may not be electable.

There is so much more to ponder and peruse than electability.  Please, let us do and be more, our planet, people, young, and old depend on us.  I invite you to read the plans of each Presidential hopeful.  Do not glance at only the proposals of those you think pretty enough to pass the electability test.  Remember this is a primary election, not the general and final opportunity to cast your ballot.

Tell the Presidential entrants what is really important to you before it is too late.  You may recall, in 2000, George W. Bush thought George W. Bush was a likable guy.  He had a record; the junior Bush was Governor of a large state.  That is certainly impressive.  He was personable, in good shape.  His wife was cute. In 2000, people voted for a personality.  Powerful political plans were thought to be less important.  Witness our current circumstances and then consider.

Now, we have a chance to be more cautious.  We can choose carefully.  Each of us could tell the candidates where we really stand.  You, dear reader, might express what you need. Perchance, the primary election could be as it was intended to be, an opportunity to tell your Party what you, we, I value.  The national Party can shape a platform, rather than rely on one individual to determine what is best for us, everyone of us, as a whole.  This primary election could demonstrate the power of the people, or . . .

Alternatively, Americans can do as is done in the Information Age.  Citizens can profess to be educated and vote for the candidate they think will win, regardless.  We can presume that a participant understands our experiences, that essentially, he or she has the qualities we desire.  However, if we do not take advantage of the primary process, use this time to familiarize ourselves with the aspirants one by one, face to face when possible, if we do not remember and acknowledge this is not the general election, we will get what we accept, an impressive image.

Primary, Secondary Sources . . .

  • Democratic Debate, July 23, 2007. Cable News Network. 
  • Race For the White House. Cable News Network.
  • Presidential Debates. Cable News Network.
  • States vying to vote early primary primacy, Presidential primary muddle could reshape entire campaign. By James O’Toole,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Sunday, January 28, 2007
  • Democrats’ Litmus: Electability, Key Issue for 2008 Race Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama. By Jackie Calmes. The Wall Street Journal. January 11, 2007
  • pdf Democrats’ Litmus: Electability, Key Issue for 2008 Race Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama. By Jackie Calmes. The Wall Street Journal. January 11, 2007
  • Dems shouldn’t put all of their eggs in the ‘electability’ basket, By Walter Shapiro.  USA Today. November 4, 2003
  • Your voice to be heard in historic debates. Cable News Network.
  • White House 2008: General Election. Polling Report.
  • Bush: No early Iran-Syria talks. British Broadcasting Company. December 7, 2006
  • Bush must be told: talk to your enemies, By Denis MacShane.  The Observer. Sunday November 12, 2006
  • John Edwards road-tests poverty theme, By Mark Z. Barabak.  Los Angeles Times. July 13, 2007
  • pdf John Edwards road-tests poverty theme, By Mark Z. Barabak.  Los Angeles Times. July 13, 2007
  • Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton, By John Harwood. The Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2007; Page A6
  • pdf Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton, By John Harwood. The Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2007; Page A6
  • 2008: 7/23 straw poll results. By Kos.  Daily Kos. July 23, 2007
  • Edwards: Wife’s cancer returns, campaign goes on. Cable News Network. March 23, 2007
  • Defending Dean’s Scream, It Just Wasn’t That Weird, By Dick Meyer. CBS News. January 23, 2004
  • Thomas F. Eagleton, 77, a Running Mate for 18 Days, Dies. By Adam Clymer. The New York Times. March 5, 2007
  • The Health and Medical History of Richard M. Nixon. Doctor Zebra.
  • Reaction Shots May Tell Tale of Debate, Bush’s Scowls Compared to Gore’s Sighs. By Dana Milbank. Washington Post. Saturday, October 2, 2004; Page A10
  • Kerried Away, The Myth and Math of Kerry’s Electability. By William Saletan. Slate. Wednesday, February 11, 2004, at 12:41 AM ET
  • A New Compact to Educate the Whole Child. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Online poll: Bush is likable. By Michael D. Clark. The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 10, 2000
  • Media Implies “Cameras are Cool.” Liberties Are Lost

    Michael Moore v. Wolf Blitzer (7/9/07)

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Michael Moore is not the topic of this treatise.  “Sicko” is not the source of my pain.  While I long for Universal Health Care in America, in this missive I am discussing as Mister Moore does in the above interview, the media.  The manipulation, or the “objectivity” within a message concerns me.

    The mainstream media delivers a message and often the public accepts what they see or hear as truth.  I believe an open mind questions all information.  However, people easily trust what seems credible.  Discerning the nuances can be challenging.  We have faith.  Those with resources will do the research.  However, that is not always so.  Granted those on the Right have long claimed journalists are liberal Left leaning masters of the message.  In my estimation, the press is not necessarily Left or “right”; nor do they deliver with mastery.  While I might offer this story or that, I will refer to only one recent report.  Cameras lessen the likelihood of crime, or do they.

    Late in June 2007, the world witnessed another possible terrorist attack in the Haymarket District not far from Piccadilly Circus.  Local citizens saw what they thought strange, and immediately, contacted the authorities.  Throughout the day, America’s mainstream media spoke of the situation in London.  Journalist and the public alike marveled at the magnificence.  Britain is covered with cameras.  One reporter stated, “There is no hiding from cameras on this piece of London real estate.”  Everywhere people go, photographic devices probe and prod.  Privacy in England refers to the past.

    According to the latest studies, Britain has a staggering 4.2million CCTV cameras – one for every 14 people in the country – and 20 per cent of cameras globally. It has been calculated that each person is caught on camera an average of 300 times daily.

    Use of spy cameras in modern-day Britain is now a chilling mirror image of Orwell’s fictional world, created in the post-war Forties in a fourth-floor flat overlooking Canonbury Square in Islington, North London.

    On the wall outside his former residence – flat number 27B – where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move.

    Orwell’s view of the tree-filled gardens outside the flat is under 24-hour surveillance from two cameras perched on traffic lights.

    The flat’s rear windows are constantly viewed from two more security cameras outside a conference centre in Canonbury Place.

    In a lane, just off the square, close to Orwell’s favourite pub, the Compton Arms, a camera at the rear of a car dealership records every person entering or leaving the pub.

    Within a 200-yard radius of the flat, there are another 28 CCTV cameras, together with hundreds of private, remote-controlled security cameras used to scrutinise visitors to homes, shops, and offices.

    The message is reminiscent of a 1949 poster to mark the launch of Orwell’s 1984: ‘Big Brother is Watching You’.

    Big Brother is watching; however, he sees little.  What he observes is catalogued and stored.  The information is used after the fact or subsequent to an attack.

    Yet, America thinks this technology is fine.  The government, the media, and countrymen, claim, we here in this nation need to do as the British have done.  Surely, Americans will be safer if every action is observed.

    Cameras will deter crime.  Offenders will think twice before they engage in illegal practices.  Much as the masses wish to be reassured, the evidence shows the contrary is true.

    Constant surveillance cannot and does not replace vigilance and diligence.  Observant and caring people are still the best source of information.  Humans are resource that cannot be replaced.  Nonetheless, boys and their toys, girls and their games would like us to think differently.  Men and women even so-called liberal journalists will justify the need for the latest and greatest plaything.

    Today we are told, technology trumps all other forms of protection, or so the “experts” want us to believe.

    You may recall on June 29, 2007, the city was under siege.

    The manhunt that’s going on right now and the search still under way for more of what nearly detonated today in the heart of London.

    Two cars, rigged to kill hundreds of people, came within a cell phone call or perhaps even less of going off. Authorities discovered the first car bomb early this morning outside a nightclub in London’s Haymarket district, not far from Piccadilly Circus. 

    They found the second parked nearby, but didn’t know it. Two — they didn’t know that it, too, was rigged, not until hours after they towed it to a lot just off Hyde Park.  Now, all of London is on edge, of course. And all of Great Britain is on alert for a pair of would-be bombers who may have been caught on camera.

    Robertson: The light-colored green Mercedes discovered almost by chance — an ambulance crew at the nightclub for a sick patron spotted smoke in the vehicle and called police. As much as 25 gallons of gasoline and five butane tanks discovered. . . .

    Thomas Sanderson, Center for Strategic and International Studies: What you have to rely on is the vigilance of the population, the good work of the police and intelligence to prevent this from happening. But nonetheless, if you want to carry out a crude attack with a simple car bomb or the use of a sidearm or an automatic, semiautomatic weapon, that’s relatively easy to do.

    In my own life I learned this lesson as a child.  People will do what they intend to do.  When I was in second grade a man “broke into” my family home.  He pried open an unlocked window.  My Mom thought that laughable. 

    In stores, well stocked with surveillance cameras, shoplifting continues.  Employees witness the questionable behaviors; workers notify the authorities.

    In airports, many a suspicious package is discovered.  Rarely does a security device do the detecting.  Humans help secure the premises.

    Nonetheless, all week Cable News Network spoke of how cameras assisted police is preventing what would surely have been an act of terror.  After sharing ample evidence of how the Closed Circuit Television Cameras [CCTV] assisted law enforcers after an attack, Cable News Network reporter Christianne Amanpour concluded.

    But it is remarkable how much of a treasure trove those CCTV cameras have been.

    Throughout the week broadcasters spoke of how video recorders might benefit us here in America.  A Cable News Network program, 3600 decided to discuss the prospect in greater detail.  Program host Anderson Cooper could be heard promoting the upcoming show throughout the week. 

    The teaser led viewers to think, ‘cameras are cool.’  This equipment will save the day.  Again and again, listeners were reminded of the recent events in London, and the role cameras played.  Reports stated CCTVs are ubiquitous; the bombing was foiled.  However, it was rarely mentioned, these viewing devices did nothing to deter the terrorists.

    Potential viewers might have easily concluded cameras on every street corner in America would cure all societal ills.  Indeed, citizens in the United States would be safer if we heed the call as those in Britain have done.  What was said on the news was, what I heard people on the street say. 

    Friends and countrymen claimed, ‘American cities need to install watching devices.’  No one is safe.  Terrorist can strike anywhere, anytime.  We need to be mindful.  Politicians cried out, and the presumed pundits repeated this assertion.

    For me, this exposé negated the truth of what occurred in London weeks ago.  I was baffled.  I wondered, how could the public be so blind.  The report was slightly more balanced than the lead; however, it too was troubling to me.

    Cooper: Well, some of the suspects in the latest U.K. terror plot were caught with the help of surveillance cameras. Britain has some 200,000 cameras on its streets, far, far more than any force is using in America.  So the question is, if they’re working so well, why aren’t there more in America? We’re “Keeping Them Honest,” next on 360. 

    (Commercial Break)  Cooper: You’re looking at some of the men who plotted to blow up London’s transit system back on July 21, 2005. The attack would have been carried out just two weeks after suicide bombings killed 52 commuters. Today, the four men were convicted.  Surveillance pictures played a role in bringing them to justice. It is also part of life in the U.K. In London, it’s estimated the same person is taped about 300 times a day.  Here in America, more and more cities are also using police cameras, so we wanted to know how effective they really are. To find out, we went to Baltimore, where the issue of Big Brother and privacy unfolded before our eyes.  CNN’s Joe Johns investigates. 

    (Begin Video Tape)  Joe Johns, CNN Correspondent (voice-over): If London hadn’t blazed the trail on security cameras, they may never have come to Baltimore, and this terrifying scene may have had an even worse ending.  Let’s back it up. Here, caught on camera, you see a young man ambling in the shadows. Next, a young woman walks into camera range. She’s smoking, talking on a cell phone. Suddenly, the man grabs her and drags her out of view.  In scarcely two minutes, with an apparent crime in progress, the cops arrive at the scene. 

    Leonard Hamm, Baltimore Police Commissioner: We got there in seconds, because we’d been watching this guy walking around in a suspicious manner.

    Johns: That guy is on candid camera. Baltimore now uses about 500 cameras. In Chicago, there are as many as 2,000 and now a plan to mount them in Manhattan.  These plans are inspired by London’s so-called Ring of Steel, first created to combat terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army. Now a weapon in the war against new terrorist threats like the bungled car bomb attacks in the U.K.  But in Britain, the number of surveillance cameras is huge, 200,000 or more, and far more advanced than in the United States. But Baltimore’s police commissioner says it’s almost inevitable that the U.S. will catch up.

    Hamm: That’s the way of the world. This is what we’ve come to. And the genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going to go back. The threat of terrorism, the threat of gangs, the threat of violence on the street. It’s not going to go back. 

    Johns: Baltimore claims a 17 percent reduction in violent crime in neighborhoods with the cameras. Though criminals are seldom caught in the act, evidence, witnesses, license plates, still help investigations. 

    Maj. Dave Engel, Police Intelligence Commander: The feedback from the community has been fantastic, and, as a matter of fact, most people want cameras in their neighborhoods. 

    Johns: But try to tell that to this woman, who has a beauty shop on a corner where the cameras have been up for more than a year. She asked us not to show her face on TV.  (on camera) Has the crime changed at all since the camera came? 

    Unidentified Female: Absolutely not. No, I have been a victim of crime since I’ve been here several times.

    If you scrutinize the story, you realize that in one tale the threat was abated; however, an observant cop on the beat would have caught the criminal, even a caring citizen could have called for assistance quickly.  It is somewhat surprising that the person monitoring the movements noticed what was occurring . . . so many screens, so much monotony.  Rarely is a person paid to wait, watch, and listen as attentive as a passer-by startled by an occurrence.

    For the most part, consistently, cameras did not prevent the incident.  Actually, culprits were not deterred by cameras.  Usually, these instruments are effective only for the information they supply after the fact.  Humans are the best and the worst observers.  Any of us sitting still for hours surveying video street scenes from some safe and distal location will miss much.  The tedious task does not stimulate the mind. 

    An event executed in a manner that draws attention is evident to all.  Those there will do what needs to be done.  Rarely does a rebel with a cause wreak havoc loudly.  Terror is by definition shocking, for it enters our lives subtly.  We know not what hit us.

    However, when our every action is monitored, we are aware that our privacy is lost.  Might this invasive technique, used to detect deliberate acts of violence not be more threatening than the man or woman intent on committing a crime.  At least we can see what the wrongdoer is attempting to do.  People can and likely will stop the offender.  Can we be certain of those that wish to use film against us.

    Johns: But there is this issue: who gets to see the video and control how it’s used? Local public defenders wonder whether police preserve so-called exculpatory videos, the kind of tapes that could get a client off the hook. 

    John Markus, Baltimore Public Defender: They get to pick when they want to save them. And we may find out after the fact that it’s something that we want to subpoena. It may or may not be available at that point.

    While the actual discussion of the issue may have been a bit more balanced than the teaser was, the implication, the impression heard on the air waves for weeks was imprinted.  ‘Cameras are cool.  In fact, they discourage unlawful activity.’ 

    What we cannot dispute is that an image captured on film can be manipulated.  Minds often see what they expect or believe to be true.  I think we must accept, news reporting is inaccurate.  Journalists, as are we all, are influenced by attitudes.  Videotape is not more vigilant than a human being on the scene might be.  Studies substantiate cameras do not curb crime.  Indeed, those that view photographs are looking to verify what they believe. 

    Perhaps, the advantage of an aware public is people, when confronted with the unusual are less likely to have a preconceived notion.  They notice nuances and watch their neighborhoods.  Might we consider the inevitable, individuals will be less alert if they believe Big Brother is watching. Some may conclude, there is no reason to “get involved.”  People may become complacent.  Why bother to care or concern myself; certainly, someone else will come, sooner or later . . . although perchance, the arrival of authorities may be too late.

    Many Americans have turned their lives over to the media.  Numerous people  believe journalists have better resources; they will do the research and report the findings accurately.  Others think paid experts are responsible; “they” will discover what we need to know,  A few think Federal agencies are taking care of us.  Americans are out of the habit of thinking and acting on their own.  We as a nation have allowed many of our freedoms to be lost.  Are we now willing to say,  “Privacy isn’t that important is it?”  “Professionals” are telling us it is not.  Will we again suspend disbelief and question only what we are told to.

    Surveillance Sources . . .

  • To CCTV or not to CCTV? By Rachel Armitage.  Nacro, Crime and Social Policy Section. May 2002
  • CCTV ‘Does Not Stop Crime.’ By Ben Leapman.  Evening Standard 24.02.05
  • Assessing the impact of CCTV, Home Office Research Study 292 . By Martin Gill and Angela Spriggs.  Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. February 2005
  • America Morning. Cable News Network. June 29, 2007
  • Transcripts. Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.  Cable News Network. June 29, 2007
  • Transcripts. CNN Saturday Morning News.  Cable News Network. June 30, 2007
  • George Orwell, Big Brother is Watching Your House. Evening Standard. 31.03.07
  • Transcripts. Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.  Cable News Network. July 9, 2007
  • Crime prevention effects of closed circuit television: a systematic review. By Brandon C. Welsh and David P. Farrington. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. August 2002