December 26, 2005

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


“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.


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.


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.


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

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

« 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.

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

George Will Exposes His Mindset Against Environmentalism

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 18, 2005 @ 6:44 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch

The real elitists are conservatives.

George Will is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post.

A recent column by George Will describes what a huge amount of oil there supposedly is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but concludes by saying it should be drilled even if there are “only three thimbles of oil.”

Amanda Marcotte of the blog Pandagon implies that this column by George Will reveals an elitist mindset that the rich should control everything. No commons. No general welfare. No collectivism:

George Will cracks and admits that the whole push to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has more to do with fucking shit up just for the hell of it than actually getting any oil.

A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.

In other words, it’ll be worth it to piss off the Birkenstocks crowd.

What is it with knee-jerk anti-environmentalism? Is it just this desire to leave a footprint on the planet, no matter how odious? Sure, earlier civilizations will be remembered for great art and architecture, but hopefully we’ll be remembered as the civilization that destroyed as much natural beauty as humanly possible. That’s something, isn’t it?

You know what? I’m not even feeling that generous today. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Will-style conservatives dislike environmentalism just because of this “collectivism” that he takes a piss on. Natural beauty doesn’t have a price tag on it.

…The rabble should live in squalor, with black skies over our heads as we trudge back and forth to our jobs, working our asses off throughout our meaningless lives, making money for our betters so they can purchase grand estates that they then fill with all the beautiful plants and animals that the rest of us should be denied the pleasure of of ever seeing. That’s the end game of these anti-environmental ideologues, make no mistake. Living in the manicured gardens of Versailles is a lot more desirable if the poor live in their own filth.

Will pretends that collectivism is simply an anti-freedom idea, that by protecting national parks and wildlife refuges, we’re somehow giving up “freedom”. Sure, conservatives loooooove freedom. The freedom of the authoritative government to tap your phones, for instance. He’s just interested in stomping out the idea of “collectivism”, which I do believe the Constitution calls the “general welfare.”

ANWR is offensive to conservatives because it’s collectively owned, which means the common rabble have technical ownership over something of great beauty.

Environmentalism is a threat to the conservative push to end “general welfare” as a goal of government, because it exposes the very serious problems with the anti-collective ideology, which is for instance that every-man-for-himself class warfare would result in massive pollution and destruction of most natural beauty.


Two Op-Ed Writers Were Secretly Paid by Republican Lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 18, 2005 @ 2:43 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, Free Press

Conservative op-ed writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara were each paid to write op-eds by corrupt GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

This payoff was exposed in a Business Week article by Eamon Javers, “Op-Eds for Sale.”

Doug Bandow admits that taking money to write op-eds without disclosing the payments was wrong. He says, “It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it.”

Peter Ferrara, however, is unapologetic:

“I do that all the time,” Ferrara says. “I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.”

Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles….

“These are my views, and if you want to support them, then that’s good.”

More on Social Security at Move Left.

The blog JABBS notes that in addition to these two writers being paid by a Republican lobbyist:

At least four journalists have been cited in the past year as being paid by the Bush Administration to write favorable items, or make favorable presentations on television, about administration programs or proposals.


The Week at SpeakSpeak

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 16, 2005 @ 8:07 pm
Filed under: SpeakSpeak, Right Watch, Free Speech, Cable/Satellite, Government, Media Watch, TV, Flag Burning, Religion, Radio

• Bill O’Reilly admits that “Happy Holidays” isn’t offensive after all. LINK

• Hillary Clinton proposes legislation that could be used to jail a protester who burns an American flag for a year. Senators should be thinking up ways to INCREASE our freedom, but no. LINK

• Departing FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy says indecency fines are “probably the hardest area for me as a commissioner. This is one where I could argue both sides very easily. I am a firm believer in the First Amendment and the right of free speech. And at the same time, I appreciate the need to protect children.” How about writing clear rules, if one could easily argue something is indecent or that it’s not indecent under the current rules? LINK

• Meanwhile, what is “indecent” in the general sense of the term? How about Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) wasting “$223 million of pork earmarked for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ to be used by about 50 Alaskans”? LINK

Bill O’Reilly’s reporting about bans on red-and-green clothing (Christmas colors) is false. No surprise. Will O’Reilly have to resign like Dan Rather did (for a flawed story which was more ambiguous and better researched?) LINK

• New Hampshire’s liberal radio host Arnie Arnesen: She may get fired because she’s criticized SUVs. Car dealerships are threatening to pull advertising from her radio station. LINK

Ted Koppel says ABC News has fewer foreign correspondents today than it did 30 years ago. LINK

• “A la carte” cable would mean people get exposed to less diversity in programming, says AdAge columnist Simon Dumenco. LINK

• Gay groups and the American Family Association took opposite positions on whether Ford should advertise cars in gay magazines. Ford originally said it would pull its advertising from magazines with mostly gay content. Eventually, the gay groups won. LINK

• The US military is spying on civilians who oppose the Iraq War. This includes Quakers. LINK

• Conservative groups disagree on whether Congress should mandate “a la carte” programming. The Parents Television Council and Concerned Women for America argue that a la carte is the best solution to the “indecency” problem. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and TBN’s Paul Crouch, Jr., fear (logically) that a la carte programming would vastly decrease viewership of religious channels. LINK

• A trend in entertainment is increased consumer options in how to view content. Therefore, I argue that Congress should be hands-off for the next few years regarding indecency and mandated a la carte. Let things develop. LINK

• Bush told the NSA to spy on US citizens. LINK

• $300 million of our tax dollars are being spent on propaganda — for example, covertly planting stories in the press of other nations. That includes allies’. Planting propaganda is legal abroad, but not in the US. LINK

• Clear Channel owns billboards, as well as radio stations and concert halls. The company refused to post a billboard which would say, “‘Wal*Mart: Killing Local Businesses…One Main Street at a Time.” They had no problem hosting a billboard that states “George W. Bush, Our Leader.” LINK

• NPR is soooo liberal. If you believe the hype. If you look at statistics, however, NPR favors conservatives. LINK

Howard Stern aired his last show on broadcast radio. He was driven out by the pressure of FCC indecency fines. Sad day for free speech. Howard Stern will start a show on Sirius Satellite Radio on January 9, 2006. LINK

• Time Warner describes its “family tier,” which may debut next spring. LINK

NPR’s Right-Wing Bias

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 16, 2005 @ 10:46 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Radio

The radio network National Public Radio is funded with federal grants, corporate donations, and individual donations.

NPR broadcasts more remarks by people at right-wing think tanks than left-wing think tanks. Their ombudsman admits this, but doesn’t consider it a problem.

From NPR ombudsman Jeffrey A. Dvorkin:

NPR does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.

…The score to date: Right 239, Left 141.

In other words, in 2005, NPR got quotes from people at right-wing think tanks 239 times and from left-wing think tanks 141 times.

But critics of NPR’s right-wing bias are supposed to take comfort that they’re not leaning as much to the right as some people might think.

From the Daily Howler:

Dvorkin says that NPR “does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.” As evidence, he offers a numerical accounting which tilts almost two-to-one toward conservative think tanks! Only in our broken discourse could such “logic” obtain.

Some have complained that Brookings and CSIS aren’t really think tanks of the left. But for the sake of argument, let’s leave that point to the side. Where except in the mainstream press can we find public figures who reason so strangely?

By any rational standard, Dvorkin’s figures represent one thing. So he says that they stand for the opposite!


Ted Koppel Criticizes News Media; Bush Administration

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 14, 2005 @ 12:45 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, TV

Ted Koppel, former host of ABC’s “Nightline,” was interviewed by New York Magazine’s Meryl Gordon for the December 5 issue.

Koppel said there are too few foreign correspondents in network news:

At the moment, he’s howling against the sorry state of television news. “When I look back 30 years ago, we had 25 foreign correspondents, and now we have five.” His voice rises. “To just dismiss foreign news because it’s boring is idiocy. I understand that corporations need to make money. I also remember that broadcasters in exchange for their licenses are supposed to operate in the public interest, and that means covering the news.”

Koppel also criticized the Bush Administration’s attitude toward journalists:

Twice in the past two years, Koppel has raised the ire of the Bush administration with segments called “The Fallen,” in which he read aloud the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq. “I didn’t do it to piss them off,” he says. “It was to honor the people who have lost their lives, to remind us that a tiny fragment of the population is bearing a disproportionate burden.”

His voice drips with contempt as he talks about the Bush team’s spin tactics on Iraq. “There’s this sense, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what’s going on over there — just do what we tell you, don’t question it. We know what we’re doing, leave the grown-ups alone.’ It’s not smart, it’s not healthy, and in the final analysis, it doesn’t work.”


Bob Dylan, Disc Jockey

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 13, 2005 @ 5:12 pm
Filed under: Cable/Satellite, Media Watch, Radio

There are two satellite radio companies in the US.

Sirius has signed talk-show host Howard Stern, who starts on January 9, 2006.

XM has liberal talk network Air America Radio and has signed musician Bob Dylan, who will start in March.

Dylan is a singer-songwriter-guitarist. For one hour per week, he’ll be playing the music of other musicians.

Some of Dylan’s own songs are political, including this song about war and peace released in 1963:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.


Don’t Let Facts Get In the Way of a Good Story

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
December 13, 2005 @ 1:55 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, TV, Religion, Radio

Romenesko has posted a letter sent by Plano, TX school district officials to parents about the following claim by Bill O’Reilly:

“In Plano, Texas, a school told students they couldn’t wear red and green because they are Christmas colors.”

This is not even remotely true, Superintendent Doug Otto assured concerned parents. The letter goes on to say this:

“Dr. Otto said that our attorney requested of Mr. O’Reilly that, in the future, he ask his fact checkers to do a more thorough job of confirming the facts before he airs them.”

This reminds me of a piece Matt Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone during the 2004 election entitled Bush Like Me:

“But here’s the twist. They [Republicans and fundamentalist Christians] are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn’t matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn’t a policy imposed from above; it’s an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You’re arguing the particulars, where you’re right, while they’re arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.”

ADDENDUM: Crooks and Liars reports that O’Reilly made the same claim about Saginaw, MI on his radio show.

Rachel Maddow Is Hosting “The Al Franken Show”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 13, 2005 @ 11:19 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, Radio

The radio program “The Al Franken Show” airs each weekday on Air America Radio from noon to 3PM Eastern Time.

Host Al Franken is doing a USO tour of Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq.

Therefore, starting today and through the rest of 2005, Rachel Maddow will guest-host. She usually has her own radio show on AAR. You may have seen Maddow on Tucker Carlson’s MSNBC cable TV show, “The Situation.” But since that TV show doesn’t get great ratings, you may not have.

Recently, conservative Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media wrote “I tuned in once last week [to Tucker Carlson’s cable TV show], only to discover that he was still wasting valuable airtime bantering with liberal lesbian Rachel Maddow.”

That is the entirety of what Kincaid writes about Rachel Maddow in that column. Was Kincaid fair to her?

Judge for yourself. You can listen to Air America Radio over the internet for free.

« Update of December 19, 2005 »

It turns out that while Maddow guest-hosted last week, this week they are playing “The Best of The Al Franken Show.”


“Media Matters” Criticizes “Accuracy in Media”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 12, 2005 @ 7:49 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, TV

Two of the biggest watchers of the news media are “Media Matters for America” and “Accuracy in Media.”

The organization “Media Matters for America” implies the media has a conservative bias.

The organization “Accuracy in Media” implies the media has a liberal bias.

The latter publishes a column by Jamison Foser titled “Media Matters” each Friday. The most recent column questioned not only the conclusions of AIM editor and writer Cliff Kincaid, but also his methods:

In a December 5 column, Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid wrote:

I didn’t need to read any transcripts of the Chris Matthews MSNBC Hardball show to know what’s he’s been doing. It’s a safe bet he was hyping some Bush-related “scandal.” The former Democratic congressional staffer does what he does best — make Democrats into heroes and Republicans into villains.

Kincaid didn’t even need to look at what Matthews said; he just knew Matthews was making “Democrats into heroes and Republicans into villains.”

At Media Matters, we go the extra mile and actually read and watch the news reports we critique. It isn’t quite as fast or easy as simply making things up, but we think it’s worth it. And because we put in the effort, we found that — rather than making “Democrats into heroes and Republicans into villains” — Matthews has recently called those who dislike Bush “real whack-jobs,” gushed that Bush “glimmers” with “sunny nobility,” derided Democrats as “carpers and complainers,” and smeared Democrats.

Is cable news host Chris Matthews a liberal or a conservative?

That controversy is one of the first things I wrote about for SpeakSpeak: “Chris Matthews, Rorschach Test.”

« Update of December 14, 2005 »

Media Matters avoids getting into the motives of commentators. Their stated goal is “correcting conservative misinformation.” They don’t say, “the talk-show host misled his audience because he has a conservative bias.” Media Matters generally just presents what was said and the facts.

I wrote above that “Media Matters for America implies the media has a conservative bias,” and I meant a frequent visitor to their website might conclude that the media has a conservative bias.

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Bill O’Reilly Flip-Flops On “Happy Holidays”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 10, 2005 @ 7:29 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, TV, Religion, Radio

Bill O’Reilly thinks the greeting “Happy Holidays” is anti-Christian.

Or, Bill O’Reilly thinks the greeting “Happy Holidays” is common sense when addressing someone without knowing that person’s religion.

O’Reilly has taken both positions recently.

Talking to Neil Cavuto on Fox News’ “Your World” on November 30, 2005, O’Reilly said the following:

Then the business community says we don’t want to offend anybody, so we’re not going to say “Merry Christmas.” We’re going to say “Happy Holidays, all right? That offends millions of Christians, see? Eighty-five percent of the country calls itself Christian.

…Acknowledge what it’s all about, the federal holiday of Christmas. If you don’t, then Christians start to say, “You don’t like us. You’re anti-Christian, you have an anti-Christian bias.

Yesterday a caller on Bill O’Reilly’s radio show said he didn’t tip a waitress because she wished him “Happy Holidays.”

At first O’Reilly said that he should have tipped her and that she had no way of knowing if he’s Jewish or Muslim or whatever.

Then the caller, “Kevin” in Los Angeles, said that it’s just like the stores that say “Happy Holidays” — which O’Reilly has railed against.

From Bill O’Reilly’s “The Radio Factor” on December 9, 2005:

Caller Kevin in Los Angeles: I had a very good meal, and the service was very good, etc. and then the waitress came up at the end and…gave me the check and she says “Happy Holidays” and I swear to God…I thought..”what kind of American is this?” and I gave her no tip…

O’Reilly: But why though? Why, I mean, whoa…hold on. The little waitress comes up to you and says “Happy Holidays.” She doesn’t know whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re a Buddhist or anything. So why would you be, why would you be offended by that?

Kevin: …I wanted to punch her in the face..when you go into these stores, y’know, where they don’t say…they don’t know, either whether you’re Jewish or not or anything else.

O’Reilly then seemed to realize that the caller is probably a liberal who had successfully set him up to flip-flop. O’Reilly claimed that he’s not against the greeting “Happy Holidays,” just against stores that have banned the word “Christmas.”

O’Reilly didn’t name any such stores (because there are none).

Kevin in Los Angeles: Congratulations on your phone call.

Brad of BradBlog: Thanks for posting the audio.

« Second great phone call to Bill O’Reilly in a week »

By the way, this was the second clever phone call to Bill O’Reilly about the supposed “War on Christmas.” On December 6, 2005, blogger Scoobie Davis pointed out that Bill O’Reilly won’t condemn the real anti-Christian gesture by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Washington Times owner, of paying people to pose throwing out the cross.


I Saw the Johnny Cash Movie Tonight

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 9, 2005 @ 9:11 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

I saw “Walk the Line” tonight. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as musician Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as musician June Carter. There was a big audience tonight, even though the movie has been out since November 18th. I recommend it.

The movie is mostly about the long romantic road from when Johnny Cash first met June Carter to when he ultimately married her.

There was only a bit of politics in the movie.

When Johnny Cash wants to record a live album at Folsom Prison, there is this dialogue (paraphrase):

Record Executive: Your fans are good Christians. They don’t want to hear you entertain murderers and rapists.

Johnny Cash: Then they’re not Christians.

During that concert, Cash tells the audience that he respects them for being able to endure the yellow drinking water at Folsom Prison. He then shatters a glass of the dirty water in a gesture that implies he doesn’t approve of cruel conditions for prisoners.

The movie goes through 1968.

I was expecting more politics, but some of the political events I was expecting occurred later than 1968.

The following isn’t in the movie. (They could put it in a sequel, if they make one.)

In 1969, Johnny Cash gave a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and expressed opposition to the Vietnam War. He sang “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.” Cash’s version of the song by Ed McCurdy says, “Last night I had the strangest dream, I’ve ever known before. I dreamed that all the world agreed, to put an end to war.”

In 1971, Johnny Cash recorded “Man in Black,” which expresses sympathy for the poor and for prisoners serving excessively long sentences.


Skepticism That There is a “War on Christmas”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 9, 2005 @ 4:46 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, Religion

The blogger DCEIVER at doesn’t agree with the claim that saying “Happy Holidays” equals an attack on Christmas:

…the War on Christmas is an idea akin to a bullshit sandwich, once you’ve deleted all the “sandwich-like” characteristics, anyway.

The word “holiday” is derived from “holy day“, Linus Van Pelt is always going to deliver his reading of Luke on national television year after year, and WASH-FM is going to be playing their drive-time five-song manger birth blocks every December until the Sun finally dies.

DCEIVER also notes how the US government wages actual wars:

…If the President was to learn of a mysterious trio of swarthy gentlemen smuggling goods to a newly born child who’s destined to grow up to be the leader of a Middle East insurgency, he’d have Colin Powell up at the United Nations portentiously waving around a vial of frankincense. They bomb mangers, don’t they?

Meanwhile, Kevin at “Lean Left” explores the anti-Semitic aspect of the “War on Christmas” claim.

Kevin notes that the two people Bill O’Reilly has suggested are waging a “War on Christmas” are Jews: Comedian Jon Stewart and investor George Soros.

Kevin also quotes disapprovingly a dubious essay at The essay says, “It is the ACLU, which is overwhelmingly Jewish in terms of membership and funding, that is leading the attack against Christianity in America. It is they who have conned far too many people into believing that the phrase ’separation of church and state’ actually exists somewhere in the Constitution.”

As far as I know, the majority of members of the ACLU aren’t Jewish. But since the ACLU doesn’t publish a membership list, neither I nor the author of that essay can really say. If Jews have a tendency to support civil liberties, that is great. Everyone Jewish and non-Jewish should support civil liberties.

The author of the Townhall article, Burt Prelutsky, has only written one previous article for the website. (That article reviews the George Clooney movie about Senator Joe McCarthy, “Good Night and Good Luck.“)

Burt Prelutsky implies he’s Jewish, writing ” I blame my fellow Jews,” and later, “I am getting the idea that too many Jews won’t be happy until they pull off their own version of the Spanish Inquisition, forcing Christians to either deny their faith and convert to agnosticism or suffer the consequences.”

To my fellow Jew, Mr. Prelutsky:

As Joe McCarthy was eventually asked, “Have you no sense of decency?”

Promoting the idea that Jews want to force Christians to denounce Christianity is bizarre and beyond the pale.

The editors of should be ashamed to have published your dishonest article — which promotes anti-Semites.


“Current TV” Mentioned the Blog ‘Crooks and Liars’

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 8, 2005 @ 6:47 pm
Filed under: Media Watch, TV

I’m in Minnesota and I get the cable channel “Current TV” through Digital Comcast.

Al Gore is the chairman of “Current TV.” It covers news, fashion, and music.

Face of Kinga Philipps, woman with black hair and light skin who is a host on Current TVOn every half-hour, the channel has a segment called “Google Current,” in which they discuss searches at related to the news.

At 8PM Central Time, host Kinga
talked about how Kyra Phillips of CNN had interviewed John Seigenthaler, a critic of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

During this part of “Google Current,” the phrase “HAT TIP: CROOKS AND LIARS” was displayed over Kinga Philipps’ left shoulder. This was to credit C & L’s coverage of the Wikipedia story.

Previous SpeakSpeak article: Vote Up This Video Submitted to “Current TV.”

Bill O’Reilly: Journalists Shouldn’t Report Human Rights Violations

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 8, 2005 @ 2:01 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Free Press

Is Bill O’Reilly a journalist?

He lacks a journalistic demeanor towards exposing human rights violations by the government.

From the Internet Movie Database:

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly suggested Tuesday (on “The O’Reilly Factor”) that American TV news outlets refrain from airing reports that would depict the U.S. unfavorably as it carries out its war against terrorism. Referring to an ABC News report that the CIA had moved detainees out of secret prisons in Europe prior to the arrival there of Secretary of State Rice, O’Reilly remarked, “I would not have reported what ABC News reported. I would not have done it. I did not put Abu Ghraib pictures on this broadcast, the only television journalist not to do so. I do feel that the press has a responsibility to help the government in the war on terror.”

So much for informing the public. So much for the journalism school motto of “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” It’s incredible that someone would boast that the didn’t show photos of Abu Ghraib.

Regarding the lack of a journalistic demeanor in Bill O’Reilly, he regularly denounces “far left smear web sites,” but rarely names them. This is counter to the journalistic imperative to tell the public who, what, when, and where.

The CIA’s secret prisons in Europe were first reported in the Washington Post by Dana Priest.

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Anti-Christian Gesture

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 7, 2005 @ 4:35 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Media Watch, Free Press, Religion, Radio

There has been a lot of blather from Bill O’Reilly that cashiers saying “Happy Holidays” is “anti-Christian.”

O’Reilly is wrong. Here is a gesture that is really anti-Christian:

a man puts a large wooden cross into a dumpster as another man watches

“During the American Clergy Leadership Conference tour that the president hailed last week, pastor John Kingara of Massachusetts puts a cross out with the garbage, April 18, 2003 (Source: [Sun Myung] Moon’s Web site” - The Gadflyer

Reverend Sun Myung Moon is the owner of the conservative newspaper, The Washington Times.

Reverend Moon paying people to pose for photos throwing out crosses (apparently he believes this will help him become the Messiah) is really anti-Christian.

But does Bill O’Reilly object?

Blogger Scoobie Davis decided to call into O’Reilly’s radio show to find out. He phoned in as “Stanley”:

O’REILLY: Stanley, San Diego, California. What’s going on, Stanley?

SCOOBIE: Hello, Bill. I really think this whole, like, fight for Christmas has been overblown and I think it’s largely hypocritical. For one thing, the newspaper that’s championing this — this so-called fight to protect Christmas — is the Washington Times which is owned by Sun Myung Moon who paid black ministers to throw crosses into dumpsters. So when you talk about this Utah cross controversy, why don’t you denounce somebody like Sun Myung Moon?


O’REILLY: Because I don’t know anything about him, and I didn’t even know the Washington Times was involved with this, and I wouldn’t smear Sun Myung Moon anyway, the way you just did, Stanley. I mean, you’re taking it right out of the left-wing playbook — can’t win the debate, smear the person. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.


Reverend Moon owns the biggest right-wing newspaper in Washington, DC, and Bill O’Reilly didn’t have a negative word to say about him.

It’s possible that Bill O’Reilly is unfamiliar with this issue of Reverend Moon paying people to throw crosses into the trash. But if so, and O’Reilly wanted to learn the truth, he could have talked to Scoobie Davis instead of immediately disconnecting the call and dismissing the issue as a “smear.”


Christian Science Monitor Published Lie That Promotes Samuel Alito

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 6, 2005 @ 11:20 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Courts

Samuel Alito was nominated by George W. Bush to the Supreme Court.

Bush said about Samuel Alito , “I know he’s thinking about his late father. Samuel Alito Sr. came to this country as a immigrant from Italy in 1914. And his fine family has realized the great promise of our country.”

The Christian Science Monitor uncritically quoted a family friend on this matter:

“His father came [from Italy] as a 14-year-old immigrant, and by the time he was in his 20s he was teaching high school English,” says Jack Lacy, a former Hamilton Township councilman and family friend for 50 years. “To me that is quite an accomplishment, considering he came here speaking Italian.”

Note how the year 1914 got turned into age 14 by someone trying to sell Alito to the public.

But according to his military records, Samuel Alito’s father (also named Samuel) was born in 1914 in New Jersey.

Samuel Alito, the nominee, didn’t set the record straight. He should have spoken up after Bush’s statement or after the Christian Science Monitor article. Instead , it took a blogger to report the truth.

« The dishonesty and corruption of Samuel Alito »

Previously, Samuel Alito lied to the Senate in 1990, saying he would recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard, a company whose mutual funds he owns. Alito didn’t recuse himself. Instead, he ruled in favor of the company.

Alito has also said that his job application for the Reagan Administration, in which he said that the US Constitution doesn’t protect a right to an abortion, shouldn’t be taken seriously as a reflection of his views. Alito said the statements were part of his attempt to land a job.

The Christian Science Monitor isn’t the only media organization to provide Supreme Court nominee Alito with dubiously positive coverage. On December 1, PBS had two law professors as guests on “The News Hour” to discuss Alito. Both praised Alito and didn’t discuss why he’s controversial.

Samuel Alito is a dishonest man. He doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. He should be filibustered.

Parts of this article come via Crooks and Liars.


Wonkette Reviews Zombie Movie

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 6, 2005 @ 10:00 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, TV

On Sunday, I wrote an article for SpeakSpeak about a new horror movie on cable, “Homecoming.”

It involves soldiers killed in an unjust war, who rise from the grave to vote against the president who sent them to their deaths.

Today, Wonkette reviews the movie, “Zombie Movie Good“:

The Wonkette household settled down last night to watch Joe Dante’s zombie political satire, “The Homecoming” and we can now report that it is even better than the concept of a zombie political satire about disenfranchised undead soldiers has any right to be. Reviewers had already pointed to the Ann Coulterish “Jane Cleaver” character, what we delighted in was the horse-legged-for-horse-legged duplication of Coulter’s TIME cover as Cleaver’s book jacket photos. Also good: The warning the protagonist receives about her, “Be careful son. She’s what we used to call a…skank.”

The Karl Rove character’s dubious sexuality is a nice touch as is his spin on the realization that the only soldiers returning as zombies are ones who oppose the war: “Look at all the veterans who support our cause by staying in their graves!” Funny because it’s true.

Showtime airs it again Thursday.

Homecoming []
EARLIER: Mmmmmm Me Want VOTING RIGHTS [Wonkette]


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