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SAT: Billions for “Defense,” Social Issues Dominate Campaign Coverage, Dan Rather Now

May 19th, 2012 - by:

New Book Now From Cosimo Books

Commentaries, Analysis, Rants, Dissections

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Listen: Podcast of Today's News Dissector Radio Hour on Social Media with Rory O Connor and Greg Ruggerio on Occupy Pamphlet Series from Zuccotti Park Press

Watch: Paralyzed Woman Can Use Mind To Move Arm



Happy Birthdays:
Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh

Guardian, Photo of the Day Lahore, Pakistan, The Pearl of The Punjab'

NY Times: House Votes for INDEFINITE DETENTION

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday turned back an unusual coalition of liberals and conservatives and voted down legislation to reject explicitly the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects apprehended on United States soil.

House lawmakers then approved a broad military policy bill that would break Pentagon spending caps agreed to just last summer.

The Hill: House Votes More For Military Industrial Complex and More War

Congress approves $643B defense bill

The House on Friday approved a sweeping defense authorization bill for 2013 that calls for the construction of an East Coast missile defense system in the U.S. by the end of 2015.

The bill obligates $100 million next year to plan for the site, but would cost billions in later years that has yet to be funded.

The language was derided by a House Democrat as an "East Coast Star Wars fantasy base," but nonetheless escaped further scrutiny during floor debate Wednesday and Thursday on amendments to the National Defense Authorization

Comment: House Fails American People and US Soldiers in Afghanistan
Coalition Urges Public to Weigh in With Members During Recess

Washington, DC (May 18, 2012)- Win Without War, a coalition of forty national organizations, today urged its members and the public to get in touch with Members of Congress after the House rejected an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would have brought US soldiers home from the war in Afghanistan. “It is time for Americans be in touch with Members of Congress who are totally out of touch with their constituents on the war in Afghanistan,” said Stephen Miles, Win Without War Coalition Coordinator. “It should begin next week when they return home.”

“Once again, Congress has shown it is far behind the American people," Miles added. “While Americans, by record margins, want the war in Afghanistan to end, our troops to come home, and our nation to stop wasting hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have, some in Washington insist on keeping up a fight that even our military leaders insist has only a political solution. While we applaud the 113 Members of the House who stood up to end the longest war in American history now, we are also deeply disappointed that the House of Representatives leadership failed to allow a full debate on the war and a vote on the bipartisan McGovern-Jones amendment.”

Win Without War Co-Chair David Cortright added, “The House of Representatives is completely out of touch with voter sentiment. Seventy-eight percent of Americans want the war to end, but House Republicans are voting for

•AJE: Obama's Afghan Summit

Simon Johnson, Baseline Scenario.com, Geithner to Dimon: Resign From The Board Of the New York Fed

In an interview Thursday on PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had the following exchange:

“JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think Jamie Dimon should be off the board [of the New York Federal Reserve Board]?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER: Well, that’s a question he’ll have to make and the Fed will have to make. But again, on the basic point, which is it is very important, particularly given the damage caused by the crisis, that our system of oversight and safeguards and the enforcement authorities have not just the resources they need, but they are perceived to be above any political influence and have the independence and the ability to make sure these reforms are tough and effective so we protect the American people, again, from a crisis like this. And we’re going to, we’re going to do that.”

In the diplomatic language of Treasury communications, Mr. Geithner just told Jamie Dimon to resign from the New York Fed board (here is the current board composition). It looks bad – and it is bad – to have him on the board of this key part of the Federal Reserve System at a time when his bank is under investigation with regard to its large trading losses and the apparent failure of its risk management system. (Update: Mr. Dimon is on the Management and Budget Committee of the NY Fed board; here is the committee’s charter, which includes reviewing and endorsing “the framework for compensation of the Bank’s senior executives (Senior Vice President and above)”.)

•Guardian: How the poor are made to pay for their poverty

Even the government now has discovered that pauperising people who already have little can still be a profitable business

Mo Nooze

•Sweet Home Chicago, (AP) – Hundreds of protesters broke away from a large rally and began marching through Chicago streets Friday, taunting police and shouting about everything from bank bailouts to nuclear power – a prelude to even bigger demonstrations expected after the start of a NATO summit. Police said there was one arrest for aggravated battery of a police officer.

•Forbes: “Laugh Riot” Planned in Chicago

•Wapo: GOP SuperPAcs Outspend Democrats 4-1

•BBC: Al-Qaeda’s hidden war in Yemen

Yemen is fighting an almost unreported war with al-Qaeda’s most dangerous branch, as it simultaneously struggles with several other conflicts, says the BBC’s Frank Gardner.

strong> Brilliant Former Bay Area TV Anchor Leslie Griffiths on Dan Rather’s Latest

In Rather Outspoken, one of broadcast journalism’s elder statesmen reflects on the state of the news business and a career that spans from the glory days to what many of us see as the bitter end.

Soaking up his life’s worth of wisdom compels the reader to ask a familiar question posed to those in power during America’s infancy–a question just as pertinent today.

“What will be the old age of this government (including the fourth branch) if it’s so early decrepit?”

Sadly, Rather’s latest book reminds us that reporters had best be careful when they set about the business of digging up news. And they damn-well better make sure the media corporations for which they work are ready and willing to stand by them. Of course, Rather’s unsettling “push under the bus,” as he describes it, is an instructive case in point.

It’s hard to believe CBS was once the network of the “Murrow Boys” who exposed the fear-mongering of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn. The same network who sent a young Rather into the middle of firefights in Vietnam, and managed to make 60 Minutes the most successful news program in history.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And, I don’t mean Dan Rather.

He has proven that he is and will always be a reporter… no matter the venue. Keep in mind, I am not saying he has always been right, however, in my humble opinion; he has always been earnest, tireless and willing to put his life on the line if it meant delivering news and much-needed context to the American people.

While newsrooms have drastically (and dangerously) cut staff during this era of mega-media conglomerates, the mighty managers have fallen upwards. Upwards of $70 Million is what CBS President Les Moonves made in 2011. That would be okay by me if most of that money was put back into the newsrooms, but it’s not. And Moonves is not likely sitting up at night worried about what the people of American are not being told.

Regarding property, privilege and abuse of power, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Let our countrymen know, that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose, is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles, who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

Without saying it flat out, or even having to, Rather Outspoken reminds us that there are precious few reporters still working to fight the powerful and privileged who profit from harming our democracy, our planet, our food supply, our water, our air, our institutions of learning. (This list could go on for quite some time.) And Moonves’ stunning salary reminds us exactly what is valued by the few powerful corporations currently controlling the news. Money talks. And journalists walk, or as Rather points out, “get pushed under the bus.”

Author Richard Brookhiser points out in What Would the Founders Do? “Fortunately, the Founders were living in a knowledge explosion: America had nine colleges and twenty-five newspapers in 1776, serving a population of 2.5 million people….”

Today, often the most important stories come to us from comedians.

Those blessed few reporters left standing are not naïve. They can’t afford to be. We all know that the louder the warning to the American people, the stronger the “push-back.” A former boss and wise newsman used to tell me regularly, “If all sides don’t have some degree of dissatisfaction after your stories, you likely haven’t done a good enough job.”

Today, corporate media minders harbor an unimaginable ambition for wealth and power while maintaining meager ambitions when it comes to informing American citizens. Mostly, they want to protect and keep those corporate commercial dollars flowing. Journalism, as it functions today, certainly is not designed to keep America honest or democracy working as Thomas Jefferson intended.

In Rather Outspoken, we get a not-so-shining example of how this era of corporatized news works to the detriment of democracy.

The key story takes us back to the 2004 Election. That’s when Dan Rather was first betrayed by Viacom/CBS. Just two months before the presidential election, Sumner Redstone—Viacom’s ultimate corporate master—was quoted as saying: “From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on…I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a democratic one.”

That statement reads like a warning to any and all of CBS’ reporters who might be digging into anything critical of George W. Bush or his Administration. And, at the time, that was exactly what Mr. Rather and his ace producer Mary Mapes were doing. They had a story that reflected badly on George W. One that, if accepted by the American people, most certainly would have scuttled George W Bush’s disastrous second term.

In retrospect, the mind boggles to think what might have been different had Viacom/CBS backed Rather and Mapes instead of backing away from them.

The chronicle of Rather’s take-down reeks of Cassius cunning…so Shakespearean is the plot.

Rather and Mapes went running into a house on fire, only to turn around and find those carrying the fire hoses had deserted them. From Rather’s account, it is clear his beloved CBS network had, by the time they’d left him twisting in the wind, devolved into nothing more than a money-grubbing entertainment machine seeking favored status with the powerful. A recent Texas Monthly story backs him up.

Rather Outspoken is a cautionary tale on many levels. And it’s a story that finally explains why Rather and Mapes fought so hard to run their story. And, why in the end, the story ultimately fell flat after a strangely convenient information snafu.

To fully grasp the implications of this sordid tale, you have to put yourself into the “Black Op” line of thinking: if Cassius cannot discredit the story, then he must discredit the storyteller.

Think Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. Luckily for the “Black Operator,” documents are malleable and always open to question and to opinion. Fame seeking and often mediocre but ambitious “experts” are readily available to discredit them, too. Think Obama and the interminable birth certificate debate. If the Black Op works—the story gets thrown under the bus along with the reporter brave enough to tell it. Oh, how convenient it must have been to have a former CIA chief watching over his presidential son. The CIA building in Langley is not named after Poppy Bush for nothing.

Like any reporter worth his or her salt, Rather has stepped on a lot of toes over the years. The list of people who wanted to see him blackballed and blacklisted stretched all the way from Pennsylvania Ave. to Langley, Virginia. And there were plenty of well-heeled spin doctors and PR people ready and willing to aid and abet the process. As Rather points out, and as many reporters know, there are now huge public relations firms regularly hiring Rovian characters who make their coin leaking false stories. A few of those “secret sources” jokingly refer to The Washington Post as “Pravda on the Potomac.” Why? Because the Post is leakier than a faulty gas hose…and potentially far more damaging. Judith Miller and the New York Times also comes to mind.

By the time the spin doctors get finished, the real story is as twisted as a pretzel, completely unrecognizable and, more times than not, the wagging finger gets pointed right back at the reporters. The messenger becomes the story, not the message. Oh, how Cassius smiles.

When Rather and Mapes were ready to wrap up and air their story of George W. going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard—George W. was 2 months away from the 2004 election.

It’s important to note here that Rather and the Bushes had butted heads for years. The Bush-AWOL story was the culmination of a long acrimonious history between Rather and the Bush clan. You see, reporters who hail from Texas, like Dan Rather, cut their teeth on the duplicitous-outrageous-red-dirt-throwing, go-for-the-jugular-style of politics that made Texas famous. Lee Atwater, who worked for G.H.W. Bush, was the first to say out loud that in Texas politics…the end justifies the means. (Cheney and Rove both come from Texas politics too.)

Love it or hate it, Texas politics is unique in both its homespun punditry and slaughterhouse savagery. The late Texas governor Ann Richards, who was eventually unseated by George W., stood at the Democratic National convention in 1988 and said, “Poor George. He can’t help it—he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Jim Hightower, then-Texas Agricultural Commissioner, said of George W., “He was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple.”

These were the politics that helped define Rather’s bare-knuckle style. He knew the hidden secrets and where the skeletons were long buried. But he was not about to bury the story of George W. running away from a war while telling America’s young men and women to run toward one.

Rather quotes a “highly decorated retired Army colonel” who says soldiers who had risked their lives in Vietnam had long known about George W. Bush going AWOL. It was no secret. A solider who goes AWOL can be court-marshaled and tried for treason, particularly those unlucky enough to not have a former president and former CIA director as a father.

Rather writes, “For a journalist, the truth always matters and that should be reason enough [to do a story]. The arrogant hypocrisy of it makes this story much more disturbing. A young man born of privilege whose family secured him a spot in the National Guard to avoid military service in Vietnam, and who then walked away for more than a year from even that safe level of obligation, eventually became the commander in chief who ordered tens of thousands of our young men and women, including those in the National Guard, into harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Rather continues, “This same young man who gamed the system to evade deployment to Vietnam became a president who did nothing to prevent, halt or disavow the distorted character assassination of his opponent, John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam Veteran.” Remember the Swift Boat controversy? It all follows the same CIA Black Op pattern. Instead of ignoring the lack of George W’s service in Vietnam, make the opponent appear to be what your candidate really is. Remember the Swift Boat controversy. It implied Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was a coward.

Back at CBS News, Rather and Mapes’ story was cut-up and shortened without Rather’s permission. He felt crucial back-up information was eliminated. Then the story was relegated to “60 Minutes Wednesday.” An explosive, history altering story like this one got no real promotion, no real back up and was relegated to the second-string broadcast. It is telling. Plus, no one cared enough to push it beyond a bevy of entertainment lawyers and frightened middle-management ladder climbers who put up roadblocks every which way.

Finally, the story aired. It got some traction. And then, as if according to a playbook, the documents were attacked. The same technique used on Mr. Obama (the birth certificate was forged!?). After reading Rather’s book, it’s clear the proof of Bush W’s AWOL was well established. Rather and Mapes didn’t even need the documents.

But the document began the undoing. First, the message was lost, and then came a full-blown attack on the messengers. In the middle of the black storm at Black Rock, Rather was directed to issue an on-air apology. And he did, basically saying he and Mapes could have always done more. Viacom/CBS followed-up with an “independent” investigation. Heading the “independent investigation” was a well-known Republican and long- time friend of Bush’s daddy. “Beware yon Cassius has a mean and hungry look.”

This is how our politicized and corporate media works today. It has become so common to shoot the messenger, other reporters just fall in line and keep quiet. If Dan Rather can get set up…who are we to think we won’t be targeted too? Better to play it safe and avoid investigative reporting. Trouble is, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, “Ignorant citizens” cannot support a democracy.

It should also be pointed out that while living in the bubble of big media, it’s hard to see and understand how all this plays out. Now, that Rather is “outside” the mainstream, it has certainly made him wiser and more contemplative about what goes on “inside.” He is now an elder statesman with much to teach. He’s seen all sides of the corporate-political news game and lived through its development. He knows how we got here. We need to listen to him about how best to get out.

Media Tenor On Coverage of theCampaign

AS ECONOMY STALLS, SOCIAL ISSUES TAKE CENTER STAGE

Coverage of politics in US TV news, May 1 – 14, 2012

Boston, May 18, 2012. With little movement in the media tone on the economy or the Consumer Confidence Index, social issues have become a much more significant part of the agenda in May, according to research institute Media Tenor International.

“Obama’s announcement on the marriage equality issue was a huge part of this focus,” says Racheline Maltese, an analyst at Media Tenor, “but the social issues focus has been building for some time thanks to the ongoing discussion about birth control and abortion.”

Maltese notes that much of the media reaction to Obama’s statement on marriage was not about taking a position on gay rights, but about whether this was a strategically wise move for the campaign. “It solidifies the base and helps with fund raising,” Maltese notes, adding that “it may also help to push Romney to the right, maki ng the choice between the candidates simpler for undecided voters.”

How social issues have been framed in the media has varied, with those networks with a higher average age of viewership (Fox and CBS) being less favorable on topics related to social change. “Television news can help voters solidify opinions they’ve already formed,” says Maltese. “When networks choose to build their coverage tone to suit their audience, opinion shifts from those audiences is unlikely.”

Without significant movement in the economy, social issues may continue to dominate the agenda, especially as they become central topics in each campaign’s fundraising strategies.

Additionally, Maltese says that Romney’s choice of a running mate may have a significant impact. “Whether that choice is about social issues or economic issues, it may help determine the campaign focus going forward,” she says.

•†he Atlantic: Predicting Facebook’s Post IPO Future

•Kultur: New York City Subway Paper Cut Portraits by Ming Liang Lu

•News Republic: Ultra-Orthodox plan huge NYC meeting on Net risks

Sent to Jail in Boston

•MSN, Why Donna Died: As the world continues to remember Donna Summer, who died on Thursday, it’s being widely reported that the Disco Queen believed the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center triggered the lung cancer that took her life, especially as members of Summer’s family have confirmed the singer did not smoke. Summer, then 52, was in her New York apartment when the towers fell and rained harmful particles on the city below, including asbestos, lead and mercury. About 1,000 people who were witnesses to 9/11 have died since being exposed to the dust; more than a third were reportedly lost to cancer

Have a great weekend, Comments and suggestions to dissector@mediachannel.org