Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A better day in NOLA

A better day in NOLA

Most probably wouldn’t know it, but the tide literally turns in New Orleans tonight.  Much like a neophyte driver, the media tends to over correct as it swerves through a story, too optimistic, too pessimistic, too understated and too much hyperbole.

Remember as Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans? “Category 5, the worst nightmare of the century,” became “New Orleans survived a scare with just a minor brush up as the storm missed,” which became “the worst natural disaster in recorded history of our country.”

No doubt it is bad. But the flow of water through the breaches in the levies has either stopped or reversed.  The water stops rising, and it seems as I circulate between CNN, FOX and other news networks, that organization is beginning to develop.  Buses are hauling the weary and bedraggled to shelters in Houston, Baton Rouge and other places where there will be medical attention, electricity, air conditioning, fresh water and working plumbing.

The painful decision of complete evacuation has been made, and though it will take time to implement, the decision itself is a solid sign of progress. Looting will subside, and security will be restored.  

Further east on the gulf coast, the heavy equipment is already moving debris.  Chain saws will be buzzing, and the residents will reclaim their community.

Sometimes it is easier to break the really hard projects into a series of smaller tasks which you dispatch one at a time.  It is the only way you can see the progress. For NOLA the next few years will be a very hard project.

Like a gawker at a car wreck, I can’t pull myself from the television, even though I actually have work to do.  There’s an irony that I, and just about everyone else in the world knows more about what is happening in NOLA right now, than those still sitting in the muck just trying to survive.

One certain way to ensure that the progress can continue is to contribute to that effort, through one of many organizations that are valiantly putting the pieces back together:

Red Cross

Salvation Army

Soldier's Angels

Operation Blessing

FEMA list of Charitable Organizations

Read more!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

One question answered!

Sometimes all you have to do is ask!

When it comes to New Orleans and my last post, ESPN at least answered one of my questions!

Read more!

Stunned in the Big Easy

Stunned in the Big Easy

I’ve been riveted to the television as Katrina rolled through the gulf coast, including New Orleans. I have a special interest, being a resident of New Orleans who survived Camille’s blast in 1969.

The drama that unfolded Monday made everything else unimportant. Cindy Sheehan, Al Sharpton, Al Sharpton’s 110 mile an hour cruise to the airport … nothing spurred my interest in posting.

But today’s discussion of complete shutdown of New Orleans, evacuation, and the likelihood of having no electricity or water for two months brought home the consequences of Katrina.

What do you have – when it comes to business – in a town where no people live? What does this mean for the Times Picayune? A newspaper with no readers, and subscribers spread all over the map. The same is true for radio stations, gasoline stations, restaurants, and FOOTBALL Teams.

Where will the Saints go? Who will watch them play?

What happens to a city that is uninhabitable for months? Will the school kids come back in six months? Where will parents be working? Will New Orleans be reborn out of the stinking muck that will remain as the water recedes?

Too many questions and no easy answers. It would be simplistic to pronounce faith in the indominatable spirit of man. But there are realities to be faced. No basic services. No jobs. Few lives can be put on hold for two or three months, without suffering significant change.

It is a drama we will watch for months. And the answers won’t be clear for much longer than that.

And for once, I have nothing but praise for the news coverage. This is a moment for reporting, and an opportunity for journalism. The story is there to be told, if they would only take time to tell us the story – rather than mugging for the camera.

Read more!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hurricanes and the Media

Why Hurricanes are such media events

Reporting careers are made with good hurricane reporting.  Ratings grow as Hurricanes roll.  And the media can’t help but convert to wall-to-wall coverage every time one starts to develop in our hemisphere.  Why?

Try to think of any other disaster that gives you two or three days notice.  Wouldn’t the press be camped out, if they knew when the next earthquake or tornado was going to strike.  For that matter, if they had a heads up on a plane crash wouldn’t they be at the airport waiting?  (Actually, some media were on hand for a crash in Sioux City Iowa in 1989, after hearing about an aircraft in trouble)

A hurricane is unique in the world of disasters.  There are warnings.  There is a time line, and there is every opportunity for the media to send a brigade of reporters into the strike zone.  And there they wait for the opportunity to stand in gusting winds and driving rain to tell us – don’t do this at home.

We literally have news reporters, and anchors, like Fox’s Shepard Smith going New Orleans where they admonish all to leave the city before the next great disaster of this century.  It just seems odd that they are the ones checking into their hotels, as they tell everyone else to leave.

Who am I to grouse?  I was once a reporter.  And YES, given the chance, I’d be doing the same.

As it stands, the nation will watch as New Orleans, Biloxi and the rest of the central gulf coast is hammered by one of nature’s most relentless disasters.  And it will be great TV for those of us who don’t live there.

Read more!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Orleans in the sights of Katrina

New Orleans in the Sights of Katrina

Camille.  I haven’t heard or thought about that Hurricane in years.  Yet it still sticks with me. A memory that is hard to forget even though it has been 36 years.

I lived in New Orleans (Gretna, actually), when that category 5 monster rolled out of the Gulf of Mexico.  Barely missed us, and ripped into Biloxi and Gulfport.  But If I had known then what I know now, we certainly would NOT have attempted to ride the storm out.

There is a point in the approach of a hurricane when you must simply live with your decision to stay.  At that crucial point, you can no longer do anything but sit and wait. It is a helpless feeling. One I will never forget.

When the wind howls and the rain pounds, there is little you can do. When timbers begin to crack, and glass begins to rattle, you simply move to a sturdier part of the house (if there is one).

Back in 1969 it seemed simple.  I didn’t really understand the power of a hurricane. I saw that later when we went over to Biloxi and Gulfport a month later.  Even then, the power Camille was evident in the damage.  It was simply astounding.

Had Camille not turned away suddenly, I am certain that we would not have survived.  It is only after a near death experience, do you realize how close you had really been to the end.  

Technology is better today, in terms of forecasting and tracking the storms. Our understanding of these disasters is better.  But are people making any better decisions?

For me, the morning after Camille was a bright sunny day with only minor inconvenience.  Just a few miles further east, 143 lives were lost.  Life and death decisions are already being made, while the Katrina is still many miles out to sea.

Read more!

Money in Politics

Money in Politics

Barely a week into my first blog, I’ve created a new parallel blog which is solely focused on Politics and Money.  I have a lot of experience with money and politics at the highest levels.  

Frankly, I thought that I would be using this blog for a rather detailed discussion of that issue, but as I got into the blogging, I realized how the topic could be lost in other discussions I was engaging.  

I also got another kick in the ass about writing on the Money and Politics issue when I saw yet another national political writer, delving into the issues associated with the various political money tools.  The article focused on tribal gaming, lobbyists and political contributions, but frankly didn’t do a very good job of exploring how and why the various money sources were used.

I’ve come to the conclusion that reporters don’t really understand the money and politics thing, or they don’t care to tell the truth about it.  Those who really understand this issue, generally have no incentive to publicly discuss it.  And those who publicly discuss politics and money don’t seem to “get it,” or are affiliated with a partisan issue and don’t really want to expose all they know.

I’ve been there. It isn’t pretty. And I’d like to illuminate the issue completely.  Neither Democrats or Republicans will be happy about all that I have to say, but I hope my readers will be able to look at who is funding whom, and who is receiving money from whom, and get a better understanding of why issues are moving in a particular way.

In politics – it is all about the money.

Read more!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Who is calling the shots for Cindy?

Who is calling the shots for Cindy???

In an earlier post (the media are like cattle) I asked the question as to whether Cindy Sheehan was the instigator of Camp Casey or whether someone like was behind the media machine.

Comes news out of San Francisco exploring the PR machine behind Cindy Sheehan and SURPRISE! The people running the show are familiar. According to coverage by the ABC 7 affiliate in San Francisco:
“Organizers are set up in a house trailer. Their meetings are closed to reporters.
Leading the group is Fenton Communications employee Michele Mulkey, based in San Francisco. Fenton specializes in public relations for liberal non-profits.
Their bills are being paid by True Majority, a non-profit set up by Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame.
Cohen's liberal group has teamed up with Berkeley-based, an anti-Bush group co-founded by Joan Blades.
Earlier this month, helped organize anti-war vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan. Current Democratic National Party chair Howard Dean's organization, Democracy for America, is also involved. As is the more radical anti-war group Code Pink, organized by San Francisco's Medea Benjamin.
Money donated through these groups and others is helping to pay for Gold Star families whose children have been killed in Iraq to attend anti-Bush protests. “

I’m still convinced that Cindy’s trek to Crawford was planned and organized by these groups, hence made for television coverage news, not the spontaneous event that it has been portrayed.
Probably more significant about these connections than who is paying is the question of who is profiting? 527 political organizations are self-fulfilling spin machines, who use their own publicity to raise more money. Who pays them? Clearly Billionaires like Soros, but also individuals across the nation who have no Idea they are dumping their own hard earned cash into organizations controlled by PR companies, advertising agencies, and political hacks. McCain-Feingold created these disconnected unaccountable organizations to reform politics, but what we got was 24/7/365 political spin organizations without any accountability.

Read more!

CNN is Hurricane Headquarters!

CNN is Hurricane Headquarters?

I wonder how this will affect “The Situation Room?” Katrina is gathering strength again in the Gulf of Mexico and barreling toward the panhandle of Florida. And, there’s a possibility that once it makes landfall, she could continue north and roll through Atlanta. Is this why the promotion people at CNN have rolled out the snazzy new graphic declaring CNN as Hurricane Headquarters?

There’s still time to build a new special set on the park outside CNN Headquarters for “The Situation Room.” It might be possible to put Wolf Blitzer “in a real situation” in the open air.

I wonder if CNN should expand its coverage of the Hurricane to treat this impending crisis more like the Cindy Sheehan story or the Iraq war? Why simply talk to experts like the Hurricane Center? That stuff is just too – “factual.” When you have noted experts like Begala, Carville, and Novak available to opine on absolutely any issue of the day, why not give viewers more to think about.

Imagine Carville explaining the Bush administration’s role in global warming, and how that is the reason that Florida has been hit yet again. Of course the other expert, Novak explaining earnestly the nation’s moral decline and laying the cause on punishment for eight years of debauchery during the Clinton administration. The argument – point counter point – could help Wolf organize his thoughts for presentation of the latest CNN poll on where Katrina will hit – and whether it will affect the Republicans in the 2006 election.

Who needs the Hurricane center at all?

Except maybe those who lie in the path of our latest disaster. I guess a factual presentation without opinion and partisan spin might well be a good idea for Hurricane coverage. Of course if it is, why wouldn’t it be good coverage of a war?

Read more!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cindy Sheehan or Katrina?

Cindy Sheehan or Katrina (the Hurricane), which is bigger news?

I thought it was no contest. Hurricanes are always big news. First for reporters who flock to the strike zone to expand and enhance their reporting resume. Second for editors and producers who need good video, lots of action, and an opportunity for the news desk anchor to intone in ominous words about the serious nature of the threat.

Hurricanes are such good TV. But right there amidst the best of TV is the Sheehan story again. What is new? Nothing. What is moving on this “breaking story?” Nothing. All that has really changed is that Cindy has received a new script, and she’s got a plan for milking another three weeks of publicity and fund raising opportunities for the vultures who have seized this tragedy for their own political needs. Joe Wilson “defending” Cindy yesterday. Who could be next? Try Al Sharpton, who’s going to Camp Casey for an “ecumenical” program on Sunday.

And yet again, we see “political operatives” both Republican and Democrat featured in excruciating discussion about Cindy’s political impact. I think it is a bad sign when there are more “political operatives” being interviewed on news networks than actual newsmakers.

Note to news editors and producers: When Al Sharpton shows up at any event, including a hurricane, the event is no longer news worthy in any way.

It’s time to go to play by play of the color radar again.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Media are like cattle

The Media are like cattle – It doesn’t take brilliance to start a stampede!

Is it me? Or do some of these major news crises seem contrived – even organized? Of course Cindy Sheehan comes to mind immediately.  I’m trying to figure out if Cindy Sheehan was first – or was the first player in this Crawford Texas soap opera.

I see that Joe Wilson is clawing his way back into the spotlight, now using Sheehan to attack Bush.  Hmmm…. Isn’t involved in the Valerie Plame – Carl Rove issue too?

Stuff like this can’t be coincidence.  I’m not a big conspiracy theory fan, and I don’t exactly see it as a conspiracy.  It’s more like a cattle stampede.

It doesn’t take any brilliance at all to get cattle running in a herd.  A bolt of lightning, a firecracker --- even a rock can set them off.  With the Sheehan story flowing fast and furious through all of the media (media like cattle aren’t particularly bright in picking their direction of stampeding) seems more like a “made for television news” event. A grieving mom in Crawford, candlelight vigils in San Francisco and Joe Wilson wailing at the publicity wall in her defense.

527’s like aren’t the most credible of organizations.  They raise unrestricted funding through uncontrolled sources – and aren’t particularly accountable to anyone.  Who takes the blame if they do something unethical – or untruthful? They – by law – aren’t controlled by a political party or a candidate for office. Which means to me that the political hacks that are running the organization year round are free to simply find—or create new causes for their own fund raising and political benefit.

A little media stampede can’t help but raise a nice piece of change for the next political battle?

Read more!

The Rail

The Rail

I’m not exactly the techno type.  Those who know me would be surprised that I am “blogging.”  But you can only shout your opinions at the television for so long before you decide it is a wasted effort unless SOMEONE at least has a chance to peruse your thoughts.  So here I am.

I’ll surely be topical in this effort. And I choose to keep my identity closely held for the freedom it provides me to express my opinions freely.  You’ll see mostly political discussion, with a focus on the conservative realm – because it is a place in which I am intimately familiar.  Not that all conservatives will like what I write.

I’ve titled this blog “the rail” after a spot you’ll find in many Capitol buildings around the country.  In the rotunda of the building on one or more floors, you’ll find a brass rail that circles the open air space.  This brass rail is a gathering place. A spot where deals are cut, and deals are broken.  Where even the most rabid ideologue becomes an instant pragmatist. Politicians meet lobbyists, and politicians meet other politicians.  They meet in the open, but the rail is a place where the most confidential discussions can happen.  It is a place where the real political truth’s are told, while in the same breath the most outrageous political lies can be spread.

Read more!