The executive, Michael Pack, controlled a $70 million production budget and was described by the official who hired him as a conservative Republican. He chose to resign after Patricia S. Harrison, the corporation's new president, forced him to decide between renewing his employment contract and exercising a soon-to-expire option that gives him $500,000 to produce a documentary.
The above is from Stephen Labaton and Elizabeth Jensen's "Official Resigns Public TV Post" in this morning's New York Times about the latest problems for CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and you might think that's the part of the story that gets developed. It doesn't. Instead we've got a lot of whispers that, at best, revolve around When Conservatives Eat Their Own. In the meantime, Pack's sweetheart deal is ignored. Let's be clear here, for public television, $500,000 in financing for a documentary is a huge amount. There are numerous documentarians from all over the political spectrum who will never see that sort of a budget. From "public" television or elsewhere.
Now this is the same "genius" who made Hollywood vs. Religion (missed it? You didn't miss anything), what we're dealing with is a "producer" who can't produce. What we're dealing with is someone getting to sweeten his own pockets at the public's expense. You might think that would be the story, but it's not. (Maybe that's due to the fact that, as the article notes, the New York Times also has a deal with PBS?)
You might also be interested in noting that Pack's filmography, with one exception, has been shown repeatedly on PBS. (All the usual right wing trash you can expect from someone who's spent his life on the government payroll. That's right, kiddies, the ones usually in the "big government is bad!" crowd would be nowhere if they weren't able to depend upon tax payer dollars.) The Times isn't interested in listing Pack's filmography (such as it is, he really only has one credit to his name). They're also not too keen on telling you what his role at the CPB was. (Thanks to ___ for calling this morning on that.) They refer to him as "the top television executive at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting." His actual title was "senior vice president of television programming."
It's nice of us, in the role of tax payers, to set Pack up with a sweetheart deal that in the corporate world of film studios, he'd probably first have to leave in order to secure ("to pursue other projects and spend more time with his family" as the p.r. release would note when he was fired). A half a million dollars is a lot of money for the man famous for his "talking heads" documentary. (Talking heads refers to static, pedistrian visuals that focus on . . . talking heads. They're cheap to make and look cheap. You just film people talking.)
So take some time to pat yourselves on the back today. You may not have realized it when you woke up, but you've financed a half a million dollar film deal . . . for someone who doesn't believe in "big government" (but is happy to suspend disbelief in order to swipe the money). You are in the motion picture industry today. Think of yourselves as a United Artists executive and Pack as the Michael Cimino. You've just been played, but you'll have a wonderful story to dine out on for the next few years.
We're goint to take a pass on the Patriot Act this morning due to the fact that it's the main topic in the gina & krista round-robin which should be inboxes as I write this. (Resources, editorials and more. Gina and Krista have done their usual outstanding job.)
We'll instead note Dallas' highlight, Maureen Farrell's "Top 10 'Conspiracy Theories' about George W. Bush, Part 2" (BuzzFlash):
5. The Bush Administration Manipulated the Media to Disseminate Propaganda
"Much of the problem is the media itself, which serves as a disinformation agency for the Bush administration. Fox 'News' and right-wing talk radio are the worst, but with propagandistic outlets setting the standard for truth and patriotism, all of the media is affected to some degree. " -- Former Wall Street Journal and National Review assistant editor Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 30, 2006
"There is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. You never even get that idea floated in the mainstream media. If you bring it up, they hate the messenger." -- Janeane Garofalo, the Washington Post, Jan.27, 2003 (two months before the war in Iraq began)
Given that the Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration violated the law by engaging in "covert propaganda" within the U.S., the notion that the Bush White House manipulated the media is not even a conspiracy theory any more -- it's a conspiracy fact. In case you were out of the loop, the story went something like this: The Bush administration produced phony stories hyping everything from Medicare to federal student loan programs, which ran on American TV disguised as "news." It then turned around and paid columnist and frequent TV talk show guest Armstrong Williams $241,000 to promote its No Child Left Behind legislation. "This happens all the time," Armstrong told the Nation's David Corn, adding that "there are others." Though columnists Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus were also on the White House payroll, speculation regarding "the others" ran rampant following one news conference, when Jeff Gannon, of Talon News and GOPUSA, asked President Bush how he could deal with Senate Democrats "who seem to have divorced themselves from reality." Bloggers immediately smelled a rat and within a month, the mainstream media also began to question how Gannon, a gay escort, was given clearance to attend White House briefings -- even before he was a reporter. "Planting or even just sanctioning a political operative in the WH press room is a dangerous precedent," CBS reported, pointing to Karl Rove, The who seemed to have Gannon's egg on his face.
To be fair, there is a time-honored tradition of government and media war-time collaboration. Whether reporting on the Maine or the Lusitania or the USS Maddox, the press has historically done what was needed to help the war effort. During the first Gulf War, Americans were treated to Propaganda Plus, when a PR firm was hired to sell the war to both the Senate and the public. The PR campaign, we later learned, actually continued throughout the 1990s, with the government covertly working to sell regime change in Iraq. The Weekly Standard did its part, devoting an entire special edition devoted to taking out Saddam in 1995. As Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post revealed in Jan. 2003, "the Dec. 1 issue of the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, headlined its cover with a bold directive: Saddam Must Go: A How-to Guide. Two of the articles were written by current administration officials, including the lead one, by Zalmay M. Khalilzad, now special White House envoy to the Iraqi opposition, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, now deputy defense secretary."
By the time Andrew Card explained why the Bush administration waited until Sept. 2002 to "market" the impending war in Iraq, American TV complied, coming up with powerful soundtracks and visuals that read "Showdown With Saddam" and "Countdown to Iraq" while making it appear as if an actual debate were taking place. When Phil Donahue tried to present the "other side," however, his show was cancelled, despite having MSNBC's highest primetime ratings. His crime? According to a study commissioned by NBC, Donahue seemed "to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives" as the competition was "waving the flag at every opportunity."
Other networks also felt the pinch, with CNN's Christine Amanpour saying that intimidation "by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News" led to "a climate of fear and self-censorship" and the unquestioning propagation of "disinformation." Those who raised questions were often smeared or worse, as Scott Ritter and Valerie Plame would later learn. "As soon as I came out against Bush, that's when my rights to free speech were taken away. It had nothing to do with indecency," Howard Stern said on his radio broadcast on March 19, 2004. "I have two sources inside the FCC. They know exactly what is going on. They had a meeting two weeks ago, freaking out. I seem to be making enough noise that people are realizing we could hurt George W. Bush in the elections. So they are trying to figure out at what point do they fine me."
(We linked to part one, "Top 10 'Conspiracy Theories' about George W. Bush, Part !" , on Tuesday.)
And we'll close with Tiffany's highlight, Amitabh Pal's "Pentagon budget ensures global domination" (Amitabh Pal's Weekly Column, The Progressive):
The Pentagon's hunger for money seems to be insatiable. The Bush Administration has requested a whopping $439.3 billion to feed its appetite the next fiscal year, an increase of seven percent.
This is just the regular military budget. There will be an estimated $50 billion in supplemental spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. And then there’s the money proposed to be spent on nuclear weapons, $16 billion, which is separately tallied in the Department of Energy budget. This brings the total to at least $506 billion or so, provided the "supplemental" demand does not reach higher.
What is the reason for this unrestrained expenditure? To maintain U.S. global supremacy in the years to come. Don’t take my word for it. Read the primary military strategy document of the Bush Administration, made public in September 2002. "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries for pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling the power of the United States," states the National Security Strategy. No wonder The Washington Post said that the doctrine "gives the United States a nearly messianic role."
It is determined to play this role, which provides an easy cover for advancing U.S. corporate interests.
Ava note: Mary Mapes, Murray Waas on Democracy Now! today.
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