Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Foghorn Leghorn Fourth Estate

The state of reporting reminds me of the cartoon with the big chicken trying to shoe away the little chicken hawk. "Run away boy, ya bother me!" Of course big media is Foghorn Leghorn and bloggers are the small chicken hawk.

It seems every time I find something of potential national import, previously unreported, I get hurried along. Editors ask editorial page managers, "Is this really useful?" I can picture Foghorn saying, "Boy, head on over to The Nation or The Texas Observer, they might want your swill."

Nearly a year ago, I heard the editor of The Standard Times wax eloquently about The Fourth Estate and its critical role in holding a civilized society accountable. In the same breath he noted American media corrupted by cozy insider relationships with elected leaders. One need look no further than Clinton's Lincoln Bedroom vs. Bush's Dover Sole with Queen Elizabeth. Did the media dining with royalty have to promise silence on the invitee list?

Guess what's no longer news? Here's a partial list:

1) George W. Bush's Katrina Lessons Learned report made no mention of LifeCare hospital and its 24 patient deaths post landfall
2) The owner of LifeCare has a Pennsylvania Avenue address and a list of political heavyweights on its payroll. It's the private equity firm, The Carlyle Group.
3) LifeCare lawyers assert their patients became wards of the federal government as soon a FEMA evacuation teams set up in New Orleans (actually this made the news).
4) After blaming the feds for 24 patient deaths in a disaster, Carlyle got approval from Congress and the Justice Department to buy ManorCare, with 500 some mostly nursing homes. Carlyle's past failure to patients never came up.
5) The author of the Lessons Learned report, Fran Townsend was just appointed to the President's Intelligence Oversight Board. This occurred after Fran failed to include the hospital with the largest patient death toll post landfall. How's that for intelligence?
6) Bush also appointed ex-Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace to that same board.
7) Peter has President Dwight D. Eisenhower rolling over in his grave. General Pace landed a cushy part time job worth over $500,000 his first year. He's consulting with firms wanting to land government contracts. I'm not sure what one has to do to land cost plus, indefinite quantity, indefinite delivery contracts but Peter does. Don't watch him hem and haw over $4 billion in funds woefully spent to modernize intelligence. Let's focus on the future.

Now that has a Katrina like refrain. But really, is any of this stuff useful? Not for selling ads, which seems to be the new mission of The Fourth Estate. Does that mean bloggers inherit the mantle? It seems many of them also have ads. However, who'd have thought The Daily Breeze and The Scotsman would break stories of national importance? Might The Standard Times similarly come through with unique information worthy of the vaunted Fourth Estate? Time will tell...

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