Tuesday, September 27, 2005

F.C.C., Inc.

Today former FEMA director Michael Brown was being questioned by Congress over his role in the disaster response to Hurricane Katrina. However, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell, son of former Sec. of State Colin Powell, deserves some of the blame for the failure of local, state, and federal officials’ ability to communicate during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Powell is a staunch defender of corporate media interests, even if it means harm to public safety. The issue here is that first responders at all levels of government have had great difficulty communicating with each other because each agency uses a different radio frequency or communications standard and have limited spectrum at their disposal. This weakness was especially apparent during 9/11, and was addressed in the 9/11 Commission Report as a major problem that could be corrected with an Interoperable Communications system. Unfortunately, Powell has resisted efforts to create the necessary spectrum for such a public safety system, because it would entail taking back some of the new spectrum provided to the media industry in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Major broadcasters are blocking access to spectrum for first responders across the nation, even though an original provision in the telecomm act promised to give back this spectrum after 2006. Unfortunately thanks to corporate lobbying, an exception for the spectrum release date was later included by Congress in the 1997 budget. This means broadcasters could hold onto the spectrum for decades to come, as testified by Powell himself in 2004 before a Commerce Committee hearing.

This is a travesty and an abuse of responsible public policy. Our tax dollars pay for the very spectrum television broadcasters use for free. Yet all we get in return is substandard public policy information through a watered down, highly commercialized and sensationalized news media. Never mind that subscribers already pay outrageous subscription fees for the excess spectrum not fully utilized by cable and satellite providers.

The idea that public use of this spectrum for emergency purposes is being held hostage by media giants is proof of their total disregard for public safety and a lack of public responsibility on the part of the members of Congress who allow this to continue.

Please read the recent speech delivered by one of the few honorable and dedicated public servants on the floor of the U.S. Senate at the following link:


Monday, September 26, 2005

Corporate Healthcare

On Friday, Bush appointee Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Lester Crawford resigned. Crawford, a former veterinarian, had held the position for a mere 18 months, yet a religious objection to the "morning after" pill and the scandal over Merck's Vioxx became the most noteworthy events of his tenure. Not surprisingly, these two issues can be easily linked to an ideology that favors both corporate self-regulation and blurring the distinction between church and state. Furthermore, Crawford used his position to bolster the Bush re-election campaign's terrorism platform to include an apparent danger of contaminated drug imports, of which there is virtually no evidence. Overall, little concern for genuine public health issues could be found under a corporate controlled FDA. Instead, much like the FCC under Michael Powell concerning media ownership rules, the FDA served as an automatic approval mechanism for the industry.

As most of us concerned citizens are aware, pharmaceutical companies are among the most powerful and influential special interest groups. With their massive contributions to political campaigns, they place incredible pressure on policy makers to pass pro-industry legislation. As a result, higher prescription drug benefits and a ban on foreign imports for cheaper drugs were provisions found in the recently expanded Medicare program. There is no doubt the run-away cost for drugs have become a major concern for American consumers. In addition, the corresponding increase in benefits has been a source of consternation for many fiscal conservatives.

Unfortunately, due to our corrupt political system that allows large corporate giveaways, the public is shut out of the policy making conversation, and is instead left to the special interests controlling the money. For example, Merck gave $450,000 in funds to the Republican Party, which funded Bush's re-election, who then appointed an industry friendly idealogue to head the FDA, who in turn attempted to protect Merck by refusing to remove Vioxx from the market despite the fact that people were dying and numerous studies demonstrated other serious health risks related to the drug. Only public pressure on Congress resulting from bad publicity forced the removal of Vioxx from the market.

This should be sufficient proof that industry or free market self-regulation does not protect the public interest. The drug should never have been put on the market in the first place, because the FDA is suppose to rigorously evaluate possible side effects of any drug seeking approval for public consumption. Instead, the drug received little objective scientific scrutiny before the FDA approved its release, to the peril of public safety. What will protect the consumer from such dangers if the industry itself controls the very agency that is supposed to regulate it? This is a severe conflict of interest prevalent in our government, found not only in the healthcare sector, but across the board, including the media.

Please see the following links for further info:


Lester Crawford Resigns: Can the FDA Recover?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Corporate Security

What is the largest threat to American security? Apparently, our politicians believe its anything that threatens the profits of the largest corporations. Why hasn't the conservative Bush Administration cracked down on illegal aliens and enforcing border security? After all, the post-9/11 Republicans painted themselves as the proper guardians of our ultimate national security via a proactive policy towards terrorism.

The reason Bush has actually proposed amnesty for illegal aliens is because the corporate interests are best served with a cheap, under the table labor force. Since we supposedly have jobs Americans do not want to do, what's the harm? Besides, all of the terrorists are too busy in Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment to worry about crossing our borders illegally, right? With our resources tied up in Iraq, the most recent natural disasters have reinforced the sentiment that our government is ill-prepared for future attacks, especially from within.

Apparently all that corporate influence and deregulation in Washington has failed to improve efficiency in disaster response. With the pro-corporate Patriot Act, government contracts for Halliburton, the outsourcing of nearly half our National Guard forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the bailout of the major airliners, there has been few resources committed for improvement in overall border security. Of course, the only real concerns that have a voice at the appropriations table are corporate related. That means security of the wealthy are of the first and upmost concern to our elected officials. The rest of the population is merely a secondary concern in terms of voters needed to re-elect them.

These issues will bare limited discussion in the media, because the ownership will not allow the exposure of such an obvious anti-democratic system. The more the public is knowledgeable about these issues, the more pressure is put on government officials to regulate the out of control corporate interest. In other words, public awareness is inversely related to corporate influence in government policy making.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Corporate Hype

Everyone knows that the media has a tendency to make a big deal about seemingly minor issues. Take any particular day on a 24-hour news channel and you can observe this phenomenon at its best. Routinely minor events are completely blown out of proportion, especially when there is a slow news day. Something has to fill the network's time, right? Isolated incidents or new disease outbreaks are commonly hyped by the media, and as a result fearmongering coverage infects our consciousness. We are more likely to believe something negative will happen to us or the country in general, regardless of the probability.

A serious consequence of all this hype is "the boy who cried wolf" syndrome. When people hear enough about potential dangers and things that they should fear over and over, they can become desensitized to it. So when a real danger comes along, such as Hurricane Katrina, many will simply ignore the warnings, passing it off as normal media hype. However, if the media were to focus on the truly dangerous, instead of remote possibilities and pure speculation, sensationalism may be reduced and thereby improve the quality of information going out to the general public.

The root of this problem can be traced to the ownership of the media. The corporate imperative is profit, and the road to profits is through ratings. Ratings attract big advertisement dollars. Without sensationalism, promoting one particular program or product over another becomes difficult. This exposes the sameness nature of most media in today's commercialized culture. There is little difference between the "brand" names of a particular product, or genre of a television show, movie, or musical artist. Since little risk is involved in rehashing the tried and true, corporations have little incentive to try something truly unique or different. Taking risks drives up costs and can potentially cut into profits if unsuccessfully undertaken.

In any respect, the goal of the corporate media is to avoid the mundane or boring, no matter if it is important or truly dangerous. For example, establishing a democracy in Iraq is probably more important than Michael Jackson's molestation trial, yet a media circus surrounded the latter and not the former. What other issues do you believe the average American is well informed about? Which issues should they be more informed about? Do those two answers match? If not, we have a problem here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A.D.D., Inc.

One consequence of the current media structure is a noticeable trend towards the lowest common denominator. This usually means concentration on celebrity scandals, entertainment news, and other relatively unimportant issues affecting the average person's everyday life. Also, media consolidation resulting from deregulation has actually produced more indecency complaints filed by the FCC. The most prominent example of this was the infamous Janet Jackson breast-gate incident during the half-time show for the 2003 Super Bowl. A perceived social harm was promoted by the media and a media reform movement of sorts gained popularity for a time.

The irony is if that clip of the exposed breast of Janet Jackson hadn't been repeatedly shown across the nation's television screens, it never would have become a major issue. The nature of sensationalism in the media, however, necessarily promotes such images in order to garner higher ratings. The real underpinnings of all of this, unfortunately, were completely ignored. The media rarely examines its own nature, or ask tough questions regarding internal reform. That is why it must be left to a truly wide and diverse public debate, in some sort of noncommercial and nonprofit format, such as the National Public Radio (NPR) or the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) networks. Unfortunately, the government has failed to provide significant funding for the noncommercial media sector, thanks to corporate pressure.

Perhaps a consequence of increased "lowest common denominator" programming is a collective dwindling of the American attention span. More and more children and adults are being diagnosed with various forms of attention deficit disorder. Could there be a connection with the hyper-commercialized society in which we live? Within the realm of 30 second commercials, half hour sitcoms, one hour "reality" and celebrity obsessed TV shows, and 10 second sound bytes, it’s increasingly difficult to find quality media that discuss serious issues that require actual thought. The media rarely follow-up on important news stories, but instead focus on the latest, sexiest, and most commercially infested topics. The corporate thought process forces a single-minded focus on next quarter's profits, virtually ignoring long term concerns. There is little room for "boring" issue debates that affect the majority of Americans, whether they realize it or not. The prevailing perception promoted by commercial media is that policy making is not important, and does not affect them, so there is no need to concern themselves with those topics. Is there any wonder why voter turn out is so low, and political apathy continues to increase?

Furthermore, the conglomerates who have taken over the media, have systematically bought out local broadcasters and eliminated local programming in favor of programs with more national commercial appeal, which more often than not is racier, and indecent in comparison with local values. This is what concerns many citizens who began to voice them to their representatives en masse in 2003. Unfortunately, most politicians are unresponsive to their constituents concerns when it comes to the media and their corporate cohorts. I guess money talks louder than words. Are our "moral" values being sacrificed for greater commercialism? Maybe one should ask staunch conservatives like Rupert Murdoch and the other media owners who allow this to continue unabated.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Corporate Tax Haven

Now that the rebuilding of New Orleans is inevitable, how will we pay for this monumental undertaking? If history is any indication, then we can expect an increase in the national debt, passing off the costs to future generations. The Bush Administration is currently planning on cutting spending, but their track record leads me to believe it will be insignificant. This current fiscal conservative rhetoric voiced by the President is also centered on a denial of any future tax increases. However, I seem to recall a similar promise made by the elder Bush approximately 15 years ago.

A combination of funding policies could be very effective for both short and long term projects relating to the aftermath of Katrina. Closing the tax loophole for corporations, especially offshore accounts in the Caymen Islands and elsewhere would be a start. If corporations want to be treated like individuals, having been effectively granted personhood by the Supreme Court, then paying taxes becomes a patriotic and legal responsibility. An American citizen is required to pay taxes on their income to the government, and since corporations are granted many of the same protections that a person receives, these entities should also be required to pay American taxes if they make their money here.

The macroeconomic argument is that these taxes would negatively affect the bottom line, therefore placing an unfair burden on employees, reducing stockholder's earnings, and as a result the economy suffers. This would cease to be a viable argument if corporate CEOs and board members were willing to cut back on political contributions, "gifts" to shareholders, their own exorbitant salaries, and other "business expenditures" that qualify for further tax write-offs, while maintaining labor and overhead costs. Of course this would adversely affect politicians' campaign funding, effectively minimizing both corporate and wealthy stockholder's influence over the policy making process. This is obviously a very undesirable option in the politically corrupt climate of Washington and therefore unlikely to produce a responsible long term fiscal policy for funding of current and future disasters, either natural or man-made.

The media is also in dire need of policy reforms. Unfortunately, the status quo of media ownership rights has manifested itself by shutting out public discourse on this topic altogether. The "dumbing down" of the public continues. Welcome to the American corporatocracy.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Corporate Welfare

Should the government bail out bankrupt businesses? Both Republicans and Democrats are willing to subsidize certain industries that are either strong political contributors to their party, or are seen as vital to the American economy. Delta and Northwest Airlines are the latest to receive this so called corporate welfare. However, the results will likely be smaller, slightly more expensive, and less frequent flights in the restructuring after filing Chapter 11. This doesn't appear to help the American consumer, and rarely does.

Libertarians are the most consistent in their opposition to corporate welfare, believing the free market should be allowed to weed out these failing businesses and allow new, more efficient replacements. This would seem to be the best method of dealing with failed businesses, since it routinely happens to smaller companies all the time. The problem is, because of large campaign contributions from these major corporations, politicians are more than happy to fork over subsidies to keep their generous financiers afloat. It is a vicious circle which is almost impossible to penetrate. As a result of corporate welfare policies, it is extremely difficult for new start up companies to enter the market. In fact, it is very comparable to the difficulty challengers face in defeating an incumbent in a political campaign. Is this just a coincidence?

Media policies are just as ripe with this corruption. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, virtually eliminated the rules limiting media ownership by any one company within the industry. The result has been massive consolidation, conglomeration, and a loss of diversity across the media spectrum coupled with an explosion in commercialism and a stifling of new technologies attempting to bypass them. The concept of publicly owned airwaves, bandwidth, and spectrum have virtually disappeared thanks to massive privatization efforts jointly crafted by corrupt policy makers and corporate media lobbyist outside of any public input, interest, or view.

For a more detailed outline and resulting consequences of this policy, see the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Separation of Church and Corporation

Today Judge Karlton, a federal judge for California, ruled that the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional in public schools. An atheist Sacramento lawyer named Michael Newdow brought the case on behalf of students in five school districts, including that of his daughter, whom he does not have legal control over. That technicality regarding his relationship to his daughter resulted in a loss for Newdow in last year'’s Supreme Court case in which he challenged the phrase "“under God" in the pledge. The newest version of the current case is certain to make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal brought by the group Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

In light of this ruling, I will briefly discuss the established precedent known as the "separation of church and state." This is a touchy issue for many. Basically the arguments against it are based on the absence of the specific wording "separation of church and state" in the Constitution or in its amendments. However, proponents point to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as the source for this idea, which bars government from establishing an official state religion. I would agree with the latter. Most social conservatives, however, would argue the former. This is primarily because their political leaders do not believe there should be a separation, often claiming we have a freedom OF religion, not a freedom FROM religion, which is a direct slap in the face to the minority crowd of atheists and agnostics. Although I do agree that we should not give this small minority the ultimate determination of our laws, I must insist that we do live in a Democracy, not a Theocracy like that of the former Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Besides, whose religion are we to promote without this separation?

In this particular case, I don'’t think it's necessary to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from public (government) schools. If you do’ not wish to say the pledge, then don'’t; simple as that, no harm done. Also, in cases involving public displays of traditional religious symbols such as the Ten Commandments in a Court House, I do not see the harm in leaving them there since they have been present for decades and do not influence the views of the Judges working there. However, when it comes to creating actual laws that specifically blur the distinction between a particular religion's law and a state law, I draw the line. In the case of the pledge, the phrase "under God"” can be considered a universal idea, not just confined to one particular religion, or even religion in general. Again, no one is forcing anybody to say it.

How does all this relate to the media? It is a controversial subject, and will no doubt cause strong emotions on both sides. This is what the media thrives on. Raw emotion and controversy combine for increased ratings and hence larger profits. Such an issue is routinely used by the media in the corporate interest, with little or no consideration for an eventual outcome. The indirect results of this sensationalism and concentration on official sources include a divisive, bitter, and skewed outlook on the overall issues involved. The media only takes into account two different view points, namely the conservative and liberal sides while completely ignoring the independent middle ground. This is how almost all controversial issues are treated in the media, creating the appearance of a black and white society where one side is right and the other wrong. There is no room for compromise in this corporate, profit-driven paradigm, at least within the media. After all, moderates are just too boring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Corporate Finance Reform

Senators John McCain (R-Arz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) are widely known as party moderates and the primary leaders in the campaign finance reform efforts. Both sent a letter yesterday to members of Congress opposing a new appropriations bill that would result in unlimited Political Action Committee (PAC) funding of individual campaigns, effectively nullifying the campaign finance reform act which helps curbs political corruption.

Unfortunately, there will always be an effort by members of Congress, and special interests alike to poke holes in campaign finance laws. In particular, corporate media interests have a huge interest in keeping law makers in their pocket in order to ensure favorable policy towards the industry. Basically what is known as deregulation would be heavily pushed into law. This really means free market regulation to protect the corporations' bottom line with little government oversight to protect the public interest. The free market does not encourage enough competition within the media industry, instead fostering consolidation and centralized power structures as indicated by the recent mergers into the current big 5 media conglomerates. Allowing virtually all media content in this country to be controlled by so few 'competitors' essentially extinguishes diversity of opinion and consideration for the public interest of a well informed citizenry.

The following link (http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/industry.asp?txt=B02&cycle=2006) is a list of media related PAC contributions to each party.

As you can see in this chart, a strong majority of their money is going towards the Republican Party. This would seem to conflict with the idea of a liberal media bias, but reinforces the concept of a corporate media bias that heavily favors free market regulation. Taking this into consideration, the figures are not surprising since Republicans are generally fiscally conservative and believe in government deregulation.

However, I would argue for government regulation as being essential in the media sector because of its unique contribution to democracy. Protecting the public interest for access to reliable, insensateness, and diverse information is vital to a viable democratic nation. The free market often causes externalities which are costs passed onto society as a whole, but that do not show up on a corporate balance sheet or affect profit. This is why a government policy that addresses these externalities must be present in order to preserve the integrity and quality of information.

Furthermore, there is a disconnect between what the public wants and what the market delivers. The best example of this is advertising. Not many are happy with the current level of commercialism in our culture or with the materialistic values it promotes. Yet, the public is constantly bombarded with an increasing number of ads across all types of media. So the government has stepped in on a rare occasion (i.e. the National Do Not Call List for telemarketers) thanks to public outcry. More of this regulation is needed to address the hidden social costs, such as materialism, in order to protect our core democratic values.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Supreme Corporation

The Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts began today. I support his nomination as Chief Justice. There is nothing in his records to suggest that he is an extremist ideologue. In fact, some social conservatives are concerned he is not bold enough on abortion, and other such controversial laws.

The role of a justice on the highest court in the land is to simply address constitutional issues brought before it, not to make new laws or undo established precedent. Judicial restraint is a strongly held belief by Mr. Roberts according to his record. However, exactly what cases will come before the court under Roberts and how he handles them are somewhat unpredictable. This has been true for every justice nominee, and often how a particular justice rules has been in conflict with what was expected by the particular president who nominated him or her. That is why a Supreme Court justice receives a lifetime appointment; to be free from political ideological pressures in deciding individual cases.

There is nothing to suggest that John Roberts will not be nominated, no matter how "tough" the questioning is, or how little information Roberts is likely to divulge to the Senate. The Democrats will make it appear as if they are being thorough to ensure their constituents they are not simply going to roll over and play dead for President Bush. The Republicans are sure to make things as comfortable as possible for Mr. Roberts, with few truly challenging questions to provide insight into his views. The so called "litmus test" line of questioning coming from some Democrats will not result in anything more than partisan bickering over the same issues we debate with each other in every day life, and few answers from Mr. Roberts himself. In the end, the confirmation process will just be a steady stream of sound bites in an entertaining format brought to you by your favorite Senators (i.e. Ted Kennedy, Bill Frist) with their corporate lobbyists' advertisement money, and a 98-0 vote for Chief Justice William Rehnquist's successor. Aaah, democracy you can pay for, isn't that sweet?

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Wow, its been 4 years. A lot has happened since. The world has changed, or at least our perspective of it. The inevitable question to ask is, are we more prepared now for possible future attacks? I think the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a disaster on par with the death and destruction of 9/11, has made many of us second guess our government's preparedness claims. Dick Cheney's pre-election suggestion that we would somehow be in more danger if we were to elect Kerry seems to be losing credibility, if it ever had any to start with. Perhaps the real question is, did we really have anything to prepare for in the first place, besides a natural disaster?

Remember the famous phrase, "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself." That seems to have disappeared from our collective consciousness along with the evidence for the official explanation of the WTC collapse, Pentagon damage, and aircraft debris from Flight 93 in PA. This Administration has done a fantastic job of bringing the American people to their knees and begging them to protect us, for vengeance. So we went to war, twice, but with whom and for what? Things get a little hazy for me on these points, what with all those "straight forward" talking points coming from the Administration about the Taliban, Al qaeda, Osama, and Islamic fundamentalism; or was it WMDs, Saddam, free the Iraqis, democratize the Middle East, oil... ooops, strike that last one. What country were those hijackers from again? Which one is the number one supplier of oil to the United States? Are you with us, or against us Saudi Arabia?

Supposedly 19 hijackers, predominantly from everybody's favorite country Saudi Arabia, with a base of operations in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, managed to carry out highly coordinated, trained, and skilled attacks on the lone world superpower with the largest military power, most sophisticated technology and intelligence personnel, armed with nothing more than religious fanaticism and box cutters (according to the official story).

A year and a half later, Iraq becomes the greatest threat to national security, and is invaded on the basis of weapons of mass destruction under control by madman Saddam Hussein. Whoa, wait a minute here, what happened to Osama bin Laden? Has Al qaeda ceased to be a threat? Remember President Bush saying we will hunt down the men who committed the acts of 9/11, and bring them to justice, dead or alive? Had we given up on all hope of ever finding a man in a cave, a criminal mastermind who somehow outsmarted the world's greatest superpower with nothing more than an army of crazed Islamic radicals armed with some mediocre piloting skills (who needs to land) and box cutters (that's not a knife, this is a box cutter)?

I mean, if one man can inspire so many to do so much harm with so little, wouldn't you consider him a major priority? Unless, of course, this man actually had little or nothing to do with carrying out the actual attacks, but was merely a convenient scapegoat. Of course that is just crazy talk for those conspiracy theorists who have nothing better to do than question the government that never ever gets anything wrong, or tell a lie. Its just silly to believe public officials could be so incompetent, or perhaps just simple liars. We elected them to because of their competence and honesty, right?

Who needs evidence anyway. Just go along with the official story, because I am certain the government would never ever mislead anybody or misinterpret evidence when it comes to such an important historical and tragic event. I mean, look at the Warren Commission, now that was a great piece of work! If it wasn't for that doosie, we may never have known who shot JFK! Wasn't Richard Nixon the most honest President we ever had? Or how about that Bill Clinton? Iran-contra you say, never heard of it. Japanese interment camps, what are those? Certainly not in America.

What about those Fortune 500 company stock put options being traded en masse prior to 9/11? This suggests prior knowledge of the attacks, because anyone selling these profited handsomely when shares fell dramatically in price after the attacks. These companies include airliners, insurance, and brokerage firms, all hit especially hard with the collapse of the WTC. A put option basically means that you are betting that stock prices will fall. Is all this just coincidence? Could all of this massive trading been done by terrorist organizations around the world trying to undermine capitalism? There was evidence of similar circumstances with other companies around the world, and suggests this would have had to been planned for years in advance without raising suspicion, a very unlikely scenario. Unless, of course, they had help in high places.

For those of you interested, there is a documentary called Loose Change on 9/11. It raises some very interesting and serious questions, both scientific and speculative, about the official government story on that day's series of events. There are even individuals in the mainstream who take these claims seriously but who have been shut out by the mainstream media, because of the challenge to official sources, a no-no for contemporary professional journalism. Two of these individuals include Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, D-GA. and Morgan Reynolds, Ph.D. and chief economist for the Dept. of Labor at the time of the attacks. Reynolds has a background in Criminal Justice as well as economics, and brings forward some of the same questions that are found in Loose Change. Please read his article at this link: http://lewrockwell.com/reynolds/reynolds12.html

Saturday, September 10, 2005

My Views

This blog is dedicated to informed debate about the current state of our media in the United States of America. I will not pretend to be non-biased, but will keep an open mind to any and all comments you may have.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the News Media has redeemed itself to a degree. The professional journalists who have bravely covered this disaster and who have not been afraid to criticize the slow response of local, state, and federal governments should be applauded. After all, the role of the News Media is to help the weak and hinder the powerful.

FEMA director Michael Brown was removed from his disaster relief duties and sent back to Washington yesterday. This is perhaps the first time the Bush Administration has taken a bold step in the direction of disciplining one of its own. However, Mr. Brown should be removed from his position as the FEMA head. Politics demands accountability to come from the top. His reassignment is simply not enough.The entire organization of FEMA is in dire need of a major overhaul as evidenced by this most recent natural disaster. What if this had been a terrorist attack? Would this response have been acceptable? Would Mr. Brown still be the FEMA director?

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Brown has little experience with disaster relief and he is not alone. Most of his fellow FEMA officials share the same sparse characteristics on their resumes in terms of actual relevant experience. However, having assisted in the President's election sure does help open some doors. Unfortunately, being friendly with the President does not necessarily make you qualified for the job.

This typifies the makeup of our government. If you have connections in Washington, you have your pick of hundreds of government occupations, regardless of actual qualifications. Before you start yelling "Bush basher," this has been true of virtually every other Administration in this nation's history. They all went to the same Ivy League colleges, raised by wealthy and powerful political families, belonged to prestigious clubs, and attended the same parties.All of this can be largely attributed to the rise of corporate politics beginning in the early 20th century. Big business interests have become practically indistinguishable from big government interests. If you don't believe me, learn who are congressmen are. A majority of the Republicans are ex-businessmen with ties to large corporations, and most Democrats have Law degrees. There are a few doctors mixed in.

So the wealthy and powerful control our democracy, what's it to you? Well, public policy has been shaped over time to conform to certain principles. These principles are motivated by profit. The government is now being run like a big business instead of like an institution to serve and protect the best interests of the public good. You might point out that the free market could also serve the public good, we do live in a capitalist democracy after all. However, corrupt policy making bought and sold by corporate interests have made true competition in the open market truly limited and very antidemocratic. This has had a detrimental affect on the public good, and in particular the Media.

I recommend reading "The Problem of the Media," by Robert McChesney. This book goes into detail to explain the history of the U.S. media, and how it has become what it is today.

You see, our news sources have not always been so nonpartisan. Starting with the early years of our history, newspapers would specifically support a particular party or interest group as dictated by that particular paper's owner, usually local. If you didn't like it, there was certain to be other papers near by with another stance. They were all very biased towards a particular brand of politics. In fact, only since the acceleration of corporate takeovers of various media organizations in the last half century has professional journalism took on its current form. Today's journalists are trained to keep their personal views private and to never allow them to affect the content of their reporting. Anyone who has ever taken a journalism or mass communications class understands this. Appearing to be as non-biased as possible generates the most profit for your employer. Lessons: Don't rock the boat, or you might fall in the lake; Minimize risks, maximize profits; Keep your mouth shut about your boss, you keep your job. I think you have the idea.

The problem with all of this is that we are human. It is virtually impossible to keep one's personal views out of sight and out of mind. This is where the popular criticism of liberal bias comes from. If a person senses a news story is trying to convey a particular message, one may conclude that it is a liberal bias. This is because most professional journalists must be college educated to be qualified, and most college professors in this area of study have a reputation of being liberal, particularly on social issues. The impact of this perceived bias on the public is strong, and therefore generates a backlash, or culture war, as we have seen in the most recent elections.

What has been forgotten in all this, thanks in part to the conservative movement is that this apparent liberal bias in the mainstream media is not actually liberal. It is corporate. Do you realize that a vast majority of our newspapers, TV, cable, satellite, movies, books, and music are now owned by 5 major corporations? Everybody has heard of all the mergers over the last decade, most of these being media related firms consolidating. Now common, even previously unrelated media firms have come together to form vast conglomerates.

This has had a dramatic effect on competition. The fewer companies there are to compete, the less risk for the current corporations, and the harder it is for smaller independent startups to enter the market. There are no price wars within this inner circle. The consumers are the big losers in this. You scoff, but have you noticed how much your cable TV bill has gone up in the last decade?

This consolidation trend tends to accelerate in a "free" market, because it forces the others on the outside team up in order to survive, thus meaning fewer and fewer choices for media consumers.Less choice is antidemocratic and anti-free market. You might make the argument that the market will efficiently resolve any problems in the long run without government intervention. However, it is in fact the government which made the policies which directly resulted in the current state of the media markets. As most of us know, our congressmen are bought and sold by special interests, especially that of big business who give millions of dollars in campaign funding for both political parties. The media lobby has successfully pressured Congress into tearing down regulations that limited the number and combinations of media outlets one corporation can own. When you are talking about control of information that is disseminated to the mass majority of the public, centralization presents a huge problem for democracy which relies on an informed citizenry for survival.

So most professional journalists and entertainers may be liberal, but who writes their paychecks? The vast majority of media owners are conservative. If you owned a huge corporation, you would be too. These owners have complete control over what goes out to the public. The little amount of autonomy that they may allow their employees are motivated by the bottom line: PROFIT. If what their 'liberal" employees have something to say that sells, then it will be said. However, if what they have to say goes against the status quo, and risks upsetting advertisers, then it will not be said. If we are all indeed motivated by money, would it not make sense to make your employer happy? Wouldn't you internalize the desires of your employer in order to keep your job, get a raise, or make more money? All journalists are pro market. All entertainers want to make money.

Therefore, how can you argue that the media is liberal? Ask Rupert Murdock of News Corp., owner of FOX, if he has any misgivings about some of the vulgar and illicit programming is put on his TV station or made by his movie production company, 20th Century Fox? After all, this is the same man who owns the Fox News Channel, widely accepted as staunchly conservative, a reactionary answer to the so called "liberal bias." No, these "filthy liberal values" that commonly take the form of sex, violence, and drugs are highly profitable and marketable values. That is what Mr. Murdock, and his other fellow media CEOs value above all else. This is known as the corporate bias.