Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Priorities, priorities

On Sunday, April 20th, the New York Times ran a 7,600 word story on the Pentagon's systematic effort to promote favorable news coverage of the Iraq war and other Bush administration policies by providing retired "military analysts" with talking points and other government information when they made appearances on the major networks. As if the networks' outright complicity with the Pentagon's propaganda campaign wasn't bad enough, many of these retired generals worked as lobbyists for defense contractors who received or stood to receive millions of dollars in business from the Defense Department.

Today is May 1st. No major news network has broadcast a story explaining its role in the Pentagon propaganda campaign. No major newspaper, including the Washington Post, has offered any visible comment on the scandal. To give you an idea of how strange this news blackout has been, only Howard Kurtz, the Post's media reporter (and one of the most conflicted "journalists" in the mainstream orbit of Washington politics) has written anything remotely critical of the Pentagon-networks-"retired generals" relationship. The Pentagon has shutdown its operation since the Times published the story. How many other people do you think know about this?

* * * * * * * * * *

April was the deadliest month for the United States in Iraq since last September, with 51 servicemen and women killed in action. Is there an end in sight? Any particular reason the major presidential candidates aren't asked about Iraq?

* * * * * * * * * *

To its credit, the Washington Post has a terrific series on its front page this week detailing and explaining the world food crisis, the relationship of farm commodities to energy prices, what our dependence on fossil fuels means for supply and demand, and what this means for domestic gas prices, food costs and feeding a hungry world. A friend of mine, Steve Fleishman, who owns Bethesda Bagels and also wholesales bagels to many other outlets, tried to explain this to me months ago and I must confess I didn't understand it. He's interviewed in the Tuesday installment. This is a very important story, genuinely required reading for everyone, regardless of where you fall in or on the socio-economic matrix. Not so much for the mainstream media, which hasn't found the time or interest to integrate this very significant issue into the presidential campaign.

* * * * * * * * * *

Hillary Clinton and John McCain have gone on record supporting a "federal gas tax holiday" that would suspend the 18.4 cent excise tax on every gallon of gas from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Barack Obama has not. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the suspension will save Americans on the average of $18 per car over the summer.

Supporting the suspension is an act of crass political opportunism. Americans don't want to pay more for gas so they shouldn't. Americans don't want to pay more for food so they shouldn't. Americans should be allowed to drive whatever kind of car they want for as long as they want and not have to pay anymore than they believe they should.

Clinton's position is understandable. She wants to reinforce her new role as battling populist while offering another nod to the all-powerful white working-class. They're pissed about gas prices? So is she. Economics be damned; give them what they want. Classic Clintonian pandering.

McCain's is less understandable. He rejects a government hand in health-care policy, believing that "market solutions" are the best way to expand health coverage and service, yet rejects the market's power to set prices for energy. Is McCain telling us what we really know, that markets are a product of law and regulation, not nature? Forcing suppliers to adjust prices without adjusting demand isn't the market.

Is it?

* * * * * * * * * *

These are just a few of the big stories over the past 10 days or so. We would benefit from a press that raised them and political candidates who would address these issues seriously. But that would mean less time talking about Jeremiah Wright, as opposed to no time talking about Rev. John Hagee, Richard Mellon Scaife or Ed Rendell's old Farrakhan connection. And that is something we cannot do.

Then again, with America's current economic strength and internationally respected approach to military, defense and intelligence policy, the media's need to keep the Wright story going is understandable. Otherwise, they would have to take the campaign seriously on the merits, putting a hole in the high school-level gossip game that passes for Washington political commentary.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

I don't think McCain is being inconsistent at all. He wants the market to set the price, not the government. As a matter of fact, the removal of the tax is the purest way to allow the market to set the price. It is the one, surefire way that removes government influence on the price of gas and lets the market be.