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11/21/2003 Archived Entry: "CNN's lowballing"

If you have several minutes -- there's a lot of questions! -- take the Geek Test. I scored 31.36095%.

To follow up on the 11/18 blog entry in which I mentioned CNN's curiously wrong reporting on Bush's planned visits to the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq... Bush finally opted to visit the families "privately," foregoing press coverage, undoubtedly because he knew the American families of dead soldiers would be outraged at his extending this courtesy to "foreigners" while utterly ignoring them. Of course, the "solution" wasn't either to cancel the visits or to make similar ones with American families; the solution was to slip the Brit visits in under the American public's awareness radar. The privacy tactic also defused accusations in the UK press about Bush making PR profit off corpses and mothers' tears. It was a smart move; the press that would have emerged from the visits might have been dicey. Some of the family members were already complaining to newspapers, blaming Bush for their sons' deaths and accusing him of selecting only families that wouldn't embarrass him on camera. Better to turn the cameras off than to risk comments that weren't scripted. At least, in its one-line report, CNN got it right yesterday: Bush visited the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, not civilians killed in 9-11. CNN's report on the protest march in the streets of London on Thursday was not so accurate...

For example: estimates on the number of protesters at almost every march vary widely, which is not surprising. Organizers have a vested interest in portraying their event as a success and, so, often provide a high figure. Police have a vested interest in downplaying the extent of public unrest and rebellion against laws/policies and, so, usually give a low figure. These two estimates set the extremes; in between, the truth lies somewhere. On Thursday's march, the organizers claimed 200,000 participants; Scotland Yard placed the number at 70,000. Followng the logic of "truth in the middle", many UK papers did the same as the Telegraph and estimated the crowd at about 150,000. Why, then, is CNN reporting the turnout as 50,000? And CNN is not alone; a large percentage of US media seems stuck on that figure, which makes me wonder if there was a White House press release that estimated even lower than Scotland Yard did. US reporters don't usually take the time to check "facts" disseminated by administration releases ...but it would be difficult for a large news organization, like CNN, who has reporters in London to be unaware of a blatantly self-serving discrepancy from a self-interested source -- if, indeed, such a press release was issued.

And, while I'm on the topic of low-balling figures, why did CNN report that "hundreds" of protesters assembled in Miami to oppose globalization. It seems clear that there were thousands and thousands of protesters. The Palm Beach Post, a local Florida newspaper, reported, "Following a morning of tense police standoffs with protesters at the Free Trade Area of Americas summit in downtown Miami, a large union-sponsored march of about 10,000 people Thursday went off peacefully in the afternoon." That's the same figure used by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, a prestigious and credible newspaper published in CNN World Headquarters' backyard (so to speak). The Northwest Indiana Times ran a piece on union participation in the protest and stated of one union alone, "The USWA, 2,000 strong, led Thursday's peaceful protest march through the warm Florida sun against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty, which proponents claim will foster economic growth and opportunities, promote regional integration and strengthen democracies." Where did CNN come up with the vague but incredibly misleading figure of "hundreds"?

This from my unofficial "co-blogger" Gordon P. via an email with the subject line "Stark Raving Bonkers..." Gordon writes, "Three items taken from 'El Rushbo' --- have not researched any of them for supporting URLs:
1.) Bread sales in both the U.S. and U.K. have dropped noticeably, presumably due to the rising popularity of the "Atkins' Diet." Bread manufacturers in both countries, alarmed by this trend, have called a "Baker's Summit" to try to figure out how to deal with this "Crisis In The Bread Industry." Gov't "nutrition czars" also View with Alarm the "unbalanced and unhealthy" Atkins' Diet. (Can a Gov't bailout of bread manufacturers or gov't-mandated bread-consumption be far behind? And when will Congress mandate some _circuses_ to go along with all that bread ??? :-/)
2.) Maryland's (Republican!) Governor has signed off on a pilot program to pay parolees a whopping pittance of $25/month for each month that they do _not_ commit a crime. The Governor's spokescritter was quick to point out that "no state funds" will be going to this program; it is being funded by a private charitable foundation (Abell?). A conservative "law and order" policy organization has responded that subsidizing paroled criminals to _not_ commit crime "sends the wrong message," since since it is paying probationers to not do something that they are _ALREADY_ not supposed to be doing...
3.) Another state (which I have unfortunately forgotten the name of :-( is advertising, and even sending representatives DOOR TO DOOR, to try and convince people (especially elderly people) to sign up for Food Stamps. It seems that the State's Food Stamp budget still contains a significant "surplus," and if the state does not use the "surplus," they will _lose_ that "surplus." (Gee, that sounds like a good reason for the state to advertise for people to "Go on the Dole" to _me_ !!! %-/)"

I should follow-up on comments from earlier blogs. Yesterday I promised to continue explaining my objections to voting, especially the question of whether it legitimizes both the electoral process and resulting political structure. Having reached this point in the blog, however, I am up against the time limit I impose upon myself for McBlogging. As well, David -- whose pro-voting email promoted the discussion -- wrote to explain that I had misinterpreted his original comments and, so, I will go back to the beginning -- I will not pass "go", I will not collect $200 -- and attempt to answer the argument as he intended to make it. But not today.

Today I have only time to cut-and-paste an email I received from the iconoclastic Dave Gross, the creator of sniggle.net which I featured in my 11/19 blog. Dave writes, "If you like my sniggle.net culture jamming site, you'll probably also like The Picket Line - it chronicles my ongoing experiment with tax resistance. I'm not paying any federal income tax this year, and I hope to keep this up from here on out. And I'm not using any loopy legal theory or hiding my assets in offshore accounts or anything like that. I'm doing it completely by-the-book - lowering my taxable income below the tax threshold by taking legal deductions and credits." Dave is right. I like it a lot.

Best to all,

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