MEDIA MASH: Greedy TV, Bad Duyba Karma, FW Weekly Sold

Greedy TV

One big impediment to reforming our corrupt campaign financing system is the fact that the all-powerful broadcast industry gets quite rich from the system just the way it is, thank you very much., a Web site associated with the Alliance for a Better Campaigns, estimates that television stations will rake in close to a billion dollars from political ads this election cycle. That's more money from political ads than fast food ads! Though the cash is spread to stations all around the country, the two biggest money grabbers so far are KABC in Los Angeles with $10 million and WNBC in New York with almost $7 million -- a nice haul for a relatively short political season.

The broadcast industry is especially powerful because it holds the ultimate political ace up its sleeve -- the ability to make candidates look bad, which any TV station can do whenever it wants. Just ask Bob Dole how the networks treated him when, during the '96 presidential campaign, he questioned why the networks should receive a $70 billion giveaway of digital channels, a mainstay of the Clinton-backed Telecommunications Act of 1996.

What happens to the giveaways and ad dollars that flow from Washington to the broadcast industry? Why, some of it flows right back to Washington. According to Chuck Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, the broadcast industry has spent $111.3 million lobbying over the past 4 years, some of it for undermining campaign finance reform.

The Masher thinks San Francisco's Media Alliance has the right idea about all this: let's fight the media industry's self-serving habits. Starting on September 20, Media Alliance and other organizations are coordinating a slew of media activists from around the country to protest the annual meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) radio division in San Francisco. With vigorous street actions, teach-ins and media coverage of their own, the activists will confront the NAB's monopoly practices and its undermining of micro-radio. The Masher says, Right On!

Major League Bad Karma for George W.

None can deny that George W. Bush's karma has gone way South in the last few weeks. His host of missteps include:

- Waffling and nit-picking about the presidential debates

- Exacerbating the speculation that he might suffer from dyslexia by calling his infamous rat televison ads "not subliminable"

- Remarking about the writer who came up with the dyslexia theory, "The woman who knew that I had dyslexia -- I never interviewed her."

- His running-mate Dick Cheney's recent choice to cash in $20 million of Haliburton Oil Co. stock (for which Cheney should get the "Dubya Working Class Hero Award")

- And most critically, calling a New York Times reporter a "major league asshole" in front of a microphone he didn't know was on

As the national press has begun to notice, all these blunders (and many others) are fueling a major league karmic erosion. But the Masher points to a Bush bad karma source neglected by the media -- the failure of major league Texas sports teams.

Texas used to be the epicenter of successful pro sports, led by "America's team," the Dallas Cowboys. But as the football season picks up, the Cowboys are in the semi-doldrums with a 1-2 record and quarterback Troy Aitkin out with his umpteenth concussion. The Houston Oilers, Texas's other football team, flat out left the state a few years back for Tennessee. And the former NBA champion San Antonio Spurs just completed a bad year.

But it's in the arena of major league baseball where Bush suffers the most bad vibes. The Houston Astros are currently 22 games behind in their division, but worse, the Texas Rangers -- the team Bush owned and made his millions on while giving himself one of the highest salaries in the league -- is mired in last place. Bush, you may remember, is the guy who let exciting slugger Sammy Sosa -- the major's current home run leader -- slip away from the Rangers to Chicago.

All in all, it adds up to a major league case of bad karma for Dubya, and perhaps a portent of what may come in November.

War Games

Speaking of the race towards November, one message the GOP campaign keeps trying to push is the deteriorization of US military power during the eight years of Clinton/Gore. Lest one forget, the US spends more money on defense than the combined expenditures of Russia, France, Japan, Germany, China and the United Kingdom. The active US armed forces total 1,437,600. We are, by four times, the largest arms exporter in the world. Clinton has approved a Pentagon increase of $112 billion over six years (the same amount the General Accounting office estimates it would cost to renovate and upgrade our public schools). In other words, Clinton/Gore hasn't exactly sent the troops home. Which might explain why the issue hasn't gained a lot of traction for the Bush ticket.

But you can't say the Republicans aren't trying. One of their campaign themes is to harken back ten years to Operation Desert Storm, the war against Saddam Hussein, the last great moment for the Bush family (and incidentially for Dick Cheney as well, who was Secretary of Defense at the time). Mark Crispin Miller, who's book on propaganda, "MAD Scientists," is due out next year, has written a terrifically revealing piece for Feed magazine about how effective the Bush administration and the military was in their propaganda efforts during the Gulf War. For any Gore supporters feeling confident about Bush's recent dips, remember that propaganda is the Bush family game.

Another One Bites the Dust

The fiesty Fort Worth Weekly was recently purchased by the New Times Company, giving New Times three Texas papers -- Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth -- among it's empire of twelve papers spread over the country. Fort Worth editor John Forsyth, commenting on the sale in the August 17th issue, wrote, "No, there's no word on whether we will now have to produce 10,000-word, meandering, boring cover stories that repeat their points over and over and over."

The Masher wonders just how long Forsyth is going to have his job...

No More Do-It-Yourself Bombs, Damn It

William Powell wrote "The Anarchist Cookbook" in the late '60s when he was 19. Now, as a devoted Christian, father and teacher, he wants his classic book -- which includes recipes for bombs and explosives -- taken out of circulation. But, ironically, Powell doesn't own the copyright.

Thus "The Anarchist Cookbook" enjoys steady sales at, where it ranks #1,572 and 148 Amazon customers have reviewed it. As quoted in a Salon story by Katharine Mieszkowski, Powell said, "The central idea of the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this."

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