Ann Coulter’s Wish For John Edwards

In an appearance on Good Morning America, Ann Coulter described how she had learned from her past mistakes when she spewed messages of hate and discrimination.

She is the featured guest tonight on Chris Matthews Hardball. I guess there is just no low too repulsive for these media bottom-feeders.

Here’s the video of Ann on Hardball.

Elizabeth Edwards called in and challenged Coulter on her hateful comments. Ann could only respond by attacking John and falsely inferring that Elizabeth was asking her to stop writing books.

I really can’t believe she keeps getting invited back on these shows. But as long as she does, we should be hanging her around the neck of the Republican Party until the two are inseparable. When people think of a Republican, they should think of Ann Coulter.

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Paris Set Free – Media Still Held Hostage

Early Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles Sheriff released Paris Hilton into the wilds of La La Land. She smiled as she strutted from the jail to her limo. It was like a magical stroll down the red carpet to the premiere of her freedom.

The only network with sustained coverage of the event was – you guessed it – Fox News. They dutifully documented the momentous trip from the Big House to her big house. They reported feverishly of her yearning for Taco Bell and gourmet cupcakes. They followed as her coach drove through the grounds of the Beverly Hilton (a masterpiece of product placement). And they hovered as paparazzi snapped photos and blocked traffic.

We can only hope that our own freedom is approaching; the freedom from ditsy heiresses that believe they are entitled to constant fawning; the freedom from a press corps that thinks this nonsense is news. We may still have a few days of Paris regaling us with the travails of her hard-scrabble life before we are at peace. Then we can settle back down to the comfortable familiarity of her nip slips and reality TV inanities.

Sicko Bumped For Psycho

Larry King Live has canceled an appearance by Michael Moore scheduled for Wednesday and replaced him with Paris Hilton in what will be her first post-jail interview. [I alluded to this briefly in my previous post but I thought it deserved a little elaboration.] This decision by King and his producers is an affirmation of their news philosophy which elevates trivialities above key debates on issues that effect all Americans.

In case it has slipped anyone’s attention, King’s network (CNN) is owned by the same parent company (Time Warner) as, the celebrity webloid that is hyping all things Paris. Note also that King is devoting tonight’s program to Paris as well. That’s 40% of his airtime this week (so far) dedicated to unmitigated tripe. And it’s not as if there is no other news to exploit: the release of the CIA’s “family jewels;” the Cheney expose in the Washington Post; and if they just can’t resist the need to gossip, the “pregnant mom” and her just arrested assailant is still relatively fresh.

But the Warner Bros. family is more intent on exploiting corporate synergy than informing the public or stimulating debate on important issues like health care. Look for King to make numerous citations of TMZ in both programs. It is all about cross-promotion. TMZ’s managing editor, Harvey Levin, even substituted for King last Friday, and may be doing so tonight as well. These new, more tightly integrated relationships will probably continue until there is no way to differentiate news from fluff – if we aren’t already at that point.

Update: According to King’s web site, Moore’s appearance is now scheduled for Friday. That is, unless Paris breaks a fingernail, John Edwards gets a haircut, or a trailer park resident leads police on a car chase through the mean streets of Tulsa.

Sitting Schmuck: Alberto Gonzales Ducks Columnists

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded its Sitting Duck award to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at their annual convention last weekend.

“We’re giving the award to Alberto Gonzales, but can’t remember why,” quipped NSNC President Mike Argento, columnist for the York (Pa.) Daily Record.

The “honor” is awarded to a person or situation that the Society considers to be an easy target for columnists. By that measure Gonzales is a deserving winner. His recent demonstration of “situational amnesia” before Congress was almost laughably inept. The “almost” qualifier is only included because of the seriousness of his actual deceit.

Gonzales edged out some tough competition including Bill O’Reilly and the tabloid coverage of the likes of Paris Hilton. Speaking of which, Larry King has still not tired of the Hilton frenzy. He is featuring the story of the heiress’ impending release on Monday’s show and is bumping Michael Moore on Wednesday for her first post-jail interview. Yeah, that’s more important than the national health care debate.

I imagine the duck vote was a real nail-biter this year – maybe as close as last year when Ann Coulter took the prize from rivals Michael Jackson and Saddam Hussein. If I had to pick a runner up, it would be the Congress that Gonzales is openly mocking. The fact that they have been unable to summon the will to impeach this incompetent abuser of his office, and the Constitution, makes the “sitting duck” label particularly appropriate for the members of our legislative branch.

The Art Of Misdirection

In the past couple of days, the Bush White House has been frantically contorting itself to explain why they are above the law. Vice-President Dick Cheney claimed that he was not subject to oversight mandated by law because his role as President of the Senate means that he is not a part of the Executive Branch of government. Then the President’s spokesperson said that neither Bush nor Cheney are subject to the oversight provisions of the law because of an executive order exempting them, even though the order does not actually say anything about that. These absurd assertions produce this surreal chronology:

  • On Thursday: Cheney is exempt because he is not part of the executive branch.
  • On Friday: Cheney is exempt because he is part of the executive branch.

Could this get any curiouser? Bet on it.

The CIA has announced that next week they will release a collection of documents that many refer to as the “Family Jewels.” They reportedly contain accounts of clandestine adventures like assassination plots against Castro and wiretapping of journalists.

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you might wonder why an administration that has been so obsessively secretive is suddenly volunteering to throw open the drapes and let a little sunshine in. Why is it that within the span of a few days the administration is openning the door to intelligence confessionals from the past and at the same time feverishly scrambling to conceal its own more recent behavior?

The conspiracy theorist in me cannot help but become suspicious of what the administration does not want us to know, and the lengths to which they will go to keep us from knowing it. The media will be eagerly analyzing the CIA data when it is made available to them. They will assume their pack-mentality posture and focus like a laser beam on these documents to the exclusion of all other events (except, of course, the Paris Hilton liberation, which will squelch all other news items that threaten to emerge).

Consequently, I will be looking intently beneath the surface of the news to see what may be hiding there. While I approve of the CIA disclosures in principle, it is just not credible that this administration decided to be forthcoming at this time without some ulterior motive. They have never been known for their openness or honesty and the machinations evident in the Cheney affair demonstrate their extremism in pursuit of deception and obfuscation.

It would be nice if we had courageous reporters like Jack Anderson or I. F. Stone working to reveal the illicit activities being concealed from us by our disreputable so-called leaders. It would be great if there were patriots like Daniel Ellsberg inside of government willing to expose the criminality ongoing in the White House. We can keep hoping that figures like these will emerge and clean out the rot in Washington, but more likely we will have to rely on ourselves to unmask the offenders.

Next week, when the press is busily dissecting the minutiae that is fed to them, try to stay alert. There is something behind the other door. Like a magician waving a wand in one hand to misdirect your attention from the other hand as it furtively slips into his pocket, the Amazing Bushini, with the aid of his lovely assistant the Media, may be pulling a fast one. So keep your eyes open and maintain a healthy skepticism. One thing we know for sure is that these guys always seem to have something foul up their sleeve.

71% Of Americans Hate America

A few days ago Gallup released a poll showing Congressional approval ratings at an all-time low of 24%. The media ate it up and flooded the zone with stories about the collapse of support for Democrats and their legislative agenda. They juxtaposed this message with another poll showing that the President’s approval had also hit new lows, but those results were almost always immediately diluted with the Congressional polling results. It will be interesting to see how the media treats this new poll from Gallup:

Only 29% of Americans Say U.S. Is Winning War on Terrorism.

It should come as no surprise that the American people are fed up with the war in Iraq. All the polling confirms that this war is profoundly unpopular. But this poll approaches the question from a unique angle that is not merely an indication of support or opposition, but a judgment as to whether our efforts are, or can be, successful.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid was pilloried a few weeks ago for saying:

“I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and – you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows – (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.”

Apparently, only 71% of the country agrees with him. Is that enough for the press to follow up on the story and provide this context? Is it enough for the press to balance the Congressional approval stories they hyped earlier this week? Will the media give equal treatment to this expression of the people’s will that they gave to previous reports that reflected poorly on liberals?

Don’t hold your breath. I have yet to see a single report in any of the Conventional Media outlets of this new poll. Despite the significance of its findings, the mainstream press has not deemed it worthy of coverage. Amongst these findings is the fact that only a slight majority of Republicans (53%) believe we are winning in Iraq, so it’s not even a matter of partisanship. But the press, and the pundits that populate it, will continue to portray anti-war politicians, activists, and citizens as fringe elements of society in direct contradiction of the facts (see Media Matters’ report, “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth”).

What’s it going to take for the media to present this type of information fairly? There’s is only one solution – profound reform and a rollback of consolidation.

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Journalists And Political Donations

I was going to write a piece on Bill Dedman’s “investigation” for MSNBC of donations to politicians or political organizations, but journalism professor Chris Day did it for me. Thanks, Chris.

The MSNBC article failed on so many journalistic grounds. It rested heavily on the notion that there was an overweighting of donations by liberal or progressive reporters as compared to conservatives. But Chris puts the matter into perspective:

  • Dedman’s report violates one of the first rules about working with numbers in journalism: PROVIDE CONTEXT […] Dedman notes that there are approximately 100,000 newsroom employees nationwide. By my calculations, then, the number of donors comes to 0.1% In other words, the headline could have been: 99.9% of U.S. journalists do not donate to politicians.
  • A lot of the people he “exposes” in this piece are ridiculously peripheral to the coverage of partisan politics – gardening editors, rock critics and the like.
  • Dedman decided to exclude “executives” from his investigation, without offering a convincing rationale. Where are Roger Ailes? Rupert Murdoch?
  • Dedman reports that of the 144 donors, 125 gave to Democrats, while “only” 17 gave to Republicans. (Two, like Exxon, gave to both parties.) But, I notice that most of the donations to Democrats are in chicken-shit amounts like $200 or $250, while one of the Republican donors gave $90,000. I suspect that the totals given to the two parties are not that far off.

This is the kind of in-depth analysis that Dedman should have employed. Unfortunately, his version was released into the media wild and has been picked up by many other news organizations and even pretenders like Bill O’Reilly who led with the inflammatory and false conclusion that liberals outnumber conservatives in the press by 9 to 1. It really doesn’t help to supply liars like O’Reilly with pseudo-news items like this.

Trouble For Murdoch

While I still prefer my own proposal for Dow Jones, there are some new developments that we should keep our eyes on.

General Electric (parent of CNBC) is talking with Pearson (parent of Financial Times) about joining to bid for Dow Jones. The deal would allow the Bancrofts to keep a share of the company.

Billionaire Ron Burkle is reportedly interested in bidding for Dow Jones and has been working with the company’s union to put a deal together. One scenario has Yahoo, on whose board Burkle sits, becoming a partner in the transaction.

The Yahoo connection to Burkle’s bid takes on a new and ominous wrinkle with reports that Murdoch is interested in trading MySpace for a 25% share of Yahoo. What an evil genius. If Burkle/Yahoo buy Dow Jones and then Murdoch executes the MySpace swap, Murdoch would still end up with significant chunk of DJ. If Murdoch pulls off the MySpace swap first, he would be in a position to steer Yahoo away from Burkle, thus eliminating, or at least slowing down, his competition for DJ. In any case, it’s a terrible deal for Yahoo which would be paying the equivalent of $10 billion dollars for a property Murdoch bought a year ago for $580 million. Yahoo could have the faster-growing Facebook for only $2 billion.

But the juiciest revelation to date is this teaser about a major investigation of the Murdoch empire being conducted by the New York Times. I don’t know if this just a human interest story or if they have some dirt on Rupert, but I sure hope it’s the latter.

Stay Tuned.

Bob Woodward’s Monumental Task

The Washington Post’s Assistant Managing Editor, Bob Woodward, participated in an online chat yesterday. The very first question challenged him to answer for the failures of the media leading up to the war in Iraq.

Rancho Mirage, Calif.: “In light of Watergate, why did the ‘investigative’ branch of the press miss so badly on the Bush-Cheney spin machine to justify Iraq? Was the lesson of Watergate wasted, or was the press serving the country well?”

I like the “lesson of Watergate” angle, although Woodward ignores it. He does issue a curious apology that rests on how difficult it would have been to actually do his job.

Bob Woodward: “I think the press and I in particular should have been more aggressive in looking at the run-up to the Iraq war, and specifically the alleged intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction stockpiles. To answer the WMD question before the March 2003 invasion would have been a monumental task, but one that we should have undertaken more systematically.”

This is not the first mea culpa from Woodward. As I reported in November of 2006, Woodward (and other media luminaries) confessed to not having done enough to expose the weakness of the Bush administration’s case for war.

“We did our job but we didn’t do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder. We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier [than widely believed].”

There is, however, a striking contradiction in these statements. Yesterday Woodward said that the WMD question could not have been answered without undertaking a “monumental task.” But last November he said that he did, in fact, have information that the WMD argument was “shaky,” he just chose not to report it.

Obviously both of those statements cannot be true. I’d have to favor the November variant because there was plenty of evidence that the WMD story was a well-known sham (see UNMOVIC and Curveball).

It’s too bad that Woodward and so many of his colleagues were not honest with us in 2003, and only have hollow apologies for us in 2007.

Strange Culture: The Criminalization Of Art

On May 11, 2004, Hope Kurtz died in her sleep of heart failure. The next morning, her husband Steve, an artist and a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, woke up and summoned the police. What followed is the subject of the film “Strange Culture” which was featured yesterday at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

When the police arrived at the Kurtz’ home they found a collection of petri dishes and biological specimens. Steve explained that it was part of an art project he was preparing for exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. While all of this could have been easily verified, the police, and the FBI agents they called in, decided that Steve was a bio-terrorist and arrested him as he was still trying to cope with having just lost his wife of twenty years.

Steve’s artwork as a member of the Critical Art Ensemble was often controversial and dealt with subject matters that were likely to rile authorities and wealthy and influential corporations. And although the government realized that there was nothing threatening in the articles confiscated from his home, they are still continuing to prosecute him on charges related to his acquisition of the specimens used in the art project. There is more background on this case at the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund.

This is another particularly sad and disturbing example of how the rights of artists, and all Americans, are being suppressed in the name of security. It is a stark reminder that we must never allow these merchants of fear to silence us, and that we must continue to fight for the freedom to express ourselves and to challenge those in power who would prevent us from doing so.