Archive for February 11th, 2009
Very good post by Chris Bowers. It begins:
The anger that some establishment journalists have expressed over The Huffington Post being called upon during President Obama’s first prime-time press conference deserves further explanation. It is, in part, as Atrios notes, about "where in the pecking order he’s supposed to be," within the world of political media. And it is also, of course, about a perceived threat that new media outlets pose to more established ones. For years now, bloggers and other new media sources have been attacked as rabid, inexperienced, uninformed, arrogant, newcomers all as part of a campaign to keep bloggers, new media and grassroots types out of the political media establishment.
Beyond struggles over pecking order within the world of political media, attacks on bloggers, new media and other emerging grassroots types are also form of long-standing wedge politics designed to drive the progressive / Democratic coalition apart, and to keep the power center firmly in the centrist / corporatist wing.
Those who engage in attacks on bloggers must be aware, at least by now, that blogging and other new media is not simply a fad that will dissipate ala rock and roll or television before it. Traditional media is losing its audience and revenue streams at a rapid rate, and by now it is obvious to anyone involved that the self-publishing Internet is the main reason for this. As such, it is obvious–painfully obvious, for some–that it is simply not possible to shift the ever growing online audience back toward print, radio or other declining mediums.
So, since you can’t stop the rise of the new medium, the only available tactics left..
Very good article indeed. It comes in two parts:
Part 1 begins:
The food system in this country has broken down like a rusty old tractor. Or more accurately, like a $250,000, brontosaurus-sized, air-conditioned, computer-controlled, herbicide-misting machine. Calories may be cheap and abundant, but actual food is growing scarcer. The side effects can be seen in a populace growing ever unhealthier (and fatter); in our chemical-soaked soil, oceans, and drinking water; and in the shrinking pool of farmers and farmworkers, most of whom barely make a living. While everyone can identify infinite variations on these problems, there is no panacea that will solve them all.
When it comes to food policy, the quest to make progress on such a massive set of intertwined problems can result in tension between the big-picture visionaries — people like Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser, whose gifts lie in their ability to synthesize the issues into a coherent whole — and the folks working inside the Beltway or their state capitols, who by necessity must focus on smaller pieces of the puzzle. The difference in approaches can result in name-calling: DC insiders are too compromising, too willing to settle for Big Ag’s “crumbs,” while the blue-sky thinkers are too impractical, too blind to the political reality of what it takes to eke out progress toward long-term change. But the two groups can (and occasionally do) complement each other well. The visionaries can shine a public spotlight on the areas that most need it, and the pragmatists can translate the groundswell of interest generated in a particular topic into political action.
In a much-emailed article last Sunday, Washington Post reporter Jane Black, after hobnobbing with the big-picture side during the inauguration festivities, concluded that the food movement lacks focus and an actionable message. (And also that green-apple gelee, however “homey,” won’t change the world. Agreed.) This isn’t exactly a new critique, but it’s an accurate one. Because food and farming touch many issue areas, the big-picture thinkers so often quoted in the press can’t and shouldn’t concentrate on only one aspect. But behind the scenes, the groups that are immersed in a single facet of the problem — whether it be food justice, farmworkers’ rights, children’s nutrition, organic farming, animal welfare, food safety, or conservation to name just a few — are right now laying the groundwork in the new Obama administration for a set of policies that, taken together, just might someday result in food that nourishes not only eaters but the farmers and the farmworkers who produce it, as well as American soil itself.
Their proposals aren’t flashy or romantic, and the choir probably sounds more cacophonous than harmonious. But no one should say the food movement lacks for specifics. To the contrary, we have a bounty. The challenge is to see how these many small proposals could together possibly equal something much greater.
As a start, we embarked on a quest to find out which policies the new USDA, led by former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, could reasonably put in place in its first six months to inspire real changes in the food system. On Sunday, we asked 30-plus groups involved in the nuts and bolts of policymaking and a few individuals to tell us their top food and farming priorities for the agency’s next months. More than half got back to us within our two-day window. We have filtered and synthesized the policy papers and informal emails we received into 10 big-picture directives supported by 30 specific, concrete actions. The majority fall under the domain of the USDA, while a few will require muscle from the Administration, but these are all proposals that the USDA can put its weight behind and support right now. They also happen to be in keeping with the Rural Agenda posted by the Obama Administration at Whitehouse.gov on January 20; sadly, neither food nor farming merited their own action agendas…
Often people get so used to asking questions to get information they forget that they can actually try things. In teaching programming, for example, novices will often ask, "What will happen if I do X?" without ever realizing that they could try X and find out for themselves. Same thing goes for shaving: I get questions fairly often that I have to answer, "Try it and see," because everyone’s reaction to shaving products and techniques is so individual. For example, a person may be allergic to certain essential oils, so that a shave stick that’s great for me doesn’t work so well for him.
And it clearly applies to foods and cooking: experimentation is the way to go, with blind tastings if possible. That’s how I settled on the "best" yogurt (for me). And here’s a VERY interesting post at the Kitchn [sic] about trying three different tomato sauces and pasta. Well worth reading, it begins:
Last month Francis Lam, one of my favorite writers over at Gourmet.com, posted an article on how he made a simple spaghetti and tomato sauce with a very expensive ($8) box of pasta and an even more expensive ($15) can of tomatoes. The article, titled ‘Yeah, It’s Worth It’, was inspiring but still left me unconvinced of it’s title.
I was tempted when the importers of the tomatoes and pasta offered a 50% discount but it was only when I remembered my vow to have people over for dinner more often (even if I have to serve pasta and tomato sauce) that it all came together. I decided to have a dinner party where my friends would blind taste this ‘worth it’ pasta along side a few other, less expensive pasta and tomato combinations. Read on for the tasting details and our winning choice!
Continue reading. Do read it: fascinating.
I got the idea from the Kitchn [sic], and here’s a link. But the title pretty much says it all.
First this, from the Center for Media and Democracy:
"Over the past five years, the money the [U.S.] military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year," reports the Associated Press. "That’s almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006. … This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department." The Texas-based Joint Hometown News Service offers "glowing stories written by Pentagon staff," accredited to the authors without their military titles. "In 2009, Hometown News plans to put out 5,400 press releases, 3,000 television releases" — presumably, video news releases — "and 1,600 radio interviews" — presumably, audio news releases. The military operation’s website lists participating newspaper, radio and television outlets, in all 50 U.S. states. In Madison, Wisconsin, where the Center for Media and Democracy is based, the Capital Times, Wisconsin State Journal, WIBA AM/FM, WMLI FM, WHPN-TV, WISC-TV, WKOW-TV, WMSN-TV and WMTV-TV are all listed as clients of the military "news" service.
And this, from the same source:
"You want to make sure you edit it in the right way," said Major Alayne Conway, who served as a U.S. military public affairs officer in Iraq. When preparing videos for media outlets and websites like YouTube, she said her goal was "something that is going to make Joe Six-Pack look up from his TV dinner or his fast-food meal and look up at the TV and say, ‘Wow, the American troops are kicking butt.’" The Associated Press notes that "the Pentagon now spends more than $550 million a year — at least double the amount since 2003 — on public affairs," not including personnel costs. The military’s training manual calls public affairs a "perception management tool," though it’s supposed to provide "facts but not spin" to U.S. audiences. Instead, public affairs seems focused on promoting the military, flying "friendly bloggers to Iraq and Afghanistan," increasing media embed rules, "expanding its Internet presence from 300 to 1,000 sites and increasing its free cable programming on the Pentagon Channel by 33 percent to 2,080 programs." AP’s chief executive, Tom Curley, is calling for media organizations "to re-negotiate the rules of engagement between the military and the media. … Now is the time to resist the propaganda the Pentagon produces and live up to our obligation to question authority and thereby help protect our democracy."
Google, the powerful online search service, is coming under attack from enemies including Microsoft and AT&T, report Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein. The company’s enemies include business competitors; traditional advertisers, who are losing revenues to online advertising; and internet service providers whose interests clash with Google’s support for net neutrality. Last year, Thompson and Vogelstein note, the anti-Google coalition got the U.S. Department of Justice to kill a proposed business deal between Google and the Yahoo! company. "Microsoft hired lobbyists who knew how to drum up support among rural and Latino groups, and before long organizations as far-reaching as the American Corn Growers Association and the Dominican American Business Network had voiced their opposition," they write. For PR support in that campaign, Microsoft turned to LMG, a secretive Washington DC public affairs firm that specializes in astroturf campaigns. Thompson and Vogelstein expect the anti-Google campaign to intensify in 2009, with a focus on painting the company as a threat to personal privacy.
Source: Wired, January 19, 2009