Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Editorial: Great News for Darfur - Bush declares situation there "evil," promises action

Hi Newshackers,

I just saw a report on World News Tonight on ABC in which George Bush has declared the situation in Darfur evil. Hallelujah!! This is the best news the oppressed black minority Sudanese in the Darfur region could possibly hear!

Why? Because evil is George Bush's special obsession. Anything he pronounces evil is his personal enemy. This character trait of his has been highly problematical for years now, but this one time there's a real potential for a higher good and a high likelihood that Bush will follow through on this statement. Why? Because he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

America has been pressing Sudan to protect the black minority Sudanese through diplomatic channels, acting in accord with the United Nations. Bush has been silent on Darfur until now. This is an opportunity, however momentary, to deflect criticism about Iraq, JusticeGate, and more. Also, he has nothing to hide or defend against in this situation, except his silence up until now. Serious action on his part can change things for the better in Darfur quickly. This tells me he'll jump on it as a great PR opportunity.

Bush will work to save Darfur hoping to save his legacy. I doubt anything can do that, but for the time being, he'll save many innocent lives trying.

My wife is skeptical that Bush can do anything good, but as we have seen, the law of unintended consequences dogs George Bush and his administration - just like the little storm cloud and lightning bolt that hovered over the head of Joe Btfsplk the Jinx, a character in Lil Abner cartoons.

My 2 cents.

/Dick
newshacker@pia.net

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre: Another Tragedy Fostered by Big Guns (the NRA) and Big Media

Today, I'm writing to express my outrage at the horrendous campus murder spree at Virginia Tech. A recordbreaking and pointless tragedy has occurred because many Americans and American politicians can't tell the difference between hunting rifles and hand-held semi-automatic assault weapons, and because Big Media supports this ignorance by consistently down-playing the terrible effect that the general availibility of such weapons has on our society.

Big Media's intensive coverage of the aftermath of this national tragedy and the stories of personal sacrifice has been excellent in most respects, and for that, I thank them all. Many reports are even asking the almost inevitable question, "Will this be the shocking event that puts serious gun control on the table?" They may even report on polls that show a majority of Americans support gun control.

Then, however, they explain how politically unlikely enacting gun control legislation is. How strong the National Rifle Association's fundraising and voting bloc is, and how, historically, public demand for gun control peters out once any tragedy has passed. So, it seems unlikely the current public outcry for gun control will be sustained.

Some would call this "covering the political realities of the gun control issue." I call it "managing expectations downward," a self-fulfilling prophecy that tells people who want to press for gun control that they are tilting at windmills. By handling stories this way, Big Media are literally doing public relations work for the NRA!

Do you ever wonder why there is very little sustained coverage of how guns impact our society and why there is virtually no public discussion of the 30 plus deaths caused by guns in America daily? Why they seldom cover the efforts of the growing movement of non-profit organizations that are lobbying for change? Why they don't tell us that we lead the world in gun killings by orders of magnitude more than than country number two, and the rest of the developed world views this aspect of our society with alarm. Why? Blame the NRA.

No big news organization, political party, or individual politician wants to attack the NRA's position because the NRA will unleash it's reknowned political pressure machine on them. NRA members will flood their switchboards protesting the "unfair" coverage. NRA leadership will start calling members of the sitting administration, members of Congress, and leaders and board members of other Big Media companies to harangue them. Ad campaigns of the "from my cold, dead hands" variety will start appearing everywhere.

Attempting to hide the fact that they are constantly caving in to NRA pressure tactics, Big Media news operations give us excuses. They say most of these deaths don't get reported because they aren't "good copy." They're just anonymous dead people. Well, I'm convinced that many of these men, women, and children might not have died if guns had not been so readily at hand, and easily available to unstable people and criminals.

I'm not against guns per se. I've handled many weapons and I'm a good shot. Though I haven't hunted in many years, I respect hunting and understand the passing on of traditions. However, there's a vast difference between owning rifles for hunting and allowing large numbers of non-hunters to own high-powered assault weapons and hand guns that are designed specifically and only for killing people. The NRA continues to scream that the loss of the freedom to own any gun will be a catastrophic loss of a basic constitutional right. I can't believe that is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.

I think that many hunters and conservatives can see this is true, but they're afraid to break ranks with their neighbors and buddies at the hunt club, who pay their NRA dues, compare high-powered weaponry, and talk confrontational patriotic bullshit over their beers.

I'm sure there are plenty of reasonable people who say to themselves what most know is true, "Hell. A lever action 30.30 or a 5 shot 30.06 semi-auto is more than enough firepower for hunting, or protecting yourself from, the biggest game in the continental USA."

How do we reach and empower these rational people? How do we convince them that society's need to control the availability of human-killing weapons most appropriate to terrorism or the military is legitimate, and isn't also a backdoor attempt to take away their hunting guns and a traditional way of life they value? I wish I knew the answer to that one.

In sorrow,

/Dick

Friday, April 6, 2007

NewsHacker.net - Fair and balanced or too liberal?

Hi Folks,

I've had a few comments and complaints recently that, although I say I'm for unbiased news coverage, my posts seem to mostly promote liberal viewpoints or opposition to the war in Iraq.

My answer is I am truly pursuing fair and balanced news coverage, media reform, and small "d" democracy. If the liberals had held a strong majority for years and were using big media to oppress conservatives in unconstitutional ways, I would be just as concerned about, and writing about, that. If I have any bias, it is my fundamental suspision of all arbitrary power.

I believe when the American electorate has all the facts, good and bad, they choose wisely. Unfortunately, they seldom learn all the actual positive and negative impacts of most laws or issues until too late. They hear the view Big Media wants them to hear.

The exponential growth of corporate power in the media industires in recent decades has insured that liberal and progressive viewpoints have been marginalized, and are poorly represented in the coverage of the Big Media news outlets. So, occasionally, I point out such under-reported stories here.

I'm sure some conservatives will say this is "liberal media bias." The constant conservative whine about the "liberal media bias" in America is a myth, a big lie. Otherwise, our society would be far more liberal and socialized than it already is. Such people like to pretend that mega-corporations benignly pay billions annually for worldwide news operations to produce unbiased news coverage, and do so out of the goodness of their organizational hearts, and don't use them to promote the views that benefit their own bottom lines. This is extremely naive. Corporations are about power and money. How many socially progressive, charitable, Fortune 100 corporations can you name?

People who get their news only from Big Media news outlets often believe things about an issue that simply aren't true. When you explain that numerous other well-known facts make that thing impossible, they usually end the conversation with, "Well, that's what I've heard." "Where? "On the news." "WHOSE news?" "I dunno. All of them." It wasn't until mid-2005 that polling showed that most Americans (though sadly not all) understood clearly that Saddam Hussein had no part whatsoever in 9/11 and had no weapons of mass destruction, despite these facts having been proved years earlier.

Was this accidental? I think not. Last month, at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, Rupert Murdock publicly admitted that Fox News had purposely attempted to 'gin up" support for the Iraq War during the prelude to the invasion. You can view the video from the link at my posting on this story.

The truth is always best, although it isn't always comfortable.

/Dick

Thursday, April 5, 2007

NewsHacker.net: a canary in the mines.

Hi Newshackers,

I'm posting the anecdote below to communicate that I don't consider conservative Americans enemies in this discussion and I want their input. They're my opponents on some issues, certainly, but as long as they act and communicate in good faith, they're not my enemies.

Like most liberal Americans, I have a number of family members and friends who are conservatives. Occasionally, despite the admonitions of Emily Post, we discuss politics. The conservatives I know personally know the constitutional rights I'm working to preserve, and the reform of regulations controlling Big Media companies that I advocate, protect them, too. I believe there are many other conservatives who understand this, too.

I'm posting a recent conversation with one of those friends below because I'm proud of it, and to help convince potential conservative commentators that I value their ideas too.

/Dick

4/5/07

Jack W., a good friend and former employer called me yesterday. Jack no longer lives nearby, so we don't speak as regularly as we once did, but we're still close. Good friends, despite rather different political views. Jack is a Republican and a former Army officer, and I'm rather progressive. We've had many interesting political discussions over the years because we respect each other, and we both fight fair. No hectoring or appeals to emotion. We explore each other's beliefs. Sometimes, we walk away with things to consider. Others, we wind up agreeing not to agree, but we're clear about where we differ and why, and there's no ill will.

We talked about our mutual friends, etc., for awhile. Then, Jack said he had just read my email announcement from a few weeks ago (he's a busy guy) about the debut of NewsHacker.net, had visited it, and was calling to congratulate me (the following quote is approximate):

"You know I never shared your suspicions about Big Media's motives and bias in their news programming. But, after reading your blog for awhile, I now realize there's a big potential for abuse I never considered before. Now that I think about what the stakes are, I'm really glad to know you are on the lookout. Every society needs its "canaries in the mines," its warning mechanisms to warn it when danger is near. Knowing you are actively pursuing these issues is comforting because, of everyone I know, you pursue your ideas and don't shut up about them. So, I figure I'm safer."

I told him I took this as a real compliment.

/Dick