New York Times On It’s Plamegate Reporter: Judy Who?

After months of silence, The New York Times has finally published an article about their reporter who spent nearly three months in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. Judith Miller claims she was protecting a confidential source and defending the principle of freedom of the press. In fact she was protecting herself and her complicity in an administration smear campaign. The Times, to it’s credit, at least acknowledged that that position existed saying, “Critics said The Times was protecting not a whistle-blower but an administration campaign intended to squelch dissent.” And then they ran as far away from her as they could get.

We had no idea…
“Mr. Sulzberger and the paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, knew few details about Ms. Miller’s conversations with her confidential source other than his name. They did not review Ms. Miller’s notes. Mr. Keller said he learned about the “Valerie Flame” notation only this month. Mr. Sulzberger was told about it by Times reporters on Thursday.”

It was all her fault…
“Interviews show that the paper’s leaders, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.

We tried to stop her…
“Once Ms. Miller was jailed, her lawyers were in open conflict about whether she should stay there.”

We’re really very sorry…
Mr. Keller said the case was not ideal: “I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter who came with less public baggage…Mr. Taubman said he felt bad for his reporters, but he added that he and other senior editors felt that they had no choice.

With friends like that, who needs enemas? Judy does still have some friends. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has announced that Miller will be receiving their First Amendment Award in Las Vegas Tuesday. It’s too bad the SPJ’s standards include honoring hacks who engage in propaganda. Their colleagues at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) considered giving Miller their Conscience in Media award earlier this year. The ASJA’s First Amendment committee voted to honor Miller, but that decision was later reversed by the full board. The SPJ would do well to reconsider also. The first amendment codifies freedom of the press. When you act as a willing conduit to plant damaging stories about your political opponents, you are not representing first amendment principles.

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Grown By America’s Banana Republicans

By keeping a five minute vote open for almost an hour, the Republican majority in the House managed to coerce just enough weak-livered Repubs to pass another giveaway to oil companies masquerading as an energy bill.

This is reminiscent of the debacle of November 2003, when the Prescription Drug bill was held open for 3 hours so that Tom DeLay could threaten/bribe members to pass his giveaway to the pharmaceutical companies. DeLay was later admonishment by the Ethics Committee for this.

As important as this is as a news story, the media managed to get it all wrong. The only angle they played was that a contentious debate took place. They didn’t bother to put it in context as to the violation of House rules, and they didn’t get anywhere near discussing the substance of the controversial bill that sparked the debate. I think they would have preferred if the Chair had simply harangued the other members and then looked down contemptuously, pointed at some confused representative, and said, “You’re fired!

Tom DeLay Spins Like A Top

There’s been a lot of misinformation circulating in the media regarding Tom DeLay’s recent indictments. In the spirit of fairness, I thought I would give him equal time:

“I didn’t know anything about the perfectly legal activity that I didn’t engage in while not leading my PAC that I didn’t have anything to do with for the purpose of not funding perfectly honorable Republican candidates that I never heard of.”

There, does that clear things up?

Former Fox Reporter Sees The Light

David Shuster, currently a reporter for MSNBC, is coming clean about his former bosses at Fox.

…there wasn’t a tradition or track record of honoring journalistic integrity. I found some reporters at Fox would cut corners or steal information from other sources or in some cases, just make things up. Management would either look the other way or just wouldn’t care to take a closer look.

It’s nice to know that if you quit drinking the kool-aid, eventually your senses will return. Now we need to get the rest of the Fox crew into rehab.

Propaganda Marches On

Once again, the Bush administration has been found to be guilty of violating the law against covert propaganda. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) made the ruling in response to the Department of Education’s initiative to pay more than $200,000.00 to Armstrong Williams to help promote the No Child Left Behind Law.

“This qualifies as the production or distribution of covert propaganda,” said the GAO. “In our view, the department violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition when it issued task orders… without ensur[ing] that Mr Williams disclosed to his audiences his relationship with the department.”

This is the second time the GAO has found the administration in violation of the law. In March 2005, the Bush Justice Department waived off the earlier finding saying that, “It did not apply.” and could be ignored.

So much for law and order.

Project Censored 2006

Sonoma State University’s Project Censored has released their 2006 edition of the top 25 stories that went unreported or under-reported by the corporate media. Ending the suspense, I will reveal now that the number 1 story is about Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government.

I’m shocked I tell you, shocked!

Here’s the rest of the top 10:

  • 2. Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll
  • 3. Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage
  • 4. Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In
  • 5. U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia
  • 6. The Real Oil for Food Scam
  • 7. Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood
  • 8. Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer’s Mandates
  • 9. Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency
  • 10. Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy
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Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Katrina has ravaged much of America’s gulf coast. The cost of the damage, on a human scale, is incalculable. The treasure that was New Orleans may be rebuilt, but will it ever be restored?

The devasting ferocity of Katrina has opened our eyes to just how destructive nature can be. But it has also opened our eyes to the destructive agenda of an administration consumed by greed and riddled with incompetence.

For those who have suffered the loss of loved ones and livelyhood, there is little consolation in promises to rebuild. So it is in the spirit of New Orleans that I offer this uniquely appropriate method of recovery. What better way to get relief than by utilizing this ancient art to enforce accountability on a president that has never deigned to accept any.

[Thanks to Fred Johns at Something Cool News for his article about the voodoo doll and for interviewing me.]

Tom DeLay and Time Warner: Shacking Up On K Street

The lastest marriage between big media and Washington politics was announced yesterday. Tom DeLay’s chief of staff, Tim Berry, has been hired by Time Warner. His official title is vice president of global public policy, also known as big-time, oily-palmed lobbyist. The L. A. Times says that:

The hiring of Berry is aimed at boosting Time Warner’s influence with the GOP.

I was not aware that Time Warner had a deficit of influence with Republicans. The CEO, Richard Parsons is a long-time supporter and a former aide to then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President Gerald Ford. Berry’s new boss is Carol Melton who was also hired this year. In her previous position as Viacom’s top lobbyist she allocated 61 percent of the company’s political action committee contributions to Republican candidates and 38 percent to Democrats. But apparently Time Warner still feels some measure of insecurity.

Perhaps it’s because Republicans have been strong-arming corporations to hire more GOP lobbyists and threatening to punish them legislatively if they hire any Democrats. An initiative known as the K Street Project was started by Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist, the arch conservative behind Americans For Tax Reform. Its purpose is to monitor the political affiliations of lobbyists at the biggest corporations so that those who don’t play ball can be targeted for retribution.

Corporate America is all too willing to pay their protection money and reap the benefits of special treatment with regard to legislation and regulation. And the media just gets further wrapped up in the interests of corporations and politicians to the detriment of ordinary citizens. The consequences of this coziness cannot be overstated. Politicians are enjoying a windfall of contributions from their wealthy corporate benefactors. And the media, whose public image is already at record lows, becomes even less trustworthy. For instance, what effect can we expect Tim Berry’s hiring to have on CNN’s reporting about Berry’s old boss Tom DeLay? With indictments of Delay’s associates piling up in Texas, and the House Ethics Committee preparing for hearings, DeLay must feel a certain sense of comfort knowing that his former chief of staff is directing CNN’s parent company’s public policy affairs.

More Paid Propaganda From BushCo.

The Department of Education has not learned its lesson about payola and propaganda. After having been caught greasing the palms of Armstrong Williams, the DOE has just been slapped by its Inspector General for improperly paying “…education advocacy groups to produce newspaper opinion pieces, advertisements, and other public materials that reached audiences all over the country without revealing that the government paid for their production and distribution.”

The IG fell short of calling this propaganda what it is because, he said, the Department did not, “…intend for these organizations and individuals to mislead the public.” Apparrently they just intended for these organizations to publish stories that promoted controversial administration policies without disclosing that they were working for the administration. That isn’t the least bit misleading, is it?

Representative George Miller (D-CA), plans to demand the Department recoup tax dollars that were unlawfully spent. He also has an impressive collection of links to other improper activities, with regard to the media, by BushCo. at this website.

I Wish I Was In New Orleans.

I can see it in my dreams.
Arm in arm down Burgundy.
A bottle and my friends and me.
Tom Waits

As much as I hate to think it, much less say it, I am coming to believe that the only thing left of New Orleans is the memory. To describe it as just another city would be like describing the Sistine as just another chapel. New Orleans was, in fact, a work of art, painted from a palette of geography, architecture, history, music, and the extraordinary people that brought it all to life.

It’s the people that are the only irreplaceable parts of this picture. Because, even if it were possible to reconstruct the historic, centuries old buildings that defined the physical character of the Big Easy, who would populate this reproduction? Thousands of the city’s residents are dead and a quarter of a million of them have been disbursed throughout the country, perhaps never to return, even if there were something to return to.

So what would we have if we rebuilt New Orleans? Would it come from the imagination of speculators and developers seeking to turn a hefty profit? Would it be like the Disneyland models of Paris and New York that Las Vegas tries to pass off as authentic? The soul of New Orleans did not come from the hearts of yuppies that we might expect to snap up condos in the New French Quarter. The richness of New Orleans came, more often than not, from its poorest sons and daughters. What would be the incentive for developers to invest in housing that would lure these folks back? And what of the writers, artists and musicians that made the city such a fountain of creativity? The city can be rebuilt, but can it ever truly be restored? Not without the people that made it what it was, it can’t.

Those people, the ones who survived, are now being subjected to the cruel torture of a government that is either inept or uncaring or both. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were declared federal disaster areas before Katrina even came to shore. So no one can claim that they were unaware of the impact this storm would have. Yet six days later, they are still without food, water, medicine and shelter. It’s a painful thing to see, and a shameful thing to know that our government is responsible for it.

This evening, as I struggled to find a way to express my sadness and anger, I got some help from an unexpected source. Hip-hop superstar Kanye West made an appearance on NBC’s “Concert for Hurricane Relief”. In a fit of inspiration and honesty, he departed from the script to say:

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. When you see a black family, it says they’re looting, and you see a white family it says they’re looking for food. And you know it’s been five days because most of the people are black and even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch — I’ve even been shopping before even giving a donation.

So now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what is, what is the biggest amount I can give and just to imagine if I was down there and those are, are my people down there.

So that anybody out there that wants to do anything, we can help with the set up. With the way America’s set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well off, as slow as possible. I mean this is — Red Cross is doing everything they can.

We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war now fighting another way. And they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.

George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

This blast of spontaneous truth-telling is not often seen in the Corporate Media. It was refreshing and inspiring and necessary. Unfortunately, inspiration of this quality is viewed by the media as an accident that cannot be repeated. So NBC edited it out of the west coast broadcast. There were no obscenities or wardrobe malfunctions, only a heartfelt cry of anguish. But the defenders of decency at NBC (a division of the world’s largest defense contractor, General Electric), saw fit to protect us from this harsh reality, because, after all, we can’t handle the truth. The truth is that our leaders are leading us into the Valley of the Shadow of Death – literally for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and figuratively for the miracle that was New Orleans.

If the pessimism pouring from me is to be avoided, it can only be done by the people who made that city great in the first place. They must take the initiative to restore the city’s heart. They must demand that reconstruction be done on thier terms with a view of the city’s glorious past and a hopeful future. The leaders must take direction from the people. Developers must be constrained from blatant exploitation for profit. Regulations must be invoked to insure that the whole community is restored not just real estate and commerce. If the soul, and the eccentricity, and the hospitality, and the artistry of the city are not built in to whatever rises from the rubble, than it will not really be New Orleans. And this will not really be America.