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Saturday, March 12, 2005

More on the P.R. Presidency 

This is scary as hell. Another reason to turn off your TV. The disparity between how the Dan Rather and Jeff Gannon incidents were handled should be your first tip-off that the media is not fair & balanced, let alone run by liberals "any more".

When your President sets up sweet deals for Dell (charging the miltary 5x going price for computer and computer service deals), does product placement for Home Depot in his public speeches, and allows the Halliburton morass to continue, I guess it should be no surprise that his administration is flagrantly running adverts as news. Still, this is disheartening.

Not to excuse the media. Journalism in the mass media, alas, appears dead. It's more and more about sound bites, uninformed opinions and stereotypic diatribe (on both sides of the political fence). Still, the real culprit is the complacency of the consumers. If you are watching something like Fox News, and know in your heart that it isn't true, turn it off, complain and stop supporting this web of deceit. Or, by the time the wool is pulled from our eyes, it will be too late.

Since you may not have a user ID for the NY Times, I have pasted the article here in its entirety...

-Vulf

Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged News

It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

An examination of government-produced news reports offers a look inside a world where the traditional lines between public relations and journalism have become tangled, where local anchors introduce prepackaged segments with "suggested" lead-ins written by public relations experts. It is a world where government-produced reports disappear into a maze of satellite transmissions, Web portals, syndicated news programs and network feeds, only to emerge cleansed on the other side as "independent" journalism.

It is also a world where all participants benefit.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Thanks...Clear Sky bill dead in committee 

Bush and company have learned the art of euphemism. "Operation Enduring Freedom", coined in 2001 for the Afghanistan invasion...apparently enduring less than four years because the Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than the US or its puppet government. Amongst these asinine euphemisms, however, the "Clear Skies Bill" has to be one of the worst ever.

The environment has been trashed by Bush and company. The nations' infrastructure is falling apart. And yet we have record deficits. Where is the money going? Time for us to start deciding.

OK, this small victory feels good. Come on, Dems, start rallying around the environment--natural and man-made. Bush is destroying it around you.

______________________________________________
Dear NRDC Action Fund Supporter,We won!

Earlier today, the Senate Environment Committee deadlocked 9-9 over President Bush's so-called Clear Skies bill, which means it will die in committee. One Republican and one Independent joined seven Democrats in voting against the bill.

This is a huge victory over a terrible piece of legislation -- crafted by some of America's biggest polluters -- that would have taken a devastating toll on our health, our families and our environment.

I cannot thank our activists enough for the tens of thousands of messages you sent your senators on this issue. In the weeks leading up to this critical vote, we kept the pressure on the Senate through an all-out campaign of grassroots activism, paid advertising and intensive lobbying. I can tell you firsthand that your online activism helped make the difference.

This is a great day for clean air, but it is much more than that, too. By blocking one of the worst pieces of anti-environmental legislation in the new Congress, we've sent President Bush a message loud and clear that he's in for a tougher fight than he bargained for. We will not let him steamroll his pro-industry agenda over the American people.

The president won't back down, of course, and you can be sure we haven't heard the end of his dirty skies bill. Its proponents could try to revive it in committee, or use a procedural trick to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote, or simply attach it as a "rider" to a spending bill. But the NRDC Action Fund will remain vigilant, and you'll be alerted if this bill rears its ugly head again.

In the meantime, I hope you'll join me in celebrating this hard-won victory in defense of clean air. And thank you again for helping make it happen!

Sincerely,
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
NRDC Action Fund

P.S. If you want to learn more about how the Clear Skies bill would threaten our health and environment, go tohttp://www.nrdcactionfund.org/cleanair/wacmoreinfo.asp?item=52456

Thanks to all who contributed to this victory!!

-Vulf

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ward Churchill should be fired 

I thought Lupus would beat me to this post, but since he hasn't, thought I'd better address the issue of Ward Churchill. We excoriate Republicans when they lie, and we take the same stance on Dems/Liberals/crackpots (not sure which category Ward is in, but take your pick).

Churchill lied about the US Army purposely causing genocide among the Mandan tribe in 1837. They did not distribute smallpox-laden blankets as he claims. Instead, it was a tragic, and probably inevitable consequence of the Black Death having passed through Europe starting in the 1340's and differentially girding Europeans from smallpox compared to native American populations.

Since smallpox was unequivocally a weapon of mass destruction during the 1830's, in effect Churchill made up a tale about WMD's and posed it as the truth. For this academic dishonesty (ok, lying) he should be fired. Anyone who makes up a story about WMDs involved in a war should expect the consequences of their actions to at least include losing their job.

Now, that being said, note Ward Churchill lied about an event that already happened. Whether Ward lied about it or not, those poor Mandans were already dead and gone. If Ward were to falsely claim that WMDs were being used by a group of people, and in so doing start a war, he should not only lose his job but also face war crime proceedings.

So, never let it be said we're not fair here on The Bite. Ward Churchill should probably lose his job. But please be consistent. Lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction, after all, is no small matter.

-Vulf

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