The Hightower Report

Fleet discredits the Constitution and news outlets perform PR.

Fleet Tries to Pull a Fast One

I got a note from the swell folks at Fleet, my credit card company. Actually, not a note, but a Notice:

"This Notice is to advise you that the following Arbitration Provision will be added to your Cardholder Agreement," it cheerfully began. Hmmm, I thought, arbitration. What needs arbitrating? So I squinted at the tiny print they used in this little four-page notice, which had no eye-catching graphics, no whimsical colors, and none of the chatty style you find in other bill stuffers that the companies really want you to ... well, notice. Indeed, it's as though Fleet didn't truly want me to notice this Notice.

But, I thought, don't be cynical, so I plunged into the prose: "This Arbitration Provision will apply to all claims." Claims? Like what? Down in the fine print Fleet told me. Sort of: "The term 'claim' means any claim, dispute, or controversy between you and us arising from or related to this agreement, any prior agreement that you may have had with us or another credit card issuer from whom we acquired your credit card account or the relationships resulting from the agreement of any prior agreement, including ..." yadda, yadda, yadda.

"Whoa," I said aloud, trying to uncross my eyes, what's the bottom line here? Then I found it. Fleet's Notice practically shouted that if I filed any kind of claim against it for fraud, false advertising, invasion of privacy, or whatever, it could deny me "the right to litigate that claim in court or have a jury trial on that claim." Instead, I'd have to go to an arbitration firm of Fleet's choosing, and "[t]he arbitrator's decision will be final," even though "rights that you would have had if you went to court may ... not be available in arbitration," and "the fees charged by the administration may be higher than the fees charged by a court."

To help stop corporate sneak attacks on our constitutional right to a trial by jury, call Trial Lawyers for Public Justice at 202/797-8600.

Screwy News

Right-wing groups like to bloviate about how the media is a bastion of liberal bias, if not an outright front for the International Communist Conspiracy (don't bother trying to explain to them that the commie "conspiracy" is deader than disco music).

"Liberal Media" my butt! The true bias of the barons who control virtually all of the mass media is not to the left or even to the right, but to the top ... to their own corporate class. The so-called "news" we get is filtered through the media's corporate lenses and tinted to a nice, rosy corporate hue. Indeed, revealed by the diligent watchdog group called PR Watch, it turns out that many of the "news stories" we see on television are actually nothing but video feeds from corporations with something to sell.

CBS, for example, which is regularly assailed by the right wing for having that left-wing devil Dan Rather on the air, is the leading purveyor of VNRs -- video news releases from corporate hustlers. Its outlet is CBS Newspath, a division that feeds these insidious, corporate-produced "news stories" to its local affiliates three times a day. CBS has a deal with an outfit called Medialink to transmit these corporate VNRs to your local station, which plays them as though they were real news. Medialink brags that it produces VNRs for 2,500 corporations and PR agencies, airing them through such outfits as CBS Newspath. You see their features on your local broadcasts, such as a segment telling you how cell phones have become so useful to consumers, then showing a close-up of a Nokia brand phone. Subtle, huh?

This news scam is pervasive. Medialink's Web site gloats, "Every major television station in the world now uses VNRs regularly. Most are from Medialink. It's a fact."

It's also an outrage, not to mention an embarrassment for television journalism.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Fleet, credit card, arbitration, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, news media, PR Watch, CBS, Video News Releases, CBS Newspath, Medialink, Nokia

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