Adam Ash

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Monday, March 13, 2006

US Diary: eight big stories you're not being told

Eight Easy Pieces: News You May Have Missed if You Rely on the Deficit Disorder Mainstream Media (ADD MSM) -- by John Atcheson

Over the past few months, the press has given scant attention to eight stories – each of more moment and greater import to the nation than the Lewinsky affair – that should have headlined the newspapers and broadcast news for weeks if not months.

But true to their form for the last five years, the so-called "liberal media" have been reporting the news with all the due diligence of a six-year old with attention deficit disorder hyped up on a triple-shot espresso of Starbuck’s finest high-test.

Odd, how they stuck with that Lewinsky thing – a private affair with no public consequence – for three years, with almost daily headlines, but haven’t been able to hang in there for even three days on lies and incompetence that directly effects us all in the most profound manner.

Oh well, that’s "the liberal press" for you.

Let’s list the headlines you may not have seen, or the follow up stories that weren’t written by our Attention Deficit Disorder Mainstream Media (ADD MSM):

ABA says warrantless wiretapping is illegal: The press reported the legal aspects of the President’s wiretapping program as if it were a complex legal issue subject to debate. According to the non-partisan American Bar Association – the largest and one of the most prestigious legal organizations in the country, the Constitutional and legal restrictions against warrantless wiretapping are clear and unambiguous, as is the case law. The ABA issued a consensus opinion stating that the Bush administration was breaking the law, period. For some reason, the press simply ignored the statement of the nation’s preeminent legal organization, while giving great weight to the opinion of one John Yoo, a White House lawyer. And why not? What’s at stake here is just the integrity of our Constitutional form of government. Besides, now it’s too late to dig much deeper because .... zingggggg. Dick shot a Whittington and Karl says we’re in danger ... say, got another shot of that coffee? Did someone say orange alert ...

911 Commission gives administration failing grades: In December, the 911 Commission issued a scathing report on the administration’s homeland security efforts. The Report included 5 F’s, 12 D’s and two incompletes, and one A minus. The story garnered front page coverage for a day or two with a few papers, a spot on the evening news, and a mention on a few of the talk shows and then promptly disappeared ... because ... zinggggg, Christmas was under assault ... Call me crazy, but I’d of thought the fact that our Ports were wide open, loose nukes were still readily available, and a couple of million tons of commercial cargo gets stuffed with nary a glance into the bellies of the same planes I have to get frisked to board is worth more than a couple of day’s press.

Just two months later, when the Dubai port debacle surfaced, the press mentioned in passing that less than six per cent of the fifty thousand some-odd containers entering our country gets inspected. But for the most part, they focused on the politics of Dubai and then ... zinnnnnggg .... whoops, deal’s gone; grab a cup o’ joe and move on ... nothing to see here ... at least until someone explodes a loose nuke in one of our port cities ... that might rise to the Lewinsky-level and warrant a few follow up stories. Hell, might even be a few calls for accountability.

GAO: Administration’s "covert propaganda" program is illegal: The Government Accounting Office has issued four separate reports – most recently in February 2006, detailing how the Administration has spent at least $1.6 billion of taxpayer’s money on what amounts to an illegal state-run propaganda campaign. Unfortunately, the latest and most comprehensive report was released during quail hunting season. Too bad. It’s part of a much bigger story: An administration that has constructed a sophisticated Soviet-style propaganda machine that has spewed out more lies and deceptions than any other modern Presidency.

Other administrations created spins based on some tenuous relationship to the truth. This administration has completely severed the link and created instead, a taxpayer-supported infrastructure for telling lies. Nothing like stains on an interns dress, of course. Just lies that led to thousands dead, hundred’s of billions wasted, the loss of allies and prestige, and the possible destruction of the US military. But wait ... ziinnnggg, How about those Oscars? And isn’t the President giving another speech in New Orleans? New Orleans? Hey, how about Mardi Gras? Gotta go. Gimmee another triple latte ...

Ex-CIA Intelligence Officer in charge of Iraqi intelligence says Bush cooked the books: Paul Pillar, CIA Officer for Near East and Asian intelligence from 2000 to 2005, recently confirmed that the Bush administration cherry picked and intentionally misrepresented raw data to justify their invasion of Iraq.

Old news? Perhaps. But Pillar also revealed that the administration was warned that invading Iraq could destabilize it, and make that previously stable country a haven for terrorists. In BushWorld – and in much of the MSM – bad intelligence led to bad decisions. In reality, Bush ignored good intelligence and made bad decisions.

Seems like additional proof of both the lies and the mistakes would be sufficient to finally warrant a few weeks headlines and a Congressional investigation or two. Maybe even a few impeachment hearings. OK, it’s not fellatio with an intern, but this stuff probably affects the state of the Republic a good deal more than Monica.

It’s not like there’s any lack of evidence. For more than three years now, people have been doing everything but screaming into the face of the java-jangled ADD press that the administration was lying. Not left wing-crazies, but serious, non-partisan public service type folks like Paul O’Niel, Richard Clarke, Paul Wilkerson, Michael Scheuer, Joe Wilson, Paul Pillar etc. etc.

Surely, MSM, it’s time to connect the dots. It’s time to get right up in Senator Pat Robert’s face and say, "How bout it, Bub? How about those hearings on the administration’s misuse of intelligence you promised Senator Reid you’d hold when he invoked Rule 21 and threatened to force the Senate into closed session?" What’s that MSM? You’ve forgotten that promise? But it only happened four months ago, and it only addresses the question of whether the administration lied to get us into war. Of course, it didn’t involve an intern, but ...

But perhaps, MSM, you’re so hopped up on java juice and so ADD’d out that you think each of these revelations is a new and discreet fact, unrelated to the previous ones. So jangled out that you just can’t see the mounting pile of elephant excrement collecting in the middle of our collective national living room. It’s gotta be coming from somewhere, you say, but then ... zzzzinnngg.

There’s flag burning, and gay marriage, and brokeback non-controversies and all manner of important stuff, and if they (Scotty and his White House friends) talk about it, you in the ADD MSM have just gotta cover it because it’s so ... so ... Today, and that other stuff is so ... Yesterday. After all, who decides what’s news? Journalists, or the administration’s press flacks? Hey, by the way are we back down to yellow? Whatever happened to all those colors after the election, anyway? Is there a story in that? Didn’t Tom Ridge admit he had no clue as to why some of them were being called? Oh, well. Mega-Mocha to go, please.

Downing Street Memos, part two: In late February, Phillipe Sands reported that in January of 2003, Bush told Blair that the invasion of Iraq was going to happen in March regardless to how the diplomatic effort turned out. At the time, Bush was assuring the American people and Congress that every effort was being made to avoid war.

It gets worse. According to Sands, Bush even considered painting UN insignias on US U-2 spy planes and flying them over Iraqi anti-aircraft installations in order to fabricate a casus-belli. A new level of depravity, certainly, but to the ADD MSM, hardly worth a mention, just like the original Downing Street memos.

$7-9 billion giveaway to the oil industry-- and more: For reasons not entirely clear, the oil industry was not paying royalties due the US government on several oil and gas leases on publically owned lands. This amounted to a windfall for oil companies of between $7 billion to $9 dollars at a time when oil prices are hovering at or near $60 a barrel. The original waiver from royalties was granted when oil was selling for $10 a barrel, in order to stimulate exploration. The Bush administration’s response to the discovery that the waiver was still being applied? It’s Clinton’s fault.

While this appeared briefly in the ADD MSM, there’s been no followup, and of course, Bush’s oil patch buddies are still reaping the benefits.

Meanwhile, an empty phrase and an emptier goal in the State of the Union Address about being addicted to Mideast oil (which was repudiated by several administration representatives the very next day) was given great weight and extensive coverage. And then there was the inconvenient, but barely covered fact that the Nation’s National Renewable Energy Lab had to hastily find enough money to hire back employees they’d just let go due to budget cuts so the President wouldn’t be embarrassed when he gave a speech about how committed he is to renewable energy. One can almost hear the ADD MSM: "There’s a story here somewhere, I jus’ know it ... if I could just concentrate for a minute or two."

Fire sale of pristine lands to help balance a budget gutted by tax cuts for the rich: Bush’s 2007 budget calls for selling off as much as 800,000 acres – 300,000 from the Forest Service, and 500,000 from the Bureau of Land Management – in order to raise about $1 billion for the treasury. While the story got a bit of play for a day or two, the ADD MSM moved quickly on. After all, how important is the wholesale reversal of more than a century’s commitment to conserving pristine lands?

Here again, the ADD MSM acts as if this story played out in a vacuum. But it’s only a small part of a much larger story the ADD MSM isn’t connecting the dots on – the complete sellout of our environment and our natural heritage.

For example, in May of 2005, Bush eliminated federal protections for 58.5 million acres of roadless wilderness. Not surprising when you consider he put a lumber company lobbyist in charge of the Forest Service’s operations. And the evisceration of EPA and our environmental laws proceeds with almost weekly below-the-radar assaults on science, law and enforcement. Care for some PCBs with that cappaccino? A dollop of Mercury, perhaps? Could someone turn down the thermostat? Seems unnaturally warm in here.

"Hard Choices": The ADD MSM overwhelmingly bought the story line being pedaled by the Congressional and administration servants of the K Street consortium that the $39.5 billion in cuts to the social safety net, health care, veterans benefits and educational programs being imposed on the poor and middle class were "hard choices" dictated by the need to be fiscally responsible.

Now, swallowing this bit of legerdemain must have taken jumbo jug of truly triple fine extra caffeinated megaccino. Because the administration and Congress discussed these programmatic cuts within a week of proposing to cut income taxes ($107 billion), inheritance taxes ($60 billion), and cuts in taxes on dividends and capital gains ($24 billion). The richest of the rich get most of these cuts, and the rest of us get chump change, and we’ll spend all that change and more making up for the benefit cuts.

Oh, yes. The agony of tough choices. Let’s see, tuition assistance for the poor and middle class, or ...a few less millions for Paris Hilton’s inheritance? Oh the exquisite pain of it all. What if she and a few thousand more like her were forced to downsize their yachts by a few feet? Aaarggghh. No wonder the Republican’s moral sensibilities are all aflutter.

It’s a tough choice, but certainly it’s worth cutting education opportunities for several million kids, and making millions of families go into medical hock to avoid something as horrible as ... smaller yachts or down-sized McMansions?

Now a few oped writers noted the connection between tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the rest of us, but for the most part, the ADD MSM dutifully reported the budget cuts (complete with Republican crocodile tears) ... then zinnnnggg ... pop .... whirrrrr ... gulp .... the very next week reported the tax cuts as if there were no link between a nearly $200 billion giveaway – mostly to the ultra-wealthy – and a $40 billion dollar cut in the budget that leaves children without medical coverage.

Here again, it must be said, this issue in no way compares with the Lewinsky scandal.

The rest of the news: Bush’s popularity is plummeting of course, and that’s because the subtext of his administration – war under false pretenses, administrative incompetence, and a society of, by, and for the privileged at the expense of the rest of us -- is just too obvious for even the ADD MSM to miss entirely.

But one has to wonder what the political landscape of this country would look like if the ADD MSM were even half as diligent in reporting and following up on this administration’s myriad of malfeasances as they were with Clinton’s single transgression. It is likely that the population would be massing around the capitol with pitchforks and torches, demanding action. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Perhaps if the Dems weren’t so lame, that’s exactly what would be happening. Figuratively speaking, of course.

(John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk journals. Email to:


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