Friday, January 12, 2007

Seattle lawmaker cites war's link to oil greed

A correction is in order: Since writing yesterday that not a single D.C. lawmaker has fingered oil as the Bush Administration's motive for the Iraq war, I've come across an on-line clip of Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, doing just that on the floor of the U.S House. Take a look.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Protest reflections: The war and its lubricant

The candle-light protest/vigil held at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Capitol Highway Thursday evening certainly won't sway the president, but it is part of a national effort that is changing the minds and building the resolve of others.

Particularly hearting was the participation of high school students.

When Ruth Atkins, the protest organizer, invited me to read aloud the name of one of our fallen Oregon soldiers, David Weisenburg of Portland, a sudden grief and a renewed resolve welled up in my voice.

The broad public is finally getting it about this war and this president. The large majority seems set on holding the new Congress, peace's new power player, to the November mandate for change.

What the public still doesn't get—at its peril—is the real, one-word cause of the war: oil.

We need to make the oil connection crystal clear—particularly to this young generation. Today's youth will be living with the consequences the oil cartel's connection to the war and to myriad other Bush disasters. Some of those consequences, like global warming, are major and obvious threats to them (and us) now, but will deepen over their lifetimes.

The war is already taking its toll on their generation.

All the Bush/Cheney justifications for the war—WMDs, Saddam, terrorist links, growing democracy—were bogus. This invasion made no sense—and the continued war makes no sense either—unless you follow the oil pipelines. They lead directly to Big Oil and Bush/Cheney-Halliburton. And now we see the Iraq government fall into line, as reported in the British press.

Significantly the American mainstream press has uttered hardly a word about oil's role in the Iraqi conflict. It is as though the three letters, O-I-L, are a political taboo. Look in vain for the word "oil" in corporate media's voluminous analyses of Bush's speech Wednesday. Indeed, look in vain for any Democratic legislator uttering the word "oil."

It's not enough for the new Democratic congressional majorities to oppose the Bush/Cheney escalation. It's time for Democrats to expose the Big Oil/Bush/Cheney/Republican cabal that has dictated this administration's policies on everything from corporate tax loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy, to uncollected off-shore oil lease revenues to global warming denial and military intervention.

As we protest in the weeks ahead in Hillsdale and thousands of other American communities, we must understand fully what we are protesting.

Labels: , , ,

Civic energy crackles in Hillsdale

For a community that has no formal government, no independent status, no regular funding and no assured support from the city, Hillsdale has a civic agenda that is worthy of any incorporated, self-governing community.

It was all on display last night when 15 of us met as the Hillsdale Alliance, a quarterly check-in on what our Hillsdale organizations are up to.

We represented the neighborhood association, the business community, school administrations and PTAs, high school student groups, the library, the farmers market and others.

The list of activities was staggeringly ambitious.

Students at Wilson are organizing a diversity cultural night for April 21st.

St. Andrews Church, other congregations and Neighborhood House are planning a huge food drive called Southwest Hope.

The neighborhood association is holding planning charrettes to create a civic plaza with solar paneled roofing. And efforts are moving ahead for a new community garden in Stephens Creek Park.

Wilson High School is using volunteers and students to develop a campus master plan.

The Farmers Market will hold a fund-raising Winter Feast on Feb. 18.

Neighborhood House has convened quarterly meetings with Southwest religious leaders.

Efforts are underway to bring a summer concert to the amphi-theatre bowl behind Rieke Elementary School.

Volunteer emergency responders are being trained as Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NETS) to assist if a disaster, such as an earthquake or terrorist attack, strikes.

The Rieke school community continues to bolster enrollment, all in an effort to ward off closure by the school district. School advocates report that their main selling point is the strength of the Hillsdale neighborhood.

Students at Robert Gray are rehearsing for their production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Meanwhile, plans for the school's annual multi-cultural fair (Feb 27th) move forward.

The Hillsdale Alliance itself is working on establishing a Hillsdale Community Foundation that will help pay for future projects. The Alliance also is working on setting up its own news web site.

Volunteer work crews will start clearing out ivy in Himes Park this month.

And lobby groups are inviting City Commissioners on tours here in hopes that the City will help with much of the above...and stop planting utility poles in our sidewalks (yes, it's happening again!)

Not be forgotten, if you have a half hour to spare, leaders have organized a candle-light protest of the escalation of American involvement in Iraq...tonight, 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the corner of Sunset and Capitol Highway.

Where in this famously vibrant city is more happening than in Hillsdale?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Criminals' "media histories" may help explain behavior

In recent years, many pediatricians have started taking “media histories” of their young patients. As part of office checkups, the doctors gather answers to such questions as “How much time do you spend playing computer games or watching TV each day?”

The answers can be telltale signs of vulnerability to attention-deficit disorder, risky behavior, early on-set diabetes and obesity.

Similar “media histories” are needed for criminals whose law-breaking is suspiciously like fantasy behavior encouraged by video games.

Such behavior taken into the real word is both criminal and dangerous.

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin recently wrote that Oregon State troopers in the first six months of 2006 cited 258 drivers for driving at more than 100 miles per hour. The majority were 24 and younger, and 80 percent were males.

The statistics are frightening but not surprising. Many of us are shocked to see such recklessness with increasing frequency on our freeways. What are these young drivers thinking? They aren't thinking at all; I suspect they are playing out their fantasies.

The demographic group reported by the troopers is telling too because it matches a particular cohort, young males, drawn to video games featuring reckless fantasy driving at break-neck speeds.

Media histories of the young violators might reveal the link between fantasies and freeways.

Then there is the matter of high school shooters, a tragic phenomenon that also coincided with the increase in violent video gaming.


Was 18-year-old Douglas Chanthabouly, who shot and killed a classmate in Tacoma last week, a player of “shooter” games?

So far news accounts don’t tell us.

Of course, the vast majority of gamers naturally make the distinction between fantasy violence and real violence and its real consequences. But what about those few who don’t, or can’t? Chanthabouly, who reportedly had a history of mental problems, is exactly the sort of person who could be vulnerable to spending hours assuming the perspective of a killer staring down the barrel of his gun and destroying every living thing.

According the newspaper, witnesses said Chanthabouly pointed a handgun at his victim and shot him in the face. Then he stood over the body and shot him twice more. Any number of video games sold at your local Fred Meyer allow—indeed reward—players to do the same.

As relevant as Chanthobouly’s history of mental illness may be, his media history in combination with his illness could be equally, or more, revealing about his murderous behavior.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

"Video press releases" trash TV news credibility

An addendum to the previous post.

Maybe the new Turnbull Center, devoted to teaching "strategic communication" and training would-be PR flacks, is onto something: PR is the new news.

On today's Oregonian Commentary page is a report about how TV stations (two of them local) are running "video press releases" without revealing that the stories are produced by self-serving, corporate PR practitioners. (Sorry I can't find the link to the Oregonian piece which is on B5 of today's paper, but I have found a version of it at Common Dreams).

The "O" commentary article by Henry Geller and Diane Farsetta lists two Portland stations, KOIN-TV and KPTV, as offenders.

Sadly, the news broadcasters' trade association, citing the First Amendment, says it's perfectly OK to keep the public in the dark about who is producing the "news".

The broadcasters need to be reminded of the quaint concept of credibility.

If the TV news industry pollutes its water, no one will drink it.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Red Electric submissions invited

Call this further adventures on my Cyberian learning curve....

It has taken three months' experience with this site to get me to this point, but I now realize that The Red Electric should be more than a place where I post my thoughts and where you are limited to commenting on them.

The site obviously should be a posting place for you too.

A request from my friend Jim Metcalfe to post an essay he is writing led me to expand my vision for the site.

I believe that broadening the content to include your writings will transform the Red Electric from being "my blog" into being a dynamic, community web site.

Please send submissions to me ( I'll act as editor (More on that later, but, yes, I get to be the "decider.")


U of O's new School for Spinmeisters

A large attention-grabbing ad “dominates” (as they say) page A13 of yesterday’s Oregonian. These things don’t come cheap. Using experience as a guide, I’d put the cost in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, plus a few extra grand for design and production.

The ad features the following: the smiling face of a winsome young female student, the University of Oregon’s “Zero/Zilch” O logo, and a big, white-on-black headline…

“Heard The Latest PR Buzz?”

At the bottom is the baffling “If UOnly knew” tag line, which is, at best, clever typographically.

But it’s the text of the ad and “the product” that is maddening.

The ad’s body breathlessly tells us The UO School of Journalism and Communications is opening the new Turnbull Center in Portland as a “fast track to hands-on experience and a real job in media” for its students.

If only we were talking journalism here.

For years Portland has needed a first-rate journalism program. Sadly the Turnbull Center, named after the late journalism professor George S. Turnbull, isn’t offering it.

The Turnbull Center’s curriculum, with a few exceptions, is counter-journalism. The center, bankrolled by Lorry Lokey, who made millions by starting a public relations wire service, will be devoted to —surprise, surprise— Public Relations.

Trained in the ways of, but not the higher calling of, journalism, effervescent UO students, like the one depicted, will be taught how to be “public faces,” “damage control specialists,” and “spokespersons” for corporate clients. The ad proudly names a few: Nike, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Fleishmman-Hillard.

Missing from the list are any Portland news media organization.

And while not all PR is bad, and some is even helpful to journalists, the curriculum touts the need for “strategic communication.” The ad even announces that the Center is planning a “Masters in Strategic Communication.”

The PR stratagems behind “strategic” are often all too familiar: story spinning, flack-catching, truth twisting, topic changing, media manipulating, best-light casting and question begging.

Meanwhile the State Legislature has convened in Salem to, among other things, bolster higher education in the state. The lawmakers might begin by changing the Turnbull Center's mission to higher pursuits, like good old-fashioned journalistic truth-telling.

P.S. If you want to witness “strategic communication” in action, look no father than the same issue of The Oregonian, page A1. Shades of the film “Thank you for smoking” are the professionally chosen words of R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard. In the story, he defends the test marking in Portland of tobacco packets called SNUS. Highly addictive, they contribute to mouth and throat cancer, and Howard claims, as if it’s OK, that they are “only” targeted to adult users.

Just like Joe Camel, huh, Dave? For more on the SNUS Portland targeting see the Portland Tribune's coverage. The Tribune story brilliantly lays out what we in the media literacy movement call media "deconstruction."

Labels: , , ,