BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003


Let me apologize in advance for using USA Today, the nation’s most popular adult coloring book, as a source of “information” for this blog. I’m not sure who’s in charge over there, but USA today has been printing “information” lately.

Go figure. Hopefully, heads will roll as soon as the “powers at be” return from vacation.

Here we go:

“Poll: 70% say things going well in Iraq”


By Richard Benedetto, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Most Americans still say things are going reasonably well for the United States in Iraq, despite reports of continued civil disorder there, escalating attacks on American troops and failure to find weapons of mass destruction, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.

“Overall, 70% say things in Iraq are going very or moderately well, down from 85% in late April, shortly after the major fighting ended.”

“The findings suggest that the public is less concerned about the messiness of the Iraq situation than many critics of the Bush administration, including Democratic presidential candidates, who charge that President Bush misled the nation about the severity of the Iraqi threat and failed to adequately plan for the war's aftermath.”

"Despite the media coverage of the chaos in Iraq, the public is saying, 'The war is over. We won. We knew that it was going to be messy after the fighting ended. We don't necessarily want to know about it,' says Andrew Smith, a University of New Hampshire pollster.”

“Indeed, much of the news coverage over the weekend, while the poll was being taken, focused on continued violence in Iraq and the administration's failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction. At least 10 American service members were killed in ambushes or accidents in the past week.”

Regardless, the poll sketched out a portrait of a public still unwilling to get exercised over the issue. Overall:

• 56% say the Bush administration has a clear plan for improving conditions in Iraq; 41% say it does not.

(Wait. The Bush Administration has a clear plan…or Bechtel?)

• 56% say the war in Iraq would be justified even if weapons of mass destruction were not found; 41% say it would not.

(The same percentage of folks who’ve used Rick Flair’s “figure four leg-lock” on their fraternity brothers.)

• 31% say Bush deliberately misled the American public about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction; 67% say he did not.

(There is growing evidence that the intelligence books were cooked in order to dupe the Wal-Martians into supporting the “war.” That story is sticking in the UK; we’ll see if it sticks here.)

“Those who side with the critics tend to be mostly Democrats and people who opposed the war before it began.”


“The poll of 1,019 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, has an error margin of +/-3.”


First question: Where did the pollsters find these particular 1,019 adults? Outside Sean Hannity’s recent “Freedom Concert” (starring Charlie Daniels and Darrell Worley) at Six Flags over New Jersey?

70%. Goddamn.

Well, Christ, is it any wonder? Most Americans have no idea what’s going on in Iraq because they “get their news” through a complex system of osmosis that includes;

What they hear in the car between Britney & Justin songs
What they see and hear during “American Idol” commercial breaks
What they hear at work
And what they read while they’re in line at Safeway

And since the Bushies took the WH, those sights and sounds have been dipped in some serious jingoism.

As I’ve said many times, most people do not have the time to find the “real news.” The “real news” is not as sexy as “J.Lo and Ben in Big Trouble; Story at 10.” It’s dry and boring and hard to fit between two slices of Wonderbread. Plus, most people are more concerned with things like:

Will I be able to pay rent next week
Do I smell bad
Why isn’t he/she sleeping with me

People are far too distracted to find the real news, and (it’s my opinion that) the “machine” relies on this fact to do what it wants to do. If folks had the time to look past the bright and shiny headlines, they’d find out that Iraq is a fucking mess and that our soldiers are getting shot at on a daily basis. More importantly, they might demand to know “why.”

It doesn’t take much effort. Let’s take a quick spin through today’s stories. Quickly…from Reuters:

“Leave Iraq, Tribesmen and Sacked Troops Tell U.S.”

By Andrew Marshall

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thousands of sacked Iraqi soldiers threatened Monday to launch suicide attacks against U.S. troops as leaders of the country's squabbling tribes told the Americans they could face war if they did not leave soon.

"The entire Iraqi people is a time bomb that will blow up in the Americans' face if they don't end their occupation. We refuse to deal with the occupation," tribal leader Riyadh al- Asadi told Reuters after meeting a senior U.S. official for talks on the future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein.

"All of us will become suicide bombers," said Khairi Jassim, a former warrant officer. "I will turn my six daughters into bombs to kill the Americans."

(If you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with six Iraqi women strapped with explosives, you should know that it sucks. Again, chaos. Then this from today’s New York Times:)

“Some Back Home Wonder, 'Why Are People Dying?'

“Even as Americans viewed the conflict with Iraq as mostly over and the nation's attention turned elsewhere, the Department of Defense reported the deaths of about 40 service members in the past six weeks.”

"We won the war, so why are people dying?" asked Fran Stall, whose companion is the father of Sgt. Troy David Jenkins, who died on April 24. "I don't understand why this keeps happening. We have guys getting killed every day."

“They have been killed in a string of sudden attacks — assaults that have grown far more common in the past week and have begun raising questions among some families about whether there are enough United States forces in Iraq to handle mounting resistance. Soldiers have been shot at as they stood guard at vehicle checkpoints. They have been ambushed as they traveled along roads in convoys.”

“More of the service members have died in accidents than in attacks. A tank plunged from a riverbank. A gun went off as a soldier cleaned it. A Humvee hit a parked trailer. A helicopter crashed. A transport truck rolled over. A rocket-propelled grenade launcher, the one Mr. Arnold was near, malfunctioned.”

(What’s up with all these “accidents?” Makes me wonder if the “helicopter crashed” because the pilot came under sniper-fire. Or if he was trying to avoid six Iraqi women strapped with explosives. Capice? Read on.)

“Ex-Army boss: Pentagon won't admit reality in Iraq”

By Dave Moniz, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The former civilian head of the Army said Monday it is time for the Pentagon to admit that the military is in for a long occupation of Iraq that will require a major commitment of American troops.

“Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials "are unwilling to come to grips" with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq. The Pentagon has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and recently announced that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's stay there has been extended indefinitely.”

(Quickly – you might remember that T. White worked for Enron before landing the Army gig with Rummy. There was a firestorm around White a number of months ago – people covering the Enron scandal wondered what the Army Secretary knew about Enron scandal – but White survived the “investigation.” As did Ken Lay. Back to the article.)

"This is not what they were selling (before the war)," White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."

“The interview was White's first since leaving the Pentagon in May after a series of public feuds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led to his firing.”

“Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz criticized the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki told Congress in February that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark."

“Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki.”

(And then Rummy and Wolfie kicked T. White to the curb. Dude made it through the Enron scandal, but could not escape the wrath of the top two neocons in the Bush Administration. Cool.)

And now…I have a headache.

Maybe that’s why “most folk” spend their time worrying about Ben & J.Lo.

More later.

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Monday, June 02, 2003


Well, the FCC vote went down this morning.

What does this ruling mean? Simply put, from the simple pages of the USA Today (not from the “Think & Do” pages, but from the part with the articles), Michael Powell has decided to:

• Let companies (like News Corp, Disney, et al) own more TV stations nationwide and in a city.

• Allow ownership of a newspaper and TV stations in the same market.

• Relax limits on how many radio and TV stations a company can own in a market.

“So what?”

“Who cares?”

“What does that mean to me?”

Consolidation of content? The death of the independent media? Another important step toward the complete Wal-Martization of America?

Don’t know, but here’s one example of what might happen, from today’s NY Times:

“When viewers in Flint, Mich., tuned in to the Fox 66 ‘News at 10’ last Thursday night, the station's resident firebrand, Mark Hyman, was at the ready to serve up some passionate punditry.”

"Black, Asian and Hispanic seniors are graduating from colleges this spring in ethnically themed ceremonies that are out of bounds for whites," Mr. Hyman, the station's commentator, inveighed. Before passing the camera's attention back to his colleagues on the Flint news team, he added, "Segregated ceremonies have no place in America's college campuses."

(There’s a quasi-racist, anti-minority agenda with Hyman’s editorial, but then again, he is speaking to a “19th Century Fox audience,” ie an audience filled with lots of angry white guys. I digress; back to the article.)

“If Mr. Hyman's tan looked out of place in central Michigan, or if his commentary seemed ill suited to a city with a large population of minority groups, there was good reason. Mr. Hyman was actually in a studio just outside Baltimore, not sharing a set with the Flint news team. As he does most nights, Mr. Hyman also addressed audiences of local news programs in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Rochester, from right where he sat in Hunt Valley, Md.”

“The experiment began in late October at Sinclair's Flint station, WSMH, a Fox affiliate. WSMH's new 10 p.m. newscast begins with a Flint-based team that presents seven minutes of local news. After a commercial break, an anchor on a similar set in Maryland presents national and international news, which is also delivered live to other Sinclair stations around the country with a graphic that labels it ‘News Central.’ At another point, the Flint-based anchor may banter about the frigid local weather with one of the meteorologists in the Maryland studio who will act as if he were in Flint. On Friday, Scott Padgett, a Sinclair anchor in Baltimore, said there would be a high of ‘57 for us here in Flint."

You see, it’s cheaper for the big company to produce one “local newscast” and swap it out to local stations around the country. The local affiliate can produce it’s own mini-segment and insert it into the broadcast to make it “look like” the whole newscast is “local.” The upside; everyone saves $. The downside; the parent company controls the flow of information to the smaller community.

Clear Channel does the same thing with its radio stations around the country. Listening to a KISS FM station in Salt Lake? Sorry, but that pleasant, non-threatening female voice you’re hearing between Britney and Justin songs is coming from a studio in Burbank.

“But, the KISS FM office is right around the corner from the Tabernacle.”

Trust me; there are two people in that office (to make sure that the broadcast is working locally) and that pleasant, non-threatening female voice is coming from a little room on Hollywood Way. Not far from the Burbank Airport. And, you can “hear” that same pleasant, non-threatening female voice in Denver, Albuquerque, Indianapolis, and, oh, about 62 other American cities.

As far as I’m concerned, the FCC should protect OUR interests. What those “interests are”…well, that’s an incredibly divisive debate. Having said that…

Did Clear Channel have our best interests at heart when it began to homogenize the radio stations it purchased (by the truckloads) after the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Fuck no. Their only interest after deregulation was “profit margin.”

Will Rupert have our best interests at heart when he goes on his next shopping spree? Gee, I wonder. Guaranteed, if you live in a market dominated by News Corp, the only “news” you’ll ever see or hear will be limited to junk like, “What Laci Peterson’s baby would’ve looked like, news at 10” or “Why you suck if you don’t have the new Nokia cell phone” or “Kelly Clarkson wows troops in Tehran; “She’s the Bomb,” cry victorious US soldiers.”

To me, brain cancer.

One of the basic tenets of liberalism is this: left unchecked, the mechanisms of the “free market” will be hijacked by PIRATES. No one wants to admit it, but “capitalism” creates a lot of great opportunities men who have the tools to manipulate the system. Regulation is a “supposed” to be a tool to fend off manipulation. Most of the time, the free market system works perfectly. But sometimes, the system is hijacked, and the little guy (the consumer or the small business owner) takes it right in the face.

That’s what I’m worried about.

Read Ted Turner’s comments from this morning’s USA Today.

(“Dude, what up? That’s the your second USA today reference.”
What can I say; they decided to print information this morning.)

"There is no company out there — not Viacom, News Corp. (which owns Fox) or Disney, the big television powers — that really has the public interest primarily at heart," he says. "They have their own selfish financial interest at heart, and they would do just about anything for a buck. I hate to say that, but it's true."

Yes, Ted is bitter because he’s been put out to pasture, but his comments are still “interesting.” We’ll just have to wait and see what the big television powers do with this new ruling.

I have separate thoughts on the issues related to network television production, and will formulate them at a later date.

I’m no media expert, but I play one in real life. And I just can’t help but feel that THIS is what Michael Powell was “hired” to do.

Side note - don’t be fooled by the internet argument, either. It’s virtually impossible for the average Joe to find “independent thought” on the web unless he knows exactly how to find it. Again, from Hindman and Cukier’s editorial in today’s NY Times: “Relying on links and search engines, most people are directed to a few very successful sites; the rest remain invisible to the majority of users. The result is that there's an even greater media concentration online than in the offline world.”

And guess who owns the most powerful search engines?

Stay tuned.