Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Height Of Hypocrisy? Or Maybe Not Yet??

I: Real Fires, Fake News

Al Kamen wrote about Tuesday's phony FEMA press conference in the Washington Post:
FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA
FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.

Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.

He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters.
There's more at the link.

Jordy Yager of the Los Angeles Times continued the story:
FEMA blasted for 'news' conference
No one had any hard questions for the deputy administrator of FEMA, an agency deeply tarnished by its delayed action after Hurricane Katrina, when he held a news conference Tuesday to talk about the California wildfires.

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" someone asked.

Indeed, the deputy administrator was. "I am very happy with FEMA's response so far," responded Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr.

The news conference looked like a success in the Bush administration's effort this week to demonstrate it could respond competently to a disaster.

On Friday, however, the agency admitted that the softball questions were posed by FEMA employees, not reporters.

The White House was not happy with FEMA's response.

"It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House," said Press Secretary Dana Perino, mentioning three times that it was an "error in judgment." "It's not something I would have condoned, and they, I'm sure, will not do it again."
This is funny because stories such as that of Armstrong Williams
Tribune Media Services (TMS) ... terminated its contract with columnist Armstrong Williams, effective immediately. But Williams told E&P that he plans to continue his feature via self-syndication.

TMS' action came after USA Today reported this morning that Williams had accepted $240,000 from the Bush administration to promote the No Child Left Behind education-reform law on his TV and radio shows. E & P subsequently reported that Williams had also written about NCLB in his newspaper column at least four times last year.
turned out unexceptional, and worse practices were quite common.

Sourcewatch: Video news releases
Video news releases or VNRs (also referred to as fake TV news) are segments designed to be indistinguishable from independently-produced news reports that are distributed and promoted to television newsrooms. TV stations incorporate VNRs into their newscasts, rarely alerting viewers to the source of the footage. ... government-funded VNRs have been most controversial ...
and the Bush administration doesn't even repudiate them.

Bush White House defends VNRs
Following a March 2005 New York Times report on the use by government of VNRs, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked at a media briefing whether their use was "legal and legitimate ... without disclaimers that they're government productions, as long as they meet some standard of factual basis?"

"First of all, we're talking about informational news releases. And the Department of Justice has issued an opinion saying that as long as this is factual information about department or agency programs, it is perfectly appropriate. There is a memorandum that we -- or the Department of Justice sent to agencies and departments last week expressing the view of the Justice Department. And the informational news releases that you're referring to are something that had been in use for many years. It goes back to the early '90s, both in the private and public sectors; many federal agencies have used this for quite some time as an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people," he said.

"And my understanding is that when these informational releases are sent out, that it's very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from. So that information, as I understand it, is disclosed. And the Justice Department opinion talks about the importance of making sure that it is factual information and not crossing the line into advocacy," he said.

President George W. Bush was asked at the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention in April 2005 whether the use of VNRs and the funding of Armstrong Williams was deceptive. "Yes, it's deceptive to the American people if it's not disclosed," he said.

After defending the use of VNRs as being legal for government agencies, Bush echoed the PR industry view that the onus for disclosure was on the broadcasters not the producers. "But it's incumbent upon people who use them to say, this news clip was produced by the federal government," he said.

A few days later Bush made it clear that the government had no intention of ensuring each VNR was captioned so that stations had no option but to disclose the origin of video material to viewers. "...Local stations ought to - if there's a deep concern about that, ought to tell their viewers what they're watching," Bush said when asked if the government would ensure all VNR footage was identified.

II: Benazir Bhutto Plays The Blame Game

Bombs went off in Karachi last week, just hours after Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan, during the long slow procession which the government had asked her not to conduct. They offered to fly her across the city from the airport in a helicopter, she declined. They asked her to postpone her return, she insisted. They asked her to observe normal security precautions, such as not disclosing the planned itinerary and moving as fast as possible from one secure location to another. Bhutto ignored all these suggestions.

She settled for an armored truck with a police escort, and stood on the top where there had been a bulletproof shield, which she had removed. After traveling like this for nine hours, she got tired and went inside the armored truck; within minutes two explosions occurred which killed 140 of her supporters and injured another 500.

So Benazir Bhutto claimed to have been the victim of the attack, even though she herself was unharmed.

This is a woman who has just sold out the burgeoning pro-democracy movement in Pakistan in order to prop up a faltering military dictator, in a secret deal brokered by the Americans who have turned Pakistan inside-out by coercing President General Pervez Musharraf to ally himself with the USA in the so-called Global War on Terror -- in other words, against the ISI and the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who were all allies of the US at one point, when the Russians were the problem of the day.

Benazir Bhutto, having aligned herself with President General Musharraf and the Americans in a secret amnesty deal, has done grave damage to the rule of law in her own country and she calls herself and her platform pro-democratic.

In any case, Benazir Bhutto returned to her father's mausoleum for the first time in eight years amid extremely tight security, and declared that the Pakistani government should compensate the victims and accept the blame for the bombing in Karachi last week because it didn't provide enough security. No kidding.

Griffe Witte of the Washington Post:
Bhutto Visits Ancestral Homeland Under Tight Security
Under extraordinarily tight security, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto returned to her ancestral homeland Saturday in her first major move since an assassination attempt against her last week claimed 140 lives.

In a quick and tightly scripted visit, Bhutto paid respects at the tomb of her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and waved to a crowd of thousands that had gathered to mark her homecoming after eight years of exile. But Bhutto did not speak to the assembled mass of flag-waving supporters, and concerns about a possible follow-up attack seemed to dictate every aspect of the trip.

Her convoy, which included vehicles mounted with machine guns, sped along the route from the airport to the tomb in the village of Garhi Khuda Baksh. Only bodyguards and members of the media were allowed near.

Bhutto's vehicle, a white, bullet-proof SUV, was equipped with a hatch in the roof, flanked by two metal slabs. At several points, she emerged to show her face to local backers who worship the Bhutto name with an almost religious fervor.

Once inside the tomb -- a five-domed, white marble giant that is still being built more than a decade after work began -- a solemn-looking Bhutto laid rose petals over the grave of her father, who was hanged in 1979 by Pakistan's then-dictator, Gen. Zia ul-Haq.
AFP via Pakistan's Dawn:
Benazir Bhutto prays at father's grave
Thousands of supporters cheered Benazir Bhutto as she visited her ancestral village amid tight security Saturday.

Benazir travelled to the remote corner of southern Pakistan to offer prayers at her family's mausoleum, which was surrounded by heavily armed guards.

Crowds in the village danced and chanted “Long Live Bhutto” as she arrived in a bullet-proof jeep from the nearby city of Sukkur, where thousands of supporters had showered her with rose petals.

“Good Muslims will never attack a woman. I will reach out to my people everywhere in Pakistan,” she said inside the mausoleum.

Benazir late Saturday urged Musharraf's government to compensate the families of those killed in the blasts.

“The government should give compensation to the victims of the bomb blast. It was the failure of the government,” she told a press conference at her nearby family home.

III: One Good Lie Deserves Another

You may remember the so-called "Colonel Jenny Sparks", who "ran" a pre-emptive and half-baked "investigation" into the so-called Kennebunk Warning "hoax".

The "investigation" protected the people who appeared to be lying, and came to a pointed conclusion when "Jenny" wrote a letter of apology to those "she" had allegedly "investigated", and sent it on behalf of the 9/11 truth movement.

If you were thinking along with me during the post I called "Anyone Who Ever Had A Heart", you'll recall the thought "How presumptuous can you get?".

Guess what? "Jenny's" most recent move is an open letter to Webster Tarpley, dismissing him from any leadership role in the movement, on behalf of the movement itself. Utterly unbelievable.

And by the way I keep putting "Jenny's" name in quotes because I have reason to believe the character who uses the name "Jenny Sparks" is a man whose name is Joe. Joe's a spark-generator, a disruptor, and a very good one; he's offended because Webster Tarpley has been suggesting that Joe is probably working for the intelligence community in one capacity or another. And Joe doesn't like that very much at all, really, not least of all because if he gets outed it might cost him his job.

This utterly absurd state of affairs was compounded when his (or "her") ally in disinformation, Arabesque, presented a heavily very spun version of this internal political squabble at a much larger and extremely inappropriate venue! That's right, the Kennebunkport warning has finally hit the big orange blog, and the big orange bloggers are not impressed.

The first three comments in the thread tell the tale:
Thank you for this, whatever it is.

I can't say I feel informed in any way -- just confused.
I don't speak gibberish.

What exactly is this blog about again?
The "best" diaries are the ones that don't really say anything, but are actually just a series of links. Do the diarists really think anyone is going to click on each link, and back and forth to the original diary, just to make some sense of what they've written? Or, are they so around the bend that they don't even realize that the diary doesn't make sense to anyone who isn't privy to their inner monologue?
Ha ha ha. Here's a "neutral party" trying to stir up controversy amid a crowd that neither knows nor cares on the grounds that Webster Tarpley is "divisive". But who's trying to spread the controversy? And why is some guy named Joe impersonating a guy named Jenny trying to discredit Webster Tarpley? And isn't he or she trying harder to be divisive than anyone else?

Webster Tarpley seems to countenance the idea of directed energy weapons having been used on 9/11, which is one of the things that can get you banned at Truth Action dot org, which is where "Jenny" seems to hang out. So I wonder what's so toxic about that particular subject?

Or did Tarpley do something else to offend Joe -- I mean "Jenny" -- er, I mean the people who pay "Jenny's" er, Joe's rent?