Wednesday, December 03, 2003

President Bush's secret trip to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day raised plenty of questions about "The Media's" role in the journey, but I haven't seen a lot of coverage about how the Bush Administration was able to pull this off in the "24-hour news environment" that we hear so much about these days.

No journalist had a source in the White House, Secret Service, Air Force, Andrews Air Force Base, or any of the other support or security agencies involved in planning for this trip, which reportedly was going on for a month? I haven't seen a lot of journalists coming forth and saying, "Yeah, we knew about it, but decided not to run it." It seems it really was a secret until the last minute, which is extraordinary with so many reporters working not only the Washington political beat, but the Iraq war, the Defense Department, and security issues overall.

The trip was a political boon for Bush, and his staff, at all levels, deserves praise for not leaking, but what does it say about the reporters covering this Administration? Do you think this story would've remained secret under Clinton, or the first Bush Administration? No way.

I'm happy everyone involved got to Iraq and back safely, and the troops were able to see their Commander in Chief, but if I were an editor or executive producer in a news organization, I'd wonder how this could get by all the reporters out there who've been developing sources over the past three years, and wonder what else has been going on in the Bush Administration that the public doesn't have any idea about.

Monday, October 27, 2003

The National Academy of Sciences published their opinion of the problems with the Klamath River situation and made some suggestions for possible solutions. The question is, are some of these ideas - like breaching dams and finding additional flows for the river - realistic and timely enough to help the Klamath basin and the people and fish who depend on the river?

Friday, October 17, 2003

It seems my prediction for the CA recall was wrong - and by a healthy margin. I really thought that once voters took a longer look at Arnold they'd realize they didn't have it so bad with Davis. Wrong. Even the late revelations about abusive behavior toward women didn't really change anything (Arnold took a surprising percentage of women voters - 44%, compared to 35% for Bustamante). Click here for the LA Times exit poll.

Bush was in the state yesterday and it really has been interesting to see so-called social conservatives give up a lot of their deeply held moral values and vote for Arnold, even though his social policies are much much closer to Clinton than Bush or Reagan. A fiscal conservative? What politician isn't in California these days. Just goes to show if it looks like you're a winner, people will fall in line. Will it make any difference in 2004? I doubt it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

More dead fish on the Klamath, this time 70,000 juvenile salmon and steelhead killed by the operators of a hydroelectric plant that supplies water to a hatchery. Last year it was over 30,000 mature salmon in the lower river, this year it's 70,000 salmon and steelhead juveniles mid-river. The power plant responsible says it's sorry and it doesn't know how it happened.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

I still believe the Cheney/Energy Task Force meetings that took place in 2001 and the subsequent obfuscation by Administration officials described here, is a major story that was dropped by most media organizations because of 9/11 and the war on terror. Look for this to come back and haunt the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004.

I did a piece with Lowell Bergman for NOW with Bill Moyers on Cheney's meetings with Ken Lay from Enron and other members of the Energy Task Force. Here's the transcript. The NOW piece came out of a FRONTLINE investigative documentary called "Blackout" about the California energy crisis of 2001, which is particularly relevant these days. Here's the link for that show.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

My prediction on the California recall, for the four or five people who read this, is this: After the initial infatuation with Arnold starts to wane when they realize they really don’t want to take the leap with him, the two conservative Republicans split their sector of the vote (even if one drops out and throws his support to the other one, it won't be enough), voters take a hard look at Cruz and realize that despite his gutsy, if somewhat foolhardy economic plan, he really doesn't have the gravitas to run CA, Ueberroth makes a late charge as a capable, respected "caretaker" type candidate, and Arianna and her (newfound) Green compatriots don't ever reach five percent in the polls - Gray squeaks by in the first question on the ballot and holds on to remain Gov.

A slightly insane prediction given the latest poll has Gray at around 26% approval in the state. But this guy is at his best when he's face down in the muck, and his team is experienced at coming from behind, using whatever means necessary. Wait until the week after Labor Day, when the opp research starts to ooze out of Sacto.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Will the networks, news magazines and cable stations continue to cover the CA recall election with such intensity throughout the whole process, or will they get restless and fade away to the next thing? I'm still looking for funding for a one-hour documentary that will cover the campaign, the aftermath (which may be as interesting as the campagin itself. Think Florida 2000, but with over 100 candidates and Larry Flynt crying foul), and provide some analysis on what all it means. Time is running short to get started...

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Too much madness in the recall to count. Read these for some inside info and political fun: SF Chron, LA Times, CA Insider.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Looks like I'm behind on filing for Guv of CA. How many other opportunists will run? Seems like a lot of filmmakers so far.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Here's the problem with CA Guv Gray Davis: he has "zero personal relationships," is cold and distant, and "people do not like him. " Who said that? The guy heading up the recall effort? One of his opponents in the upcoming recall election? Nope. That's one of his chief political backers, SF Mayor Willie Brown. Brown said all this and more in a televised interview on a local Bay Area morning show. He also said he was one of Davis' few friends. For more fun recall stuff, check out this

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Curious about the ongoing CA recall madness? Check out the official details. I'm thinking seriously about filing myself, and shooting a doc surrounding the whole crazy situation.

Monday, July 14, 2003

So I saw the Charlie Rose interview with Howell Raines (thanks to Tivo - I'll leave the testimonials to others, except to say it truly is a breakthrough technology), and my impression, after the frenzy of the Blair/Bragg fiasco, is that the Times made a big mistake. Raines said it best when he pointed out that no editor of the Times has ever been a modest sort, and he didn't back down from the accusation that he pushed his people hard. He seems to be one of those guys that you bitch about when you're working for him, but when it's over and done, you realize you did your best work. Wait a few years, and see what the insiders at the Times say. Seven Pulitzer’s.

My bet is he’ll write some interesting books.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Yet another great verite documentary opportunity: Follow the upcoming train wreck in California with digital cameras spread out across the state. It's going to go fast, and be exceptionally nasty, even by California political standards. Someone -- you pick -- is sure to melt down on one side or the other. Certain to be drama, conflict and absurd humor. What else do you need for a compelling documentary? Send your fundraising suggestions to the contact link above.
Yet another great verite documentary opportunity: Follow the upcoming train wreck in California with digital cameras spread out across the state. It's going to go fast, and be exceptionally nasty, even by California political standards. Someone -- you pick -- is sure to melt down on one side or the other. Certain to be drama, conflict and absurd humor. What else do you need for a compelling documentary? Send your fundraising suggestions to the info link above.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

This is one of those stories that's been percolating for over a year now and one that may yet cause Cheney and the Bush Administration problems, particularly if more information is released that proves the tight relationship between this White House and the oil and gas industry. Check out who the plaintiffs are -- you can't get much further apart ideologically than those two. I did a piece for NOW with Bill Moyers on this topic in 2002. Click on the link on the left to see the transcript.

Monday, July 07, 2003

More on the planned takeover of American politics by the conservative wing of the Republican party. But this time, the record of one of the primary architects of the strategy, Grover Norquist, is examined and popped. The real "right wing conspiracy," or a case of out of power paranoia?

Monday, June 30, 2003

Good stuff in Slate. The title of the piece says it all. There are a number of examples of this phenomenon over the last eight to ten years - I seem to remember an article in the Post some time ago about Bob Livingston and his view that being a lobbyist was better than being Speaker of the House. So close and yet...

Looking forward to Noah's take on the Delay/K street effort. Great piece in the Post about this last week.

Sunday, June 29, 2003's online primary was covered extensively by The Note and others in the more "mainstream" media, but its worth taking a look at them. They not only registered and encouraged over 300,000 people to vote in an unprecedented online effort, but they also managed to raise $1.7 million for Dem candidates. I worked for two online "political activist" sites (gone in the crash) during the 2000 election cycle, both venture funded and both with unworkable business models. MoveOn, begun as a liberal response to Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, was smart. They started and stayed small and lean, and unlike the other online political sites, they really harnessed the power of the Internet, using technology and the interest of like-minded compatriots to spread their message (and donate money) to whatever cause they were interested in. This successful model will spread across all interest group sectors, and in the post-McCain/Feingold world, will become increasingly powerful.

Also check out the various Dem candidate web sites. Not only informational, but a powerful fundraising tool for the candidates - especially for Howard Dean.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Continuing the thread from below, the NYT had a major story about McDonald's and other burger chains forcing change on the meat industry and the way it treats animals in their factory farms. Temple Grandin is cited for her work, deservedly so. She's an interesting character herself.

Also, today the Times takes a look at the fertilizer spread on fields and the health problems associated with the use of recycled sewer sludge. The runoff (feces, antibiotics, fertilizer) from the factory farms, particularly the enormous cattle feedlots in the Midwest, is making its way into water tables and creating pollution in lakes, rivers and the Gulf of Mexico.

I'm not interested in focussing this blog on these issues, but I did spend almost a year investigating the meat industry and there are a multitude of good stories related to these topics. Estimates (and I think they're low) are that 5,000 people a year die from bad meat, and a lot of them are children. It's only a matter of time until another deadly outbreak, similar to the one in the early 1990's that hit Jack in the Box, occurs again. When it does, it'll be worse, because of the consolidation of slaughter facilities and distribution operations in the meat industry.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

This story in the Washington Post about how McDonald's is asking the meat industry to cut its use of antibiotics in their massive meat and poultry factory farms is another example of how responsible corporations can change broader industry policies. I was a producer on a Frontline doc called "Modern Meat" (see left) and this is one of the issues we took a long look at. The meat industry, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, swore up and down that the widespread use of antibiotics in raising cattle and chickens posed no threat of raising immunity in humans and that cutting back on the use of antibiotics was unnecessary and would raise costs too much. Now that the largest beef buyer in the United States (and one of the largest in the world) has raised concerns about the issue, the meat industry is more than willing to go along. A similar thing happened a few years ago, when McDonald's said it wanted its beef providers to implement "humane slaughter" practices and the major beef companies quickly complied. Prior to McDonald's interest in the subject, the meat industry said it was unnecessary and too expensive to implement such policies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Dylan's Run (see below) is playing at the Dahlonega International Film Festival in Georgia link on June 27th and 29th.
I just returned from a trip to Russia and the Ukraine. It's amazing to see the economic explosion that's taking place in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. Huge apartment and condo complexes are rising all over the outskirts of Moscow, a complete makeover (at least on the surface) of St. Petersburg for the 300th celebration and a lively downtown district in Kiev. The city streets are packed with black mercedes SUV's and BMW sedans (raising interesting questions about what type of economic activity is taking place). The downside is the incredible amount of visual pollution from advertising that seems to mark every available surface, particularly in Moscow. A fascinating time. Tons of intriguing stories.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Two new documentary projects are in the works: an environmental film that we're starting now, following the no/low budget route using digital cameras and desktop editing; and fundraising for a larger budget, PBS-style program covering an aspect of the 2004 political campaign. The renewable energy doc also continues to move forward, albeit slowly.
Dylan's Run, a verite documentary following a young, African American Republican through two campaigns for Congress in Deep South Georgia, is making the film festival rounds in the United States and abroad. It took us four years to get it on the big screen, and now we're seeking a distribution deal. Contact me for more details about the film and where it's showing.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Now that the shooting war in Iraq is basically over, the rebuilding fight begins, both diplomatically and economically. Bechtel link and a divison of Halliburton have won huge government contracts, and both have deep ties to the Bush Administration. Will the Bush Administration allow a substantial UN role, or will it keep control until it thinks a transfer to a new Iraqi regime is feasible. Will France, Germany and Russia be punished for their earlier diplomatic intransigence, and be kept out of the rebuilding effort? How about an investigative long-form piece covering the rebuilding of Iraq, starting now and following the story for the next six months to a year? Sounds interesting to me.

Monday, March 10, 2003

One of our current projects is a look at our dependence on fossil fuels and what alternative energy solutions are available now and in the near future. California passed a regulation in 1990 that said ten percent of cars must be emission free by 2003 and the auto companies developed and sold a number of electric vehicles to meet the requirement, while fighting the regulation at the same time. Now, with the coming of hybrid vehicles (they're all over the streets in San Francisco) and lots of attention on fuel cell cars, the regulation has been modified, with new emissions requirements for 2005 and beyond, and the electric vehicle programs discontinued. link . Is this an example of a good policy adapting to new technology, or the auto makers prevailing in a long lobbying fight, with round two coming between now and 2005?

Monday, February 24, 2003

Welcome. I'm an independent producer who works in television and the independent film market investigating political, environmental and business stories. I'll post articles I find interesting, and pieces that relate to projects I'm working on.