February 11, 2006

In Defense of Sean Hannity

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 31, 2005 @ 3:13 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch

Sean Hannity is a conservative radio host.

I don’t often defend Hannity, but today I will.

Hannity is getting knocked at “Crooks and Liars” because on his radio show, Hannity portrayed a protest at a soldier’s funeral by anti-gay Right-wingers as representative of the anti-war Left.

“Crooks and Liars” notes:

If you listen to Sean, he mysteriously doesn’t name the protesters like he usually does.

However, Sean Hannity was reading from an article from WISH-TV — which doesn’t mention Right-winger Fred Phelps, and which says his group “sees American deaths in Iraq as a kind of punishment for social misdeeds.” The WISH-TV article doesn’t mention that the group’s main purpose is to be anti-gay, or that they see the deaths of Americans in Iraq as God’s punishment for the existence of homosexual behavior in America.

The WISH-TV article is awful, and the author didn’t sign his or her name. I blame that anonymous writer at WISH-TV for the misleading discussion by Sean Hannity.

Let’s give Sean Hannity a break this time.

By the way, I’m a supporter of “Crooks and Liars.” They don’t seem to be familiar with the WISH-TV article yet.


John at Crooks and Liars wrote me that he thinks Sean Hannity knows Fred Phelps was behind the protests, based on numerous articles about Phelps’ activities, but that Hannity purposely chose to read from an article that didn’t mention Phelps so that he could omit Phelps’ name and have “an out.”
(referenced with permission)


Bozell’s Bad Comparison

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 31, 2005 @ 2:35 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, PTC

Brent Bozell can’t understand why a woman camping out near a president’s vacation house because she wants to speak with him again (Cindy Sheehan), gets more media attention than critics of US foreign policy who don’t engage in similar protests.

It must be because the press has a “liberal agenda” according to Bozell.


NC Law Mistakes Free Speech for Clutter

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 1:26 pm
Filed under: Government

The Oak Island, NC, city council recently passed a beautification law that also outlawed political speech. One local editorial board is calling on them to reverse the law before litigation ensues.

From the Wilmington Star News:

The council was seeking to minimize clutter when it outlawed political signs – including, apparently, magnetic bumper stickers on cars – except in a small window that begins 30 days before an election.

Whatever its intent, the law’s effect is to squelch free speech and suppress political debate. And that almost certainly makes it unconstitutional.

Most telling is that the neatness rule only applies to campaign signs; the council apparently didn’t think a proliferation of real estate signs similarly mars the landscape.

A number of communities, including Wilmington, have less restrictive ordinances aimed at getting candidates and their supporters to collect stray signs after the election is over. Even those ordinances could be on shaky legal turf if vigorously enforced against a private citizen making a political statement.

At any rate, the worst offenders aren’t the homeowners and merchants who display their political preferences, but the clusters of signs that illegally litter intersections and public rights of way. They impede motorists’ vision, and government has the right to restrict them.

Signs on private property are another matter. When you try to tell people what they can say on their own piece of earth or on their car, you’re trespassing on that sacred ground known as the First Amendment.

If Oak Island’s law were challenged, the experts say, it likely would be overturned.

The Town Council owes it to its residents – and taxpayers – not to wait for that to happen.

This is a petty, intrusive law that sacrifices a fundamental right in the name of tidiness.


Paul McMasters on Penny Nance and Indecency Regulation; Read This

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 1:10 pm
Filed under: Free Speech Hero

Let’s start with the final paragraph:

Good and smart people differ over what indecency means. But there are two ways we can respond when dealing with whatever it is that we determine indecency to be. The easy way is to get a government official or agency to ban it or regulate it. The hard way is to engage it, decry it, discourage it, present a better alternative.

That is the hard way, but it should be the American way.

Read this.


Infomercial Guru Cries “Censorship”

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 1:04 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

If there were ever an argument for spiking mainstream America’s water supplies with drugs that make you smarter, it would be Kevin Trudeau’s book sales.

Trudeau is the author of the inexplicably bestselling “Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About,” which currently tops the NYT’s book list. Many of Trudeau’s book sales have been spurred by his half-hour infomercial for the book.

New York’s Consumer Protection Board recently announced plans to ask the state’s television stations not to broadcast the infomercial, or at least to air consumer warnings prior to the infomercial’s broadcast.

Trudeau, crying censorship, sued.

A District Court judge yesterday refused to issue an injunction against the Consumer Protection Board, meaning that the Board can send letters to New York’s TV stations with its requests.

“We will contact television and cable stations informing them of our belief that these infomercials are misleading,” Teresa Santiago, board chairwoman and executive director, said in a news release.

According to the letter, at least 431 complaints have been filed against the book nationally. (Lawyers for Trudeau say the complaints are minuscule compared with the millions of books sold, and that most complaints had to do with shipping delays or damaged books).

The letter asks stations to reject the ad or run a disclaimer such as “This book does not contain any cures, remedies or treatments for specific diseases.”

WNYT Ch. 13 already has canceled the ad.

“I thought his claims were dubious at best,” said Steve Baboulis, the station’s vice president and general manager, who pulled the ad in February. “There’s a difference between that kind of infomercial and … The Incredible Wok, where you get to cook your Chinese vegetables in a nice way, or a golf club that can help you swing at a different level.”


Trudeau’s lawyer, David Bradford, said he would continue to pursue a restraining order to prevent the state from sending out letters to television stations.

“They’re trying to shut down our message,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Trudeau’s “message” has raised eyebrows and ire.

Trudeau previously served two years in a federal prison for credit card fraud, and was sued by the Illinois Attorney General for his involvement in a pyramid marketing scheme.

Trudeau has also been in hot water over infomercials before. In 1998, Trudeau settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $1.1 million after admitting that his infomercials for “Hair Farming,” “Mega Memory System,” “Addiction Breaking System,” “Action Reading,” “Eden’s Secret,” and “Mega Reading” were deceptive.

In 2004, the FTC went a step further and actually banned Trudeau from appearing in infomercials — unless they were “truthful infomercials for informational publications.”

An FTC spokesperson said, “This ban is meant to shut down an infomercial empire that has misled American consumers for years. Other habitual false advertisers should take a lesson; mend your ways or face serious consequences.”

But the banned man now claims censorship.

And this guy’s at the top of our bestseller list?


Judge Upholds Right to Artistic Graffiti

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 12:34 pm
Filed under: Free Speech

A fun-lovin’ group of Manhattan artists planned a graffiti party earlier this month, wanting to artistically tag a collection of two-dimensional model subway cars.

Wary NYC officials revoked the group’s permit, worried that the example might encourage young folk to spraypaint real subway cars.

A federal judge later slapped the city with a rolled up copy of the First Amendment, pointing out that the revocation of the permit was something less than an homage to free speech.

From the Associated Press:

The exhibition — to take place in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan — is the brainchild of Marc Ecko, a fashion designer who began his career as a graffiti artist in New York. According to plans laid out by Ecko’s company, Ecko Unlimited, 20 former graffiti artists will spray graffiti onto two-dimensional replicas of subway cars. The city ultimately revoked the permit on grounds it would encourage a crime. City lawyer Paula Van Meter had told the judge that young people could get the message graffiti vandalism was acceptable and could easily repeat the act “down the street and down the stairs” in to the subway system.

The judge noted that anyone who vandalised public property could be prosecuted. In his order, he quoted [mayor Michael] Bloomberg, who, on his radio program on August 19 said that the exhibition was “trying to encourage people to do something that’s not in anybody’s interest.”

The judge responded: “Such heavy-handed censorship would, moreover, fall particularly hard on artists, who frequently revel in breaking conventions or tweaking the powers that be.”

Ecko responded by posting an “Open Letter to the City of New York” on his website:

Unfortunately the spirit of the event, as it was originally conceived and as it has been presented to the appropriate civic groups and government officials since November 2004, seems to have been lost in the haste to stereotype all graffiti-style artists as “vandals” and to brand this event as a “promotion of crime.”

At its core, this is an event designed to celebrate an art form born from the streets of New York over two decades ago as a means of creative self expression, allowing the public a unique chance to experience the workmanship and skill that go into creating a piece of art fine enough to hang on the walls of any traditional gallery or museum. Upon completion, a 48 foot mural will be donated to The Point, a Bronx-based nonprofit youth development organization, while the remaining nine will be placed throughout the city for public display.


I am well aware that drawing graffiti in public places is a crime, and I do not condone or encourage it. At the same time, however, graffiti is a legitimate and historical part of the great art history of our city. The visual dialect is alive and well, and contrary to the opinion of certain elected officials, just because you draw on paper that way doesn’t mean that you are writing on walls. That is the dialect that these artists and others like them dream through, that informed their creative energy so early on and helped them to go on to become a muralist, a film maker, a story teller, and even a clothing designer.

So leave the Breakfast Club of spraypaint alone, y’all!


Blogger Sued for Visitors’ Comments

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 12:10 pm
Filed under: Free Speech

In a case that ought to send a big “Whoa Nelly” through the blogging world, one blog administrator is being sued or comments made by his site’s visitors.

Traffic-Power.com1 sued Aaron Wall, who maintains a blog on search engine optimization— tactics companies use to get themselves to appear higher in searches at Google, Yahoo and elsewhere — alleging defamation and publication of trade secrets. The suit, filed in a Nevada state court earlier this month, also listed as defendants several unnamed users of the blog.

At issue are statements posted in the comments section of Mr. Wall’s blog, SEOBook.com. Many blogs allow readers to post comments, often anonymously, and Mr. Wall’s blog included several reader submissions that blasted tools sold by Traffic-Power.com.

Traffic-Power.com said in the suit that confidential information about the company has been published on the blog, and it accused Mr. Wall of publishing “false and defamatory information,” but it didn’t identify any of the material in question.

Wall says on his website, “I still do not think I knowingly stated anything wrong or dishonest, and Traffic Power has yet to give me any specific advice of what I should be removing or fixing, other than ‘everything,’ which clearly makes it a free speech issue in my mind.”

From the Wall Street Journal, via Media Channel.


“It Was Just a Few Words!”

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 12:03 pm
Filed under: Free Speech?

Today’s examination of the philosophy of philology centers on this question: How many “not incredibly edgy” words can one change before one becomes a censor?

This riddle is brought to you by Boise State University.

Posters for an education event were modified to tone down what Boise State adminstrators say was racey language.

The first, a poster promoting The J-Spot, a sex educator’s discussion about sexuality, was edited by Boise State University prior to the Thursday event.

The other poster, promoting “Transgeneration,” a documentary about four college students who enter into the process of gender-reidentification, was also modified.

The original poster displayed a checklist of what students need to do in preparation for school. The last item stated, “Get a sex change.”

A sticker now covers that portion of the poster, reading “Go see Transgeneration.”

“There’s a climate of censorship on the campus,” said Amy Salisbury, the president of Idaho Progressive Student Alliance.

BSU administrators are responding. “It was just a few words,” said Mark Wheeler, BSU Vice President of Student Affairs. The J-spot poster made an innuendo about sexual pleasure, “Not anything incredibly edgy,” Wheeler said.

BSU modified the poster and Bronco Welcome brochures to read “a safe and healthy relationship” rather than “make sex safer and more pleasurable.”

Wheeler said the university was sensitive to all students and did not want to offend incoming students who received the brochure.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure we serve all constituents in a well-balanced approach,” Wheeler said. “We want to do so in a way that’s sensitive to the beliefs of all students.”


Wheeler said he didn’t regret the modifications to the posters, as more than 400 students attended J-Spot.


In Other London Ad Ban News…

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 11:48 am
Filed under: Ban It!

Ad sensitivities in London aren’t limited to gold-digging men on leashes.

An ad for Barclay Bank has been pulled from the telly after viewer complaints.

The ad showed a man being stung in the mouth by a bee or a wasp that had climbed into a drinks can. He ran to a nearby lake to cool down and his face was shown to be visibly swollen. He then fell into the water, emerging covered in weeds and mud and howling in pain. The man then approached a restaurant, where people began to scream at his appearance.

The ad finished with police shooting the man with a tranquiliser, before he was arrested and a voiceover said: “Statistically, you’re more likely to be arrested than change your bank account”.

Londoners are understandably gun-shy these days when it comes to images of innocents being shot by the police (even with traquilizer guns). Remember the shoot-to-kill incident on July 22, when an innocent Brazilian was shot seven times because police thought his backpack might be a bomb?

So maybe it’s no surprise that the ad was banned because of its portrayal of a police shooting.

Hang on a second — this just in

The Advertising Standards Authority received over a hundred complaints about the ad, with the majority of people claiming that the ad was offensive to allergy sufferers because “it made light of a potentially fatal situation”.

Nearly a hundred viewers claimed to have suffered personal distress from seeing the ad, because they or their loved ones, suffered from allergies. More than 20 viewers also said that they, or people they knew, had nearly or actually died from the same adverse reaction depicted in the ad.

The ASA upheld the complaints and said that the ad should not be shown again, due to a “significant number of viewers” being “clearly distressed” by seeing the ad.

Seven viewers also complained that their children had been frightened by the commercial, while 12 viewers complained that the ad was “horrific”, due to the man’s appearance.

Offensive to allergy sufferers.


And I have nothing more to say about that.

From the UK’s 4 National News.


Jerry Hall Posters Ousted from London Tube

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 11:36 am
Filed under: Ban It!

Posters promoting an upcoming VH1 series starring leggy Texan (and Jagger ex) Jerry Hall have been removed from the London Underground.

Kept,” which has already aired stateside, features 12 very dignified young men vying to become Hall’s sexual plaything. The poster’s advertising the series’ London debut featured those 12 men, partially clothed, tethered to Hall on leashes.

Tube officials protested, saying the posters were “sexually demeaning.”

Seems that the Tube, which has recently been the target of terrorist attacks, would have heavier priorities.

From The Evening Standard.


Pregnant Women Inappropriate for TV

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 31, 2005 @ 11:22 am
Filed under: Obscene!

The Dutch version of the reality series Big Brother is being investigated for including a pregnant housemate. The knocked-up woman was set to give birth sometime during the show’s run, provided that she didn’t get voted out first.

Dutch censorship rules strictly limit how kids can be shown on TV. Officials had apparently considered granting a pre-humous (is that a word?) work permit to the fetus for use on its arrival. Political shenanigans by the ruling Dutch Christian Democrats, however, have led to the instigation of the investigation.

What exactly is there to investigate, anyway?

A spokeswoman for the social affairs and labor ministry confirmed a report in De Telegraaf daily on Saturday that inspectors were examining a request by Big Brother producers for the newborn baby to be allowed to appear on the program.

The Netherlands has strict rules governing young children acting on television, in films or on the stage.

The ruling Christian Democrats have condemned the idea of a birth on the live show, but the 27-year-old pregnant contestant identified only as Tanja defended the idea.

“I think that my child will be proud of it later,” she told De Telegraaf.


Reporters Killed In Iraq

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 31, 2005 @ 5:42 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

From the Internet Movie Database:

Iraq War Surpasses Vietnam in Number of Reporters Killed

More broadcast and print journalists have been killed during the Iraq war than during the entire 20 years of the Vietnam War, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

The latest casualty, it said, was a soundman for Reuters TV News, who was shot by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, bringing to 66 the number of journalists and their assistants who have been killed since 2003. (A Reuters cameraman accompanying the soundman was wounded in the incident.) Sixty-three journalists were killed in Vietnam between 1955 and 1975.


Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in Minnesota

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 30, 2005 @ 6:45 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

Good News: Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity won’t be on AM in the Twin Cities much longer, due to low ratings.

Bad News: They will be played on an FM station.

Right now Limbaugh and Hannity are on KSTP 1500 AM talk radio.

They’re moving to KJZI 100.3 FM Smooth Jazz , which won’t be a Smooth Jazz station anymore.

A Smug Junk station, perhaps.

Rush Limbaugh has expressed contempt for “long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking FM types,” and hopefully FM listeners will feel the same way about him.


District Court Judge Rules in Favor of Insults

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 30, 2005 @ 12:28 pm
Filed under: Free Speech

A federal judge has ruled that a local Board of Ed can’t selectively limit free speech. The thin-skinned Asbury Park, NJ, school board had forbidden meeting attendees from publicly criticizing board members. The judge let stand a policy that allows board members to curtail speech that is long-winded, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant.

Read the rest in the Asbury Park Press.


American Family Association to Help Students Distribute “Special” Bibles to their Unsaved Schoolmates

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 30, 2005 @ 12:21 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Schools

From Bozell’s CNS News:

A conservative group, in partnership with an evangelical ministry, plans to give away free Bibles to “lost students in our public schools.”

As part of the American Family Association’s Truth for Youth campaign, teenagers will distribute special Bibles to their unsaved friends.

According to the AFA, the Bibles consist of the New Testament, along with full-color comics that tell “absolute truths” about issues confronting young people, such as evolution, sexual purity, homosexuality, abortion, pornography, drugs, drunkenness, peer pressure, school violence and secular rock music.

A comic on homosexuality says the notion that people are born that way is “hooey,” and it promises that Jesus can save you and change you. Another comic calls secular rock music “wasted words,” and another on “safe sex” warns that condoms do not protect against the virus that causes AIDS.

“God’s wonderful plan of salvation is incorporated into each of the stories,” the AFA said in a press release announcing its Truth for Youth campaign.

Tim Todd Ministries is underwriting the costs of making the Bible available free of charge, and the AFA is urging parents and grandparents to order free Bibles for their teenagers to distribute at school.

Tim Todd, director of the Louisiana-based Revival Fires International, called the Bible distribution a response to the “ill effect” that the liberal agenda is having on young people in the nation’s public schools.

Anticipating resistance in some schools, organizers of the Bible giveaway have printed students’ legal rights on the back cover of the “Truth for Youth” Bibles. The information informs school administrators and young people that they have the right to give Bibles away on campus during non-instructional time.


In Defense of Crap

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 30, 2005 @ 11:54 am
Filed under: FCC

Though it doesn’t make for the most persuasive debate platform, a significant theme in the indecency battle is a grown-up’s right to seek out entertainment with no culturally redeeming value. Yes, dammit!

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon explains it better:

As an American, I absolutely refuse to have my private entertainment dictated to me by nuts. That’s what the Founding Fathers fought for, and that is one of the core freedoms we fight for to this very day — the right to watch whatever trash I want to as long as it doesn’t violate anyone else’s rights. I like cursing, a lot. I like ribald humor and morbid references and dark, dirty sarcasm smeared all over my brain like a stripper’s sparkles. If you don’t like it, fuck off. Go watch your “family-friendly” versions of films from Wal-Mart. Go enjoy one of the hundreds of thousands of books, CDs, movies and games that’s geared towards family or Christian audiences. Go to the park. Make a lanyard. I’d come up with more ideas, but I’ve got porn to download.

Again: Yes, dammit!

Update: Another discussion is taking place at TPMCafe.


We Will Not Be Silenced.

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 30, 2005 @ 11:35 am
Filed under: Free Speech

I laughed, I cried, I raged.

You will too.

We Will Not Be Silenced. (Flash)

1 Comment

FCC Pipeline Chock Full of, Well, Stuff that Fills Pipelines

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 30, 2005 @ 11:10 am
Filed under: FCC

A report in Salon.com today promises a busy future for us FCC watchers.

As the Penny Nance era gets rolling, the FCC will likely act soon on a bevy of backlogged indecency complaints. Senate staffers have been meeting with activists and industry reps to discuss regulation of cable and satellite TV. Freshman Chairman Kevin Martin has been meeting with conservative activists to “assure them of his commitment to change the television landscape.”

With Martin at the helm and Nance as a quasi-figurehead, it seems as if the FCC will focus not only on whether broadcasters have violated indecency rules, but on what indecency actually is, and how far broadcasters (and the government) should go to “protect” us from it.

Here’s Salon:

Under the current rules, material is indecent if it is “offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.” But standards vary widely from community to community, household to household. Family Research Council legal director Patrick A. Trueman said he recently traveled to a Marriott Hotel in Houston, where he said three separate cable stations — not pay-per-view stations — were showing “hardcore pornography,” which he described as “sex acts.” He demanded that the hotel staff come disable the channels. The staff told him one of the stations was Showtime. “I don’t have cable just for this reason,” said Trueman, who previously worked on obscenity cases in the Justice Department. “If I had cable, I would not want my children viewing that.” [emphasis mine — A.T.]

If the activists have their way, Trueman’s children will not be the only Americans barred from watching sex — explicit or implied — on television. For now, they have the political winds at their backs, and a sympathetic captain at the helm of the FCC. Before taking his current job, Martin served as a lawyer for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and later as a White House aide. His wife, Catherine J. Martin, worked for Vice President Cheney until recently, when she took another job in the White House to work for the president on policy and planning issues.

There is little doubt that Martin knows the political stakes of the coming fight. In 2003, he shared his concerns over indecency in a letter to the Parents Television Council, a group that has called for a boycott of shows like the WB’s “Everwood” because it features adults who encourage teenage characters to use birth control and, in one case, have an abortion. “Certainly broadcasters and cable operators have significant First Amendment rights, but these rights are not without boundaries,” Martin wrote to the group. “They are limited by law. They also should be limited by good taste.”

I said it yesterday. I’ll say it again: When did enforcing “good taste” become the aegis of the federal government? When did it become the role of the government — and of individual government employees — to define good taste?

And when are people like us going to stand up against the likes of a government who tries to mold us in its own cultural image, simply because it believes it has sufficient “political capital”?

Most importantly, what are you willing to do about it?

Think about it. We’ll be calling on you shortly.

- - - - -

For the record, pending complaints filed by the PTC include

  • The Who’s F-bomb during ABC’s Live 8 broadcast
  • CSI’s “King Baby” infantilism episode
  • An episode of CBS’ “Without a Trace” that featured a “teen orgy”
  • A complaint against ABC’s canceled “Life as We Know It”
  • An F-bomb complaint against CBS’ “Big Brother”
  • A whole slew of complaints against NBC’s short lived cartoon “Father of the Pride”
  • An apparently offensive, sex-filled episode of “That 70s Show”
  • and a whole list of complaints against cable programming on MTV, F/X, and other channels (which thus far remain outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction)


Protecting a Killer’s Reputation

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 29, 2005 @ 8:31 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

From the Internet Movie Database:

Australia’s Supreme Court has upheld an injunction barring the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from broadcasting a documentary in the state of Tasmania about James O’Neill, serving a life sentence for killing a nine-year-old boy in 1975. O’Neill has sued the ABC, claiming that he was defamed in the documentary: The Fisherman: A Journey into the Mind of a Killer.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court observed that the injunction is “of a temporary nature” and noted that it would only delay the broadcast of the documentary until after O’Neill’s lawsuit is tried and not necessarily bar it forever. But, in a dissent, one judge noted that the documentary was a matter of public interest and that O’Neill is already a publicly known figure and is therefore unlikely to prove that he was defamed.

Let’s hope they can prevent a documentary director from hurting the good reputation of a convicted killer serving a life sentence.


Minneapolis Star Tribune: Strike Coverage Pro-Corporate?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 29, 2005 @ 7:29 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

A letter in the August 30, 2005, Minneapolis Star-Tribune criticizes its coverage of the Northwest Airlines mechanics’ strike:

PR by Star Tribune

I wonder if it’s possible that Northwest is “winning the spin battle,” as an Aug. 25 headline claimed, because corporate apologists like the Star Tribune print Northwest press releases as front-page news, and bury the real story in the Business section?

“Smooth flying, some bumps,” an Aug. 23 A1 headline stated; “Customers are stuck absorbing strike’s impact” on page D1 a day later.

The second story contains actual, independently gathered, on-time, delayed and canceled flight information; the first contains a speculative airline-sponsored scenario.

For a so-called “liberal media” newspaper, the Star Tribune’s corporate bias is all over this story.

Guy Strauss, Minneapolis.

The paper also uses the term “replacement mechanics” instead of scabs. Perhaps the former is more neutral.

The article on spin referred to in the letter is here.

Editorials by the Star-Tribune tend to take liberal positions more often than conservative positions (they endorsed Kerry over Bush), which may be why the letter-writer used the term “liberal media.”


Bozell Serves on Board of Ecclesiastical “Red-Baiting” Group

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 29, 2005 @ 12:58 pm
Filed under: PTC

The Boston Globe today reports on the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization whose mission is to expose “heretics and dissidents” at Catholic colleges and universities. (One aspect of the article focuses on the Society’s tax-exempt status, which the group’s president claims is “clearly a mistake.”)

One of the group’s board members is the Parents Television Council’s Brent Bozell.

Reilly, 35, said his concern about the direction of Catholic higher education began when he was studying journalism at Fordham University. Back then, he said, Fordham was considering whether to allow student groups for gays and lesbians and those who favored abortion rights — something Reilly, the student newspaper’s top editor, opposed in editorials.

In 1993, Reilly founded the Cardinal Newman Society, named after a 19th-century cardinal, and became its president in 2001. Though the society’s official goal is ‘’the preservation of Catholic higher education,” a fund-raising letter Reilly signed is more provocative: Catholics should demand that universities fire ‘’any professor who refuses to conform to Catholic teaching” and strip any college ‘’of its Catholic identity” if it doesn’t comply.

Reilly’s presidency coincides with an aggressive new fund-raising strategy in which the society attacked Catholic colleges that staged performances of ‘’The Vagina Monologues” and that invited commencement speakers who favored abortion rights. The society’s annual income soared from $126,000 in 2002 to $622,000 in the fiscal year that ended in June; membership during that time multiplied from about 3,000 to more than 18,000, Reilly said.

Yet it’s difficult to independently verify some of the society’s claims of influence. For example, a recent society document included this contention: ‘’Recently a Catholic bishop contacted Patrick Reilly to discuss how he could put the screws to a wayward Catholic college in his diocese, including ways of encouraging the removal of dissident theology faculty.” Reilly said the bishop spoke confidentially.

Although the group does not speak for or represent the church, its listing among other Catholic groups has raised questions about whether its policies are in accordance with the church itself.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops referred questions about the society to the Diocese of Arlington, Va. In a statement, diocese spokesman Soren Johnson said the church ‘’has established procedures for investigating allegations of heresy.”

Beal said a charge of heresy — officially defined as ‘’the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” — is rare.

Also, earlier this year, the society claimed credit for stripping Marymount Manhattan College of its Catholic identity after contending that the school’s commencement speaker, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, supported abortion rights. The college said at the time, however, that it had previously shed its Catholic identity.

The society has targeted three Boston College faculty members — law professors Milton Heifetz and Charles Baron and theology professor the Rev. John Paris — because they signed a legal brief filed on behalf of those wishing to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube.

Remember this next time Bozell says he’s not politically motivated, as well as the next time he says that the PTC has no ties to religious groups.

More in the Boston Globe.


Time to Play Catch-Up: The Indecency Overview

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 29, 2005 @ 11:22 am
Filed under: FCC, Indecency

C|Net’s Declan McCullough does a good job of wrapping the current indecency battles in a neat little package — one that includes the fight over .xxx domains and the FCC’s hire of concerned woman Penny Nance.

Brush up and catch up at C|Net.

And speaking of Penny Nance, a writer for the National Review wonders how anyone could be nervous about “a beautiful young wife and mother with a charming Tennessee accent and no history of violent crime.”

Well, that puts things in perspective, don’t it?

The Review’s Ann Morse continues:

[Nance is] bad news for those who make a living dumping untreated sewage into our homes via television and “shock jock” radio shows because when it comes to fighting filth, Nance is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s the founder of the Kids First Coalition, which vigorously lobbies against pornography. She’s served on the board of Concerned Women for America, which — among other things — lobbies against pornography. She has testified before Congress about the dangers to children of Internet porn, and was a signatory last spring on a letter to President Bush calling for stricter enforcement of indecency laws — including the use of “repeated and expanded” fines “until broadcasters understand they are not above the law.”

Nance wants to bring back television’s family hour, a mild move that would not eliminate the trashier programs but simply push them into later time slots. She’d also like to see pressure applied to currently unregulated cable channels which, she says, have a “huge indecency problem.” […]

[Nance is determined] to do everything she can to lesson [heh, sic] the grip pornography has on our society. She points to the links between the consumption of pornography and sexual assaults on women and children. A few years ago Nance herself was the victim of an attempted rape by a man addicted to porn; which is why she takes a dim view of those who say — as one of her blogger critics put it, “Don’t like what’s on the channel? Change it!”

Nance plans to change the culture. She knows that when others produce or consume obscene or pornographic materials, we all have to live with the corrosive consequences. Today we’re no longer shocked to hear of twelve-year-old girls engaging in oral sex, or of even younger girls being kidnapped, raped, and murdered — victims of men addicted to violent sexual imagery.

Where to start?

Strawman #1: Does Morse really believe that Lefties — or anyone besides 12-year-olds — shrug their collective shoulders at the idea of preteens having sex? Does she really think that we as a society, regardless of political affiliation, have become inured to assaults on children? Perhaps she does, but that’s beside the point.

The real question is, How did these issues become the jurisdiction of the FCC? How will increased indecency fines solve the problems? (Here’s a hint: They won’t.)

Strawman #2: Where exactly did the parental responsibility argument get off to? Morse makes an allusion to it (in reference to the “blogger critic” who urges offended viewers to change the channel), but never really addresses it. If Nance is, as Morse later states, “the representative of ‘the millions of American mothers who are sickened by the constant diet of cultural sewage that’s being fed to their children,’” what does she have to say to parents who indiscriminately park their kids in front of the television? It sounds as if the children in question have successfully conquered parentkind — indeed, humankind. Is the victory so total that government troops must be summoned, in the form of Penny Nance and her comrades?

Strawman #3: Morse implies that attempted-rape victim Penny Nance is somehow uniquely qualified to serve as a consultant to the FCC on indecency issues. That argument is itself pornographic, and is insulting to rape victims whose assailants had, say, a shoe fetish.

The pornography-begets-rape argument goes way back. Ironically, it was first popularized by 70s-vintage feminists like Andrea Dworkin. Yet there is an equally vocal camp that believes that rape begets pornography. Neither is a provable theorem.

Rape is a tragedy. Further, rape is a tragedy that pre-dates television. Pornography is, to some, an abomination. To others, it’s a harmless past-time. Pornography, too, pre-dates television.

Again, how did this become the FCC’s problem to solve?

Look, the Right and the Left will almost certainly never agree on the effects dirty pictures have on our society. We should accept that fact and move on.

Here’s one fact that we all should agree upon, however: No government entity should ever appoint or employ an activist whose goal it is to “change our culture.”

That simply is not what government agencies are for. And it sure as hell isn’t what the FCC is for.


Boys in the Hood Get Surreptitious Reading

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 29, 2005 @ 11:11 am
Filed under: Free Speech

A performing arts group in Georgia held a table reading of the play “Shermantown: Baseball, Apple Pie and the Klan” after a local theater refused to let them stage the show.

The owners of the Art Station Theater in Stone Mountain, GA, decided earlier this summer that the play was inappropriate for the local audience. The play, which focuses on the local African-American population’s life in the realm of the KKK, dealt frankly with racial hatred. The racial slurs spoken by the play’s characters apparently make the theater owners a bit nervous.

Ironically, Stone Mountain is most famous for its ginormous bas relief rock carving of Confederate generals.

The play’s cast was undeterred by the theater owners’ squeamishness and, like good little free speechers, performed the play at a local church.

More from Access North Georgia:

Every Labor Day in Shermantown — a town named by blacks freed by Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman after he took Atlanta in 1864 — hundreds of Klansmen gathered for an annual meeting. It was an event held by local resident James Venable, the former imperial wizard of the Klan.

“Shermantown” the play shows the complex nature of Venable’s interactions with the black community in the middle of a main Klan Labor Day rally. As a well-known criminal lawyer, he was the person blacks could count on if one needed to be bailed out of jail. The day after the Klan’s annual event, he would throw a similar barbecue for blacks on the same field.

But the small town also knew him to be the Klan wizard who did not want blacks to vote and he held negative views against Jewish and Catholic people.

An opening monologue portraying Venable’s thoughts on blacks and other groups prompted Art Station Theater director David Thomas and his board to pull the play.

“The language in the monologue is not only racy, it’s inciting and slanderous about Jews and Catholics,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July.

But Gloria Brown, a life-long resident of Shermantown, said the play was not offensive. About a dozen of the nearly 100 people in the audience during the Saturday afternoon reading of the play were Shermantown natives.

“I don’t see why the Art Station would turn it down,” the 65-year-old said. “In 1940, it didn’t bother us what they said. The Klan never bothered us at all in Shermantown.”

Brown said she and other blacks endured other injustices, such as having to order hot dogs at the back of restaurants and being denied seats on public buses.

“All my hope was I would live to see the day that it changed — and I did,” she said.


I’m back, and I broke the site

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 29, 2005 @ 11:03 am
Filed under: SpeakSpeak

Happy almost-September to one and all. I’ve been on a bit of a summer vacation, leaving Eric Jaffa to keep the ship afloat. (Which he did splendidly. *Applause*)

My first act upon my return was to accidentally delete a passel of comments left by you, our wonderful readers. I suck.

The deleted comments were in the latest Bernie Goldberg thread and the latest Venezuela thread. Please make me feel better and repost your thoughts.



Which is Worse: Medical Malpractice or Copyright Violation?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 28, 2005 @ 3:17 pm
Filed under: Government

From “By the Numbers” by Jonathan Gaw, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 28, 2005:

$250,000: Maximum amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded to a patient in any health care lawsuit, under legislation passed by the House of Representatives last month but not yet voted upon by the Senate.

$1.5 million: Maximum financial penalty that a person can suffer for illegally copying as few as 10 songs, movies, books or other copyrighted works.


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