Archive for March, 2005

Thoughts about the Schiavo Case

Mar 27, 2005 in Current Events

I’m getting tired of hearing about Terri Schiavo. Yet, I can’t stop pondering an opinion about it. Damn media.

Ultimately, this is a personal issue between the family members which just happens to involve the courts. The President, Congress and Florida Gov. Bush have no right to get involved. While the media circus surrounding this case is despicable, what’s even more appalling are the politicians and right-wingers using this situation for political gain.

To those who would argue that Terri Schiavo is an extraordinary case in need of rescue, I say that this sort of thing happens all the time. Families are always having to make decisions on whether to keep permanently hospitalized family members on life support. The only thing that makes this case extraordinary is the feud between Michael Schaivo and Terri’s parents, who have led this contentious case through the court system for the last few years and created a media sensation. (And yes folks, it turns out that the root of this conflict is originally about money, namely a $1 mil malpractice settlement in 1993.)

It’s been revealed that House Majority leader Tom DeLay joined his family in a decision to pull his own father off life support 17 years ago. And George Bush, when he was governor of Texas, signed a bill that allowed the very thing that he and the Republicans are railing against in the Schiavo case. A firm majority of Americans have opposed the government’s intervention in this case, and the right-wingers’ obvious hypocrisy is appalling.

Regardless of one’s personal opinions about whether Terri should be kept alive, the reality is that it is Michael’s decision alone. Years of court decisions have established this. The public and the executive and legislative branches should stay out of it. You wouldn’t want the government and the media invading your privacy if you had to make a similar decision.

Reporting for Big Brother

Mar 14, 2005 in Current Events

This past weekend, the NYT revealed that many federal agencies in the Bush administration regularly produce “informational” PR segments that are often broadcast — in whole or in part — on local and national news programs as hard news. While some segments serve as simply video press releases, others put a glossy spin on controversial programs and proposals, such as Bush’s Social Security plan.

These segments are broadcast without revealing that the government is the source of the report. Through clever editing, news programs often play the hired PR “reporter” off as one of their own. Responses are scripted, and there is no room for dissenting viewpoints. These prepackaged news segments are a longstanding practice in the PR industry, and are a common souce of “b-roll” material that is used for video in news reports.

The federal government is not the only one engaged in this practice. Congressional Democrats in California have recently criticized Gov. Schwarzenegger for doing the same thing for his controversial policies. While the practice was used during the Clinton administration as well, the Bush administration has been making much more use of it: The PR budget during Bush’s first term was nearly double what was spent for PR during Clinton’s second term.

All of this comes on the heels of revelations that the Bush administration paid several syndicated columnists to shill for Bush administration policies on TV talk shows and in print. And let’s not forget “Jeff Gannon,” the reporter for a partisan GOP news website, with no journalistic credentials, who had daily access to the White House for two years.

Is there a trend appearing here? It appears that the Bush administration has been engaging in a concerted effort to produce news coverage that is favorable towards their policies. When the government has to resort to corporate PR methods to gather support for their policies, there is something fishy indeed.

Who is John Frum?

Mar 10, 2005 in Linkage

A recent MeFi post explores the odd story of the South Pacific cargo cults, based in the Melanesian islands near Australia. An amalgam of evangelical messianic Christianity and indigenous beliefs, the cargo cults believe that redemption will come when their “ancestors” show up with loads of material goods, much like the European colonists and American GI’s did.

The cargo cults first appeared with the arrival of white explorers in the 1800s, who gave gifts of Western items to the natives. The arrival of missionaries, colonists, and later, American GI’s further reinforced the islanders’ strange philosophy.

The most famous cargo cult that is still active today is the John Frum cult, located on the island of Tana in the nation of Vanuatu (a notorious offshore banking haven that is also home to Kazaa parent company Sharman Networks). The identity of the real John Frum is unknown, but his legend is inexplicably tied with the arrival of American GI’s during WWII.

The John Frum cultists imitate the actions of the American GI’s, marching with wooden rifles, painting USA on their chests, and even constructing airstrips, planes, control towers, warehouses, wharves and wireless telephones out of straw and wood, figuring that an airplane or ship will eventually land. They have also made religious symbols out of the American flag and the Red Cross symbol.

About a year ago, members of the John Frum cult engaged in a bloody battle with members of a rival cult, led by a man named Prophet Fred. Some more links on cargo cults (a few taken from the above-mentioned post):

FREE ICE CREAM!

Mar 01, 2005 in Current Events

Tomorrow, on March 2, Yahoo is giving all registered users a downloadable coupon for a free scoop of ice cream at Baskin Robbins, in honor of Yahoo’s 10th anniversary. In internet years, ten years is a long time.