Sensation Cocktail

Politics, religion, music and news. All the things your Mother told you not to talk about in public.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Where have all the reporters gone - long time ago?

For 12 years of my still-young life, I worked as a reporter in the newspaper industry. I covered politics, education, government, courts, emergency service personnel, the environment and politics - in short, nearly everything.

I prided myself upon checking facts, fleshing out sources and attempting to get all sides to a story (there are usually more than just two). I worked incredibly long hours for little pay, but I loved what I was doing. I wanted to educate my readers and keep them informed of pivotal issues that effected their lives, livelihoods and health.

I left this much-beloved, full-time profession - the only one for which I studied upon entering college - but continued to freelance after the birth of my son; and, I left it all-together when a divorce forced me back into workforce, full time. I had to work hours more conducive to child-rearing and needed something that would pay enough so that we didn't starve. It was an awful decision, but one I don't regret in that my 7-year-old son is already starting to show the signs of this decision - he's incredibly smart, well-adjusted and loving.

I miss the work. I was the most fulfilled, professionally, when I was reporting, despite the long hours and little pay. I have often thought that, when my son gets older, I would go back to the days when I would spend hours researching court documents, chasing sources for answers or even accompanying an investigator to the morgue during a murder investigation.

But, after watching the dilapidated state of news over this past five years, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable, or even welcomed, back into what is considered good-form reporting anymore.

News, television and radio news, in particular, in America, has gone from being a source of information to a surreal form of entertainment - I call is the "Fox"ification of the media.

When Fox News started about 10 years ago, it was a scrappy little network giving CNN a run for it's stodgy and up-until-then, non-competitive money. I watched, sitting on the couch so pregnant that I couldn't walk four steps without needing to sleep, as it competed brilliantly against the Ted Turner news giant in its coverage of the Columbine shootings.

Then a funny thing happened during the 2000 election: Fox started reporting news less and less and began catapulting the propaganda more and more. A viewer, lesser-training in the recognition of reporting versus spin, probably wouldn't notice the subtle changes. From calling the election in Florida for George W. Bush (when we all know - or should know by now - that Vice President Al Gore actually won the state and the popular vote, nationwide) to pairing the weakest, most spineless and less-attractive "liberals" against more formidable conservative mouthpieces, Fox began driving an agenda that has left real news reporting to the way of the dinosaur.

Now, one can't turn on the television without seeing three Republicans to one, or in some cases, NO, Democratic counter-viewpoint. If there is a Democratic answer, the interviewer is generally much harsher and sharper-tongued to this individual than to any of the mealy-mouthed Republican mynah birds on board and/or the Democrat is some corporate-shill or is a unfair caricature of what a liberal actually stands for.

And, when they're not sticking dreadfully poor representatives of the left on for face time, the news media is resorting to entertainment-as-news for what should be two-minute fillers. For example, while I dearly love Sir Paul McCartney, I'm sorry to say his divorce from Heather Mills shouldn't be the lead story on ANY American news network while 2,500 US military men and women have lost their lives in an unnecessary war (of course, if you only get your news from television or from Judith Miller at The New York Times, you don't know that the war is unnecessary: you probably haven't heard of the Downing Street Memos or the CIA concerns that information used to lead up the war was manipulated by the Bush Administration or you probably even believe Sen. Rick Santorum's claim that years-old mustard and sarin gas found buried on the Iranian border is a real weapon of mass destruction [HINT: It's not]).

And, if I see another bleached-blonde hanging onto the hotel balcony railing for dear life while the 70 mph winds of Hurricane Whatever rage on around her or Mr. Ken Doll breathlessly awaiting an SUV being chased by the police in ONE CITY (thus, effecting only those citizens in the general vicinity and not Americans as a whole), I think I'll just puke. Or, well, turn it off.

What has happened in the five years since I left the profession?

Well, for one thing, the profession has gone wholly corporate. There are only six media moguls who own the vast majority of the mainstream media - and guess what? And, only one of them started out as an organization who's sole purpose was to report news (Time-Warner). They are:

AOL Time Warner

The Walt Disney Company

Bertelsmann AG


News Corporation

Vivendi Universal

That's it. That's 90 percent of the whole she-bang. Why should I trust a news organization such as NBC when it pumps up a war when I know it's parent company, GE, is a massive part of the military-industrial complex? Why should I trust the purveyor of children's television to tell me about the national debt? Why should I ever trust the CEO of a media company who says, "I don't want to denigrate Kerry... but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats are not bad people.... But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company," said Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.

And, if you check the donations given to political candidates by each of these organizations, you will find, to the chagrin of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson and FOX News, in general, that none of them donate primarily to liberal candidates; ergo, those thousands of mainstream conservative talk show hosts who yell that the mainstream media are liberal are, well, LYING to you. Corporations and Republicanism go hand-in-hand like peas and mashed potatoes or peppers and onions or bread and butter.

There is one bright and shining light peaking through the corporate media wall and that's MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Olbermann, who got his break-through start as an anchor with Dan Patrick on ESPN's SportsCenter, regularly challenges the powers-that-be in a fair manner. Why, he doesn't even shout over his guests and lets them answer the question, in full, that he just asked them.

Olbermann regularly takes on the rightest of the right-wing media, particularly his time-slot nemesis, FOX News's Bill oriole. He recently bitch-slapped oriole on his lies that American GIs killed innocent civilians during World War II while also chiding couch-potato Bill for attempting to challenge a four-star general (the last general, by the way, to win a war for the United States):

Last October Bill O'Reilly railed against a ruling that more photos from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq might be released. His guest on his program was Wesley Clark. Clark is a retired four-star general, was for four years supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe. First in his class at West Point, wounded in Vietnam, earned the Bronze star, the Silver Star and has streets named for him in Alabama and in Kosovo. Therefore, naturally O'Reilly knows much more about the military than General Clark does. Clark defended the release of the additional Abu Ghraib photos saying we need to know what happened and to correct it. O'Reilly lectured him and concluded that there had always been atrocities, even by Americans in war.

Olbermann fleshes out the story with questions that actually make a guest think and answer in ways that are beneficial to Americans who are attempting to make decisions, including who would make a better representative to them in Congress on in the White House. In short, Olbermann is about the only mainstream media news anchor worth watching out of the thousands and thousands of talking heads on television these days. And, he's not a liberal, as the right-wingers allege he is. In fact, Olbermann admits he doesn't even vote because he doesn't want to appear impartial ("I'm not political. I don't vote -- I don't believe journalists covering politics should and I don't think the democracy would suffer if however many of us there are, recused ourselves").

And, while Olbermann is good - is truly fair and balanced - he cannot do it alone. Not only is MSNBC on in fewer markets that FOX, it's simply not advertised as well outside of its online offerings.

In fact, unless Americans get their news from the BBC or from other online sources, few of them even know about the possibility that their votes can be hacked via the new electronic voting machines. They don't know that African-Americans have consistantly been tossed from voter dolls by the Republican Party. They know little about the underlying causes to the leadup to the Iraqi War. They don't know about the Iranian oil bourse and the threat that it will switch to the Euro, thus depreciating the dollar. They don't know about our own deficit or the trade deficit with China and India.

In fact, unless it's about cheerleading for war or the name of Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie's new baby or who won American "Idle," they know very little.

And, that, breaks my heart.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yeah, I'm angry. So what?

Apparently, being angry is not a valid human emotion so the opinions of those Americans who are angered by what is happening in and to this country aren't valid, either. That is if you're a right-wing talking head.

From Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to Karl Rove, the latest right-wing talking point seems to center on the fact that millions of Americans shouldn't be listened to because they're angry.

Rove, for example, called out progressives - and, the other 70 or so percent of the country who no longer support the war in Iraq - on their anger during a recent interview:

"...the Internet for the Left of the Democratic Party has served as a way to mobilize hate and anger — hate and anger, first and foremost, at this President and Conservatives, but then also at people within their own party whom they consider to be less than completely loyal to this very narrow, very out-of-the-mainstream, very far Left-wing ideology that they tend to represent."

Laughable, when you consider Rove has created most of the divisive hatred that spurs politics in this country today by permitting homophobes, racists and misogynists to tip election results with insipid ballot initiatives that probably wouldn't stand up to Constitutional scrutiny in the first place. If the president's poll numbers are down, expect the Republican party to create a inane diversion by pointing out that Adam and Steve down the street just MIGHT want to get married.

But, I digress.

What I'd really like to know is why. Why is it so awful to be angry? Why is it so wrong to hate this administration's regressive, expensive and self-centered policies?

To date, this president has run up the largest deficit than the 42 presidents preceding him, combined: a $400 trillion tab that will break the backs of future generations. Considering the Republican party used to care about fiscal responsibility, you would think that a great number of fiscal conservatives would be angered by this alone.

And what about the NSA spying on average Americans? Should not all 300 million of us be angered that our privacy is being violated and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is being treated with about as much regard as a person withdiarrheah treats toilet paper?

Then, there's that fiasco in Iraq. We have now lost 2,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens in a war that didn't need to be fought. Just to re-cap, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and there were no weapons of mass destruction. Believe me, most of the families who've lost loved ones in this war probably are angered that their son or daughter had to die as a result of cooked intelligence, just so Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force could divide Iraq into oil maps.

Do I hate the policies of this administration? You're damned straight I do. Am I angry over what has occurred since the Supreme Court selected George W. Bush as our president in 2000? Why yes, yes I am.

Is it wrong that I'm so angry?

Hell, no.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. And, if you don't believe it, ask Thomas Jefferson. Or maybe he should have been ignored, vilified and cajoled for his anger, too.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Karl Rove Escapes with His Reputation Intact

President George W. Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, will not face any indictments in the Valerie Plame-leak investigation, if the corporate-owned, mainstream media is to be believed, thus restoring Rove's reputation in Washington.

While the definitive word from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hasn't been issued, Rove's slither from prosecution probably happened this week (despite an abject failure of the media to secure, for public consumption, the official letter alleging this is fact). Regardless of solid proof from the special prosecutor's office, Rove probably will continue to walk the White House halls, a man freed without charge in the case that ruined a CIA agent's career.

But will it make a difference?

Known as "Bush's Brain," Rove is credited with helping Bush come close enough in the Electoral College tally to steal the presidential election from Al Gore in 2000 and may have even masterminded another stolen election in 2004. He is described as ruthless, power-hungry, unethical and conniving - all positive attributes when running a national political campaign.

At a time when 53 percent of Americans believe the politicians representing them are pandering jerk-offs who would rather dine, golf and travel with the CEOs of the world's largest corporations than represent the middle class; and, when between 62 and 71 percent think Bush would do a better job as a Walmart greeter, will Rove's latest political coup play well in the Heartland?

Under normal circumstances, I would say absolutely not, but the backwash has a way of getting out the vote. And Rove knows just how to tap into the red-voter vitriol, despite the fact that most everyone familiar with the case believes that he was the leaker and that Fitzgerald simply couldn't prove it in a court of law.

That he even has defenders for any number of the misdeeds he is known to have performed outside of the Plame case, speaks volumes to his reputation. Or more accurately, it speaks in 17- kilohertz stereo that certain voting elements don't care about his reputation, at all. They simply want to win - whether it's for further financial gain or because they've been tricked into voting against their best economic interests as they dwell on the gay couple down the street who allegedly threatens their marriage.

During a short watch of the corporate news this evening, I noted that the pablum punditry, the mimicking mynas of the media, are questioning Rove's political abilities to survive the taint of an alleged criminal act. They're pondering whether his reputation is in tact enough to get out the Republican vote. They're wondering whether Rove, despite this near miss, can still work Goebbels-like magic on the voting masses this November.

What they've failed to perceive is this: Rove's cut-throat reputation has always been lower than the lowest slithering asp on the mummified toe of Cleopatra's corpse and his followers LIKE it that way.

The backwash is so enamored with winning one for the Republican team, even if losing power would be best for the good of the country, that they're applauding the fact that Rove found a way to wriggle his way out of a long court battle and slink back on bloviated belly into the Oval Office.

Despite the months of investigation, the days of uncertainly, yes, Rove has emerged with the same reputation he's always had - dishonorable, unscrupulous and unethical.

(with sincere apologies to snakes everywhere)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Democrats in a Post-9/11 World.

When will they ever learn?

I just read that former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton topped the latest Iowa straw poll and I'd be remiss if I didn't express just a touch of outrage over the failure of the Democratic Party to seize upon the weaknesses of the Bush Administration's Iraq folly.

According to the article, Edwards weighed in at 30 points, followed by Sen. Clinton at 26 points. Candidates who might actually have a chance in a national election fared much worse - hovering around the third and fourth percentiles.

While I'm sure the media has pounded into everyone's head that John Edwards has oh-so-much charisma and that Sen. Clinton is the only choice for the 2008 Democratic nominees, the fact remains that neither would appeal to the mushy middle in flippable red states (also known as purple states).

For starters, Edwards, a affable Southerner, didn't help his running-mate Sen. John Kerry flip any Southern or mid-Western red states in 2004. As a Southerner, my educated guess is because he simply wasn't seen as having much leadership abilities, at least not those who would appeal to voters fed-up with Republican corruption. In short, he doesn't have any "macho" appeal.

Edwards, a one-term senator from North Carolina, spent his pre-senatorial life as a personal injury attorney - not exactly the world's most beloved profession, but a necessary one. However, such a profession does not lend itself to the education required to provide the country with a formidable national security policy.

Many moderate voters in the South and the mid-West, when they're not concerned with God, gays and guns, wanted to feel secure in the wake of 9/11. Edwards couldn't provide that security for them (Kerry might have provided this security given his many years in diplomacy, but his New England brogue distanced him from the drawl of the Southland. They felt he was talking at them and not with them).

And what of Sen. Clinton? Her position as senator of New York certainly provides her with more national security credentials than Edwards, particularly as New York City was the hardest hit during the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But, this is the United States under George W. Bush and the Republicans: we've stepped back light years in the promotion of women and misogyny runs rampant. Clinton simply cannot win a national election because the country will not elect a woman, even one as accomplished as Sen. Clinton, during a time of war(s).

She also has a similar problem as Kerry faced in 2004: she's from up North. As the wife of a New England liberal, I wish these biases didn't occur, but 35 years of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" has so divided the country, that any Democrat running from any place other than the South or the mid-West is at a 10-point disadvantage right off the start. That's why the last two Democratic presidents - Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter - were both Southerners with speech like molasses. Heartlanders see Democrats as out of touch with their values from the get-go, but they see them as particularly over-the-top if they're from more liberal areas of the state (despite Mrs. Clinton's continuous move to the right, which hasn't endeared her to the Democratic base).

So the problem remains: how does one convince the Democrats throughout the rest of the country to nominate someone who can both counter-attack the Republicans on the national security issue and can win?

With Gen. Wesley Clark polling at about two percent, one has to wonder.

Here is a man who is Southern, accomplished, intelligent - possessing both diplomacy credentials and a master's degree in economics - and photogenic (yes, this is needed in American politics today), yet he cannot get the media and party attention needed to spur his populist message to the masses: they simply don't know who he is. And, if they do, they seem only to buy into the right-wing's slurs that he's really a Republican (I don't know many Republicans who were against the Iraqi war from the start, who are pro-choice, who believe in talking over tanks and who continuously calls out the Bush Administration for their failures both at home and abroad).

If Democrats were serious about winning one, they'd go for the outsider dark horse who can both destroy the Republican's pre-determined national security dominance while espousing populist economic policies, such as environmental protections and outsourcing.

And, as if that wasn't enough, the man is a church-attending Christian who is loved by both those of the Jewish faith (as his father was Jewish) and by many Muslims, whom he rescued from genocide in Kosovo.

But they'll continue to believe the media - bought and paid for by six conservative corporations who will tell them anything to get the weakest Democrat - instead of planning for a general election. They'll ignore the very real regional bias that exists as they did with Kerry and Dukakis. They'll ignore the fact that a senator hasn't been elected to the office of the Presidency since John Kennedy in 1960. They'll ignore that national security will be the predominate issue for years to come. They'll ignore that there is a cultural divide that must be crossed in order to flip a couple of red states. They'll ignore all this to their detriment.

When will they ever learn?