Can PR get Blackwater out of hot water?

Whether you view Blackwater USA as a private security firm employed to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq or an armed militia that follows no rules of engagement save for the rule of the jungle, “Kill or be killed,” it’s striking how Blackwater co-founder Erik Prince has suddenly become available to all of the media outlets.

Oh, sure, following the Sept. 16 shooting “incident” by Blackwater guards that left 13 Iraqis dead, Prince did have to appear before a congressional committee and answer some of his peskier critics. But by and large, the handsome and engaging Prince (surely that’s an apt description, both figurative and literal) handled the situation well. He reminded me of another great American who had once whipped the boys in Congress, Ollie North.

On Sunday, Prince was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” where he said he welcomed an FBI investigation into the shootings — even though most bystanders in Baghdad and even Iraqi authorities say the shootings were excessive and unwarranted. “I’m glad they (the FBI) can be a neutral party,” Prince said. “And if there’s further investigation or prosecution even needed, if someone really did wrong and meant badly, I’m all supportive.”

Putting aside Prince’s tortured English (Do you think he believes he, too, is a Decider?), his talking points are being broadcast up and down the eastern seaboard. He was also set up appear on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer program last night, was on “The Today Show” this morning, has been interviewed by Newsweek and is supposedly on board for an appearance tonight on PBS’ “Charlie Rose Show”.

How will Prince get through this media and congressional hammering?  Through the skilled services and professional counsel of Burson-Marsteller, perhaps? Although a spokesman for B-M told the AP that its involvement with Blackwater was only “temporary” having ended with the Oct. 2 hearing, I ask how do we, as citizens, know that?

B-M, like all good PR agencies, does its work behind the scenes. And, as Blackwater’s Prince tried to tell Congress, since Blackwater is a “private” company, it does not have to report its earnings, either.

Woa, partner. The government’s estimate is that Blackwater has received some $1 billion worth of federal contracts through the years, at the clip of $473 million annually. And who is the federal government? Well, that would be me. And you. And every other taxpayer in America.

There is a federal law against using taxpayer money for public relations consulting. Honest. Look it up. But when you swim in the murky waters of Blackwater and B-M, well..there’s a way around that troublesome law, too.


Let’s Talk About Sex

Baby boomers used to have sit-ins. Now Baby-boomer bloggers have bullshit-ins.

Today, all the world’s bloggers are being nagged to spend the day blogging about the environment. Since we in The Crowd are all about ruminating and fulminating about communications, I’ll oblige with this topic: “What environmental topic is most ignored by the news media?”

My nomination: Population control.

Whatever you think about the issue, you have to admit controlling population can control nearly every environmental problem there is. A smaller world population would produce less pollution and use less energy and other natural resources. Worldwide population is projected by the United Nations to increase by about 40% between now and the time I’ll be enjoying strained peas in a nursing home. It that happens it won’t be enough that we all are dutifully driving hybrids, recycling our milk jugs, screwing in twirly light bulbs, and attending environmental concerts. The planet will be in deeper doo-doo than it is today.

While all this procreating is happening, when was the last time you saw coverage of the issue?

By the way, don’t you dare accuse me of promoting forced abortion, infanticide, one child mandates, same sex marriage, sterilization or anything of the sort. Those practices are abhorrent, and we should be doing more to stop them. I’m simply promoting 1) a more vigorous worldwide discussion about the personal and planetary benefits of smaller families and 2) providing birth control products and education to all who lack it and want it.

I am the youngest of a family of eight, so it’s a good thing this debate wasn’t raging in the early 1960s. I also am the father of three, so I’m being even more hypocritical than usual.

But all I’m saying is this: Oceans of ink are being dedicated to debating environmental tactics that, while noble, are relatively inconsequential. At the same time, we are almost entirely ignoring a debate about a tactic that, if successfully implemented, at least would make a decent dent in our most pressing problems.

Whether you agree or disagree about whether we should be doing more to control the world’s population, shouldn’t we at least be having a more vigorous public debate about it?

– Loveland