Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Un-Hidden Persuaders at the Freeps

Yesterday I stopped by my local coffee bar to grab a cup. I took a peek at the newspaper rack to check out the Monday headlines of Burlington Free Press. I could not see all the headlines on the Page 1. It was not one of those annoying sticky ads that obstructed my view. No. The left half of the front page was covered totally by a newsprint ad from Unicel. Take Unicel Back to School it screamed.

This is nothing new. Commercial Alert wrote back in September, 2001...

During an economic rough patch that has led to significant erosion in advertising pages, the wall between newspapers’ editorial and business interests may not be crumbling. But it is shifting. Increasingly, ads are showing up in places - such as Page 1, the front pages of other daily sections, and the opinion pages - that have generally been off-limits for decades. And some are being sold at premium rates.
Dallas Morning News editor and president Robert W. Mong Jr. - whose paper began accepting ads on the front pages of sections last year and expanded the programs this year - said the key was to introduce advertising “tastefully” and “carefully.”

“It’s important, in this kind of competitve environment, to look for new and different ways to sell advertising and to help support our news” operation, he said.
Last year, USA Today owner, the Gannett Company, passed the word to its nearly 100 daily papers that “tasteful” front-page ads were OK.

You can read the whole article here.

Burlington Free Press is owned by Gannett. Interestingly, if you want to know Gannett's Mission and Vision [note that word order in the left-hand index on the Gannett homepage], the Vision statement...


Consumers will choose Gannett media for their news and information needs, anytime, anywhere, in any form.

... beats out the Mission statement in placement on the page....


To successfully transform Gannett to the new environment.

We will provide must-have news and information on demand across all media, ever mindful of our journalistic responsibilities.

Even in the the url vision comes before mission (check its placement again in your browser).

Dontcha just love it: "Ever mindful of our journalistic responsibilities." Yeah, right.

No doubt the Free Press had its eye on returning students at local high schools and colleges. Buy me! Buy me! For the ad industry and the newspapers beholden to them, advertisements like these fully exploit the vulnerability of people, especially the young. Walk down Burlington's Church Street or inside Vermont's largest enclosed shopping center and you'll see what I mean. Heck, you'll even see it at Burlington's ultra-hip liberal co-op!

Check out my earlier post, here.

At the end of the 1950s, author Vance Packard asked a question that resonates even more ominously today:

By encouraging people constantly to pursue the emblems of success, and by causing them to equate possessions with status, what are we doing to their emotions and their sense of values?

Thirty years ago, author Felix Greene declared:
Advertising is nothing more than a technique to keep people in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction with what they possess and in a permanent state of itchy acquisitiveness.

High time for some reader outcry!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Go to the Back of The Bus is Alive and Well in Louisiana

Via Talk Left.

Dire Straits for Tarrant

Dire Straits are one of my all time favourite rock bands. When I read Rich Tarrant's garbage ad in yesterday's BFP on page 4a, where he lambasts Sanders for being soft on child pornographers,
I thought of a few lines from one one of the Straits most popular singles, Private Investigations.

Digging up the dirt
You get to meet all sorts
In the line of work
Treachery and treason
Theres always an excuse for it
And when I find the reason
I still cant get used to it

I don't subscribe to cable tv, but found the same ads on Tarrant's two websites here, here and here.

Digging up the dirt
Theres always an excuse for it
And when I find the reason
I still cant get used to it

Well, Richard Tarrant seems to always have a convenient excuse for whining and fearmongering. Why are he and the GOP trying to terrorize the country? Why not a rational and calm review of the facts, rather than an endless series of dire warnings? Indeed, the pun in the title of this post intended. The guy's desperate.

Today, I see that Sanders has responded.

Digging up the dirt
I still cant get used to it

I was used to it when I lived in Texas. And I got a taste of it when I moved to Vershire in 2000 and saw the treatment our state representative, Marion Milne, got from the "Take Back Vermont" folks during her bid for re-election to the state house. And one of my friends who was deeply active in getting the civil union law passed has told me that it was a wretched campaign of uncivil behaviour. But I still can't get used to it in Vermont. I keep thinking we are a cut above the rest of America.

My hope is that Tarrant's just a flash in the pan in Vermont politics. To make that happen, I encourage my fellow Burlingtonians to register to vote if you have not already done so, and to vote early.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thunderous Bird Shit Over Vermont

On Thursday last week we got a prelude when the Thunderbird jets were rehearsing for Saturday's pollution and noise assault on Burlington. I phoned the Mayor's office to complain (left a message on Bob's voicemail - he never got back to me) and then I bothered the BPD, too. A very nice officer phoned me back to say that the noise ordinance did not apply to the event because the sponsors had a permit to do it. "I don't want to sound cold," he said, but there was not a thing BPD could do. He told me I couldn't even get the President of these United States to stop it if I wanted him to. I ranted a bit about traumatised children, pets and aged and infirm people who might not have a clue about what's going on. Of course, it's all about potential income to the city's businesses with the masses coming into town to see this extravaganza of military entertainment. Indeed money talks.

Well my money talks. This week I'll be going down to TDBankNorth to close my personal bank account. The bank was one of the sponsors of the TBird air show yesterday. (On Friday afternoon, I joined several Burlingtonians, some from the Peace & Justice Center, to make a mostly silent protest outside their office on Main and St. Paul.

I missed the 'Bikes Not Bombs' ride yesterday - I got separated from my friend whom I was to acompany. But I ended up biking on my own. I wore my t shirt I'd purchased at the AFSC's well-attended exhibit, Eyes Wide Open on the lawn of the UU Church at the top of Church Street in Burlington. The imprint on the shirt: "War is costly" & "Peace is priceless." The reactions I got were mixed, but mostly glares. I just responded by smiling and making the peace sign.

David Zuckerman's comments were spot on:

“My reaction is that in a time of war like we have today, it’s appalling! To people in the war zones around the world, these sounds could mean instant death,” said Zuckerman, “and for us to take pleasure in looking at them is unfortunate. We really need to think about what these things mean.”

“Technologically, they’re fascinating," said Farmer Dave, as two more roared overhead. “But in a time in the world we’re in today, it is inappropriate to get excited watching war machines.”

BurlingtonLib had a few choice words here and here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Anybody remember pink triangles and yellow stars?

It's still baffling to me that: Half of U.S. still believes Iraq had WMD ,and yet, CNN reports 60 percent of Americans oppose Iraq war.

But here's the latest shocker: A new Gallup poll finds that many Americans -- what it calls "substantial minorities" -- harbor "negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith" in this country. Nearly one in four Americans, 22%, say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbor.

The poll was jointly done with USAToday. I've always been mystified how and why these media sponsored polls are done? Are they objective? How are the questions presented to the public?

Well, ain't this remarkable:

The poll was taken at the end of July and surveyed 1,007 adult Americans

Wasn't that the same time Israel was massacring Lebanon? And let's be real. American MSM reports on this war were decidedly pro-Israel.

That this poll was even conducted is astonishing. I suspect if you asked people if homosexuals should have special ID you would get quite a backlash....even among the right wing....not so with Muslims. The ratcheting of up anti-Muslim propaganda is in overdrive....or warp speed or something. They could do a poll on who was the worst neighbor to have...
  • Muslims
  • Child molesters
  • Queers/Fags
  • African-Americans
  • Youth
  • College kids
  • Latinos
  • Communists
  • Bosnians
  • Sudanese
  • Jews
  • Alcoholics
  • NASCAR enthusiasts
  • Trailer Park residents

Monday, August 14, 2006

More fecklessness and cynicism from Bush&Co

From Krugman's brilliant piece in today's NYT:

Fecklessness: the administration has always pinched pennies when it comes to actually defending America against terrorist attacks. Now we learn that terrorism experts have known about the threat of liquid explosives for years, but that the Bush administration did nothing about that threat until now, and tried to divert funds from programs that might have helped protect us. “As the British terror plot was unfolding,” reports The Associated Press, “the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology.”

Cynicism: Republicans have consistently portrayed their opponents as weak on terrorism, if not actually in sympathy with the terrorists. Remember the 2002 TV ad in which Senator Max Cleland of Georgia was pictured with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? Now we have Dick Cheney suggesting that voters in the Democratic primary in Connecticut were lending aid and comfort to “Al Qaeda types.” There they go again.

More fecklessness, and maybe more cynicism, too: NBC reports that there was a dispute between the British and the Americans over when to make arrests in the latest plot. Since the alleged plotters weren’t ready to go — they hadn’t purchased airline tickets, and some didn’t even have passports yet — British officials wanted to watch and wait, hoping to gather more evidence. But according to NBC, the Americans insisted on early arrests.

Suspicions that the Bush administration might have had political motives in wanting the arrests made prematurely are fed by memories of events two years ago: the Department of Homeland Security declared a terror alert just after the Democratic National Convention, shifting the spotlight away from John Kerry — and, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, blowing the cover of a mole inside Al Qaeda.


What object are you on?

When I lived in Houston, my job at St Luke's Episcopal Hospital's Volunteer Blood Donor Program would bring me to the Johnson Space Center facility several times a month; infact, SLEH was down at JSC the day after the Challenger explosion. Although I question the validity of some of Nasa's projects, I've always been curious about what's 'up there' in the sky. Go out to Overlook Park in South Burlington some clear night and look up.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is meeting this week in Prague and will make a decision that could see Pluto lose its status as a planet.

For the first time, the organisation will be officially defining the word "planet", and it is causing much debate in the world of astronomy.

Pluto is already an unusual planet. It is made predominantly of ice, and is smaller even than the Earth's Moon. But its status as the ninth planet could also be in danger if the experts decide it no longer makes the grade. From today's BBC report:

Any decision to downgrade Pluto would send shockwaves through the scientific community, instantly outdate textbooks, and change how the basics of the Solar System are taught in schools.

Since the discovery of the ninth planet, astronomers have become aware of a vast population of small, icy bodies resembling Pluto that orbit the Sun beyond Neptune, in a region called the Kuiper Belt.

This led some astronomers to argue that Pluto belonged with this population of "icy dwarfs", not with the objects we call planets.

Nasa Link

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wonderful World (Don't Know Much)

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took

I started singing the above Sam Cooke lyrics yesterday, when I read a Robert Jensen opinion piece in the current issue of Vermont Guardian.

Jensen's writing about a recently passed "act relating to education" in Florida, specifically about how history in Florida schools is to be taught.

The most controversial passage states: “American history shall be viewed as factual, not constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, [my emphasis added] and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” To that end teachers are charged not only to focus on the history and content of the Declaration but are also instructed to teach the “history, meaning, significance and effect of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the amendments thereto...” Other bill provisions place new emphasis on “flag education, including proper flag display and flag salute” and on the need to teach “the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy.”

The new law took effect 1 July. The Florida state department of education will begin reviewing their standards and textbooks in 2007. Of course, if these know-it-alls have their way, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present will not be included in the curriculum.

Jensen writes about the Florida law:

The irony is that such a law is precisely what one would expect in a totalitarian society, where governments claim the right to declare certain things to be true, no matter what the debates over evidence and interpretation. The preferred adjective in the United States for this is “Stalinist,” a system to which U.S. policymakers were opposed during the Cold War. At least, that’s what I learned in history class.

Of course, it's all connected to the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires mandatory testing and reporting, with schools that fail to show progress facing cut-offs in public funding The Act basically determines a rote approach to learning, to prepare students just to take tests in the schools, and not to develop learning and education as a creative experience. Even Burlington teachers and school administrators will tell you this approach has been cumbersome and costly.

Greater emphasis should be placed on the broadening of intellect and development of problem solving and critical thinking skills, rather than simply on the memorization of lessons that promote performance on tests. To just require students to memorize information - that’s not the best way to create active citizens. Jeb Bush and his big brother should know better, but they don't. They want our schools to create little robots.

Here's Robert Jensen again:

One way to measure the fears of people in power is by the intensity of their quest for certainty and control over knowledge.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Welcome Readers!

Thank you for checking out my blog. It's my first attempt to start one fresh. I've liked particularly Saki's Reginald stories since I first read them nearly 40 years ago; hence the title of this blog. On it I'll make some commentary about things that are important to me: local/national/international politics; nurturing our enviroment and respecting Earth as part of Creation; voter rights;. things that keep me goin' in my 'activist life.' Take a gander at the various blogs and links on the right sidebar. Cheers.