Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Edit

Aired 9/25/06 The Edit

Where is the real seat of media bias? Is it the leather high-backs in boardrooms and executive suites? The sensible cloth swivel chairs in News Directors offices? Or the ones at reporters' desks? Actually that place where bias is hardest to avoid, or easiest to insert, are the work chairs in the editing bays where audio and video are snipped and trimmed for broadcast. Its where some junior staffer is told to 'get ten seconds of tape to go with this story' or 'scrounge up some B-Roll to illustrate this'. It involves some very fine judgements about what is interesting or not, and the movement of the edit cursor just a bit one way or another can make a senator, president or pope sound brilliant or foolish.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Who Would Jesus Audit?

Aired 9/22/06 Who Would Jesus Audit?

It took the rest of the Nation a while to catch on to the story in Pasadena CA about the church being threatened with the loss of their tax-exempt status because of an anti-war speech made a few days before the 2004 election, but it was strange that it did on the day after a massive political rally by the tax-exempt arm of Dr James Dobson's media empire in which he exhorted to the audience the dire consequences of the Republicans losing control of Congress.

Exactly why All-Saints' sermon was 'political' and Dobson's was 'not political' is beyond me.

(One thing worth noting is that losing tax-exempt status would be devastating to a church. Most folks realize that it would mean that their donations would not be deductible. But that is just the start of it. The church itself would have to pay income tax on all those donations. Moreover it is quite likely that the church would have to pay property taxes on all of its land and facilities.)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Elephant

Aired 9/18/06 The Elephant

The utter absurdity of Iraq's Mujhadeen Sura council issuing a proclaimation calling for the destruction of anybody who did not convert to Islam -- over somebody quoting somebody criticizing islam for spreading itself by the sword -- was just overwhelming.

But it is wrong (including being wrong in the 14th century) to treat that as some sort of muslim problem. Every major religion has had some ugly examples of its followers using it to justify killing people. (Northern Ireland anybody?) The only contrary example among the major religions that I can think of is Buddism (for which +1 to the cross-legged guys). The use of religion to rationalize murder and violence is something which every faith should address rather than treating like the elephant in the room.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Wild Kingdom

Aired 9/15/06 Wild Kingdom

So much was written about ABC's The Path to 9/11 that it was challenging to think of a unique thing to say. So much had been written about the scenes that never happened, the agenda of the filmmakers, of how ABC 'caved in' to pressure, and comparisons to The Reagans (which CBS pulled and sent to cable-only obscurity).

Perhaps because I regard myself as a journalist I realized that once you give yourself license to mess with the facts you start to do it for the most trivial of reasons. For example the show had Mohammed Atta being flagged at an American Airlines check in counter in Logan Airport rather than a USAir counter in Maine as happened. Why mess with such a fact that had nothing to do with the point the filmmakers were trying to make? I suspect that it was because Logan's terminal is more photogenic, nothing more. That's where you wind up when facts are secondary.
Then I heard ABC's disclaimer and thought of another disclaimer that was heard for years every week on TV and how the two were very different.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Al-Qaeda Fourteen

Aired 9/10/06 The Al-Qaeda Fourteen

While the media for the next day or two will be obsessed with various tributes to 9/11 the main thing looking toward the future is the enabling legislation for having military tribunals for the high profile members of Al-Qaeda recently relocated from the CIA's black sites. It was no mere coincidence that this announcement was made mere days before the anniversary of 9/11, and in front of the families of victims. The President wants his authorization pushed through while the nation is plenty angry and plenty scared.

So let me say that these trials will not be about striking a blow at Al-Qaeda. These 14 guys, whatever their bigwig terror credentials before, they are pretty much useless as terrorists any more. They have, in spy parlance, been compromised. We know all about them and no active terror operative would go anywhere near them as a result.

That doesn't mean that these trials are unimportant. They are important for two reasons.

The first is to give us a sense of justice for the crimes which they committed. That is important, but for us to feel that justice has been served it needs to be a trial that we can feel was just. Secret evidence and coerced confessions is likely to make us feel more uneasy than justified.

The second is that these trials will get worldwide attention. If trying Khalid Mohammed doesn't get more attention than O.J. Simson something is wrong with reality. This is our chance to demonstrate American judisprudence to the world. But if it looks like something that they associate with their own repressive regiemes (again that secret evidence and coerced testimony) of course people will see and believe that there really isn't any difference between us and the other autocratic countries.

Elevating the Enemy

Aired 9/8/06 Elevating the Enemy

From "Wanted Dead or Alive" to "I don't know and I don't care" to suddenly this century's combination of Hitler and Lenin combined...Osama sure has gone through some transformations in the administration rhetoric. While it is pretty clear that this kind of rhetoric is hoping that a fearfull American citizenry will vote Republican what does this read like in muslim countries? That Osama is on a par with the huge figures on the world stage? That the number one superpower is intensely worried about him? That's a lot of prestige for a guy living in hiding with tribesmen in the Pakistani Badlands. Does the administration even care how much they pump up Osama's respectability among potential future terrorists so long as it brings in enough votes to keep control of Congress?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The New Dominoes

Aired9/4/06 The New Dominoes

With Presidnet Bush outlining the scarry scenarioes of what would happen in Iraq it reminded me of a lot of the old Domino Theory that surrounded much of the reasoning of those who felt that we had to stay in Vietnam: That if vietnam fell one after another other country would follow until it would be just the US alone in the free world. Actually this whole situation sounds more and more like Vietnam every day, including how much President Bush's program of Iraqis 'standing up' sounds like Vietnamization and how the people are not so much losing their nerve to fight communism (terrorists) but that the war is being seen as a distraction and waste.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The New Campaign

Aired 9/1/06 The New Campaign

The Administration launched its new campaign on Iraq with all the focus of a well planned military campaign. Unfortunately it is Campaign 2006. When it comes to the situation on the ground in Iraq that seems just as mired as ever. On the other hand almost all of what the administration says about Iraq seems to be aimed at public opinion only. The details of how our efforts are doing in Iraq itself tend to get brushed over as 'hard work' or other broad generalities.