February 11, 2006

‘Crooks and Liars’ Seeks Nominations for Best of 2005

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 31, 2005 @ 6:12 pm
Filed under: Media Watch, TV

The blog Crooks and Liars is asking visitors to nominate their best video clips of 2005.

I nominated Robert Novak saying “Bullshit” to James Carville and walking off the CNN set (Novak was suspended by CNN and his contract wasn’t renewed. He’ll be appearing on Fox News next.)

By the way, Novak is joking at the start of the clip when he says that newspapers changing his makeup in photos has been a big problem for him (as Congresswoman Katherine Harris complained.)

“SpeakSpeak News” covered responses to Novak’s bullshit.

I also nominated C & L’s clip of liberal Randi Rhodes and conservative Janet Parshall arguing on C-Span.


Bill O’Reilly’s Christmas Lies: A Retrospective

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 31, 2005 @ 4:31 pm
Filed under: Media Watch, Religion, Courts

Christmas 2005 is over but here is a review of Bill O’Reilly’s lies about it:

He claimed a town in Michigan had banned red and green clothing. Lie. He claimed a school in Texas had done the same. Another lie. He claimed the post office no longer offered Christian - themed stamps. That lie’s so obvious anyone who’s been to a Post Office should be able to spot it a mile away. He said a school in Wisconsin changed the lyrics to “Silent Night.” You guessed it: big fat lie.

The author of the piece quoted above, Avery Walker of Raw Story, gave me a link to the Wisconsin’s school’s rebuttal of the lie that they changed the lyrics to “Silent Night”. The school quotes Think Progress from December 14::

On Friday, Bill O’Reilly took to the airwaves to share the latest “War on Christmas” outrage:

In Dodgeville, Wisconsin, the Ridgewood Elementary School has changed the song Silent Night to Cold in the Night and forced the kids to sing the lyrics, “Cold in the night, No one in sight, Winter winds whirl and bite,” to the tune of the original Silent Night.

O’Reilly was by no means the only conservative to repeat this story. During a Dec. 10 appearance on Fox News, Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel said the presentation at Ridgewood Elementary had “no balance here. They have no Christian Christmas carols.” He even threatened to sue the school:
People are outraged. We sent a demand letter asking them to immediately change the song and allow the actual lyrics of “Silent Night,” and if they do not, if they insist on this ridiculous course of action, we’ll file a federal lawsuit.
As it turns out, the entire story is a fraud. Ridgeway Elementary didn’t change the lyrics to “Silent Night.” What they did was perform a 1988 copyrighted play called “The Little Tree’s Christmas Gift That play actually contains numerous songs about Christmas, including the grand finale, an audience-led group singing of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” The play’s creator, Dwight Elrich, happens to lead the New Covenant Singers of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
In fact, “The Little Tree’s Christmas Gift” has been performed in several churches, including the Oakwood Forest Christian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, the
St. Anthony Parish School
in Des Moines, Iowa, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Abeline, Texas.
So why are the Silent Night lyrics changed in “Little Tree’s Christmas”? Because the play is about a small, lonely Christmas tree that is told it is “too scraggly, it will never sell.” That character sings the revised lyrics — “Cold in the night, No one in sight, Winter winds whirl and bite” — in a scene lamenting his sad state. The rewording has absolutely nothing to do with “secularizing” the song.

there is no “War on Christmas.”

Where do these bogus stories come from?

This one went from Jerry Falwell’s “Liberty Counsel,” to World Net Daily to Bill O’Reilly (I don’t know if Bill O’Reilly’s staff read it at World Net Daily or if there was a middle source) .

World Net Daily published an unsigned article which quoted the Liberty Counsel while claiming that they couldn’t get a response from the school by press time. However, the subsequent articles at WND I’ve read didn’t tell the school’s explanation either: that the school was putting on a play which has been performed at churches which contains a song by a Christmas-tree character to the tune of “Silent Night.”

Due to the threat of a lawsuit from the Liberty Counsel, the school decided to perform the play without any songs and sing songs afterwards, including “Silent Night” with the original lyrics.


Justice Dept Wants to Punish Whistle Blower

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 30, 2005 @ 11:29 am
Filed under: Government, Free Press, Courts

The Justice Department should be investigated whether George W. Bush committed a crime by ordering wire-less wiretaps by the National Security Agency.

Instead, it is trying to find the whistle blower who revealed this illegal activity.

From the AP:

The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President George W. Bush’s secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday.

The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrant less surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The newspaper revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story. It acknowledged that the story had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because it wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.

The story unleashed a firestorm of criticism of the administration. Some critics accused the president of breaking the law by authorizing intercepts of conversations without prior court approval or oversight of people inside the United States and abroad who had suspected ties to al-Qaida or its affiliates.

Actually, it’s Bush who says they were only spying on people suspected of ties to al-Quaida. Critics such as myself believe that the range of people they were spying on is much broader, hence the failure to inform the FISA court.

The AP article concludes:

The surveillance program, which Bush acknowledged authorizing, bypassed a nearly 30-year-old secret court established to handle highly sensitive investigations involving espionage and terrorism.

Administration officials insisted that Bush has the power to conduct the warrant less surveillance under the U.S. constitution’s war powers provision. They also argued that Congress gave Bush the power to conduct such a secret program when it authorized the use of military force against terrorism in a resolution adopted within days of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Firstly, as the reporter should have pointed out, the US Constitution says that Congress has the power “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.”

Secondly, when Congress voted for the Afghanistan War, that is all they did. They didn’t make Bush a dictator. Bush is still a civil servant whose job is to execute the laws passed by Congress.

By the way, the Bush Administration claiming that they told Congressional Democrats what they were doing, isn’t a valid excuse, either, as pointed out by wonkette.com’s DCEIVER:

Nevertheless, some hopeful and naive part of us still wonders why no one is questioning one of the central planks in the Administration’s defense of their actions, namely: “Hey, it’s totally okay that we are wiretapping American citizens without legal authority because we totally briefed some Democrats that we were going to be doing it.” That’s an extraordinarily bizarre justification! Since when does briefing members of the opposition party have boo-boo-poopy to do with something being legal or not? …Name for what Bush suggests gives him legal cover: criminal conspiracy.


Right-Wing Bias in Today’s Washington Post

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 29, 2005 @ 9:50 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Free Press, Courts

Bush laughing as he sits and signs bill limiting class action lawsuits, with people standing behind him including from left-to-right Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Bush laughing in February 2005 as he signs a bill making it more difficult for people injured by corporations to get compensated, the so-called “Class Action Fairness Act.”

An article by Washington Post reporters Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei describes one of the goals of the Bush Administration at the start of 2005 as “cracking down on court-clogging litigation.

This is right-wing spin for tort-reform by the reporters.

What Bush and his cronies really want is to reduce corporate accountability, using laws which hurt citizens more after they have been hurt by a defective product by stopping them from getting compensated.

That is why Bush and the Republican Congress passed the so-called “Class Action Fairness Act” in February. To make it more difficult for injured people to get justice, by moving their cases from state courts to federal courts where the judge may be a Bush appointee.

It’s a shame that the Washington Post would publish an article spinning tort-reform as an effort against “court-clogging.”

At wonkette.com, DCEIVER has more on the right-wing spin in this article in today’s Washington Post.

1 Comment

Advertising Disguised as Graffiti

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 29, 2005 @ 6:50 am
Filed under: General, AdWatch

From the AP:

Sony Corp. scouted out an unusual place to advertise its PlayStation Portable before the holidays: the side of an abandoned building in a gritty North Philadelphia neighborhood.

The black-on-white graffiti shows wide-eyed cartoon characters riding the PlayStation like a skateboard, licking it like a lollipop or cranking it like a Jack-in-the-Box.

But there’s no mention of the Sony or PlayStation brands - nor any hint the wordless display is an ad.

Advertising can be a good when done openly, in limited quantities. Advertising expanding in a covert way is not-so-good.

The covert graffiti campaign isn’t just in Philelphia:

The stealth marketing campaign has popped up in San Francisco, New York and other large U.S. cities.

“It’s all about hip-hop, urban and all that. They’re just trying to get into the teenagers’ minds,” said Eddie Torres, 29, who works at a nearby furniture shop. “I think it’s sharp.”

Anti-blight advocates think otherwise.

“They’re breaking the law,” said Mary Tracy, who runs the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, a watchdog group that fights illegal or ill-advised billboards in Philadelphia.

Tracy said Sony ignored the zoning process that regulates outdoor commercial advertising in the city.

…In San Francisco, the ads were defaced soon after they appeared as word spread that Sony was behind them. “Get out of my city!!!” and “Fony” were written on one.

I thought it was sneaky. Not cool,” said Zan Sterling, who works at a bar near one of the ads, which has since been painted over. “I hope that they paid for the cleanup and removal.”

The public should be told when it’s looking at advertising, whether it’s painted directly on the side of a wall, or in “product placement” ads in movies.

1 Comment

Keith Olbermann Says John Gibson Should Resign

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 27, 2005 @ 8:46 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, TV, Religion

John Gibson with a big grin. His blonde hair is combed back and he's wearing a blue shirt with a suit and tie.
John Gibson

Keith Olbermann is a host at cable news channel MSNBC; John Gibson is a host at cable “news” channel Fox News.

As a guest on the radio show of conservative Janet Parshall, John Gibson had the following conversation on November 17, 2005:

GIBSON: …listen, we get a little theological here, and it’s probably a bit over my head, but I would think if somebody is going to be — have to answer for following the wrong religion, they’re not going to have to answer to me. We know who they’re going to have to answer to.


GIBSON: And that’s fine. Let ‘em…

Keith Olbermann said that while he used to be friends with John Gibson, this “wrong religion” talk is like something a terrorist would say. He named John Gibson as a “Worst Person in the World” on December 2, 2005. Olbermann concluded, “I’d tell you which religion John thinks is the only one that’s right, but what’s the difference? It’s not the faith that’s the issue; it’s the intolerance. John Gibson, today’s ‘Worst Person in the World.’”

John Gibson recently responded on his own radio show and on Fox News that his remarks were taken “way, way, way out of context” and the he was misquoted.

Keith Olbermann regards that as deceitful. Olbermann said tonight that Gibson has been accurately quoted, and the Gibson’s remarks are worse in context.

Olbermann concluded tonight that John Gibson should “leave the airwaves for good. Because between the remark and the denial, he has, sadly, forfeited his right to stay here.

Video at Can ‘O Fun.

« Janet Parshall Also Made Dubious Remarks About Religion »

Keith Olbermann tonight also took exception to conservative radio host Janet Parshall’s remarks to John Gibson on that radio show:

I have to tell you, I don’t know when they held this election and decided that tolerance was a transcendent value. I serve a god who, with a finger of fire, wrote, he will have no other gods before him. And he doesn’t tolerate sin, which is why he sent his son to the cross, but all of a sudden now, we jump up and down and celebrate the idea of tolerance. I think tolerance means accommodation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean acquiescence or wholehearted acceptance.

Olbermann said that the Bible verse is, “Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me,” which Olbermann interprets that people who decide to worship the God of the Bible should do so exclusively, but that other people can worship any God they choose.

Personally, I question Janet Parshall’s comment that God “doesn’t tolerate sin, which is why he sent his son to the cross.”

Isn’t the concept that the crucifiction provides a path to atone for one’s sins (not an intolerant message that anyone who sins will burn in Hell?)

Is intolerance for sin really the message of Jesus? What about Jesus saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” What about Jesus’ befriending a prostitute?

I’m Jewish, and on the holiest day, Yom Kippur, people go to temple to atone for their sins. There isn’t a sign on the temple door sayng “No sinners allowed,” nor have I ever seen such a sign on the door of a church.

Janet Parshall follows her glorification of intolerance with moderate words about “accommodation…but [not] wholehearted acceptance” and so she’s having it both ways.

Spying on UN Officials, Too

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 27, 2005 @ 12:46 pm
Filed under: Government

From Jason Leopold of Raw Story:

President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitored private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency’s campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.

The former officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also participated in discussions about the plan, which involved “stepping up” efforts to eavesdrop on diplomats.

…Disclosure of the wiretaps and the monitoring of U.N. members’ email came on the eve of the Iraq war in the British-based Observer. The leak — which the paper acquired in the form of an email via a British translator — came amid a U.S. push urging U.N. members to vote in favor of a resolution that said Iraq was in violation of U.N. resolution 1441, asserting that it had failed to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.

News of the NSA spying on the U.N. received scant coverage in U.S. newspapers at the time. But with the explosive domestic spying report published in the New York Times last week, a closer examination of pre-war spying may shed light on whether the Bush administration has used the NSA for its own political purposes, as opposed to tracking down communications regarding potential terrorist threats against the U.S.

The leaked NSA email detailing the agency’s spy tactics against the U.N. was written Jan. 31, 2003 by Chief of Staff for Regional Targets Frank Koza. In the email, Koza asked an undisclosed number of NSA and British intelligence officials to “pay attention to existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms (home and office telephones) for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations.”

One intelligence source who spoke to RAW STORY said top White House officials and some Republican members of Congress had debated in December 2002 whether to step up the surveillance of U.N. officials to include eavesdropping on home telephone and personal email accounts. Some feared that in the event it was discovered, it would further erode relations between the U.S. and the U.N.

The source added that U.S. spying on the U.N. isn’t new.

“It’s part of the job,” the intelligence source said. “Everyone knows it’s being done.”

Eavesdropping on U.N. diplomats is authorized under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Services Act. However, it’s still considered a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which says that “The receiving state shall permit and protect free communication on the part of the mission for all official purposes… The official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable.”

The Bush Administration was hellbent to start a war with Iraq.


Two Opinions of New TV Drama, ‘The Book of Daniel’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 27, 2005 @ 11:56 am
Filed under: General, Right Watch, Media Watch, TV, Religion

It doesn’t debut until January 5, but there are already opinions of the NBC series, “The Book of Daniel.”

It features a minister* named Daniel played by Aidan Quinn and Jesus Christ, played by Garret Dillahunt.

From Robert Philpot of the (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas) Star-Telegram:

Good buzz surrounds this drama starring Aidan Quinn as a troubled Episcopal minister who talks to Jesus — who appears to him — to ask for aid in family and church woes. The bad news: NBC is airing it at 9 p.m. Fridays [a bad time slot.]

But conservative Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association has a different opinion of the show:

New NBC Drama Show Mocks Christianity

Email NBC Chairman Bob Wright over NBC’s latest show, “The Book of Daniel.”

NBC is touting the network’s mid-season replacement series “The Book of Daniel” with language that implies it is a serious drama about Christian people and Christian faith. The main character is Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her mid-day martinis.

Webster regularly sees and talks with a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus. The Webster family is rounded out by a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop’s daughter.

At the office, his lesbian secretary is sleeping with his sister-in-law.

Network hype – and the mainstream media – call it “edgy,” “challenging” and “courageous.” The hour-long limited drama series will debut January 6 with back-to-back episodes and will air on Friday nights. The writer for the series is a practicing homosexual.

The homosexual son will be network prime-time’s only regular male homosexual character in a drama series.

By the way, Aiden Quinn also starred in a 1997 movie dealing with religion titled Commandments which I recommend.

« Update of December 28, 2005 »

The blogger Pam Spaulding of Pandagon is asking people to send a counter-message not to listen to the AFA to:

Bob Wright, Chairman
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Primary Phone: 212-664-4444
Fax: 212-489-7592
E-Mail: , NBC

* - Update of January 6, 2005: I watched it tonight, and the main character is referred to as an Episcopalian “priest,” not minister.


Republican Slogans, Translated

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 27, 2005 @ 11:08 am
Filed under: Government

On Language

The Nation magazine explores the meanings of certain phrases, with the help of their readers:

compassionate conservatism n. Poignant concern for the very wealthy [Lawrence Sandek, Twin Peaks, Calif.]…

extraordinary rendition n. Outsourcing torture [Milton Feldon, Laguna Woods, Calif.].

faith n. The stubborn belief that God approves of Republican moral values despite the preponderance of textual evidence to the contrary [Matthew Polly, Topeka, Kans.]…

free markets n. Halliburton no-bid contracts at taxpayer expense [Sean O’Brian, Chicago, Ill.]…

laziness n. When the poor are not working [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio].

leisure time n. When the wealthy are not working [Justin Rezzonico, Keene, Ohio]…

ownership society n. A civilization where 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth [Michael Albert, Piscataway, NJ].


The Week at SpeakSpeak

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 24, 2005 @ 4:56 pm
Filed under: SpeakSpeak, Right Watch, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV, Video Games, Religion, AdWatch

• In Sacramento, California last week, about 50 protesters demanded that Wal-Mart commercialize Christmas. LINK

• Corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been casting a shadow on Congressmen Tom Delay (R-TX) and Bob Ney (R-OH) for months. But now he’s also casting a shadow over conservative writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara. It was recently revealed that Abramoff paid them to write op-eds. LINK

• Conservative columnist George Will claims there is a lot of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But he wants oil companies to drill there even if there is only “three thimbles of oil,” to strike a blow against “collectivism.” However, blogger Amanda Marcotte responds that collectivism is a good thing. She refers to the US Constitution’s purpose of promoting the “general welfare.” LINK

• US citizens are under surveillance by our government. The Washington Post describes FBI “national security letters” a new military department spying on Americans called the “Counterintelligence Field Activity,” and more. LINK

• Conservative commentator Robert Novak is leaving CNN for Fox News. Novak notes that over the years at CNN he “said some fairly outrageous things.” LINK

• Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said on the channel that “the president has violated the law” by ordering warrant-less wiretaps. LINK

• Bill O’Reilly is a “bully” like “Joe McCarthy,” writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. LINK

• New York police are disguising themselves as protesters to spy on Iraq War protesters and other activists. LINK

• Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) tried to ban the sale of certain video games to minors. A federal judge has put the ban on hold. LINK

• Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has written another racist statement against Arabs. LINK

• Actor Wil Wheaton thinks that right-wing talk radio has made his parents more right-wing. LINK

• Time Warner will offer a group of cable channels called the family tier which are all supposed to be G-rated. However, one of the channels doesn’t meet that criteria: CNN Headline News includes a show about violent crime hosted by Nancy Grace. LINK


MSNBC Now Has Less Microsoft, More NBC

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 24, 2005 @ 1:27 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, TV, Media Concentration

From the New York Times via Raw Story:

Ending a partnership that soured long ago, Microsoft and NBC announced yesterday that they would dissolve their joint ownership of the cable news channel MSNBC, with NBC taking control.

NBC has completed a deal to assume majority control of the channel immediately, with an 82 percent stake, and it will become the sole owner within two years, NBC executives said yesterday. The two companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

But the partners will continue their 50-50 ownership of the MSNBC Web site, which, partly as a consequence of its affiliation with Microsoft, is the most-used news site on the Internet.

« More On Cable News Ownership »

The NBC channels are owned by GE. Fox News and the Fox broadcast channel are owned by Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp. CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner.

Current TV,” by contrast, is independently owned. It shows short videos about current events, fashion, and music. Current TV isn’t a cable news channel in the sense of people sitting behind desks and talking about the day’s stories, but it may be the closest thing to an independent cable news channel.


“Little Red Book” Story a Hoax

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 24, 2005 @ 12:07 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Libraries

An anonymous student at University of Massachussetts at Dartmouth claimed he was visited by officers of the Homeland Security Dept. for ordering Mao’s “Little Red Book” for an inter-library loan. The initial article was based on the second-hand accounts of his professors. The student now admits the story is a hoax.

“SpeakSpeak” decided against running this story when it broke, because we were skeptical. Personally, I didn’t like the fact that the initial article was based on accounts which didn’t include anyone there during the supposed visit of federal agents. The fact that Mao’s “Little Red Book” is common for students studying Chinese history to use also made me skeptical.

You can view my expression of skepticism when the story broke in the Comments at Lean Left.

« Why Did the Student Make Up the Story? »

We don’t know the student’s motivation.

But in the Comments section of Pandagon, someone posting as “Frankly my dear” has a great theory: that the student was making an excuse for why he would be late in handing in a paper:

• What was the student’s motive for starting the hoax? Was it just something he was trying as a prank on two professors, and it got more exposure than he expected? Or was he deluding himself as to what happened?

This one seems to be a no-brainer. It’s the end of term and your term paper isn’t done. You know “the dog ate my homework” won’t fly, but “Homeland Security took my homework” might. Having been a student who never had term papers ready on time, the search for novel but believeable excuses is neverending. Doubtless, he didn’t expect it to go any further than his professors. Of course, I can’t prove this, but it seems to me like the most likely explanation. It’s like the runaway bride who claimed she was kidnapped.

Why were some in the “blogosphere” so quick to believe this? Did we want to believe that this kind of surveillance happens routinely?

Because in the present climate it is all too believeable. The student probably wouldn’t have used it if it weren’t believeable.

Are we too trusting? Naive? Gullible? (The three need not be synonymous)

I’d say over-eager. But I’d also say that the fault in this case lies mostly with the professors for reporting hearsay to the media without further investigation. Instead of the student getting kudos for the best “why my term paper isn’t done” story of the year, the student, the professors, and the university have become a national embarrassment.

What does this say about the nature of the transmission of information through the internet in general, and blogging in particular?

The same thing it says (and implies) about journalism in general. Follow the rules: check your sources, and, above all, get corroboration. Relying on a source who is unidentified and can’t be interviewed is like Judy Miller reporting on buried chemical weapons based on an unidentified source who couldn’t be interviewed. Bad journalism.

Obviously, there are other plausible explanations for the student’s motivation. Maybe he wanted attention from the professor and so weaved a tale. Maybe the student just has a habit of making things up. Who knows.

« Why Did the Journalist Write the Story? »

We don’t know that, either. However, Joe Gandelman of “The Moderate Voice” has first-hand experience being a journalist pressured to write a story before all the facts are in to be first.

My position is that the journalist should have waited until he could interview someone actually there during the supposed visit (and never run the story if no such interview was ever granted) but it’s possible that he was under pressure to hurry.


‘CNN Headline News’ Should Not Be on The “Family Tier”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 23, 2005 @ 4:56 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Opinion, TV

The following is the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of SpeakSpeak.

Time Warner is planning a package of cable channels known as the “family tier.” It’s an option of subscribing to 15 G-rated cable channels.

Except that one of them isn’t G-rated, and that is “CNN Headline News.”

The cable news channel broadcasts a show about violent crime hosted by Nancy Grace. On last night’s episode she discussed an escaped rapist named Reynaldo Rapalo.

“Nancy Grace” is on “CNN Headline News” for 3 hours per weeknight (2 hours are repeats, I assume.)

Last week, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a statement about the “family tier:”

“We selected channels that were G-rated in nature, did not include ‘live’ entertainment programming and which contained content that was generally perceived as acceptable for the entire family to view,”

“CNN Headline News” doesn’t fit the “G-rated” criteria.


Wil Wheaton on the Power of Talk Radio

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 23, 2005 @ 1:05 pm
Filed under: General, Right Watch, Radio

Actor Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” has an article at Salon.com.

He describes how his parents once were liberals. But after they already started moving to the right, right-wing talk-radio made his parents much more right-wing:

These are the same people who took me to nuclear-freeze rallies almost every weekend when I was in elementary school. These are the same people who introduced me to the teachings of the Buddha and Gandhi. The same people who smoked pot in front of me, introduced me to Pink Floyd and the Beatles, and taught me to throw a Frisbee when all my peers were learning how to throw a football. Thanks to my parents, I had Birkenstocks when all the other kids had slip-on Vans, and I thought it was cool.

I think the change began in 1980, when my parents both became Reagan Democrats. My mother took me with her into the booth when she voted for Walter Mondale in 1984 (she was still an antinuke activist then, after all), but when talk radio exploded in the late ’80s, it caught my parents and took them away. The people who drove me all over the American Southwest in their 1971 VW bus to visit our national parks were replaced with RNC talking-points pod people. As a result, I don’t just tune out [Bill] O’Reilly and the rest of the Republican screaming heads. No, I don’t just tune them out: I hate them. I hate them with the same passion and the same fury with which my dad exploded at me, because before those people got rich exploiting Karl Rove’s (er, excuse me, I mean George Bush’s) black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us fantasy world, my parents and I could discuss issues and amicably agree to disagree with each other.

His solution is to get his father an iPod, in the hopes he’ll listen to less right-wing talk-radio:

But I also think it’s worth identifying who is really waging the war on Christmas — and it’s not Target, for having the temerity to wish its shoppers “Happy Holidays.” And it’s not people like me, who use “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” interchangeably, hoping that the recipient of my good wishes will understand that I’m really saying, “I’m not religious, but I hope you have joy and love in your life, good health and happiness.” The one waging the war is right-wing talk radio and its relentless drive to polarize and divide our country, and our holiday dinners, and make a nice profit while it does. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll get my dad an iPod and a stack of Surf CDs for Christmas. It’ll be a gift for both of us.

A solution I recommend on this issue: support liberal Air America Radio. Become an Air America Associate or buy a t-shirt.


Ann Coulter: “The Government Should Be Spying On All Arabs”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 23, 2005 @ 12:04 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, TV

Is racism against Arabs acceptable to CNN?

CNN has invited Ann Coulter to be a guest since she her racist suggestion that Helen Thomas (an American-born reporter of Lebanese descent) be treated as a security threat (”Press passes can’t be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president,” wrote Ann Coulter in a February 23, 2005 column.)

In her latest column, Ann Coulter writes that “the government should be spying on all Arabs.”

These remarks may be intended as jokes, but Ann Coulter isn’t a comedian and these remarks aren’t funny. If these racist remarks aren’t intended as jokes, then they are even worse.

Why does CNN give Ann Coulter respect which she doesn’t deserve?

“Media Matters for America” has more on Ann Coulter and CNN.


California Video Game Ban Stalled by Judge

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 22, 2005 @ 5:23 pm
Filed under: Video Games

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors from going into effect on Jan. 1.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law earlier this year a bill by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, that bans the sale or rental of especially violent video games to children under 18 years old unless there is parental approval.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte said the video game industry showed that they had a reasonable chance of winning their case based on the fact that the law violates the First Amendment rights of minors.

He also questioned whether there is evidence that violent video games cause violent behavior and therefore deserve to be regulated by the state.

“The plaintiffs have shown at least that serious questions are raised concerning the states’ ability to restrict minors’ First Amendment rights in connection with exposure to violent video games, including the question of whether there is a causal connection between access to such games and psychological or other harm to children,” Whyte wrote in his decision.

A similar bill has been proposed at the federal level by Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman.

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Christmas Portrayals of Bush and Cheney

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 22, 2005 @ 1:20 am
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV

The cable channel “Current TV” shows short videos and cartoons.

At the Current TV website, you can watch a cartoon by Josh Faure-Brac in which George W. Bush meets Santa Claus.

They visit the North Pole. Bush observes that it isn’t very cold…

George W. Bush: Oh man, global warming’s real?

Santa Claus: Well, I don’t know, maybe you should ask Frosty the Snow Bucket!

Since Al Gore is an activist on global warming, this Current TV cartoon is fitting for a channel for which he’s the chairman. The cartoon is being shown on TV in addition to being at the website.

As for Dick Cheney, you can read a portrayal of him as Ebeneezer Scrooge at the blog “Mia Culpa.”

« More On Current TV »

The channel is available in about 20 million homes, says Alex Dolan, Current TV’s Public Relations Director.

That is only counting households where Current TV can be viewed immediately (it doesn’t count people who don’t get it but can call their cable companies to add it.)

The bulk of the households with Current TV get the channel automatically through satellite’s DirectTV, which has over 15 million customers.

It is also automatically available to most Time Warner digital-cable subscribers in New York City and Los Angeles.

People who subscribe to cable television through Comcast need to order their obscure “Digital Extra” package to get Current TV. That includes me, as I described on the day I got my cable service restored.


New York Police Are Disguising Themselves As Protesters to Spy On Citizens

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 22, 2005 @ 12:36 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

From a New York Times article by Jim Dwyer:

Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, “I am a shameless agitator.” She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

They are also acting as agent provocateurs:

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

No oversight, anymore:

In New York, the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg persuaded a federal judge in 2003 to enlarge the Police Department’s authority to conduct investigations of political, social and religious groups. “We live in a more dangerous, constantly changing world,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

Before then, very few political organizations or activities were secretly investigated by the Police Department, the result of a 1971 class-action lawsuit that charged the city with abuses in surveillance during the 1960’s. Now the standard for opening inquiries into political activity has been relaxed, full authority to begin surveillance has been restored to the police and federal courts no longer require a special panel to oversee the tactics.

The fact that we live in a “dangerous, constantly changing world” doesn’t mean that police in disguise at protest marches make the world less dangerous or more slowly changing.

Decent citizens engaged in First Amendment activities, are made to feel like criminals:

To date, officials say no one has complained of personal damage from the information collected over recent months, but participants in the protests, rallies and other gatherings say the police have been a disruptive presence.

Ryan Kuonen, 32, who took part in a “ride of silence” in memory of a dead cyclist, said that two undercover officers - one with a camera - subverted the event. “They were just in your face,” she said. “It made what was a really solemn event into something that seemed wrong. It made you feel like you were a criminal. It was grotesque.”

There are problems with police disguising themselves as protesters. One is that there is no accountability for police brutality by police who aren’t wearing badges. Another is that the message of the undercover police isn’t the message of the organizers.

It should be illegal for a police officer to attend a protest, unless dressed in a police uniform with a badge number plainly visible.

There is a video at the “Current TV” website titled “Made in the USA” which includes a police officer disguised as a protester. Please vote for it to be shown on TV (even if you don’t get the “Current TV” channel.)


Bogus Story Spreads That Pentagon Labelled a Gay Kiss-In a “Credible Threat”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 21, 2005 @ 12:45 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

There is a misleading article at Wonkette.com.

The article by DCEIVER on spying by the military describes the Pentagon as “even going so far as to label a ‘kiss-in’ at the University of California at Santa Cruz (home of the Fighting Banana Slugs!) as a ‘credible threat of terrorism.’”

This story originated with an article by “Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.”

There were protests at UC Santa Cruz on April 5, 2005, led by “Students Against War.”

Protesters objected to military recruiting based on the “racist, sexist, classist and heterosexist biases of the military.”

Click here for excerpt from Defense Dept. document obtained by NBC News which calls UCSC protest a “credible” “threat.” (Full PDF linked at article on domestic military spying by Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak, Rich Gardella and the NBC Investigative Unit of NBC News.)

The protests as a whole were labelled a “credible” “threat” by the military.

But the SLDN article says,

A UC-Santa Cruz ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a ‘credible threat’ of terrorism.”

SLDN misleadingly implies that was the only protest there that day which could have interested the military.

None of the contemporaneous reports I’ve found on the April 5, 2005 protest even mentions a Gay Kiss-In. Did SDLN confuse that April event with an October 18, 2005 protest? (Update: in the Comments section below, “josh” identifies himself as a member of Students Against War at UCSC and says that SLDN did confuse the dates.)

The bogus story spread to Pandagon, AMERICAblog, The New York Blade,Gawker, and Wonkette.com.

« In Summary »

The military did label protests as a whole at the University of California at Santa Cruz on April 5, 2005 a “threat.” It did not single out a protest of “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with a gay kiss-in.

« What Difference Does It Make? »

There should be NO spying in the US by the military.

But opponents of such military spying help their case with accurate stories, not misleading ones.

« Update of December 22, 2005 »

This morning, I received the following via email from Steve Ralls, the Communications Director of “Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:”

Based on reports that we have received from UC-Santa Cruz and members of the media, it appears there may be some contradictory information.

There was an October protest, which included the kiss-in, at UC-Santa Cruz. There was also, apparently, an April protest as well, though that one did not include the kiss-in. Student organizers at UC-Santa Cruz tell us that, in fact, they believe both events were monitored.

In our FOIA request, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will request more specific information, including exact dates, activities and protests that were monitored. Once we have received a response to our FOIA, that information will be posted to our web site.

Did the military spy on the gay kiss-in October? Did it label the gay kiss-in a “threat?” We don’t have proof at this time that the military did these things. We will have more information if the military complies with SLDN’s Freedom-of-Information Act request.

The Demagoguery of Bill O’Reilly

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 20, 2005 @ 6:48 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, TV

Bill O’Reilly is a conservative talk-show host on radio and cable television.

Nicholas Kristof is an op-ed writer for the New York Times.

Kristof recently criticized Bill O’Reilly in a column.

Kristof implied that O’Reilly is “a self-righteous bully in the style of Father Coughlin or Joe McCarthy.” Kristof then quoted O’Reilly on liberal radio networkAir America: “Dissent, fine; undermining, you’re a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the F.B.I. and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they’re undermining everything.” (Audio .)

O’Reilly claimed yesterday on his Fox News show that the above quote was “humorous talk radio hyperbole, as anybody listening would know.”

I’ll take O’Reilly at his word that he was trying to be funny.

But was he funny? No. It isn’t funny to say that people who criticize Bush are traitors who should be arrested.

When O’Reilly mixes hateful comments with hyperbole, it doesn’t produce humor. It produces demagoguery.

We’ve seen this pattern before. Bill O’Reilly also said on his radio show that it would be acceptable for Al Qaeda to blow up the Coit Tower in San Francisco. (”You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”) He later said on his TV show that he had just been doing a “satirical riff.”

O’Reilly’s remarks against San Francisco were demagoguery too.

I’m not the first to call O’Reilly a demagogue. Neil Gabler, a commentator at Fox News, did so on on “Fox News Watch” (December 3, 2005) as he exposed the phoniness of the “War on Christmas” stories:

NEIL GABLER: I want to talk about the media angle because we have avoided it-it’s the elephant in the room. It’s Fox News. Come on-It’s Bill O’Reilly, it’s Sean Hannity, it’s [John] Gibson. They’re demagogues [A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace] who realized that in Christmas time you can…rouse the masses on this issue. They’ll do it every Christmas. They did it last Christmas, they’ll do it next Christmas.

Good Leaks and Bad Leaks

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 20, 2005 @ 2:52 pm
Filed under: Government, Free Press

Leaks during the George W. Bush years include:

• Identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA employee (after her husband criticized Bush).

• Exposing the secret prisons in Europe run by the CIA.

• Revealing Bush’s illegal order to the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on calls without getting a warrant either before or after the eavesdropping. (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — FISA — allows a warrant to be obtained up to 72 hours after the eavesdropping begins.)

How can we tell if a leak is good or bad? Tom Tomorrow explains:

Apparently some people don’t understand the difference between a leak that is solely intended to hurt someone as an act of political retribution — i.e., Valerie Plame — and a leak that is intended to blow the whistle on a violation of the law. Let me try to put this simply: the first is a dangerous abuse of power. The second is an attempt to prevent a dangerous abuse of power.

I’d count the first leak listed above as one that is a “dangerous abuse of power,” and the latter two leaks as attempts to end a “dangerous abuse of power.”


Bush “Violated the Law,” Fox News Legal Analyst Says

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 19, 2005 @ 8:49 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch

Judge Andrew Napolitano, a legal analyst for Fox News’ “Dayside” program, said today:

When Congress enacted the FISA act (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) in ‘77, it also made it criminal for anyone in this country to use the power of the government to wiretap without a search warrant. It made it easy to get the search warrant with the FISA law, but it said you have to get the search warrant.

The president has violated the law in the name of national security, not wanting to violate the law, believing he’s doing the right thing, but he violated it nonetheless.

He can’t pick and choose which laws to obey and not to obey any more than the rest of us can.


Does Robert Novak Believe Everything He Says?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 19, 2005 @ 5:00 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, TV

Robert Novak in a dark suit and red striped tie, white hair, not-smiling.
Robert Novak

Conservative commentator Robert Novak is moving from CNN to Fox News.

An AP article on the move concludes:

Novak said the switch to Fox had nothing to do with finding a more comfortable home for his views.

‘’I don’t think that’s a factor,'’ he said. ‘’In 25 years I was never censored by CNN, and I said some fairly outrageous things and some very conservative things. I don’t want to give the impression that they were muzzling me and I had to go to a place that wouldn’t muzzle me.'’

Robert Novak said during one episode of “Capital Gang” that for Senators to filibuster a judicial nominee is like the Nazis sending a prisoner to death.

Novak’s characterization of his CNN comments as including “some fairly outrageous things” could mean that Novak himself may not believe that comparisons such as that one are valid.

From May 14, 2005 Capital Gang:

AL HUNT: Bob, why would Senator Frist refuse an offer to break the deadlock?

ROBERT NOVAK: Because the whole system (inaudible) you’re not going to have — like going to a concentration camp and picking out which people go to the death chamber. You’re not going to let the Democrats do that, say, We’re going to — we’re going to confirm this person, we’re not going to confirm the other person.

Video of Novak’s dubious reference to a concentration camp at Crooks and Liars.

1 Comment

Brent Bozell Wants “Fox News” in the ‘Family Tier’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 19, 2005 @ 3:14 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, PTC, Cable/Satellite, TV

Time Warner cable will introduce a “family friendly” cable programming package sometime next spring.

The concept is that instead of basic cable, which includes channels like MTV which may not be appropriate for small children, subscribers would get 15 G-rated channels (Toon Disney, Food Network, etc.). This would be in addition to the broadcast channels and some public service cable channels.

The news channels that purported to be part of Time Warner’s family tier are CNN Headline News, The Weather Channel, C-SPAN-2, and C-SPAN 3.

Conservative Brent Bozell implies that the family tier should also include Fox News (as well as CNBC and MSNBC).

However, a new article at Media Matters for America explains that Fox News isn’t always G-rated.

Fox News Channel has, as part of several recent segments, aired a series of photographs and videos of scantily-clad women, and blurred images of nude women. A Media Matters for America review of Fox News Channel from December 5 through December 15 found at least eight different segments featuring photographs or video footage of nude or nearly nude women, as well as discussions on news programs of “hot” videos, and an item on provocative attire in the workplace. One program, Your World with Neil Cavuto, a weekday business program that airs at 4 p.m. EST, featured six of the eight segments. While host Neil Cavuto offered little in the way of explicit justification for the use of the material, the segments listed below were all cast as business stories…

December 5: Your World with Neil Cavuto featured a segment on Playboy’s plans to offer “Playboy Bodcasts” for Apple’s new video-capable iPod, which allow users to download features such as “joke of the day” or “video advice from Playboy’s sexy Cyber Girls” directly onto their video player. Cavuto showed an iPod’s screen featuring the “sexy,” scantily clad women.

The article continues with more examples.

It’s acceptable for a cable news channel to show racy images. The point is that including a channel that shows racy images — like Fox News — to the family tier would undermine the concept. Which is why Time Warner was right to exclude it from that package.

« Is “CNN Headline News” always G-rated? »

“CNN Headline News” isn’t always G-rated, either. It showed the dead bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons after they were killed by the US military in Iraq.

Arguably, CNN Headline News shouldn’t be part of the family tier, either. (Though it’s G-rated a greater percentage of the time than is Fox News.)

1 Comment

Baseball Caps Banned, Cause Deviant Behavior

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 19, 2005 @ 2:10 pm
Filed under: Ban It!

Baseball caps — like the one I’m currently wearing — have been banned from a chain of Scottish cafes. Why? Because those who wear them are predisposed to deviant and anti-social behavior. Other UK locales have banned hooded sweatshirts by the same logic.

From BBC News:

Easyinternetcafes —- owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of low cost airline Easyjet — claims the headgear is linked with “deviant” behaviour.

The ban on wearing caps is to be piloted at the chain’s branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

If the trial is successful, it will be introduced in all 41 Easyinternetcafes across the UK.

The chain’s management claimed people in baseball caps made other customers feel uncomfortable and that wearers were difficult to identify on CCTV.

James Rothnie, the firm’s director of corporate affairs, said the ban had been introduced after a spate of thefts.

He told The Sunday Times: “We want to make sure that our cafes are places where customers can relax and feel secure.

“Since deviant behaviour can be associated with the wearing of baseball caps we are politely asking people who enter our premises not to wear caps.

“This policy is designed to combat anti-social behaviour such as theft.”

This week Paisley became the first town centre in Britain to ban youths wearing hooded tops from all of its major stores.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Blair backed a ban on hoodies at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.


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