Notes From The Overground

Progressive-minded weblog devoted heavily to politics and media with some music and popular culture sprinkled throughout working on the assumption that anything that comes out of Washington or the mass media is bogus propaganda unless proven otherwise.

Created by Tom

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Friday, March 28, 2003

The Economics of Broadcast Patriotism

Broadcasting consultants are advising stations to play down anti-war protest footage in favor of patriotism to attract a larger audience and enrich their bottom line.

"Get the following production pieces in the studio NOW: . . . Patriotic music that makes you cry, salute, get cold chills! Go for the emotion," advised McVay Media, a Cleveland-based consultant, in a "War Manual" memo to its station clients. ". . . Air the National Anthem at a specified time each day as long as the USA is at war."

The company, which describes itself as the largest radio consultant in the world, also has been counseling talk show stations to "Make sure your hosts aren't 'over the top.' Polarizing discussions are shaky ground. This is not the time to take cheap shots to get reaction . . . not when our young men and women are 'in harm's way.' "

The influential television-news consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates recently put it in even starker terms: Covering war protests may be harmful to a station's bottom line.

In a survey released last week on the eve of war, the firm found that war protests were the topic that tested lowest among 6,400 viewers across the nation. Magid said only 14 percent of respondents said TV news wasn't paying enough attention to "anti-war demonstrations and peace activities"; just 13 percent thought that in the event of war, the news should pay more attention to dissent.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of the press because our founding fathers believed that an independent and diligent press that watched over the government and maintained an informed populace was essential to a democracy. Today, as fewer and fewer companies control the mass media, it is no surprise that bottom-line concerns dictate content. The effects on democracy are catastrophic. Networks can conceivably pander to and cultivate a right-wing bias and ignore a large dissenting sector of the population in the name of a healthy bottom line.


Satire Speaks Volumes

From The Onion's special war issue, "Operation Piss Off the Planet":

Dead Iraqi Would Have Loved Democracy

BAGHDAD, IRAQ—Baghdad resident Taha Sabri, killed Monday in a U.S. air strike on his city, would have loved the eventual liberation of Iraq and establishment of democracy, had he lived to see it, his grieving widow said. Read more...

As usual, the biting, fictitious satire of The Onion is as relevant as the mainstream media (if not more relevant).

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Perle Resigns

Richard Perle resigned his post as chairman of the Defense Policy Board (a body that advises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld). Perle, one of the Bush administration's many holdovers from the Reagan years and a man described as a key architect of the war on Iraq, is in the midst of a controversy over an apparent conflict of interest between his influential Washington post and his private business endeavors.

Read Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article on Perle's shady dealings where his private interests crossed paths with Saudi and Iraqi investors and intersected with the impending war on Hussein.


"Unilateral" Reporters

Without the slightest hint of irony, a Pentagon official referred to unembedded independent reporters as "unilaterals." Those in glass pentagons... Ah, the Pentagon and their funny euphemistic butchering of the Queen's English...

March 27, 2003

As Scott Pelley races through the southern Iraq desert in a dirt-covered Toyota Land Cruiser, the CBS News reporter has no tanks or troops to protect him - or the restrictions that come with them.

Pelley is one of several dozen battlefield reporters venturing into southern Iraq who are not among the more than 500 journalists accompanying U.S. or British troops. The Pentagon calls them "unilaterals" and has tried to discourage them from doing what they are doing, saying it is too dangerous. More...

At least high ranking U.S. military officials are beginning to admit that unilateralism is too dangerous. Unfortunately it is easier to give advice than to take it...

The hidden subtext of the statement is the concern that so-called "unilaterals," the thorns in the Pentagon's side, endanger U.S. propaganda efforts (a concern that likely supercedes any concern for their well-being). Christian Science Monitor reporter Phil Smucker has not been heard from and is feared detained by U.S. military authorities for disclosing too much information. According to The Washington Post, military commanders can treat independent journalists as they would any civilian on the battlefield.


Canadian Bacon (...or, Freedom Bacon)

U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, blasted Canada for not backing "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

At a breakfast speech yesterday to the Economic Club of Toronto, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci said "there is a lot of disappointment in Washington and a lot of people are upset" about Canada's refusal to join the United States in its efforts to depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with," the ambassador told the Bay Street audience.
Mr. Cellucci said the relationship between the two countries will endure in the long term, but "there may be short-term strains here."

Asked what those strains would be, Mr. Cellucci replied, "You'll have to wait and see." But he cryptically added it is his government's position that "security will trump trade," implying possible implications for cross-border traffic.

"Patriots" across the U.S. will likely pour their Molson and LaBatt's down the toilet (either straight from the bottle or, more likely, through an intermediary by way of the urethra).


Self Evident

Must read poem by Ani DiFranco.


Stock Exchange Censorship

Al Jazeera correspondents barred from New York Stock exchange and NASDAQ.

...Mr. Sankari was barred from the exchange on Monday, the day after Al Jazeera broadcast images of American prisoners and dead soldiers. The official who gave him the bad news said that the exchange was cutting back on the number of credentialed reporters because of crowding on the floor (though it has thinned the ranks of the 23 news organizations that broadcast from the exchange only by one: Al Jazeera).

"It is regretful not to let Arabic TV report from there," said Mr. Sankari, 32. "We are the only station that reports in Arabic to the Middle East, which has a big number of investors. It is good advertising for the market. But we are not going to stop. We do not have to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange." Or the Nasdaq, which told Al Jazeera that its reporters were not welcome. More from NY Times...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Classy Restaurant That Tavern on the Green...

...but green...frogs are green...French people are "frogs"...OH NO!!!

Pretentiously renowned, overpriced Central Park West cafeteria for the snobs, Tavern on the Green is "Americanizing" (or "de-Frenchizing") its menu this Spring.

the "roast prime rib of beef au jus" will now be known as "roast prime rib of beef with natural juice," according to its spokeswoman. Also banished are the ubiquitous "confit" and "coulis." "Our biggest challenge is figuring out what to call the filet mignon," general manager Allan Kurtz admitted to The NY Post's Braden Keil. "And we're probably going to have to discontinue serving the bernaise sauce."' More via Alternet...

Even the Upper-West-Siders can be jingoistic.


"An amazing sight, just like out of an action movie, but this is real."
-War reporter, Peter Arnett from his perch in Baghdad during "Shock and Awe."

Just a disclaimer: the events depicted in the television program, Operation Iraqi Freedom are based on a true story.

Read more about it: "Shock, Awe and Razzmatazz in the Sequel."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Senate Cuts Shrubya's Tax Cut Package

Senate provided a "serious setback" for the president's voo doo economic package that attempts to "stimulate growth" while cutting taxes (mostly on the highest bracket) during a war as the economy is running at a deficit:

WASHINGTON - The Senate reversed itself Tuesday and voted to cut President Bush's proposed $726 billion tax cut in half, dealing a blow to the keystone of his economic recovery plan.

A week after refusing to do so, senators voted 51-48 to reduce the tax reduction's price tag to $350 billion through 2013. Bush has said his plan — which would eliminate taxes on corporate dividends and reduce income taxes — is needed to create jobs, boost investment and spur the slumbering economy.

The vote was a major victory for Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans. They say a tax cut of the magnitude Bush wants makes no sense at a time when federal deficits are expected to surge to record highs and when U.S. troops are in a war with Iraq. More...

Republican lawmakers have vowed to get the tax-cuts back into the budget before its final vote in Senate tomorrow.


Moore is Better

In a column on Time magazine's website, James Poniewozik berates Michael Moore for lumping his anti-war stance with his other grievances against the Shrubya administration:

If Moore really wants to end the war — and not just boost the spirits of his Upper West Side neighbors — then mightn't he also want to win over people who oppose the war and yet don't believe that Bush is an illegimate [sic] president swept into office by skullduggery? Is he so insulated that he doesn't realize people like that exist? Or are people like that simply not simon-pure enough for him to want them in his antiwar movement? More

Poniewozik may have a point that anti-war Bush supporters may have been alienated by Moore's rhetoric. But does that matter? If you're against the war, you're against the war. If one has any strength of convictions it should not matter to one's beliefs that a person who agrees on one issue, should disagree on another. The message of many anti-war protesters (Michael Moore being only one of many) is inexorably linked to the fact that George W. Bush came to power through illegitimate and nefarious means. The fact that he has been allowed to wreak such havoc on the American people and their constitution is all the more galling. Telling us to just let go of the outrage that was election 2000 is akin to asking an American to forget that slavery existed in the 1800s. It is an awful moment of injustice in American history that should not be forgotten lest it is repeated. The fact that the perpetrators of this crime against democracy not only run free but also run the country (into the ground) is another reason not to forget this sad event.

Such has been the condescending commentary of many mainstream-to-right-wingers. Hatemonger Rush Limbaugh claimed:
The media is learning firsthand that the troops, the enlisted GIs and all of these people are far more valuable to this country than all the Michael Moores of the world combined. With that said, these people will never get over the 2000 election. More

It is sadly ironic that the same conservative hypocrites who drooled for years over every single misstep of Bill Clinton until they finally impeached him because he lied about a blow-job are telling "these people" to forget about the 2000 selection. Self-righteous piety is apparently a one-way street.

Even Kurt Loder, the senior member of MTV News (a middle-aged man writing news pieces for the bastion of journalistic integrity for the Spring-Break/Real-World set), came down on Moore, calling his comments "witless." (Loder, while still working at MTV calling anybody "witless" is the height of wasted irony). The Oscar host, Steve "Wild and Crazy Establishment Bore" Martin, even smarmily joked later in the program that Moore was "being helped into the trunk of his limousine" by teamsters backstage. (Martin, essentially, made a joke out of the fact that a man might receive bodily harm for voicing his opinion -- but Moore is the "anti-American" one...). The fact that Moore's statements are considered to be so "radical" and illicit such violent anger in the status quo speaks volumes about the sad state of the American discourse and its narrow moderate-to-right range of operation.

Monday, March 24, 2003

There's No Business Like War Business

At this moment, Cheney's Halliburton is reaping the spoils of Operation Iraqi Freedom:

As the first bombs rain down on Baghdad, thousands of employees of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, are working alongside US troops in Kuwait and Turkey under a package deal worth close to a billion dollars. According to US Army sources, they are building tent cities and providing logistical support for the war in Iraq in addition to other hot spots in the "war on terrorism."

While recent news coverage has speculated on the post-war reconstruction gravy train that corporations like Halliburton stand to gain from, this latest information indicates that Halliburton is already profiting from war time contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Read more...

Meanwhile, the Dallas Business Journal reports that "Texas oil and gas companies are well-positioned to benefit from the rebuilding of Iraq's multibillion-dollar oil industry." Thus proving that "regime change" is a highly lucrative endeavor.



Check out System of a Down's new video, directed by Michael Moore.


New Radiohead

In music news, Radiohead's latest, "Hail to the Thief" is set for a June 10, 2003 U.S. release.

The tracklisting is as follows:
01. 2+2=5
02. sit down, stand up
03. sail to the moon
04. backdrifts
05. go to sleep
06. where i end and you begin
07. we suck young blood
08. the gloaming
09. there there
10. i will
11. a punch-up at the wedding
12. myxomatosis
13. scatterbrain
14. a wolf at the door


An Eagle Among a Flock of Turkeys

In the midst of the self-important, humorously pious, self-congratulatory pomp and circumstance of The Oscars, Michael Moore's acceptance speech was a breath of fresh air.

Click here to cast your vote now in the national referendum to stop the war in Iraq.