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White House Correspondents Dinner

Posted on April 30th, 2007 in Politics by Robert Miller

A long time ago I gave up watching, and indeed was repulsed by, the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner, especially with this President. In the past, perhaps long ago,  it seemed as though the natural, healthy state of tension and confrontation between the White House and the press corps was suspended for one evening, but one evening only. Now it seems different as our press corps is in full time sycophantic swing and has become the agreeable mouthpiece for the America that the Bushies have created and that Ronald Reagan started when he was elected in 1980. Money has a lot to do with it. When Reagan became president, he immediately reduced the tax rate from ~75% on the wealthiest Americans to 25% and everyone in the news business, especially those at the top, got a very healthy raise. I remember quickly calculating that Dan Rather got a new “free” Mercedes out of it. When you’re at the top, it pays to be a Republican. I briefly glanced at this year’s event, some of which was televised through C-Span and saw the faces of the press corps expressing sheer delight and reveling in their more stately positions in a more natural corporate climate, a club atmosphere in which they seemed like full members and probably didn’t have to rent tuxedos. Those beat reporters had finally arrived. There was a pathway after all from journalism to high Washington society.  Last year, a magnificent stir of sorts took place when Stephen Colbert gave the after dinner talk and skewered the President and his cronies. Many of the Bush administration attendees walked out on his presentation which became the  top media hit at Apple’s iTunes. The video was available on YouTube for a while but was removed by C-Span and has since been made available from Google Video . Definitely worth a look and if you do, also note how the occasional panorama of the audience reveals a squirming press.  Frank Rich used the 2006 White House Press Corps Dinner and Stephen Colbert’s talk as one of the incendiary devices which helped detonate the 2006 election. This year the White House opted for a more sedate presentation from Rich Little.

Iraq Reconstruction Projects: can we do this right?

Posted on April 29th, 2007 in General by Robert Miller

In parallel to the military operations in Iraq, we are spending $30 billion for reconstruction projects throughout the country to improve the infrastructure. Many view this aspect of our efforts of equal importance to the military operations. Who wouldn’t? We seldom hear about this side of the war effort and, in many cases, the US military or US administrators in Baghdad have criticized press reports for not paying more attention to the good things we have done in improving the infrastructure of the country. As a case in point, late last month Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps, told a press conference that with so much of the reporting related to violence in Iraq “what you don’t see are the successes in the reconstruction program, how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday people.” Indeed these “success” stories have been heavily promoted and praised by the US government, one of which is the “Erbil Maternity and Pediatric Hospital” not just bricks and mortar praises both the new water purification system and the incinerator. The incinerator, the release said, would keep medical waste from entering into the solid waste and water systems.”  Erbil is a city in Northern Iraq.

David Halberstam

Posted on April 28th, 2007 in General by Robert Miller

As you all know David Halberstam , author and journalist, was killed in a car accident just south of San Francisco on his way to interview a famous football player of yesteryear (Y.A. Tittle) for a book he was writing about the 1958 NFL title game between the New York Giants and my beloved Baltimore Colts (when they were still in Baltimore). He was 73 years old and was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. To me, Halberstam was the gold standard of journalistic integrity and, at a time when there seems to be the complete absence of gold in the profession, he stands out even more starkly in contrast to what we see today in a once noble profession. 

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