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Thursday, October 06, 2005

late edition 

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Ahnold Booed

During the seventh inning stretch at last night's
Angels-Yankees playoff game at Angel Stadium, the video board turned to a shot our governor and his wife.

Then it started. A cascade of boos. It got louder. And louder. It went on until the governor was taken off the board.

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Closed Door Sessions

The conservative uprising against President Bush escalated yesterday as Republican activists angry over his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court confronted the president's envoys during a pair of tense closed-door meetings.

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Iraq Slips Away

IRAQ STANDS less than 10 days away from a momentous vote on a new constitution, the first of a series of events that in the next several months will make or break the U.S.-backed attempt to unite the country under a new political system. A successful exit for U.S. troops, or a deepening military quagmire, hangs in the balance. Yet serious discussion of the Iraqi political process in Washington seems to have faded to a whisper. President Bush answered only one question about Iraq during a 55-minute news conference Tuesday; in doing so, he again wrongly described the principal U.S. challenges as defeating Islamic terrorists and training Iraqi forces. Many administration critics, too, largely ignore the issues surrounding the constitutional referendum. Since they insist on portraying Iraq as an irretrievable disaster and a replay of Vietnam, they have little incentive to focus on the actual situation.


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Frist Blocks Torture Bill



WASHINGTON -The Senate's Republican leader on Tuesday derailed a bipartisan effort to set rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other military detention camps by abruptly stopping debate on a $491 billion defense bill.

The unusual move came after senators, including several leading Republicans, beat back an effort by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to block amendments setting standards for military-prisoner interrogations and delaying base closings scheduled for approval later this year. The White House had threatened to veto the defense-spending legislation if it contained either of those provisions.

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Didn’t Count On An Honest Cop


And the more important point is this: We’ll learn that the normal layers of insulation were ignored because the administration, and perhaps the president himself, felt it could get away with ignoring them. Certainly it had no reason at that point to think that the media, which helped it make their phony case for war, would get nosy. It’s equally obvious that it had no reason to fear the feeble Democrats. The one thing the administration didn’t count on was an honest prosecutor who cared more about evidence and the law than about partisanship. That, for this White House, was an inconceivable circumstance.

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A Ghost in the Media Machine

"State-run media" is a phrase normally reserved for regimes such as North Korea that manipulate and censor all public information.

Media in the United States were thought to be immune to such autocratic control, but recent maneuvers by the Bush administration should make Americans wonder how free our press actually is.

Earlier this year, several "journalists" were exposed as propagandists on the White House payroll. We then learned that broadcasters routinely air government-funded video news releases without disclosing their source; the White House has set aside a quarter billion taxpayer dollars to hire public relations firms and infiltrate our news system with fake news.

A handful of media reformers, including my organization Free Press, are leading the campaign to reveal the extent to which government propaganda has violated laws and compromised media newscasts, and press lawmakers and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to prosecute those in the White House that have used tax dollars to spread fake news.

Their actions come none too soon. 2005 has become a banner year for propaganda. In early January, the $240,000 Armstrong Williams took from the Department of Education headlined national news. Covertly paying journalists to flack for government policies is not only outrageous, it's illegal. The Williams case sparked a public outcry, compelling more than 40,000 people to write the FCC and demand that the agency launch a probe. Other journalists have since admitted being on the take.

In March 2005, the New York Times ran a front page article documenting widespread government efforts to create official video news releases that are cloaked as real news and broadcast to millions of unsuspecting Americans. At least 20 federal agencies have used this tactic distributing hundreds of government-produced news segments via local TV outlets.

A Sept. 30 report by the Government Accountability Office found the White House violated federal law by buying favorable news coverage in advance of the 2004 elections. This is the fourth time the GAO has uncovered the White House's illegal use of taxpayer money to produce "covert propaganda."

These violations may just form the tip of the iceberg. The administration has more than doubled its public relations budget, tapping a quarter billion in taxpayer dollars since Bush came into office. And while the report is damning, the GAO doesn't have enforcement powers to reveal the full extent of the abuse.

Some in Washington have taken up the call for further action. But they have yet to raise this issue beyond a probe into a few bad actors -- such as Williams -- to finger the real source of the problem. In April, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the "Truth in Broadcasting Act" that would ensure that all propaganda contains announcements to inform viewers that it is a product of the US Government.

Minority calls for a propaganda probe have sounded a hollow echo through the halls of the Justice Department. Washington remains under the thrall of the majority Republican Party, which would rather ignore this simmering scandal than demand that justice be served. While justice may be blind, presidential appointee Gonzalez is not.

GAO and the Justice Department, the administration's controlling legal authority, have not seen eye to eye on covert propaganda in the past, specifically on the issue of unidentified packaged video news releases. GAO says VNRs are illegal; Justice says the releases are not, so long as they are fact-based. Worseover, Gonzalez's Justice Department appears unwilling to take the next step: a criminal investigation into the administration’s use of millions of taxpayer dollars to push fake news upon Americans.

The official silence speaks volumes. Without popular dissent, an emboldened White House will continue to throw up obstacles to full disclosure. It is now up to the public to do what our elected officials are unwilling or unable to: pressure our government to enforce the law and stop propaganda crimes.

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Comments:
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