February 11, 2006

Christmas Tree vs. Holiday Tree

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 30, 2005 @ 10:25 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Religion

Should the pine tree on the White House lawn be called a “Christmas tree” or a “holiday tree?”

Fox News exploits the issue with blather about political correctness. (”While the political correctness has trapped some communities into taking the Christianity out of Christmas in order to accommodate the minority of Americans who don’t celebrate the holiday, the White House continues to call its tree a Christmas Tree,” reads a dubious, unsigned article at foxnews.com.)

However, liberal blogger Desi shines through the nonsense:

If people would worry half as much about living children in our country as they do tiny cells that they can’t yet see and what happens to them, I’ll call it a Pat Robertson tree.

If people would spend half the time they spend planning a war on trying to understand the beliefs, the attitudes, and the customs of another nation, I’d call it a George Bush tree.

If people would spend half the time they spend convicting a young black/asian/hispanic man for gang crimes on working on solutions to inner city gang violence, I’d call it a Justice tree.

If the Pope would spend a month working alongside a group of gay activists — only for the sake of getting to know them, and understanding some of their issues — I’d call my tree Benny.

If our politicians were able to actually spend half the time they spend at black-tie fund raisers making small talk, out on the streets of America with everyday citizens, I’d call it the Mother-of-God-we-might-see-changes-in-our-lifetime Tree.

If *christians* would spend half the time they spend condemning single-mothers, welfare recipients, drug addicts, poor people, gays[am I forgetting anyone here??]on trying to make the world a little bit of a nicer place to be I’d call it a Christmas tree.

1 Comment

Propaganda in Iraq, Paid For With Our Tax Dollars

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 30, 2005 @ 9:57 pm
Filed under: Government, Free Press

A democracy has an independent press.

Is that what the US is bringing to Iraq?

Wonkette discusses an LA Times article by Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi:

The LA Times today exposed U.S. military operation that pays Iraqi newspapers to run stories written by “information operations” troops about how wonderful things are going. All together now: Talk about your American-style democracy. What bothers us isn’t even that this manipulation of the press runs counter to the whole establishing-a-free-society objective that men and women are dying for — it’s that, as with the rest of the war, it doesn’t seem to be working out very well. According to the LAT, one of the advertorials placed by the military was entitled “Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism.” That is what you call your low bar…Is it propaganda if it’s as depressing as the news?

From the LA Times article itself:

The military’s information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military’s credibility in other nations and with the American public.

“Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we’re breaking all the first principles of democracy when we’re doing it,” said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.

I wish I could say that at least here in the US we don’t have government propaganda. Unfortunately, we have “Karen Ryan reporting” and deceiving us on behalf of the Bush Administration.

« Update of December 1, 2005 »

Ron Reagan and Pat Buchanan debated the propaganda on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews today.

Ron Reagan opposed the propaganda, emphasizing the contradiction between saying you’re promoting liberty while undermining a free press.

Pat Buchanan supported the propaganda, saying deception is a valid tool of war.

Chris Matthews made the point that some of the stories planted over there may come over here.

Video at CanOFun Political Video Clips


“The Colbert Report” on ‘Confidence’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 30, 2005 @ 9:41 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, TV

Actor Stephen Colbert plays a right-wing talk-show host on Comedy Central.

Near the start of each “Colbert Report” he does an editorial called “The Word;” Colbert usually makes right-wing statements, while text appears on the screen which doesn’t necessarily support those statements.

On last night’s show, for example, Colbert said that George W. Bush is a “man of confidence.”

The text read, “Con Man.”

Video at Crooks and Liars.


Proposed Indecency Fine Increases Sputter, Stall

Posted by Amanda Toering
November 30, 2005 @ 6:07 pm
Filed under: FCC, Indecency

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens has failed to pass during this Congressional session legislation that would increase indecency fines. After conservative activists crowed that this session would be the one in which fines were hiked by up to ten times, Stevens acknowledged yesterday that the legislation lacked sufficient support.

From the National Journal:

“Some folks think [the bill] is too weak, and some folks think it is too strong,” Stevens said of the bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “We don’t have 60 votes to move the bill” in either direction, he added — referring to the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster on the Senate floor.


Stevens said he wanted the industry and family groups to meet again Dec. 12 [after November 29th’s “Open Forum”] and seek agreement on a consensus rating system that would apply to broadcasters and cable programmers. Stevens also noted that his committee will hold a Jan. 19 hearing on indecency.

But Kyle McSlarrow, chief executive officer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said: “Any government mandate, in our view, is very clearly a violation of the First Amendment under the Constitution. We should take very seriously the notion that we should be careful in intruding on what we deliver, and how.”


Stevens said Tuesday’s forum was an attempt to bridge some of the differences about indecency and creating ties of family programming, and to promote alternative television-viewing options. “Kyle is right. Passing a bill [that applied indecency to cable] is going to be declared unconstitutional. That doesn’t get us anywhere,” Stevens said. “We have to find some middle ground here.”


FCC Source: Expect TV Complaint Rulings Soon, Radio Rulings Later

Posted by Amanda Toering
November 30, 2005 @ 2:46 pm
Filed under: FCC, TV, Indecency, Radio

Billboard Radio Monitor reports that the FCC will likely report on pending television indecency complaints by December 9th, the day that commissioner Kathleen Abernathy is scheduled to step down. (For the record, various sources have been promising that the rulings would take place “in upcoming weeks” for several months now.)

The rulings may make the agency’s nebulous criteria clearer.

From Billboard:

According the timetable of an FCC source, [television complaints] would need to be voted on by, or before, Friday, Dec. 9, Abernathy’s last day as a commissioner. This same source said a package of radio-related NALs won’t be released until early 2006.

The timing is such that it would also give FCC chairman Martin a chance to show progress on the indecency front by issuing a set of indecency decisions within calendar year 2005. After a record-setting number of fines issued in 2004, the FCC hasn’t written a single NAL for indecency this year.

Another source, a communications attorney and a former staffer at the FCC, suggested that both packages would make interesting reading “if they [the commissioners and staff] give any guidance.” This source suggested that the creation of these two packages, if they do include more than a few NALs, also would be a relatively unique set of items handed down by the FCC. The only other example of a set of NALs being handled by the FCC as one package was in January 2005, involving complaints lodged by the Parents Television Council.

“The easiest way to do a package like this,” said the source, “is to take, say, five NALs that are indecent and say ‘These are indecent and here’s why,’ and to take another five NALs that are not indecent and say so. The harder thing is to take five NALs that are at the margin and say ‘These are at the margin and here’s why they’re indecent,’ and then to take another five, that are also at the margin, but aren’t indecent and to explain why.”


Government Parenting: Real Parents Say “Thanks, but No Thanks”

Posted by Amanda Toering
November 30, 2005 @ 2:41 pm
Filed under: Parents

A new study has found that the overwhelming majority of parents — though concerned with what their kids watch — don’t want the government policing or dictating television content.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

According to the survey done by Russell Research for TV Watch, a whopping 81% of American TV watchers worry about the kinds of programs their children could be exposed to on TV, 91% of parents said more parental involvement is the best way to keep kids from seeing what they shouldn’t see. Just 9% of parents said the government should increase control and enforcement of network television programming.

The survey comes on the eve of a Senate forum focusing on racy television programming. The all-day forum called by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, includes representatives from both conservative and liberal groups, the FCC, TV executives and groups like the Parents Television Council who have been the big drivers in recent moves to crack down on racy broadcasts.

“People see something on TV they don’t like and some activists yell from the rooftops calling for more government intervention, but that’s not what people want,” said Jim Dyke executive director of TV Watch. “The vast majority of the people don’t want the government making their programming decisions.”

TV Watch is a broad-based coalition that opposes government control of TV programming and promotes the use of tools like content ratings and parental controls. Its members include, the American Conservative Union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Creative Coalition, Viacom, News Corp., and NBC-Universal.

According to the survey of 513 parents with children between the ages of 2-17 conducted by Russell Research in November 2005, parents rely on a combination of rules about TV watching, TV ratings and newer technology like cable and satellite blocking to manage what their children watch on TV.

The survey found that a significant majority of parents are familiar with the available parental controls, with:

– 85% of parents find TV ratings useful;

– 66% finding cable blocking technology useful;

– 57% finding satellite blocking technology useful:

– And 56% of parents find the V-chip to be useful.

While Dyke admits that use of TV blocking technology like the V-chip is low, that doesn’t mean that parents aren’t paying attention.

“The decisions parents make about how their children watch TV are as diverse as Americans themselves,” he said. “Some people use the V-chip, some people watch TV with their kids, some people turn it off. I am hopeful that American lawmakers understand that American moms and dads don’t want the government playing parent.”

SpeakSpeak is a volunteer member of the “broad-based” TV Watch coalition.


Strange But True: Televangelists Opposed to a la Carte Programming

Posted by Amanda Toering
November 30, 2005 @ 2:35 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Cable/Satellite

Much of the vocal support for “a la carte” programming of cable and satellite TV has come from culture warriors on the Right.

The nanny brigade is facing dissent among its brethren, however. An LA Times article written by indecency watcher Jube Shriver notes that televangelists aren’t too keen on the idea of a la carte programming.

Trying to preserve their electronic pulpits, the nation’s religious broadcasters find themselves in the unusual position of fighting an effort by anti-indecency groups to thwart channels offering racy programming.

The issue involves a debate over whether cable companies should continue offering subscribers mainstream and niche channels in bundles, or let them buy what they want on an a la carte basis.

Consumer groups are pushing to let people choose their channels rather than pay for ones they don’t watch. One Federal Communications Commission study showed people on average regularly watch only 17 of the more than 100 cable channels they typically receive.

But what started largely as a consumer issue has now morphed into a larger controversy involving whether cable operators should be required to continue exposing subscribers to niche channels, including religious ones, that people might not order on their own.

“We don’t just want to preach to the choir; we want to reach the unchurched,” said Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcast Network in Santa Ana. “The bottom line is that we want to be everywhere on cable.


Christian broadcasters, including such big names as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, worry that changing the current system will cut into viewership. If that puts them on the opposite side of where they usually stand in the indecency debate, Crouch said, “so be it.”

Read more in the LA Times.

1 Comment

Showdown at the FCC Corral

Posted by Amanda Toering
November 30, 2005 @ 11:56 am
Filed under: PTC, FCC, Government, Indecency

As Chris Zammarelli told you earlier, some strange music has been emanating from FCC songbird (and Chairman) Kevin Martin.

Chris pointed to a report of a report stating that Kevin Martin had come out in favor of “a la carte” cable” programming. (It’s not the first time Martin has pushed for a la carte — he’s been doing it since his days as former Chair Michael Powell’s mild-mannered nemesis.)

Martin’s most recent push for a la carte programming came during an “open forum” on indecency sponsored by Ted Stevens, head of the Senate Commerce Committee — that is, the one with jurisdiction over FCC regulations.

The indecency forum was concocted by Stevens ostensibly to allow disparate voices to speak out on pending legislation that would increase indecency fines ten-fold, along with other aspects of the indecency debate. Some watchdogs, however, feel that the forum was nothing more than an attempt to lure the cable industry to the bargaining table and to publicly hog-tie them. That is, in fact, pretty much what happened.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that the meeting turned into a showdown between Kevin Martin and National Cable Television Association chief Kyle McSlarrow.

At the Senate Commerce Committee’s “Open Forum on Decency” on Tuesday, Martin said that he had the FCC’s chief economist, Leslie Marx, draft an analysis that counters the commission’s previous stance that forcing cable systems to sell all programming a la carte the way-they sell pay movie networks like HBO and Showtime-would substantially increase consumers’ costs because operators and networks would have to raise prices.

Martin said that the old report prepared by the FCC Media Bureau “makes mistakes in its basic calculations” and is based on “incorrect and biased analysis.” A new report to be issued by commission staff soon shows that a la carte “could be economically feasible and in consumers’ best interest.”

In fact, Martin said, applying a la carte to the digital tier would actually lower cable and satellite bills by 2% — a finding he said was omitted from the original staff report

Martin outlined other options to regulate content, including extending broadcast indecency rules to include cable and satellite services, and mandating family friendly tiers.


McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, came out Tuesday morning clearly against a la carte, tiering or indecency regulations for cable. McSlarrow said the Supreme Court has “very clearly” ruled in the past that any restrictions of that sort would be a violation of the First Amendment.

McSlarrow seemed to take dead aim at a la carte, comparing the idea of letting consumers pick and choose their cable channels to allowing newspaper readers to subscribe only to the sports section. McSlarrow said the multitude of channels helps provide the economic base for cable to carry several children’s channels. “The cable industry invented diversity of programming,” McSlarrow said.

McSlarrow said the technology already allows subscribers to block channels they find objectionable, and that it’s easy to do. “It’s four clicks and a scroll on the remote,” he said. “It’s not a heavy lift.”

Mandating a la carte, he argued, would “end up hurting the very customers we’re trying to help.” He ended his short presentation by urging legislators “to take government mandates off the table.”

Meanwhile, the cable industry received an additional blow from one of its own: The Mouse.

A Walt Disney Corp vice-president Preston Padden went on record as saying that he saw no need for the FCC to continue use separate standards when judging the indecency of broadcast and cable/satellite programs. The Disney corp’s cable holdings (ABC Family, Lifetime, ESPN, the Disney Channel, etc.), as you might imagine, would be relatively safe from indecency fines should cable and satellite get the ball and chain. Disney also owns broadcast network ABC, home of Desperate Housewives — which indecency crusaders like the Parents Television Council love to love to hate.

So, calling for regulation of cable and satellite TV isn’t a big risk for Disney. In fact, it may help them curry favor with the Feds. But are they also going to bat for a la carte, which would effectively allow cable and satellite subscribers to opt-out of paying for Goofy programming? Not so much.

Again from B&C:

Yet Padden also argued against a la carte, claiming it would cost cable operators billions of dollars just to provide the proper set-top boxes that would enable a pick-and-choose method of cable viewing. Disney’s gambit, it appeared, was a way for Disney to come out in favor of expanding indecency regulations to cable while defending the current cable delivery system.

Disney-owned ESPN is one of cable’s most expensive channels with the cost paid for by operators; if consumers had to pay for it, the reasoning goes, not enough fans would pay for Disney to continue to pay to show major league sports.

In the end, it all came back to the threat of increased indecency fines.

“As we approach 2006, we ought to look at getting a bill that will deal with this subject,” said Co-Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Congress is actually considering four bills that would toughen rules against the transmission of indecent content. “This is just a statement of fact,” said Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). “We’re going to do something this time.”


Passing laws limiting speech is tough
, many noted. Stevens, acknowledging that, said if courts overturned new indecency legislation, it “would be a great disappointment to the American family.”

Um…. And a great relief to the American Constitution, no?

Anyway, no story on indecency would be complete without the blathering of Parents Television Council president Brent Bozell. Yep, he was at the meeting too. Here’s what he had to say:

Some argued that the rating systems and v-chips don’t address the main issue of the content itself. “No one’s addressing the pothole,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council.

I hereby address the pothole: Bozell, stay out of my living room and concentrate on your own. Thankyouverymuch.


FCC Head Wants to Control Indecency on Cable

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 30, 2005 @ 6:01 am
Filed under: FCC

According to a CongressDaily article summarized in The Earlybird, FCC Chair Kevin Martin asked Congress to grant his agency the power to regulate content programming on cable and satellite services.

Time to write to your respective elected federal officials!

1 Comment

School Bans Issue of Student Newspaper

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 30, 2005 @ 5:54 am
Filed under: Schools

Oak Ridge (TN) High School administrators seized all 1800 copies of an issue of the student newspaper because it contained an article about the most effective forms of birth control. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the students could reprint the paper if the content was edited to be acceptable to frosh readers.

School officials were also concerned with a picture of an unidentified sudent’s tattoo.

1 Comment

Cheney Wanted the War for Halliburton Profits

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 29, 2005 @ 6:48 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Radio

Say so, and Bill O’Reilly is going to expose you!

Bill O’Reilly is the conservative host of a daily radio show and a nightly TV show.

Crooks and Liars has audio of Bill O’Reilly saying on his radio show that people mustn’t say that Bush and Cheney wanted to go to war in Iraq to get contracts for Halliburton — because there is no proof. Therefore, O’Reilly is going to name names on his TV and radio shows to expose people who make that allegation.

Mr. O’Reilly, start with me.

I don’t believe Bush wanted in the Iraq War for Halliburton. But Cheney, hell yes.

For proof, a few facts:

Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton from 1995-2000.

Cheney continues to receive deferred salary from Halliburton.

Cheney owns stock options in Halliburton.

Cheney got Halliburton a no-bid contract before the Iraq War, which only applied if there was a war.

Cheney went to the CIA building to speak with low-level CIA employees to express his interest in evidence for the existence of WMD in Iraq.

Cheney went on TV shows to promote the notion that Muhammed Atta (a 9/11 hijacker) met with an Iraqi official in Prague. (Phone and ATM records show Atta was in Florida at the time.)

Cheney declared before the war that there is “no doubt” that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program at that time. (They didn’t.)

Halliburton has overcharged the government, but the military has continued giving them no-bid contracts thanks to high-level interference.

Why did Cheney taint and distort the intelligence on WMD? I say greed.

Want to name my name Mr. O’Reilly? Go ahead.


US Military Spying In America

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 7:44 pm
Filed under: Government

The US military is already gathering data on civilians in America.

Bush wants to expand that, and to have the military investigate crimes currently investigated by the FBI.

From a Washington Post article by Walter Pincus:

The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts — including protecting military facilities from attack — to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.


One CIFA activity, threat assessments, involves using “leading EDE information technologies and data harvesting,” according to a February 2004 Pentagon budget document. This involves “exploiting commercial data” with the help of outside contractors including White Oak Technologies Inc. of Silver Spring, and MZM Inc., a Washington-based research organization, according to the Pentagon document.

For CIFA, counterintelligence involves not just collecting data but also “conducting activities to protect DoD and the nation against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, assassinations, and terrorist activities,” its brochure states.

CIFA’s abilities would increase considerably under the proposal being reviewed by the White House, which was made by a presidential commission on intelligence chaired by retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). The commission urged that CIFA be given authority to carry out domestic criminal investigations and clandestine operations against potential threats inside the United States.

Any group can be labelled a potential threat, since they might hypothetically commit a criminal act. People who engage in dissent — peace activists, environmental activists, animal rights activists — may be subject to spying on those grounds.

Please tell your Senators and Congressional Representatives that you don’t want the US military gathering data on civilians or investigating civilians.

You can find contact information at vote-smart.org.

1 Comment

Lawsuit Over “The Simpsons”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 12:37 pm
Filed under: CensorWorld, Ban It!

A Russian man says “The Simpsons” hurts morals.

From the UPI:

The Moscow City Court Monday agreed to consider the appeal of a Russian man’s lawsuit that said “The Simpsons” was a bad influence on his son.

Igor Smykov filed suit three years ago claiming the independent Moscow station, RenTV, promoted drug use, violence and homosexuality with its programming, including the U.S. Fox TV hit, “The Simpsons,” Ria Novosti reported.

His suit seeking $10,000 in moral damages and the cancellation of “The Simpsons” was tossed out by a lower court judge, but the decision was overturned by a higher court on the basis of a technical error. Now, the suit will again be considered in the Moscow City Court Dec. 1, Smykov said.


Al Jazeera in English

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 6:22 am
Filed under: Media Watch

When Arabic-language television network Al Jazeera will launch an English-language version next year. It’s tone may be significantly different from the original:

The Al Jazeera international network is well known around the world and received criticism for airing broadcast material of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in 2001. But Al Jazeera says the new channel is not intended to be a global version of the Arabic channel but will rather cover news from a 360-degree perspective.

The English service of Al Jazeera is set to go on air next year in March/April.


Documentary on Protestant Support for Adolph Hitler

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 6:12 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, Religion

The documentary “Theologians Under Hitler: Could It Happen Again?” will be shown on PBS. It’s also on DVD.

From David Crumm of the Detroit Free Press:

The film focuses on several 1930s-era Protestant theologians in Germany who encouraged the rise of Nazism, publicly praising it as a gift from God to resurrect the impoverished German people. These men also added their moral weight to the attempted destruction of Judaism.

Among the most infamous was Gerhard Kittel, at the time a world-famous Protestant expert on the ancient history of the Bible. Far from a marginal figure or thug, like many of Hitler’s early followers, Kittel taught at the centuries-old Tubingen University, the same school that later would have Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on its faculty.

In the 1930s, Kittel became convinced that ancient strains of Christian contempt for Jews should be turned into a brutal campaign against them.


The Decline of Journalism

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 4:10 am
Filed under: Government, Free Press

Robert Parry gives a brief history of US journalism from the 1970s to the present. He contrasts “skeptical” journalism of the 1970s, which sought to expose the government, with subsequent “patriotic” journalism — which follows the government line:

The apex for the “skeptical journalists” came in the mid-1970s when the press followed up exposure of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and disclosure of the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers with revelations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) abuses, such as illegal spying on Americans and helping Chile’s army oust an elected government.

There were reasons for this new press aggressiveness. After some 57,000 US soldiers had died in Vietnam during a long war fought for murky reasons, many reporters no longer gave the government the benefit of the doubt.

The press corps’ new rallying cry was the public’s right to know, even when the wrongdoing occurred in the secretive world of national security.

But this journalistic skepticism represented an affront to government officials who had long enjoyed a relatively free hand in the conduct of foreign policy. The Wise Men and the Old Boys — the stewards of the post-World War II era — now faced a harder time lining up public consensus behind any action.

Fighting skeptical journalism with accusations of liberal bias:

In the late 1970s, conservative leaders began a concerted drive to finance a media infrastructure of their own along with attack groups that would target mainstream reporters who were viewed as too liberal or insufficiently patriotic.

Nixon’s former treasury secretary, Bill Simon, took the lead. Simon, who headed the conservative Olin Foundation, rallied like-minded foundations — associated with Lynde and Harry Bradley, Smith Richardson, the Scaife family and the Coors family — to invest their resources in advancing the conservative cause.

Money went to fund conservative magazines taking the fight to the liberals and to finance attack groups, like Accuracy in Media, that hammered away at the supposed “liberal bias” of the national news media.

Journalists who don’t get in line behind Ronald Reagan are punished:

So, when New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner reported from El Salvador about right-wing death squads, his accounts were criticized and his patriotism challenged. Bonner then infuriated the White House in early 1982 when he disclosed a massacre by the US-backed Salvadoran army around the town of El Mozote. The story appeared just as Reagan was praising the army’s human-rights progress.

Like other journalists who were viewed as overly critical of Reagan’s foreign policy, Bonner faced both public attacks on his reputation and private lobbying of his editors, seeking his removal. Bonner soon found his career cut short. After being pulled out of Central America, he resigned from the Times.

Gary Webb reports on CIA drug-dealing:

Even years later, when historical facts surfaced suggesting that serious abuses had been missed around the Iran-Contra affair, mainstream news outlets took the lead in rallying to the Reagan-Bush defense.

When a controversy over Contra-drug trafficking reemerged in 1996, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times went on the attack - against Gary Webb, the reporter who revived interest in the scandal. Even admissions of guilt by the CIA’s inspector general in 1998 didn’t shake the largely dismissive treatment of the issue by the major newspapers.

(For Webb’s courageous reporting, he was pushed out of his job at the San Jose Mercury News, his career was ruined, his marriage collapsed and - in December 2004 - he killed himself with his father’s revolver.)

When Republican rule was restored in 2001 with George W Bush’s controversial “victory”, major news executives and many rank-and-file journalists understood that their careers could best be protected by wrapping themselves in the old red-white-and-blue. “Patriotic” journalism was in; “skeptical” journalism was definitely out.


George W. Bush and Arabic News Channel Al-Jazeera

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 26, 2005 @ 2:28 am
Filed under: Government, Free Press

Did Bush want to bomb the headquarters of a news channel, or was it just a joke?

From a Washington Post article published on Wednesday by Kevin Sullivan and Walter Pincus:

President Bush expressed interest in bombing the headquarters of the Arabic television network al-Jazeera during a White House conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Daily Mirror report was attributed to two anonymous sources describing a classified document they said contained a transcript of the two leaders’ talk. One source is quoted as saying Bush’s alleged remark concerning the network’s headquarters in Qatar was “humorous, not serious,” while the other said, “Bush was deadly serious.”

Whether this was a joke, or Bush really wanted to bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera, the killing of journalists isn’t funny.

Today the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia reports that “Outrage grows at Bush bomb claims.”

An executive of Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news channel, is seeking an urgent meeting with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, over reports that George Bush discussed bombing the satellite channel’s headquarters in Qatar.

Wadah Khanfar, the station’s director-general, is flying to Britain this weekend after newspapers reported the US President made the comments during a meeting with Mr Blair at the White House on April 16 last year.

Mr Bush’s alleged comments about bombing Al-Jazeera’s building in Doha are reported to be contained in a note of the meeting. The British Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, warned newspapers they could be charged under the Official Secrets Act if they published further material from the note.

In the House of Commons on Thursday, a Liberal Democrat MP, David Heath, said Lord Goldsmith had threatened editors with the Official Secrets Act to prevent government embarrassment rather than protect national security. The Attorney-General’s warning was “not on the grounds of national security but on the grounds of potential embarrassment to the Prime Minister or to any presidents he happens to have conversations with”, he said.

« Journalist offers to risk jail in exchange for telling the public the truth »

In the UK, Boris Johnson, “MP for Henley and editor of ‘The Spectator,’” writes:

If someone passes me the document within the next few days I will be very happy to publish it in The Spectator, and risk a jail sentence. The public need to judge for themselves. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If we suppress the truth, we forget what we are fighting for, and in an important respect we become as sick and as bad as our enemies.

More from Robert Fisk.


Another Attempt to Ban Wallflower

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 25, 2005 @ 6:21 pm
Filed under: Book Bans, Schools

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne only needed to read one page of The Perks of Being a Wallflower to decide that Stephen Chbosky’s book should be banned.

After reading the offending page, Horne sent a letter to the state’s district superintendents and principals asking them to reconsider having the books in their respective school libraries.


A Simple Question for Michelle Malkin

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 24, 2005 @ 11:53 pm
Filed under: Right Watch

Has your husband ever posted under your name?

At your blog, were any articles presented as “by Michelle Malkin” written entirely by your husband?

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin avoided the question when asked about it by Brad Krantz of WZTK-FM, calling the authorship accusation “vile,” but not false.

She also avoids the question in a long post at her blog.

She writes about marriage (”I have my hubby’s help for a few hours a week”). She writes about Al Franken (he has “research assistants,” she irrelevantly notes). She writes that the question is “racist.”

She writes that husband Jesse Malkin “helped me with a handful of blog posts out of the estimated 3,000 I’ve written since June 2004,” without explaining whether “helped” means wrote in their entirety, or how many blog articles constitute a “handful.”

But she doesn’t say, None of the posts here with with ‘Michelle Malkin’ in the byline were written entirely by my husband.

Her evasiveness suggests she’s guilty of deceiving the public. If Michelle Malkin lets someone else write entire posts under her name, then she is a fraud.


Christian Rock Kills?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 24, 2005 @ 10:23 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

No, and neither does other music.

Daniel Radosh of Salon.com writes about a crime in Pennsylvania:

Does it matter that David Ludwig — the 18-year-old alleged killer of his 14-year-old girlfriend’s parents — was a huge fan of hardcore Christian rock?

On the night of Oct. 6, David Ludwig, 18, and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Kara Beth Borden, went to church. There was no sermon, though — at least not a traditional one. David and Kara were at the Lancaster Bible Church in Manheim, Penn., for a Christian rock concert. As the punishingly loud guitars of Audio Adrenaline and Pillar strained the limits of the church sound system, the kids screamed and pumped their fists and banged their heads. “Pillar and Audio A rock my face off!” David wrote on his blog the next day. Kara spent almost all the money in her pocket on a Pillar sweatshirt. She was wearing it the morning of Nov. 13 when, police say, David shot and killed her parents and fled with her at his side.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon writes:

The irony of this entire situation is that this rise in Christian rock bands was possible because of situations like the PMRC and fundie Christians making wild claims in the 80s and 90s about how rock music was Satanic, it drove kids to suicide, etc. All that culminated in the rush to blame Marilyn Manson for the Columbine shootings. I doubt it’s a coincidence that post-Columbine was when there was a sudden onslaught of Christian rock. I’m inclined to think a lot of parent, mostly fundamentalist Christian parents, took it upon themselves to start heavily censoring the music that was brought into their house. Which means all of a sudden there’s huge numbers of teenage kids who are only allowed to have rock music if it’s Christian rock, creating an artificial demand of sorts.

I assume Amanda Marcotte means that fundamentalist Christians called normal rock music Satanic and that the Parents Music Resource Center said that normal rock music drives people to suicide.


Sinclair Broadcasting: Right-Wing or Greedy?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 24, 2005 @ 9:03 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, TV, Media Concentration

Sinclair Broadcasting owns TV stations throughout the United States.

It controls locals news on those TV stations, but since 2004 it has been making news of its own.

Here’s some background on Sinclair Broadcasting, from an article in GQ (via DC Media Girl):

In April 2004, the company forbade all of its ABC stations to air a segment of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names of American casualties in Iraq, which Sinclair’s management considered “motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States.” Six months later, Sinclair executives launched a political effort of their own, instructing all their news stations to broadcast a documentary on John Kerry called Stolen Honor, which accused the candidate of treason during the Vietnam War. In the buzz that followed, Sinclair’s vice president of corporate relations, Mark Hyman, stoked the fire even further by announcing that any network that refused to air the anti-Kerry documentary were “acting like Holocaust deniers” and that even if the documentary was a gift to Bush, the effect was balanced by the existence of suicide bombers in the Middle East, since after all, “Every car bomb in Iraq would be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry.” Nearly three months later, the company was back in the hot seat, this time forced to admit that one of its most visible reporters, Armstrong Williams, had not only spent recent years landing exclusive interviews with men like Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay but was also getting paid handsomely by the Bush administration, having struck a deal with the White House to receive $240,000 in exchange for “favorable commentaries.”

Sinclair Broadcasting forces local news stations to play a one-minute editorial by conservative Mark Hyman each night.

In practice, Sinclair Broadcasting is right-wing.

But are the top executives there right-wing? Or just promoting right-wing views to ‘legally’ bribe the Republicans into helping them expand?

The GQ article continues:

A close look at the four brothers who own Sinclair — David, Duncan, Frederick, and Robert Smith — reveals a much less conservative cast of characters than one might expect. Far from the Bible-thumping, family-values stereotype that Sinclair’s critics imagine, the Smiths are a study in contrasts — especially the two principal owners, David and Duncan. Even as they lobby for government deregulation and a return to some idealized notion of 1950s family values, Duncan is a passionate environmentalist working to restore the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, while David got his start not in the conservative family-values business but selling bootleg pornography.

In fact, the closer you examine the values espoused on Sinclair’s stations, the harder it is to determine whose values they are. As Sinclair has mushroomed in size and influence over the past few years, developing financial ties to the Republican Party, promoting the GOP agenda in its broadcasts, launching vicious attacks on Democratic candidates who dare to campaign against their Republican allies while profiting from business contracts with the military and loose federal oversight, it has become increasingly difficult to figure out where Sinclair’s true ideological bias ends and its business interests begin.

The story of Sinclair, then, is not merely about what happens when news and opinion merge. It’s about what happens when news and opinion are both subverted, and something else takes over.

In other words, the top executives at Sinclair Broadcasting may be some of the biggest sell-outs in America.


Blogger Joshua Micah Marshall Plans to Hire Two Investigative Journalists

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 24, 2005 @ 8:43 pm
Filed under: Media Watch

Joshua Micah Marshall is the main blogger at “Talking Points Memo.

He’s expanding his operation.

From a New York Sun article by Josh Gerstein:

As newspapers across America race to shrink the size of their news staffs, a prominent liberal blogger is doing something virtually unheard of these days: hiring new reporters.

Over the weekend, the proprietor of TalkingPointsMemo.com, Joshua Marshall, announced that he is seeking two journalists to work for a new blog that will offer “wall-to-wall coverage of corruption, self-dealing, and betrayals of the public trust in today’s Washington.”

In an interview, the blogger said he does not aspire to be an Internet mogul, but simply seeks to fill a niche he sees in the journalistic marketplace.

“I’m never going to have the resources to compete with the big papers,” Mr. Marshall said. He said his new site will be able to follow long simmering stories more consistently than mainstream outlets do. “A scrappy blog can provide a different service. I think there’s a market out there for that,” he said.

Joshua Micah Marshall isn’t the first or last person to notice investigative journalism is lacking in today’s media. But Marshall has the means — and the initiative — to quickly address the problem.

Sheldon Drobny, the founder of Air America Radio, also wants to provide more investigative journalism. He recently started the Fourth Estate Society, a non-profit for investigative journalism. While the project was announced almost a year ago, it doesn’t seem to have taken off so far.

I hope that Joshua Micah Marshall’s initiative is successful, and Sheldon Drobny’s as well.


“Scarborough Country”: What Joe Left Out

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 22, 2005 @ 9:16 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, TV

Joe Scarborough is a conservative who used to be a Congressman (R-FL.) He hosts “Scarborough Country” each weeknight on MSNBC.

Last night’s episode had a couple of omissions.

« Jean Schmidt without the booing »

Scarborough played video of Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt criticizing Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha:

REP. JEAN SCHMIDT, OHIO: A few minutes ago, I received a call from Colonel Danny Bopp, Ohio Representative from the 88th District in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message, stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.

Schmidt was booed immediately after that statement, but Scarborough and his producers didn’t play the booing. (They ended the video clip as soon as Schmidt stopped talking.)

Scarborough proceeded to say, “what happened on Friday night was very bad for the Democratic Party. I thought it was an embarrassment, because everybody got behind what Murtha had said. But when they had a chance to actually vote on an alternative to the Bush status quo, Democrats backed away.”

[a href=”http://www.canofun.com/blog/videos/kucinichnov18republicanstunt.wmv”>Video (.wmv)
of Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) explaining why that Republican bill, against which Democrats voted, was just a sham.]

More on Jean Schmidt’s statement: “Jean Schmidt Lied

[Update, Nov. 23: Schmidt is now claiming that while Bush didn’t refer to Murtha by name, he referred to him as “that Congressman.”)

« Bush exit strategy »

Scarborough also made a speech on last night’s episode against the New York Times. Bush cannot open a large door in China He objected to their front-page photos of Bush having trouble exiting the stage after a speech in China:

This is today’s edition of “The New York Times.” And, believe it or not, with everything going on in the world, they devote almost half of the front page to a series of pictures that are a certain attempt to try to make the president of the United States look like a fool.

Scarborough omitted why those photos resonate: the metaphor of Bush lacking an exit strategy for the Iraq War.


Bill O’Reilly: Don’t Watch or Read the Competition

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 22, 2005 @ 6:46 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Free Press, TV, Media Concentration

Yesterday, Bill O’Reilly urged people not to watch MSNBC.

Or read the New York Daily News.

His argument is that these media repeat what is written at “the far left smear web sites.”

It’s worth noting, however, that MSNBC competes with Fox News, which employs Bill O’Reilly.

And that the New York Daily News competes with the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (which also owns Fox News).


Geography Club Banned in Washington State

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 22, 2005 @ 8:08 am
Filed under: Book Bans, Libraries

Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club has been banned from the University Place, WA, school district libraries. Superintendent Patti Banks was disturbed that the book contained a scene in which a student meets a stranger he met in chat room. Hartinger notes that the book is usually challenged for its sexual content; Banks does not say if she was offended by the novel’s gay theme.

Michael Schaub has more at Blog of a Bookslut.


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