Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fake names and press passes

On Jan. 26 I just happened to be watching President Bush’s press conference on television when I got to hear some guy in the White House press corps ask this gem of a question:

“Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And [Senator] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you've said you are going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

I don’t remember what Bush’s response was. I was too stunned that someone in the press corps would ask such a blatantly loaded question. This was not even a question. It was a partisan attack on Democrats masquerading as a question. Who the heck was this guy?

As it turns out, the “reporter” who lobbed President Bush the big mushy softball was some guy using the pseudonym ‘Jeff Gannon’ and working for some right-wing web site that tries to pass itself off as a news organization. This wasn’t “Jeff Gannon’s” first press conference either. He had become a regular attendee at White House press briefings where Bush spokesman Scott McClellan was always sure to call on him for a question passing over dozens of other real journalists working for legitimate news organizations.

So now the big question - How did this guy get a press pass that allowed him to get that close to the president using a fake name? I find that to be rather disturbing and scary. Was the White House complicit in helping plant this guy at press conferences so that he could lob friendly questions? Does this all tie in to the administrations apparent scheme of paying journalists to write positive things about them?

I can assure you that if something like this had taken place during Clinton’s presidency there would have been yet another special prosecutor on the prowl.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Big Brother is watching

I don’t normally pay much attention to local TV news, but the other night I saw a report on KSAT, the local ABC affiliate, that I found to be very disturbing. It was part of the station’s Defenders Investigations in which they respond to viewer tips and look into various city shenanigans. But the segment the other night was something straight out of George Orwell’s “1984” with the local TV station happily playing the role of Big Brother.

It seems that the stationed was tipped off that a band director at a local school had been taking off time during the middle of the day to run errands or whatever and was missing classes as a result. I assume there was probably an assistant band director leading the classes during these times, but they failed to address that point. Instead the station decided to use video surveillance techniques to follow the band director around and see where he was going. They then confronted him on camera at his home to throw their accusations in his face. Only then did they go back to the school administrators for comment and reaction. At the end of the report they triumphantly announced that the band director had been placed on administrative leave.

This really disgusted me not because I think a teacher should be allowed to skip out of classes whenever they feel like it, but because this was clearly a personnel matter for the school administration that should have been handled behind closed doors. There was no reason why it needed to be splashed all over my television screen just to add humiliation to whatever other punishment the school might mete out. The fact that the TV station tried to play this up into some kind of scandal was pathetic and was an abuse of thier power.