Lights Out At The L.A. Times?

The turmoil continues at the Los Angeles Times where the Chicago mob (Tribune) is exerting more pressure. Starting with the announcement that the publisher, Jeff Johnson, has been fired and replaced by mob boss, David Hiller. Nikke Finke has the goods on Hiller, whom the Times has soft-peddled as a tough, but charming executive. Finke’s research paints a very different, and partisan, picture:

“Hiller, along with now Supreme Court Judge John Roberts and Clinton/Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, helped serve as funnels for the right-wing think tanks to shape Reagan Administration social agenda. Hiller’s role inside the Reagan Justice Department was described to me as one of “legal hatchet man”.

Johnson’s fate was sealed when he and editor, Dean Baquet, refused to go along with Corporate’s budget and staff cuts. Baquet, for the time being, still has a job, but if Hiller pulls off Chicago’s edicts, the Times will be a worthless weed that deserves to wither. I’m starting my search for a new paper now.

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Give Bush A Blow Job…

For the past six years, America has endured the incompetence, corruption, dishonesty, greed, criminality and ruinous hostility, of the Bush regime. And through it all, it has been a promethean undertaking to exact even a modicum of accountability. The blame for that rests with both an administration that has no capacity for shame, and a media that wallows in it.

While atrocities in the form of wars, deficits, hurricanes, environmental devastation, and Constitutional collapse, were raging, it was all but impossible to focus media attention on the perpetrators. If Bush and his cronies were not subject to impeachment for these litanies of failure, then what needs to transpire before the press will take notice?

S E X ! Of course.

The affairs of Mark Foley have brought to life the bumper-sticker satire displayed above: “Will somebody please give Bush a blow job so we can impeach him.” Now that prurient interests are aroused, the media is employing wall-to-wall coverage of an issue that, while important, pales in contrast to some other topical stories. Stories like 14 more American deaths in Iraq; Congress legislating away habeas corpus; or more revelations that Condi Rice ignored warnings on al Qaeda prior to 9/11.

But hey, we have no room for stories like those when a congressman is fiddling with little boys on the Internet. At least the media now has what it craves and we can get on with the business of celebrating scandals. Control of Congress may be in the balance. Not because they have produced the largest deficit in history or for their rubberstamping of the White House’s abuse of traditional freedoms, but because one of their members is a pervert.

This is what it takes to foment change in America. This is what the press yearns for. If somebody isn’t getting off, the story isn’t getting covered. Lies about weapons of mass destruction that launch a war of aggression that murders 100,000 innocent people won’t do the trick. But turning a trick will. This may not be the most dignified or democratic way to transfer power, but at this stage of the game, I’ll take what I can get.

Fox News Plants Folay-age

We already know that Fox is a mouthpiece for the theo-con Republican agenda and that they have no problem with lies and propaganda. But this is low, even for them.

On three separate occassions, the network displayed photos of disgraced Republican pedophile Mark Foley (R-Perv) that identified him as a Democrat(?). It should come as no surprise that the “mistakes” occurred during Bill O’Reilly’s program where Fear of Shameful Smear Tactics is obviously No Factor.

The FCC Weapons of Mass Comminication Tour 2006

The people do not want bigger media monopolies stuffing homogenized content from corporate headquarters down the throats of local consumers.

In the first of six public meetings on new rules for media ownership, members of the Federal Communications Commission brought their dog and pony show to Los Angeles. All five commissioners were present before a standing room only crowd of over 500.

The opening statements foreshadowed the predictably fixed predispositions of the commissioners.

The Dogs:
Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioner Robert McDowell gave lip service to the importance of public input, but their remarks were typical Washington pablum that offered no substance. Commissioner Deborah Tate provided even less, but she had the excuse of having a throat ailment and was unable to speak.

The Ponies:
Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathon Adelstein, on the other hand, delivered detailed and passionate speeches that stirred the audience. Representative of their views were remarks from Adelstein that called for a media that would pursue the public interest, not the interest of those who seek profit from public airwaves. He discussed how program creators used to worry about the story content, and characters, but that now they worry about getting Coca-Cola in the scene. And he lamented the fact that, on many stations, real investigative reporting had been replaced by video news releases.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters was there to take on the Tribune Company and it’s request for a permanent waiver that would allow it to own both the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV. That arrangement is in violation of FCC rules, for which they currently have a temporary waiver. After itemizing Tribune’s failures to operate in the public interest, she insisted that the permanent waiver be denied by stating flatly that, “They don’t deserve it.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson pointed out that too few companies owned too much media at the expense of the people. Marshall Herskovitz, president of the Producers Guild, observed that the media is a huge industry and that they would make money even if they were broken up into 100,000 pieces. Mike Mills of R.E.M. brought the perspective of musicians that are held hostage to the radio conglomerates that dictate playlists and eliminate local programming. And Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication, confronted Chairman Martin with the hypocrisy of the FCC’s policy on publishing research. Read his statement here.

The Show:
After commentaries by the commissioners and the panelists, the public was invited to speak. Of the approximately 30 citizens that rose to address the panel, all but one advocated an end to the ever more permissive policy of consolidated ownership. Some of their stories were broadly stated views of the industry and its impact on independent business and localism. Some were deeply personal stories of how concentrated ownership damaged or ended careers.

The sole dissenter from these views was a representative of the conservative astroturfers, FreedomWorks. The firm is headed by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey and lobbies for the kind of deregulation of media companies that would allow them to own as many properties as they want in any market. Their representative was roundly booed, but defiantly delivered his pro-monopoly message anyway.

If the commissioners were listening to the citizens at this meeting, they surely received an unmistakable and unified message. The people do not want more media consolidation. They do not want bigger media monopolies stuffing homogenized content from corporate headquarters down the throats of local consumers. They want the commission to restore opportunities for small, independent artists, producers, and businesses. This may have been just the first of the series of meetings to be held, but if the others follow suit, then we must expect and demand progressive reform from the commission.

It’s not too late to have your say. The FCC is accepting public comments until December 21, 2006. The last time these rules were revised, the FCC’s attempt to rush through its business friendly regs was derailed by over 3 million citizens voicing their disapproval. We have that power and we have to use it again. Visit Stop Big Media and use their forms to submit your comments. No, really…Do It! The effect is real and it’s a long ways to 3 million. Every comment counts.

Let My Newspapers Go

“American newspapers are passing through an era… in which a corporate ownership model seems increasingly unworkable.”
Tim Rutten

The Tribune Company is emblematic of the pitfalls of corporate ownership of media. It’s portfolio includes 11 daily newspapers, 25 television stations, and cable superstation WGN, as well as WGN-AM radio, the Chicago Cubs, and news, information and entertainment websites.

One of its newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, is at the cornerstone of a conflict that encompasses disgruntled shareholders, rebellious executives and underserved customers. Through all of this turmoil, some insight and inspiration has come from Tim Rutten, the paper’s Associate Editor of Features. Rutten has taken a hard line position on the question of corporate ownership. How often do you see a reporter give his employer an ultimatum like this:

“American newspapers are passing through an era not only of technological change but also one in which a corporate ownership model seems increasingly unworkable. If the Tribune Co. does not feel able or willing to resist its investors’ unreasonable demands on behalf of the public’s interest, then it should put The Times into the hands of somebody who will.”

And a couple of weeks later:

“No one can argue that Tribune or anyone who owns The Times is obliged to lose money. On the other hand, no one should argue that a newspaper’s proprietor has no obligation except to make as much money as it can. Somewhere between those two extremes is a fulcrum called responsibility on which a balance must be struck. Doing so requires the recognition that, although stockholders certainly are stakeholders in this process, so – and just as surely – are a paper’s readers.

What this moment in the life of the Los Angeles Times requires is recognition that the paper’s social, intellectual and political value to readers needs to be unlocked and not just its monetary value to investors.”

While these comments were directed specifically to the affairs at The Times, they could apply generally to almost any media conglomerate. The notion that a newspaper’s responsibility to its readers is at least equivalent to its fiduciary obligation to shareholders is one that should gain more acceptance in the journalism world. The more local the control, the more likely that outcome can be achieved. The Times deserves some credit for publishing Rutten’s provocative views. And Rutten deserves even more for having and expressing them.

Blame The Internet – The Predators Feeding Ground

In the wake of the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (FL-Perv), the Internet’s culture of free speech and access could be swept under along with a few deviant and corrupt Republicans.

The fact that the offending behavior of Foley was acted out on the net could become impetus for his desperate colleagues to renew their pursuit of restrictive and censorious legislation such as the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). This bill would ban social networks (and much more) from any computer in a school, library, or publicly funded facility.

Foley himself was a sponsor of the Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth (Internet SAFETY) Act, a bill that the Center for Democracy and Technology says…

“would have a profoundly damaging chilling effect, deterring bloggers, artists and even health advocates from posting legitimate information that could expose them to jail time.”

Foley’s own comments in support of the measure have an eerie drone to them now:

“Sex offenders are not petty criminals. They prey on our children like animals and will continue to do it unless stopped.”

In honor of Internet Safety Day (July, 28, 2004) Foley warned that the Internet…

“provides a new medium for pedophiles to reach out to our most vulnerable citizens-America’s children.”

Hopefully one of them was stopped this weekend. But we must not allow a pack of super-righteous hypocrites to dictate the future of access to the Internet. We need to be on our guard, because they will attempt to exploit this scandal to provoke fear and confusion about the Internet. They will characterize it as dangerous and unsupervised. Indeed, Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the author of DOPA, has already declared that…

“…this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

Make no mistake about it. They will come after the Internet. They will seek to explain away their political difficulties by shifting blame to other matters. They will exploit a scandal to further the establishment of their extremist theocracy. By covering up the abhorrent behavior of their colleague, they have demonstrated that they care more about partisan advantage than about children. So what would make anyone think they care about free speech or the Internet?

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Eat At Cheney’s

Now at Cheney’s,

It’s The Grand Scam Warfest Breakfast
A celebration of culinary barbarism.

At Cheney’s, abuse is on the menu 24 hours a day. So tie up the wife, bind and gag the kids and come on down to Cheney’s.

Don’t Torture Yourself!

With the passage of the Freedom to Torture Act of 2006, all Americans can learn to appreciate the joys of Waterboarding and Sleep Depravation. In fact, we should be able to partake of it in our own communities in the comfortable surroundings of establishments we commonly patronize. Torture is no longer an elitist pastime reserved for the priveliged few. Thanks to the United States Congress, discrimation is once again cast out of American society. Aren’t you proud?

The Flash movie linked above is my entry in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival. I would appreciate it if you’d take a look and, if you like it, send it to everyone you know. And I do mean everyone. I’ll be checking so don’t try any funny stuff.

General Motors’ Great American Idiot

In a stunning display of marketing ineptidude, General Motors has tagged Sean Hannity as its spokesman for a campaign/contest to give away 5 new cars. The “You’re A Great American Car Give-Away”, was conceived as a means to promote GM’s American-made vehicles. But the “great” American they chose as the public face of the promotion is a controversial and contentious figure who routinely disparages the patriotism of other Americans. He is a divisive and hostile partisan that recently declared that control of the Congress in the next election is a life and death struggle:

“there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ‘em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the speaker.”

GM, like other automakers, has fallen on hard times. So has Hannity, whose program’s ratings have declined 21% year-over-year. So the selection of Hannity as their spokesman may just be a case of two withering dinosaurs huddling together waiting for extinction.

Newsweek Covers Cover-Up News

The segregation of Americans from the rest of the world is graphically illustrated with this week’s issue of Newsweek. International readers of the magazine will see a cover that features a menacing jihadi and the headline: Losing Afghanistan. But U.S. readers will get a far more comforting cover featuring celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitz and her, “Life In Pictures.” (Liebowitz cover is at the top left at the link above. Scroll down for the International cover).

Since we know that magazine covers have a profound impact on sales, the message delivered by Newsweek’s editorial staff reveals their rather disturbing preconceptions about their readers.

  • International readers are compelled by substantive news that challenges and informs them with honest and relevant reporting.
  • U.S. readers prefer gossipy tabloid material that shelters them from woe and preserves a blissful ignorance.

Whether or not the Newsweek editors are correct, they are irresponsible. Their job is to publish news, not pacify the perceived tender sensitivities of their customers. The American people deserve better than the insulting insinuation that they are too fragile to be exposed to the messy reality of truthful reporting.

But coddling like this has even more serious consequences. The gap between how the world perceives international affairs and how Americans do, is an ever-widening chasm. Americans are frequently surprised by the actions and opinions of other nations and fail to grasp why they so often disagree with us. Maybe it’s because our media does us the disservice of sanitizing our news. Like children at the dinner table, they slice it up and feed it to us in digestible bits. The result is that we don’t get the full story.

As a democracy, our foreign policy is executed by representatives that we elect. If our choices are made on the basis of incomplete, and even inaccurate, information, then our policies will reflect that deficiency. That’s why so many Americans initially supported the Iraq invasion while most of the world opposed it. That’s why universal healthcare is provided by most economically stable nations but not here. That’s why over 160 countries have signed the Kyoto environmental accords, but not the U.S. That’s why the death penalty is outlawed in every western industrialized nation except for ours.

The impression that America is out of touch with the rest of the world is inescapable and the blame lies with Newsweek and it’s peers in the American media. This cover controversy is not an isolated example. It is merely a graphically expository one. And if we do not demand more from our media, we will continue to be shortchanged and misinformed. And we will continue to misunderstand the world and they will misunderstand us. That is a dangerous brew that foreshadows escalating differences and risks for Americans and all the world’s people.

(Hat tip to Truthout and Eat The Press)

Propaganda Is Its Own Reward

Last year, a PR firm called the Lincoln Group, was hired by the Pentagon to bribe Iraqi newspapers to carry pre-packaged stories that put the U.S. and the war effort in a positive light. But two unrelated articles published today demonstrate that their effort was less than successful, and for that they are being rewarded with a new $12 million dollar contract.

The Washington Post is reporting that, “Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show.”

“A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.”

It has become commonplace for Iraqis to theorize that the U.S. is intentionally fomenting chaos. Typical is the view of this unemployed Iraqi construction worker:

“Do you really think it’s possible that America — the greatest country in the world — cannot manage a small country like this? No! They have not made any mistakes. They brought people here to destroy Iraq, not to build Iraq.”

If this is a demonstration of the success we can expect from the Lincoln Group, it makes one wonder how they got a new contract to monitor the media in Iraq and the U.S.

“The idea is to use the information to ‘build support’ in Iraqi, Arabic, international and U.S. audiences for what the military describes as its goals in Iraq, such as destroying the insurgency and helping Iraqis build a democracy…The list of media outlets to be watched includes the New York Times, Fox Television and the satellite channel, Al-Arabiya.”

I’m not sure which is more disturbing – The fact that this unethical and incompetent firm is getting a new federal contract, or that this new contract was offered to anyone. Do the American people really need a government-run media watchdog pouring over what the press is publishing? What do they intend to do with the data they compile? The potential for the punitive use of this kind of information is obvious, and this administration has proven that it is capable of such extra-Constitutional behavior.

Our only hope for unfettered press freedom is that the combined ineptitude of the Lincoln Group and BushCo will lead to the failure of their devious plots.