The No News News Media

by Walter Brasch

There was a lot of news this past week.

Some of it was even reported by the news media.

First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily.

Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a 3-speed.

Subway is accused of making foot-long hoagies that are 11 inches, a problem that the executives wisely didn’t say was due to shrinkage in cold weather. The media seized this major fraud and, ignoring anything Congress or Wall Street was doing, slathered layers of hype on a story that should have died with three paragraphs in one day.

Of course, there was the inauguration. That became another way for bloviators and pretend-journalists to push their own agendas. They told us how unpopular this President is-attendance was way down from the first inauguration. Only 500,000 attended.  They didn’t tell us that second inaugurations always have much fewer people watching them in person than first inaugurations. And, that figure of 500,000? A little short of the actual number of one million. They said the inauguration was over-long and overpriced, although most of it was paid for by private donations. Something they didn’t mention was that the costs and day’s activities were about the same as for the previous president, and most presidents of the latter 20th century-Democrat or Republican.

Some of these pundits suggested that the President didn’t have a mandate, although he easily won by more than five million votes, and a near landslide in the Electoral College. A few of the more extreme even suggested he had stolen the election-how else could he have won over the nice businessman who bought and sold companies and helped improve the economy of Switzerland and the Canary Islands?

For the rest of the networks, the focus was on a constant blather of what would Michelle Obama be wearing. Whose dress? Whose gloves? This, of course, was mixed into all kinds of gushes and comments about her new ‘do. You know, the one that had bangs. The day after the inauguration, the media was all over the story of the BeyoncĂ© kerfuffle. Did she or didn’t she lip synch the National Anthem? Truly great news coverage there.

Hillary Clinton testified before the Congressional Inquisition of Televised Republicans trying to make their bones to either enhance their own chances for re-election or to block what they think may be her plan to run for the presidency in 2016. This would be some of the same people who thought she was faking a concussion to avoid testifying in the first place.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, scheduled for Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 2-10 was cancelled this past week. The Expo is the largest in North America, but the organizers decided that in the wake of the Newtown murders, they would put a temporary moratorium on the sale of military-style assault weapons because they believed “the presence of MSRs [military style rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests.” Only a dozen or so of the 1,200 vendors were affected; most were selling clothes, rifles, turkey calls, tents, and anything related to outdoor sports. But, one by one vendors, the media, and dozens of celebrities-all with NRA encouragement and support-decided not to attend, somehow believing that a hunting and fishing exhibition that didn’t allow the purchase of assault weapons was somehow anti-American and gave a message that those who did attend were opposed to the Second Amendment. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the cancellation led to a loss of $43 million in the local economy.

More than 32,000 will die from gun violence by the end of the year, according to the Brady Center. This past week, 78 Americans, including four pre-teens, died from gun violence. And, during this past week, as has been the case for hundreds of previous weeks, the NRA leadership, with the egos of a gang of schoolboys who overdosed on testosterone, continue to defy all attempts to reach sensible solutions to allow the purchase of guns, yet reduce the violence.

A 38-year-old sergeant died from wounds received near Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. had invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, but he became a lower priority less than a year later. The Bush-Cheney administration almost abandoned the war in Afghanistan and turned to Iraq. More than 7,600 American and allied soldiers were killed, and more than 50,000 wounded in both wars. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, ended the war in Iraq and is months from ending the one in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who numerous times promised to reign in the abuse of the filibuster that blocked any meaningful legislation or presidential appointments, turned wimp this past week. He and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once vowed his top priority was solely to prevent Barack Obama from serving a second term, may have been last seen hugging, kissing, and preparing to be married in Massachusetts.

This past week, the stock market hit new records, and it looks President Obama may receive some of the credit for helping to stop the Great Recession, something that upsets Republicans, delights Democrats, and has no meaning to anyone homeless or unemployed.

Yes, there was a lot of news this past week. Some of it may some day actually be reported.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster. It is available from www.greeleyandstone.com at a pre-publication discount.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another Swing and a Miss for Congress

by Walter Brasch

           A federal grand jury last week indicted retired pitcher Roger Clemens on charges he lied to Congress.

           In February 2008, Clemens, a seven time Cy Young winner, voluntarily met with a House committee and testified he didn’t knowingly use steroids or human growth hormones. The only evidence against Clemens appears to be the testimony of his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who claims to have injected Clemens with the drugs about 40 times between 1998 and 2001. Clemens says he was led to believe the injections were Vitamin B-12 and an anesthetic, Lidocaine, both legal under Major League Baseball guidelines. McNamee cut a deal with the Department of Justice to avoid prosecution. Clemens could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

           Probably half the country thinks Clemens took illegal drugs. Probably half the country thinks he didn’t take the drugs and was set up by his trainer. But that’s not the important issue.

           First of all, does anyone know why the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform even held a hearing about steroid usage among baseball players? Was there a dry spell and the Committee couldn’t find anything in the government that needed to be reformed?

           If the committee thought public figures taking illegal drugs was bad, why didn’t it look inside itself first? If it did, there would be a high probability it could easily have found members of Congress and their staffs who also took steroids, snorted coke, or mainlined harder drugs. Stoned and wasted Congressional staffers pose a greater danger to society than any athlete.

           This is the same body of legislators who created the House Unamerican Activities Committee in the early 1950s to strip Americans of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association. It also ordered contempt of Congress charges and perjury against witnesses who told the truth-but not what Congress wanted to hear.

           This is the Congress that in 1994 didn’t ask for convictions for perjury for any of the seven CEOs of major tobacco companies who testified under oath that nicotine wasn’t addictive. But that, and much more, is history. The present 21st century Congress has much more to answer about its actions.

           This is the Congress that ran in fearful circles, put its tail between its legs and in 2001 passed the PATRIOT Act, which stripped Americans of six Constitutional amendments and the constitutional right of habeas corpus. Four years later, Congress reauthorized the Act to prevent several sections from automatically expiring. The terrorists had done their job well-they put so much fear into Americans that the Americans created their own terrorism.

           This is the Congress that failed to question the Bush-Cheney administration’s claims of why it needed to spend about a trillion dollars and invade Iraq.

           This is a Congress that was slow to respond to well-documented evidence that the U.S. was committing torture-and which, against the professional advice of the CIA and FBI, housed large numbers of elected legislators who saw nothing wrong with torturing those who may or may not have been terrorists, the election year “buzzword.”

           This is a Congress that had provided negligent oversight of companies that provided billions of dollars worth of service in the war zone-and fraudulently overbilled the taxpayers.

           This is the same Congress that allowed the banking and investment industries to make billions by scamming Americans, gave multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses to its senior management, and helped bring about the greatest recession since the 1920s.

           This is the Congress that by negligence allowed lax oversight of environmental regulations.

           This is the same Congress that was blind to the Bush-Cheney administration’s failure to properly regulate the oil industry, and probably should be considered to be an unindicted co-conspirator in the BP oil spill.

           This is the same Congress that has allowed a Republican minority to become the street bully and block needed legislation, including legislation to assist small business. But because of a weak Democratic response and archaic procedures, the entire Congress must suffer a black eye.

           This is the same Congress that did pass health reform, but allowed itself to be sunk by the fear of a Republican filibuster that what was passed was a watered-down version of what was necessary.

           There are so much more important issues than investigating steroid usage among millionaire athletes that it is easy to believe that Congress muffed its responsibility to the American people by its righteous political gesturing to make voters believe their elected officials actually cared about health.

           If Congress is so upset that others lied to them and the American people, maybe it could ask the FBI to investigate and the Department of Justice to bring indictments against not only some of its own members but also some members of the Bush-Cheney administration.