Bush Era Of Secrecy May Be Coming To An End

George W. Bush has presided over the most secrecy-obsessed administration in the history of the country. More documents have been classified than at any other time. White House officials have defied court orders to disclose data, calendars, and emails. They even claimed that the vice-president was not subject to Congressional demands for information from the White House because he was not a part of the executive branch of government.

Bill Moyers, in a superb speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Security Archive brilliantly articulated the urgency with which Bush pursued the suppression of public data:

“Bush and Cheney have made the Freedom of Information Act their number one target, more fervently pursued for elimination than Osama Bin Laden. No sooner had he come to office than George W. Bush set out to eviscerate both FOIA and the Presidential Records Act. He has been determined to protect his father’s secrets when the first Bush was Vice President and then President – as well as his own. Call it Bush Omerta.”

Last week some sunlight pierced the Bush-imposed darkness:

The end may finally be in sight to the seven-year battle historians and archivists have waged to overturn President Bush’s Executive Order 13233 of November 2001 that restricted access to presidential records. On January 7, 2009, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 35, the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2009,” by an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote of 359-58.

The bill offered by Edolphus Towns (D-NY) has now been sent to Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee in the Senate where it is expected to be welcomed and passed. Previous versions of this legislation were held up by Senate Republicans and threatened with a Bush veto. At this time, such opposition is not given much credence as the bill could likely muster 60 votes to achieve cloture and President-elect Barack Obama appears to be supportive. While not explicitly citing Bush’s Executive Order, Obama’s ethics agenda includes this statement:

Release Presidential Records: Obama and Biden will nullify attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult.

The National Coalition for History, a non-profit educational project hosted by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, has composed a detailed description of the bill’s provisions. Here is a summary:

  • Overturn Bush Executive Order 13233
  • Establish a Deadline for Review of Records
  • Limit the Authority of Former Presidents to Withhold Presidential Records
  • Require the President to Make Privilege Claims Personally
  • Eliminate Executive Privilege Claims for Vice Presidents
  • Deny Access to Anyone Convicted of a Crime Relating to the Archives

Passage of this bill would mark a profound step back from Bush’s attempts to conceal the crimes and corruption of his office. Joseph Wheelan, of George Mason University’s History News Network, expressed the very real risks of allowing the Bush Doctrine of Secrecy to endure:

“Executive Order 13233 portends a day when spin, the currency of politics, may become the province, too, of presidential history. One can envision a future when a presidential library’s watchdogs would allow only ‘safe’ historians to sift through the library’s holdings for material to cook up a bracingly whitewashed version of his subject’s actions. Objective historians, denied access to the panegyrist’s primary sources and all the juicy details, would be placed at a severe disadvantage. Which version do you think would get the seven-figure publishing advance and the lavish promotional campaign?”

Rep. Towns, and his colleagues in the House, have done a great service to the country with the passage of this bill. In a comment to the press, Towns said:

“President Bush’s executive order created an imbalanced and restrictive process. The Presidential Records Act preserves the important intent of the original post-Watergate law, which was to assure timely accessibility and preservation of official White House records for historical and, if necessary, legal purposes.”

The emphasis added at the end of that quote was mine, because of the hope it implies that justice can still be achieved, that the criminality of the outgoing administration does not go unpunished, and that their unconstitutional behavior is not set as a precedent.

I have long advocated that Executive Order 13233 be rescinded by the next Democratic president. Now Obama has the chance to do that with the added force of law behind it. I expect that he will gladly follow through, but first it has to get out of the senate and onto his desk. This would be good time to contact your senators and request that they support this bill.

Brit Hume Doesn’t Get The Internet – Or Journalism

It’s a good thing that Brit Hume has already announced his retirement. When the primary anchor and managing editor of the Washington bureau for Fox News has such a total misconception of modern media, it is well past time for him to leave the scene. On the December 11 broadcast of the Fox News Special Report, Hume led off his Political Grapevine segment with this:

“The Obama-Biden transition team has launched a new feature on its Web site called “Open for Questions” which is designed to be an open forum for users to ask policy and issue questions. However, it is subject to what amounts to censorship by other users because the more votes an entry gets the higher it moves on the overall list. But some questions are being downplayed by Obama supporters who are trying to remove the entries entirely.”

Someone needs to explain to the old feller what “community moderation” is on social networks. They could start by telling Grandpa Hume that it is sort of like Democracy. He may remember what that is.

The whole point of the Open For Questions project is to solicit the public’s views on what issues the new administration should pursue. By allowing people to vote on the suggestions submitted, it presents a community consensus of what ought to take priority. But Hume is complaining that some comments were poorly received, or even flagged as inappropriate. He cites as an example this question:

“Is Barack Obama aware of any communications in the last six weeks between Rod Blagojevich or anyone representing Rod Blagojevich and any of Obama’s top aides?”

That may be interesting question if you’re a Republican toady trying to smear Obama, but it is not a policy suggestion for the President-elect. So it should come as no surprise that it would not rate highly, and that it might even be deemed inappropriate. It is certainly irrelevant and a distraction from the topic at hand.

Nevertheless, Hume’s assertion that the results of the public’s voting amounts to censorship is both ridiculous and utterly false. While some instances of the Blagojevich question were removed as inappropriate, many more remain on the site – just farther down the list. What’s more, commentary that went even further off topic, and could only be characterized as intentionally disruptive (not to mention immature), was also available for all to read. For instance…

  • Will Rev. Wright sing God (bleep) America at your inauguration?
  • Besides Rezko, the governor, and Bill Ayers, are there any other crooks you associated yourself with that we need to know about?
  • Are you a Muslim Terrorist in disguise? I do not believe you are American, prove it to us!
  • Is Michelle proud of America now that you are the president-elect?
  • Did you beat Clinton ’cause for the Dems it’s Bros befo’ Hos?
  • Are you a natural born citizen and if so will you show an authentic birth certificate?
  • Is it hard to be such a fucking phony all the time?

The fact that none of these items were removed proves that there is no censorship being practiced on the web site. It also proves that there are a lot of childish Republican smart asses clogging up the blogosphere. More to the point, it proves that Brit Hume is a lousy reporter and a flagrant promoter of disinformation. It took me all of fifteen minutes to compile this list. What kind of reporter is Hume if he cannot even use the search function provided on the web page to look for any information except that which affirms his predetermined view?

The transparency of Hume’s agenda driven ravings is testimony to the lie that Fox News is fair and balanced. It is further confirmation that Hume and his colleagues are dishonest and brazen purveyors of propaganda. And it is evidence that Hume is past his prime and unable to keep up with advances in new media. The sooner he trades in his anchor’s chair for a rocking chair the better. Buh bye, Brit.

Update: It appears that Hume’s source for his non-reporting is Ben Smith at Politico. Smith made the same inane accusation of censorship a day before Hume.

Update On Journalists Arrested At Republican Convention

At the Republican National Convention in Minnesota this month, there was an unprecedented assault on freedom of the press as dozens of journalists were arrested along with the protesters they were covering. Those arrested included members of local broadcast media, the Associated Press, and mainstream newspapers, along with alternative media and Internet news sites.

The actions of law enforcement in St. Paul were thoroughly unjustifiable and smacked of police state suppression of free speech. It is a black mark on the city’s reputation, and the fact that it was done with the cooperation of the Republican Party doesn’t say much for their commitment to the First Amendment either.

Today Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul announced that the city will decline to prosecute all misdemeanor charges against journalists arrested during the convention. While dropping these charges is the only acceptable course of action, Coleman still believes that the arrests were proper and in the interests of the community. He asserts that “the police did their duty in protecting public safety.” (Exactly who in the public did Coleman think the journalists were threatening?) Nonetheless, he heaps praise on himself for reversing the police on their arrest authority.

“This decision reflects the values we have in Saint Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press. A journalist plays a special role in our democracy and that role is just too important to ignore.”

If this is an example of how St. Paul protects and promotes the First Amendment, it is a sad commentary on their understanding of the Constitution. Dropping these charges is not a demonstration of principle. It is merely a correction of prior misbehavior. And it does nothing to undo the damage caused by the detentions in the first place.

If the reason for arresting the journalists was to limit the free distribution of information from the convention site, and there is no other plausible reason, then their mission was accomplished. Reporters cannot post stories from jail. By releasing them after the event was concluded they were effectively silenced. Whatever news these reporters might have gathered and supplied to the public is forever lost.

Another deficiency in Mayor Coleman’s statement is language that calls into question who will be cleared and what defines a journalist:

“The decision will only affect people identified as journalists who face the misdemeanor charge. Recognizing the growing media profession in print, broadcast and the Internet, the city attorney’s office will use a broad definition and verification to identify journalists who were caught up in mass arrests during the convention.”

What these means is that any person that doesn’t meet the city’s definition of a journalist, or any journalist the city chooses to indict on charges higher than a misdemeanor, is exempt from this absolution. This interpretation directs the power back to the government and away from the Constitution. It would be far too easy to apply these vague rules arbitrarily in order to harass selected individuals whom the government dislikes.

If the city of St. Paul faces no consequences for their repressive tactics, then they and other government bodies will have a green light for future clampdowns on lawful, Constitutionally protected activities. Hopefully one or more of these journalists will file suits for false arrest and violations of their Constitutional rights. At this point the courts are one of the few remaining paths left to affirm the principle of a press that is unshackled from government control.

Also on the path are the ACLU and Free Press. They are both in hot pursuit of truth and justice in this affair. Feel free to help them out.

Submission Accomplished: MSNBC Demotes Olbermann

Keith Olbermann is MSNBC’s hottest property. His ratings eclipse those of the rest of the lineup. So clearly he is a significant draw for an audience that MSNBC has been struggling to expand and they would reward him commensurate to his contribution.

Think again:

“MSNBC is removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as the anchors of live political events, bowing to growing criticism that they are too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign. “

This is another example of the media being so petrified of disapproval from right-wing critics that they act in opposition to their own interests. By effectively demoting their top talent, MSNBC is agreeing with critics that their coverage is slanted and that Olbermann is a journalistic liability. This action is remarkably stupid and short-sighted. Why would NBC want to denigrate their own reporting and insult their most popular program host? Apparently all is takes is a letter or two from the White House or the Republican National Committee to make NBC execs tremble.

To put this in perspective, try to imagine Fox News making a similar schedule adjustment in response to complaints from liberal sources. Obviously they get such complaints by the thousands on a daily basis. And not just from liberals, but from respected, independent journalistic institutions and professionals. Yet Brit Hume, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, etc. – not to mention Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity – all have safe jobs and have never been chastised in the slightest for their brazen bias and partisan pandering.

What’s more, the contrast in tone between the left and right media is disturbing, to say the least. Liberals are accused primarily of partisanship and favoritism. But rightists are are guilty of far more hostile activity. Recall Fox News’ Liz Trotta who joked that Barack Obama should be assassinated along with Osama Bin Laden. And then there’s that continuous thread of racism that permeates Fox News. These ethical violations, however, are not sufficient to warrant corrective action on the part of the conservative press.

In addition to dissing Olbermann, muting an alternative perspective, and likely suppressing their ratings (and, thus, their income), NBC is also giving ammunition to their competitors, who will not praise this as a step toward neutral reporting, but cite it as evidence of bias. So MSNBC gains nothing from their capitulation. Fox News is already reporting on these events as having taken place due to MSNBC’s lack of neutrality. That Fox can even say that, without a hint of irony, demonstrates how low the media neutrality bar has sunk.

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse. With the party conventions over, the general election commencing formally, and debates coming soon, NBC has chosen to very publicly tarnish their own brand. This could only happen at a network that is faulted as being liberal by the entrenched media establishment. And yet, the myth that the media is liberal will persist despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

The real problem is that it is only the few liberal islands in the media sea that are punished for expressing their views. The monopolistic corporations who control the media, and their benefactors on the conservative side of the political spectrum, are the dictators of what the news audience will see and hear. They will always bend to the right and, sadly, cowards like those at NBC will choke the breadth of opinion from the airwaves to the point of suffocation.

What Republicans Think Of John McCain

John McCain has released a flurry of hastily produced ads following the announcement of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate. The ads feature Democrats, including Biden saying uncomplimentary things about Obama. But mostly they feature the desperation of McCain as he grasps for something with which to prop up his pathetic campaign. The latest ad closes with the tag line, “The Truth Hurts.” McCain is precisely correct about that, though not in the way he imagines. There are some serious problems with this advertising strategy that will shortly become evident.

First, the quotes from Democrats were made primarily when they were competing with Obama for the nomination. Most voters are fully aware that remarks made in the heat of a campaign are quickly retracted and forgotten after a nominee is selected. What’s more, McCain is just as vulnerable to such attack ads featuring Republicans disparaging him and his policies. In fact he is more vulnerable, because there are many instances of Republicans bashing McCain throughout the years who were not political opponents. This video presents just a few examples.

McCain’s problems don’t lie just in what fellow Republicans say about him. His vulnerability also extends to the many ill-tempered rants he has directed at his colleagues. For instance:

  • “Fuck you…This is chickenshit stuff.” Directed at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in an immigration debate.
  • “Only an asshole would put together a budget like this…I wouldn’t call you an asshole unless you really were an asshole.” Directed at Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) while marking up legislation.
  • Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to McCain during a debate on MIA’s: “Are you calling me stupid?” McCain: “No. I’m calling you a fucking jerk!”

The media, as usual, is continuing to donate airtime to McCain’s propaganda. The recent ads were announced by the campaign, but they have never purchased air time to broadcast them. The thinly disguised intent here is simply to get the press to contribute free air time to McCain. And the press is complying like the little zombie poodles that they are. Therefore, as usual, it will be up to the blogosphere to enlighten the voting population. So keep spreading the word, because the word is the truth, and, as we all know…the Truth Hurts.

Gas Station TV Tanks Obama Ad

Gas Station TV operates video terminals placed on gas pumps that display news, weather, and, of course, commercials. However, Barack Obama produced a commercial for the network that discussed his energy policy and advocated conservation. That ad was rejected by GSTV on the grounds that they avoid political messages. But the Obama campaign said that company gave a different reason for turning them down: It was too damaging to the oil industry.

On one hand, it seems reasonable that service stations might not want to host advertising that attempts to persuade customers to purchase less of their products. On the other hand, consumers are already making that decision on their own. With record gas prices they are cutting back on unnecessary travel and are choosing more fuel efficient vehicles.

A bigger picture analysis, however, leads a to an entirely different conclusion. Obama’s energy program includes a $1,000.00 rebate for consumers. That’s money that might be spent on gas. Additionally, Obama is selling his program as a means to eventually lower gas prices. With lower prices come higher consumption. So it could be argued that Obama’s ad will actually benefit the service stations where it would air.

Unfortunately, the short term thinking on the part of the oil industry is going to ignore these arguments and insure that these common sense messages will be censored from this advertising venue. It’s too bad, but it’s not much of a surprise.

The GOP Threatens To Sue Its Supporters

Republican ChangeSo Sue Me!

The great minds at the Republican National Committee are once again demonstrating their transcendent grasp of marketing, finance, and public relations. In an action so preposterously witless as to scramble the common cranium, the GOP has sent a “cease and desist” letter to CafePress citing trademark infringement on the part of sellers using the term “GOP” or the elephant logo. Attorney Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen is representing CafePress and wrote this on the CLP Blog:

“[W]e might ask why the RNC has chosen an election year to try to suppress speech about the Republican Party, especially since many of the images are highly favorable to their cause. Many of the CafePress users appear to be Republican grassroots activists. Is this the right year for RNC staff members to start going after their own supporters?”

Asking the RNC why they are trying to suppress speech is like asking why tobacco companies add nicotine to cigarettes – the only way you can get people to consume either one is to artificially manipulate their behavior. Tobacco companies do it with addictive chemicals. Republicans do it with message control and censorship.

Ironically, this harebrained scheme can only work to the disadvantage of Republican allies. The First Amendment guarantee of free speech, along with “fair use” and the legal protection for parody, insure that any critical use of the trademarked properties is permitted. Only those who are using the properties favorably would be subject to litigation because it would be more likely to result in confusion with the RNC’s own favorable use. So the GOP’s action punishes their friends while having no impact whatsoever on opponents.

This is the same pack of idiots that got us mired in a war in Iraq; that ran our economy into the ground; and that want to persuade us that John McCain ought to be our next president.

The Suppresion Of The Prosecution Of George W. Bush for Murder

Former Los Angeles county prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, has published several best-selling books and received many awards for his writing. But he is still having trouble getting the media to cover the release of his current book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.”

The book’s provocative title foretells a serious exploration of the legal case to be made for trying Bush for the murder of American soldiers killed in Iraq. The publisher describes the book as…

“…a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses-a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.”

But this successful, highly regarded author is being given a cold shoulder by the media who are instrumental in the marketing of such products. Bugliosi even reports that Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and MSNBC are declining to book him for interviews. He says that…

“They are not responding at all. I think it all goes back to fear. If the liberal media would put me on national television, I think they’d fear that they would be savaged by the right wing. The left wing fears the right, but the right does not fear the left.”

Even worse, Jon Meacham of Newsweek admitted that the reason Bugliosi is being shut out is that, “…there’s a kind of Bush-bashing fatigue out there.” The notion that editors are blocking the promotion of controversial works on that basis is rather chilling. Firstly, because there is no foundation for drawing such conclusions. While there is plenty of disdain for Bush, who many historians have crowned the worst president ever, I have seen no evidence of the public tiring of documentary proof of that designation. Secondly, because the merit of the content ought to be the determinative factor as to whether to engage the author. If the work is meaningful, well-constructed, and has value to our society and its institutions, the media ought not to bury it for reasons that are arbitrary or biased.

If someone of Bugliosi’s stature is inhibited in this manner, what does that portend for lesser known authors? What does that portend for free speech? Why can’t they just let the people decide?

Philadelphia Radio Station Blocks Democratic Ad

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has produced a radio ad for broadcast in 13 Republican held House districts. In the Philadelphia district served by Jim Gerlach KYW-AM is refusing to air this ad.

The advertisement features a George W. Bush impersonator pretending to be talking to the Republican representative and thanking him for standing by the administration’s agenda on behalf of Big Oil and the “Grand Oil Party.” But apparently that’s too much for the tender sensibilities of KYW’s audience, at least according to its general manager, David Yadgaroff.

“As an all-news station, we were concerned that our listeners would have been misled by usage of an impersonator in the creative delivery.”

Were I a Philly resident, I would be insulted by Yadgaroff’s condescension. Does he really believe that his audience is too stupid to figure out that this is a political ad? More importantly, does he have such disrespect for his community that he would engage in wholesale censorship based on such a disparaging assertion? Apparently so.

Clear Channel Bans Bushmen Ad

Harry Shearer BushmenAuthor, satirist, and the voice of innumerable Simpsons characters, Harry Shearer, has a new CD coming out that typically skewers politics and culture. The title of the project is Songs of the Bushmen and features a debut single about the “935 Lies” told by the Bush administration in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Clear Channel, however, despite being an avowedly conservative media enterprise (they gave 77% of their $300K+ PAC contributions to Republicans in 2004), is demonstrating their opposition to free speech and markets by refusing to allow ads for Shearer’s work to appear on their billboards.

This is consistent with Clear Channel’s history of partisan censorship. They have previously refused ads for VoteVets and they nixed the Dixie Chicks from their radio network. And let’s not forget their ludicrous list of banned songs post-9/11.

Spin-Com: Obama And Clinton Step Up – Media Cowers

SpinComThe propaganda scandal uncovered last week by the New York Times has been virtually blacked-out by the rest of the media – particularly television. Even though this may be the most brazen act of disinformation ever perpetrated against American citizens. Why would the press seemingly act in concert to bury this story?

It really doesn’t take much imagination to understand the panic these media outlets must be experiencing. The Pentagon-driven program of dispatching retired generals to serve as TV pundits with the intention of painting an artificially rosy picture of the war in Iraq poses a slippery dilemma. These TV networks were either pawns, dupes, or accomplices, in a scheme to mislead the country and enrich the players. Therefore, it is not surprising that the media has acted to sweep it all under the rug. To report on it would be to indict themselves.

Well, at least some of the candidates for president have finally weighed in:

Senator Clinton is very concerned by a recent press report that the Department of Defense (DOD) hid behind “an appearance of objectivity” in a concerted media “campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” The report raises issues of credibility and trust at the Pentagon.

~~~

Senator Obama is deeply disturbed by this latest evidence that the Bush Administration has sought to manipulate the public’s trust. From its misleading case to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, to its argument for keeping our troops in Iraq indefinitely, the Administration has depended on spin because its assertions have not been supported by facts.

Both Democrats are calling for various levels of investigation. So is the Pentagon, whose spokesman has announced that they are temporarily suspending the program “pending further review.” The only candidate to fail to take a position is that straight-talking maverick, John McCain. Of course he may be the only public official who has been even more unquestioningly upbeat than the bought and paid for war spinners.

This isn’t over. It is still possible to get the press to be responsible and to perform their duty to inform the public. Write letters and emails to any national and/or local media outlet you patronize. And be sure to visit FreePress where they are collecting signatures to urge Congress to further investigate this breach of the public trust.

Indiana Student Newspaper Honors Freedom Of The Press

The Indiana Daily Student, a newspaper run by students at Indiana University, has taken a stand on press freedom that the professionals ought to take note of.

When Bush’s former deputy national security adviser, Meghan O’Sullivan, came to speak for the school’s Student Alliance for National Security (SANS), she insisted that the speech be off-the-record. This would not be out of character for an operative from the secrecy-obsessed Bush White House. O’Sullivan was also a top aide to Paul Bremer who led Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Government after the fall of Saddam. So O’Sullivan was a key architect of the administration’s disastrously failed policy in Iraq every step of the way.

Concerns were raised about O’Sullivan’s insistence that the lecture be kept private because it was to be given to a group of 70 students in a public hall and was paid for with university funds. That makes it a little difficult to assert that there was plausible anxiety that classified information would be revealed if the press were allowed to report on it.

To it’s credit, the Indiana Daily Student declined to agree to O’Sullivan’s off-the-record demands. Shortly thereafter, O’Sullivan canceled the event saying that she had become “sick to her stomach.” However, she appeared later the same evening at a private dinner with members of SANS. Her speedy recovery notwithstanding, she still refused to repay the fee she received for the lecture she never gave.

The Indiana Daily Student deserves to be congratulated for their adherence to journalistic ethics. It’s too bad that their elders in corporate media have let their idealism lapse so badly.

Fox News Is Scared Of Ron Paul

Fox canceledA Republican presidential primary forum in New Hampshire is set to proceed on January 8, two days before the New Hampshire primary, without the participation of Ron Paul. Paul’s exclusion has understandably infuriated his supporters but it has also revealed a(nother) gaping hypocrisy at Fox News.

Never mind for the moment that Paul is polling ahead of Fred Thompson, who has been invited to participate. And set aside the fact that Paul has broken fund raising records, accumulating over $19 million dollars in the last quarter.

The part of this story that I find noteworthy is that Fox News, who has lambasted Democrats for declining to appear in Fox-sponsored debates, is now using questionable criteria to decide whom they will permit to grace their debate stage. Fox thinks it’s inexcusable for Democrats to voluntarily refuse to subject themselves to the abuse of a network that has been overtly hostile to them, but that it’s perfectly swell for the network to involuntarily refuse to allow viable candidates to take part in their supposedly public forums.

Fox News, and their disciples, has said that Democrats are just scared to appear on the network. Now Paul has accused the network of being scared of him:

“They are scared of me and don’t want my message to get out, but it will. They are propagandists for this war and I challenge them on the notion that they are conservative.”

Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday, will be the moderator of the New Hampshire forum. But he and Fox News have declined to comment on the Paul controversy. Wallace didn’t have any such hesitation when called upon to comment on the Democrats:

“I think the Democrats are damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News.”

Well, Ron Paul wants to come on Fox News but Fox won’t let him. This is a thorough vindication of the Democrat’s decision to shun Fox. Now it’s the Republicans turn to suffer the prejudices practiced by Murdoch, Ailes, Wallace, etc. It serves them right. Perhaps now they will realize that a network that traffics in propaganda and bias is not beneficial even it is slanted your favor. If Republicans were interested in doing the right thing (for once), they would join the Democrats’ embargo on Fox and steer their candidates away. [For more on why all Democrats and progressives should stay the Hell off of Fox, read Starve The Beast]

Now, I’m no disciple of Ron Paul. In fact, I regard him as a dangerous political anachronism who would roll back gains in civil rights, foreign affairs, economic justice, and more. He advocates a deregulation agenda that would permit corporations to run roughshod over public interests including abandoning Net Neutrality. But Republican voters have made him a contender in their primary process and it isn’t up to Fox News to weed him out.

Hypocritical Standards Practiced At NBC

A few days ago NBC rejected an ad from Freedom’s Watch, a pro-war conservative front group for Republican interests. This was the second time that FW submitted an ad that exceeded the standards for broadcast due to its overt political content. In the previous ad they asked viewers to call their representatives and voice their support for the President and the war, but the phone number went to an operator who asks if you agree with the ad. If you do, your call is patched through. If you do not, they hang up on you.

Now NBC has reversed itself and approved the new ad for broadcast. I don’t particularly have a problem with that since I have long been troubled by the way networks make judgments regarding political content. But I do wonder why NBC caved in to the former White House operatives at FW when they never did so with ads from progressive groups. For instance, in November of 2004, NBC rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ simply because they expressed an inclusive philosophy that welcomed all people, including gays. In October of 2006, they refused to air an ad for the Dixie Chicks documentary, “Shut Up & Sing,” because it was disparaging to the President.

Hypocrisy in the media is rampant, and this is just more evidence of it.

Fox News Censors Guantanamo Ad

When the Center For Constitutional Rights submitted the ad below to Fox News, the network rejected it in a letter from Fox News account executive Erin Kelly:

“We cannot approve the spot with it being Danny Glover’s opinion that the Bush Administration is destroying the Constitution. If you have documentation that it is indeed being destroyed, we can look at that. Sorry about that,”

Does Kelly really think that the ad is asserting that the actual Constitution is literally being physically destroyed by George Bush? Or is she suggesting that documentation be provided to prove a metaphor for the administration’s anti-Constitutional behavior? Either way, she is treading dangerously close to clinical insanity.

More likely she is merely carrying out the policy of Fox News to suppress any and every critical opinion of their benefactors in the White House and the Republican Party. Censorship and propaganda once again rule the day at Fox.

Bill O’Reilly: Censorship, Lies And Plunging Popularity

A couple of days ago Bill O’Reilly again demonstrated his aversion to free expression as well as his penchant for dishonesty. An op-ed that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (a paper that O’Reilly regularly castigates as “far-left loons”) laid out a case for Impeachment: If not now, when? The column was accompanied by a political cartoon that had Bush and Cheney dressed up for their mugshots.

That was more than enough to set O’Reilly off on a rant that amounted to a call for censorship (YouTube):

“Look at this. This is ridiculous [...] It’s based on nothing [...] I want you to excoriate them. Let them have it [...] It’s wrong though for them to do it. Don’t you think that showing a mug shot of a sitting president, a sitting vice president is irresponsible?”

O’Reilly is outraged that anyone would exercise their First Amendment rights to express an opinion about the criminality of this administration. He believes that such open expression “diminishes intelligent conversation,” (as if O’Reilly ever engaged in one) and his response is to shut down conversation entirely. Note that O’Reilly is complaining about the cartoon, not the content of the article. Although he does say that the cartoon is “based on nothing,” despite the fact that it is attached to a well-documented column that enumerates specific justifications for investigating the President and his administration.

After once again calling the paper “loons,” (an example of his idea of “intelligent conversation”) O’Reilly attacks the paper’s credibility by smugly declaring that it has lost 40% of its readers in the past ten years:

“Almost half of their readers have said ‘We don’t like you anymore, we’re not going to read you.’”

What O’Reilly leaves out is any actual context that would enlighten his viewers. The truth is that almost all major newspapers have suffered sharp declines in circulation over the past ten years. But more to the point, in only two years (Sept 2005 to Sept 2007) Bill O’Reilly himself has lost 33% of his total viewers and a whopping 59% of viewers in the all-important 25-54 age group. That’s more than half of his viewers saying, “We don’t like you anymore, we’re not going to watch you.”

This brief exchange reveals much about O’Reilly. It shows that while he is vociferously objecting to the free speech rights of others, he will use his own platform to misinform his viewers. No wonder they don’t like him anymore.

Clear Channel Refuses VoteVets Ad

Radio giant Clear Channel Communications is refusing to air an ad by VoteVets, a veterans group protesting Rush Limbaugh’s recent assertion that vets who oppose the war in Iraq are “phony soldiers.”

VoteVets received a letter explaining that the ad would not run because:

“Airing anti-Rush Limbaugh ads during the Rush Limbaugh Show on WJNO would only conflict with the listeners that have chosen to listen to Rush Limbaugh.”

Once again, Clear Channel has taken it upon itself to stifle public debate and restrict the free flow of information. In refusing to air this ad, they are stepping on the free speech rights of the veteran activists at VoteVets. Clear Channel’s offer to air the ad at other times or on other stations denies VoteVets the opportunity to counter Limbaugh’s rantings in context. They fail to recognize the importance of directing the response to the audience that was subjected to Limbaugh’s insulting diatribes in the first place. And Clear Channel also makes the mistake of assuming that there aren’t any listeners who disagree with Limbaugh.

Clear Channel’s justification of their censorship on the grounds that it would create conflict is beyond absurd. This is the Rush Limbaugh Show we’re talking about. Conflict is part and parcel of the program’s mission. If Clear Channel is concerned about conflict, why do they let Limbaugh air audio of Democrats for the explicit purpose of denigrating them and thus, creating conflict? Why do they allow Limbaugh to take phone calls that have the potential to produce further conflict? Why do they let Limbaugh express any opinion at all at the risk of creating conflict wiht the many listeners who do not share his views?

To its credit, WJNO has a fairly balance schedule. Their weekday roster presents Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, and Sean Hannity. The problem is that Rhodes and Schultz are likely to address the VoteVets matter on their own. It’s the Limbaugh audience that most needs exposure to contrary arguments. I would have no objection to the GOP front group, Vets For Freedom, running ads on Schultz’s show. But I assume that Clear Channel would also think that that’s a bad idea too. What are they afraid of?

VoteVets is an advocacy group that supports soldiers and veterans. Unlike Rush Limbaugh, they fought for the rights enumerated in the Constitution, including free speech. But that right is being denied to them today.

You can call Clear Channel in Palm Beach at 561-616-6600 and tell them to air the VoteVets ad. Tell them that our veterans deserve the right to heard. Tell them that, as a listener, you don’t necessarily agree with everything (or anything) Limbaugh says. Tell them that you’re capable of enduring whatever conflict such an ad subjects you to. But what you are not capable of enduring is a giant media corporation infringing on the rights of citizens.

UPDATE: On his show today, Rush suggested that VoteVets run their ad on his program. Either he’s not talking to his ad sales people, or they’re not listening to his show.

Sally Field’s Emmy Speech Uncensored

In accepting her Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as the matriarch in “Brothers and Sisters”, Sally Field delivered an impassioned tribute to mothers everywhere in a message that spoke of world peace.

Unfortunately, it was too much for the censors at Fox who cut Field’s comments at a critical point.

The video above is from the Canadian broadcast that aired the speech unedited. The nannies at Fox snipped the remarks for U.S. viewers as Field said, “If mothers ruled the world, there wouldn’t be any…” The expunged ending of the sentence was, “god-damned wars in the first place.” Was it because Fox thinks that Americans are just too fragile to be exposed to such fiery language? Was it because they were seeking to suppress legitimate dissent in a public forum? Tom O’Neil at the Los Angeles Times reports that it may not have been a matter of shielding the network from liability for broadcasting an obscenity:

“Technically, Field’s censored words are not profane. A 2004 FCC ruling specifically stated no objection to the use of “god damn” on TV when making a judgment on the uproar over Bono swearing at the Golden Globes in 2003 where he used more colorful language.”

Backstage, Field spoke with reporters and responded to the controversy that was already swirling:

“I have no comment other than, ‘Oh, well.’ I said what I wanted to say. I wanted to pay homage to the mothers of the world. And I very, very seriously think that if mothers ruled the world we wouldn’t be sending our children off to be slaughtered.” [...] “If they bleep it, oh, well. I’ll just say it somewhere else.”

This is the second instance of Emmy censorship this season, following Kathy Griffin’s remarks a night earlier when, mocking award winners who give credit to God for their victory, Griffin said that, “…no one had less to do with this award than Jesus.” Isn’t it interesting that in both occurrences of a clampdown on free speech, a reference to God was a key factor?

Networks Refuse To Air Liberal Ads, Too

John Hinderaker at the Power Line blog is expressing some selective outrage over the alleged refusal of MSNBC and CNBC to air ads by a pro-war shadow press office for the White House. Led by former Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer, Freedom’s Watch is seeking to target congressional members who aren’t sufficiently hawkish by placing ads that ask viewers to call their representatives and voice their support for the President and the war.

Hinderaker has republished a letter from Bradley Blakeman at Freedom’s Watch (FW) to NBC that says in part…

Your history of airing other issue advocacy advertisements makes the denial of FW advertisements troubling and raises the issue of whether your denial is based on an editorial disagreement with FW’s message.

NBC has yet to respond to the complaint so it is unknown at this time what their reasons for declining the ad might be, if in fact it was declined. However, both Hinderaker and Blakeman should be commended for their commitment to free speech. The only problem is that there is scant evidence that they exhibited similar concern for liberal victims of censorship on the commercial airwaves. Did they ever speak out against these abuses:

GOP Warns TV Stations Not to Air Ad Alleging Bush Mislead the Nation Over Iraq
Attorneys for the Republican Party are warning TV stations not to air a new commercial by the Democratic National Committee that charges President Bush misled the country in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

NBC, CBS, ABC Reject Ad Criticizing Their News Coverage
American Progress created a television advertisement for BeAWitness.org, our netroots campaign that calls out the television news media for their deplorable coverage of the genocide in Darfur. Over the last few days, three Washington DC television affiliates, NBC-4, CBS-9, and ABC-7, informed us that they refuse to air the ad.

Prickly Peacock Nixes Chicks
The Weinstein Co. is claiming that NBC and the CW have refused to air national ads for the new Dixie Chicks docu “Shut Up & Sing.”

CBS, NBC Refuse to air Church’s Television Advertisement
The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a
30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its
all-inclusive welcome has been deemed “too controversial.”

CNN, NPR Refuse Ads for Assassination Film
Two major U.S. news outlets, CNN and National Public Radio, will not air advertisements for a controversial movie depicting the assassination of President Bush, citing the film’s content, network spokeswomen said Tuesday.

Bush Helps CBS, CBS Helps Bush
While advertising industry sources say CBS will air a pair of advocacy commercials prepared to advance the agenda of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the network has refused to accept an advertisement prepared by critics of the man who currently occupies the White House.

When Might Turns Right
L.A. Weekly has learned that CBS, NBC and ABC all refused Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD advertising during any of the networks’ news programming. Executives at Sony Pictures, the distributor of the movie for the home-entertainment market, were stunned. And even more shocked when the three networks explained why. “They said explicitly they were reluctant because of the closeness of the release to the election.”

ABC Refuses Outfoxed Ad, Censors Boston Legal
[T]hey have refused our money, refused to make suggestions to the ad so they would run it, and in short have said no!

Networks Refuse To Air Soldier Ad
Now a non-partisan, pro-soldier activist group is having trouble getting an ad featuring a wounded soldier on the air. Operation Truth executive director Paul Rieckhoff told GNN, “the bottom-line is there are some networks who don’t want to hear the truth because the truth is a little too abrasive for people to handle.”

Fox and CBS Refuse To Air Condom Ads
…Fox and CBS networks recently refused to broadcast condom advertisements. Had they somehow missed the memo that there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) each year…

To the hypocrites on the right, free speech is reserved for the narrow constituency of the elite and the sycophants of the powerful. To any objective observer it is obvious that the media has an historical pattern of tipping the scales against progressive views. And this applies to news content as well as to advertising.

I generally lean heavily in favor of unfiltered and unfettered expression, but FW’s croc tears just don’t make me misty. I would be a little more sympathetic to FW’s complaint had anyone connected to it ever lifted a finger in support of free speech in any context other than that which is in their own interest.

It would also help if the ad in question weren’t so deceptive. At the end of ad there is a telephone number displayed for viewers to call Congress and express their opinion. But in a perverse game of bait and switch, the number actually connects to an operator who asks if you agree with the ad. If you do, your call is patched through. If you do not, they hang up on you. I would not be surprised if that is the reason NBC hung up on FW.

Pearl Jam Censored At Lollapalooza By AT&T

If we really needed proof that the Big Telcos are lying through their teeth when they celebrate themselves as defenders of free speech and open access, we couldn’t do better than this. AT&T, the sole provider for the webcast of Pearl Jam’s performance at Lollapalooza, and noted opponent of Network Neutrality, cut out politically charged portions of the band’s performance. I’ll let them tell it via their website:

After concluding our Sunday night show at Lollapalooza, fans informed us that portions of that performance were missing and may have been censored by AT&T during the “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast.

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.

During the performance of “Daughter” the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” but were cut from the webcast:

  • “George Bush, leave this world alone.” (the second time it was sung); and
  • “George Bush find yourself another home.”

This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.

AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of “NetNeutrality.” Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue. [Ed: Save the Internet has clips of both versions of the song here]

Most telecommunications companies oppose “net neutrality” and argue that the public can trust them not to censor.

And if you can’t trust a giant, multinational, consolidated, communications conglomerate like Ma Bell, who can you trust? AT&T has shown that they cannot be relied upon to manage vital national resources like the Internet. They want to own it and constrain its use to the sole purpose of enriching themselves and shaping public opinion to their liking.


 
 
Don’t let them do it because, as Pearl Jam says…

This Is Not For You!
“And you dare say it belongs to you…to you…
This is not for you
This is not for you
This is not for you
Oh, never was for you…fuck you…”