The Boozy, but not Newsy, Mass Media

by Walter Brasch

The Big Story this past week was the Golden Globes awards.

The Golden Globes, sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and broadcast by NBC, drew 21 million viewers for the three-hour ceremony, preceded by a one-hour Red Carpet gush-fest hosted by “Today” show personalities. There wasn’t one TV or film personality the hosts didn’t fawn over.

Tamron Hall several times excitedly told the viewers that last year she watched the Golden Globes on TV, and now was so thrilled to be on the Red Carpet to interview fellow celebrities.

Hosts praised the gowns of the women; the women returned the compliments to Hall and Savannah Guthrie.

No one said anything about the spiffy tuxes that Matt Lauer or Carson Daly wore. However, more than just a few viewers noted that Lauer began the telecast watching celebrities through a pair of sunglasses. Lauer, who long ago transitioned from journalist to $25 million a year celebrity, justified the Jack Nicholson look by saying the sun was in his eyes. It’s possible the director, producers, lighting technicians, and camera operators couldn’t figure out how to position Lauer and the pulchritudinous multitude without having the sun affect them. It’s also possible that someone from the Honey Boo Boo family will become a five-time “Jeopardy” champion.

To make sure the viewers knew the Golden Globes were not the staid Oscars, the hosts and some of the celebrities referred to the amount of drinking before, during, and after the presentations. There is, apparently, a correlation that the Golden Globes are a looser, much more fun ceremony because the stars can sit at dinner tables and shine all night long. Some of the TV and Golden Globes staff, and probably some of the stars, may have even chosen to get a Colorado high before the ceremony. Cate Blanchett, who won a Golden Globe for “Best Actress in a Drama,” navigated to the stage and declared, to no one’s surprise, “I had a few vodkas under my belt.”  By the time Jacqueline Bisset got to the stage to accept her award, the orchestra had already begun to play the “Your time is up” music. Emma Thompson, seeming to bond with college sorority girls, came onto the stage with her shoes in her right hand and a martini in her left hand. She was there to present the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, proving that actors will always upstage writers.

Boozers Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford stayed in New York, preparing whatever wine or other liquor they would feature in their one-hour “Today” show gab-fest the next day.

The day after the Golden Globe awards, newspapers ran innumerable color pictures of actresses, making sure to identify whose designer gown they were wearing. There is nothing wrong with that. The people in the TV and film industry, whether star or gopher, work hard and are every bit as professional as any doctor, lawyer, or cosmetologist. However, there are questions about the professionalism of the news media.

During the week of the Golden Globes, there actually was some hard news.            Forty-five homes were evacuated in New Brunswick after a 122-car Canadian National train derailed. Seventeen of those cars, carrying propane and crude oil from North Dakota, burned. Only because the wind was blowing away from a populated area was a major disaster averted. It was the sixth major derailment since July of trains carrying the toxic and highly flammable crude oil from the Bakken Shale of North Dakota.

In West Virginia, Freedom Industries spilled almost 8,000 gallons of the chemical Crude MCHM into the Elk River near Charleston. That spill caused more than 1,000 residents to go to emergency rooms for a variety of ailments, including rashes and breathing problems. The 300,000 residents who were affected had to rely upon bottled water for at least a week. The contaminated water, which traveled down the Ohio River, was too toxic even to be boiled, cooled, and then used.

In Chicago, four persons were murdered this past week. In Baltimore, there were 16 murders in the first two weeks of the year. Across the country, more than 200 Americans were murdered last week.

There are several ways to determine news media priorities. You can count column inches or air time; the Globes easily won in that category. You can check placement of a story, whether on a page or in the TV line-up. Chalk another win to the Globes. But there’s also another way to determine what the media think are important. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association handed out more than 1,200 press credentials. This would be probably at least 10 times more media personnel than those who covered the train derailment, the chemical pollution, and America’s preoccupation with guns.

More than 4,000 media credentials were issued in 2005 to the press to cover the celebrity trial of Michael Jackson in ocean-beautiful Santa Barbara, Calif. The International Olympic Committee is issuing 2,800 press credentials for the Sochi winter Olympics; about 6,000 press credentials were issued for the 2012 London summer Olympics.

It’s just a reality of the entertainment-driven news media that thinks it’s being relevant by splashing soft puff and entertainment news all over its good-for-one-week porous sheets of newsprint or the air time it leases from the FCC.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the environmental, health, and economic effects of horizontal fracturing to capture natural gas. The book also includes extensive analysis of the collusion between corporate interests and politicians.]

Olympians Medal in London, While the NRA Meddles in Harrisburg

by WALTER BRASCH

Shortly before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on an amendment last December that would ban pigeon shoots, the Pennsylvania Flyers Association sent out a bulletin it marked as “urgent.”

“We must act now to preserve our sport,” the Flyers screeched. In a separate letter, the Flyers told its members they “should be very proud that your association has been able to keep the sport alive in PA [sic] for the last 27 years.” For added support, the notice referred to an NRA release, which called pigeon shooting a “Pennsylvania Sporting Tradition.”

Shooting live pigeons in a confined area isn’t a sport. Most hunters, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission, say that pigeon shoots aren’t “fair chase hunting.” The International Olympic Committee banned pigeon shoots after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals, and continues to refuse to classify it as a “sport.” At that Olympics, the only time someone could earn a medal for cruelty, 300 birds were killed.

While 11,000 athletes from 205 countries continue to excel at the Olympics in London, 75 pretend hunters and faux sportsmen are at the Wing Pointe club near Hamburg, Pa., this weekend where they are shooting more than 10 times the number of pigeons killed at the 1900 Olympics.

Scared and undernourished, the birds are placed into small traps and then released 30 yards in front of people with shotguns. Most birds are hit as they are launched. Even standing only feet from their kill, the shooters aren’t as good as they think they are. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States.

If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, snip their heads off with shears, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. At Wing Pointe, birds are just thrown into a heap, with wounded birds left to die from suffocation. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The lure of pigeon shoots in addition to what the participants must think is a wanton sense of fulfillment is gambling, illegal under Pennsylvania law but not enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police. At Wing Pointe, each shooter pays a $290 entry fee. According to the rules, each shooter “must play $200.00 anywhere.” Pigeon shooters and the public can gamble more than that, with the club taking a percentage of the “official” bets. A high stakes, invitation-only poker game adds to the opportunity to lose more than a month’s house mortgage.

Wing Pointe earns even more from its pro shop and from shooters and their guests who stay at its luxury suites it claims is “the perfect retreat after you have spent the day enjoying our Sports Shooting playground.”

The failure to ban pigeon shoots leaves Pennsylvania as the only state where pretend hunters, most of them from New Jersey and surrounding states where pigeon shoots are illegal, can openly shoot pigeons which have just been released from the traps. The NRA claims pigeon shoots are legal in 35 states; however, because those states enforce animal cruelty laws, Pennsylvania is one of the only states that has openly held pigeon shoots. Pigeon shoots are held in southeastern Pennsylvania in Berks County at Wing Pointe, after the Strausstown Gun Club and the Pikeville Gun Club discontinued them; in Bucks County at the Philadelphia Gun Club, Bensalem; in Dauphin County at the Erdman Shoot; and in Northumberland County at a relatively unorganized Berm Gun Club, near Dalmatia. The notorious Hegins Pigeon Shoot, in which more than 5,000 birds were killed or injured every Labor Day weekend, was finally cancelled in 1999 after the state Supreme Court ruled that humane society police officers could arrest participants for committing acts of animal cruelty.

District Attorneys John Adams (Berks) and David Heckler (Bucks) have both refused to prosecute persons accused of cruelty by a Humane Society police officer. Johnna Seeton has filed charges of cruelty to animals in both counties and in all cases the DAs withdrew her charges. A mandamus case is pending against Adams to require him to comply with the law; in 2010, Adams took $500 in campaign donations from the NRA Political Victory Fund. An ethics complaint has been filed against Heckler.

Almost every daily newspaper in the state and dozens of organizations, from the Council of Churches to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, oppose this form of animal cruelty. But Pennsylvania legislators refuse to ban pigeon shoots, fearful of losing NRA campaign funds, the coveted A+ rating, and what could be a vicious attack upon their re-election bids. Even a grade of “B” by the NRA causes some legislators to cower in fear.

The unrelenting NRA message irrationally claims that banning pigeon shoots is the first step to banning guns and, thus, destroying the 2nd Amendment. To those scared by fear-mongers in the NRA and the Pennsylvania Flyers, that was bred solely to support pigeon shoots, the Humane Society-which the NRA calls “radical” and “extremist,” and the Flyers calls “animalist zealots”-carefully explains that absolutely nothing in proposed bills or amendments restricts firearms ownership or usage. However, a paranoid NRA leadership claims banning pigeon shoots would be the “slippery slope” to gun restrictions.

The NRA, says Prescott, misrepresents its members, “most of whom do not support or condone pigeon shoots.”

Pennsylvania allows lobbyists to call legislators off the floor to discuss legislation. NRA lobbyists and their PACs have been vigorous in “explaining” the consequences of a legislator who opposes the NRA philosophy-and in backing it up with campaign contributions. During the 2010 election year, the NRA Political Victory Fund donated $4,500 in direct contributions and $389,696.85 in in-kind contributions to Republican Tom Corbett, who would be elected governor.

But the NRA and its allies are now on the defensive, after taking hits by the public for their unyielding stand in support of the right of owning assault weapons with 100-round magazines, for which no hunter or target shooter has any need. Somehow, in a collective mind with scrambled brain cells, the NRA leadership is unable to distinguish between legitimate hunting and animal cruelty.

In Pennsylvania, the NRA is making a stand. Associating with just about the friendliest state for what it claims is “gun rights,” the NRA has dug in; it knows that if the state bans pigeon shoots, NRA influence will diminish. And so, it continues to pump out fear-mongering press releases, lobbies hard, and freely spreads what is known as the “mother’s milk of politics,” all to a group of legislators too afraid to oppose what they think is NRA strength.

This week, we see two conflicting scenes.

There are no cowards in the Olympics.

But there sure are enough in Wing Pointe and the Pennsylvania legislature.

[For the past 25 years, Walter Brasch has been covering pigeon shoots and the campaign to ban them as an inhumane practice. Dr. Brasch was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed social issues novel, Before the First Snow, that discusses animal rights, ant-war, the base for the anti-fracking protests, and other issues.]

           

Romney Lied About Bain Tenure

SEC reports filed by Bain Capital prove Mitt Romney remained as CEO until 2001.  He claims to have left Bain in 1999 and thus cannot be blamed for tthe vulture capitalism exercised by his company after that time.  It is a felony to falsify SEC reports so which is Mitt guilty of:  lying to us or lying to the SEC?

The Boston Globe says he lied to us.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”

As the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has lied repeatedly to voters.  He lies so frequently fact checkers find it difficult to keep up with his prevarications.  Now he has been caught in the biggest lie of all:  when he severed ties to Bain.  As sole stockholder, Chairman of the Board and CEO Mitt was responsible for the hundreds of American jobs Bain shipped overseas or destroyed by wrecking companies for profit.  

He says he’s  a job creator based on his experience at Bain but facts say otherwise making this a key issue.  It is also a key issue because of what this says about his character.  If Romney will lie about this what won’t he lie about?  How can we, as American citizens, believe anything he would say as President?  How would the leader of any other nation?

Romney has refused to release tax returns covering the period and later which would provide voters with a better sense of his financial dealings, possible tax avoidance and complicity in the violations of U.S. laws.  If he insists he left Bain in 1999 then he violated federal laws in all of those SEC filings.  Each one would constitute a felony.

What’s more credible, that Romney would commit felonies by making false reports to the SEC or that candidate Romney would lie to avoid personal responsibility for his actions at the time?

Amaechi Piercing China’s Olympic Censorship

Former Penn State and NBA basketball player John Ameachi is blogging from Beijing on the Olympics.  Interestingly he reports he is unable to post from there to a PSU alumni listserve.  He is writing a blog however and you can find it here.  Amaechi is in China with Amnesty International so it is no surprise some of his internet activity is being censored.

Be sure to visit his photo gallery!