The Fox Frame: Terrorist Doctors Edition

Yesterday, the soon-to-be managing editor of the Fox Business Channel, Neil Cavuto, interviewed National Review Online columnist Jerry Bowyer who claimed that national health care systems are breeding grounds for terrorists because they are “bureaucratic.”

How long before Bush invades the DMV?

Today Cavuto expanded on the theme by asking if it’s, “time to restrict Muslim Dr.’s from entering America.”

Guest Mike Gallagher argued that Muslim doctors should be banned entry into the U.S. and Hugh Hewitt advocated investigation of all those who are already here. This was followed by a guest explaining why Muslim doctors will ignore their Hippocratic Oath. She failed to address Christian doctors that also do so when supporting wars of aggression (i.e.Iraq) or presiding over executions.

Will these patriots also support such measures for accountants and engineers and practioners of all the other occupations of terrorists that have been captured to date?

But Neil still wasn’t finished exhibiting the kind of fairness and balance that we can expect from him as head of Fox’ business news division.

The very next segment had another hit piece on Michael Moore’s “Sicko” that accused him of lying about the healthcare system in Canada. But it was the guest who lied by saying that Moore never discussed the waiting periods in Canada. In fact, Moore did state that there are waiting periods in both Canada and the U.S. And no one waits longer than someone who never gets care.

This is what we have to look forward to when Fox launches their business network this fall. And, unless the Bancroft family wises up, it’s what readers of the Wall Street Journal will be faced with as well.

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Happy Birthday: Freedom of Information Act Is 41 Today

July 4, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Its purpose was to ensure the public’s right to access information from the federal government. For the first time, the government would bear the burden for certifying why requested information should not be released, and any refusal to release information could be challenged in court.

The FOIA was nearly stillborn as Johnson was bitterly opposed to the legislation. His press secretary, Bill Moyers, described LBJ as having to be:

“…dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets and opening government files; hated them challenging the official view of reality.”

In 41 years, the presidential impression of the FOIA has actually declined. the Bush administration has been cited as the most secretive in history. Moyers enumerates many examples in a speech he gave before the Society of Professional Journalists. BushCo intelligence agencies have also been busy re-classifying tens of thousands of documents that were previously available for years.

With regard to actual compliance, Bush and his Secret Society associates have assembled a disgraceful record of non-performance. The Knight Open Government Survey published by the National Security Archive of George Washington University, finds systematic failures in tracking, processing, and reporting on FOIA requests. In January 2007, the Archive itself filed FOIA requests with the 87 leading federal agencies to identify the ten oldest pending requests in each agency. Fifty seven of the agencies responded. Out of more than 500 pending requests, only twenty were still within the 20 day period agencies have to respond. All ten of the State Department’s oldest were more than 15 years old. The survey also found that agencies misrepresented their FOIA backlogs to Congress as well as discrepancies between this year’s audit and previous audits.

Any sense of surprise at this administration’s obsession with obfuscation and deceit should have worn off long ago. There are just too many examples to list. But on this holiday celebrating freedom, perhaps the best example occurred just a couple of days ago when Bush issued his payoff (commutation) to Scooter Libby. This is another transparent effort by the crime bosses in the White House to buy the silence of a compromised accomplice. Despite this brazen abuse of executive authority, the Congress still seems incapable of demanding accountability:

“Bipartisan Congressional efforts to solve some of the problems exposed in the Archive’s “ten oldest” audits have stalled in the Senate, with Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona personally holding S. 849 from an up-or-down vote. The bill would impose penalties for agency delay, mandate accurate and timely tracking and reporting of FOIA requests…”

Sometimes it only takes one corrupted soul to throw a roadblock in front of a whole nation, but the result is the same.

As we celebrate that other anniversary that everybody seems to be talking about today, we should take a moment to recognize this 41st birthday of legislation that was enacted in the best spirit of this country’s principles. James Madison seems prescient in his statement back in 1822:

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Happy 41st, Freedom of Information Act.
See my salute to FOIA’s 40th.

Another Runaway Quarter For MSNBC

The 2nd quarter of 2007 (PDF) has delivered another in a string of victories for MSNBC. The network’s growth of 50% over its 2006 performance far outshines CNN (4%) and Fox (5%).

The chart below tells the story for the past four quarters. While still in third place, there is no cable news network that is growing faster than MSNBC in primetime (Mon-Fri).

And, as usual, MSNBC’s growth is powered by a surging Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The most recent quarter continues a pattern of Countdown battering away at The Factor’s lead, just as it has been doing for the past year. The numbers for the 25-54 demo show the same trends.

It is no wonder that Olbermann is drawing crowds. His “Special Comments” are an inspiring rarity in television news. And the latest one delivered last night is no exception. In fact it may be the best yet. Calling on Bush and Cheney to resign, Olbermann spells out the universal disconnection between this president and the people he is failing to serve.

“In that moment [the Libby commutation], Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental compact between yourself and the majority of this nation’s citizens – the ones who did not cast votes for you. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party. And this is too important a time, Sir, to have a commander-in-chief who puts party over nation.”

Strange Bedfellows: Scooter Libby And Marc Rich

Yesterday’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence has rocked Washington and the rest of the nation. Everybody’s got something to bitch about. Democrats are incensed that the President exhibits such contempt for law and order. Republicans are inconsolable that Libby didn’t get a full pardon.

One name keeps coming up as justification for Bush’s action. A name that, not surprisingly, seeks to refocus blame on the GOP’s favorite boogey man, Bill Clinton. It was Clinton that pardoned financier Marc Rich in a move that generated much controversy at the time. Republicans have jumped on that pardon in order to sanitize the President’s obvious special treatment of Libby.

But guess what? Scooter Libby was Marc Rich’s lawyer!

Libby represented Rich at the time the pardon was considered and granted. Libby even defended Rich before Congress while Libby was serving as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Here is a bit of Libby’s testimony:

“There are no facts that I know of that support the criminality of the client [Marc Rich] based on the tax returns.”

“[Rich] had not violated the tax laws.”

So when you hear Republicans drag out the canard that Clinton did it too (as if that would make it OK), remind them that the man who is the beneficiary of Bush’s commutation agrees with Clinton’s decision to pardon Rich.

What’s more, the President does not agree with Clinton and said so at the time:

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, on Marc Rich? First of all, I didn’t agree with the decision. I would not have made that decision myself.

Nevertheless, the President did make that decision on behalf of Libby. And that’s not all. It seems that the prosecutor of Libby, Patrick Fitzgerald, also participated in the prosecution of Rich. And if your head isn’t spinning at this point, you are on some pretty potent psychotropic medication.

The Scooter Libby Fan Club

Newspapers are spitting out editorials on the Bush commutation of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence like bullets from an AK-47. Editor & Publisher has compiled a bunch already and there are a couple of strikingly notable standouts in the group. See if you can spot them:

New York Times: “…in this case, Mr. Bush did not sound like a leader making tough decisions about justice. He sounded like a man worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell.”

Washinton Post: “…reducing the sentence to no prison time at all, as Mr. Bush did – to probation and a large fine – is not defensible.”

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “President Bush’s commutation of a pal’s prison sentence counts as a most shocking act of disrespect for the U.S. justice system.”

Denver Post: “Libby should be held accountable for his crimes.”

San Francisco Chronicle: “President Bush sent the message that perjury and obstruction of justice in the service of the president of the United States are not serious crimes.”

Wall Street Journal: “By failing to issue a full pardon, Mr. Bush is evading responsibility for the role his administration played in letting the Plame affair build into fiasco…”

New York Post: “Bush knows a pardon is warranted. He should grant it.”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “The trial amply demonstrated that he stonewalled. Like President Clinton’s 11th-hour pardons of an ill-deserving few, this commutation is a travesty.”

New York’s Daily News: “Thankfully, Bush did not pardon Libby outright, but time in the slammer was in order. Sixty days, say, wouldn’t have hurt the justice system a bit.”

Chicago Tribune: “Bush sent a terrible message to citizens and to government officials who are expected to serve the public with integrity.”

Arizona Republic: “President Bush whipped out a get-out-of-jail-free card. This is the wrong game to play on a very public stage.”

San Jose Mercury News: “Other presidents have doled out pardons and the like […] But few have placed themselves above the law as Bush, Cheney and friends repeatedly have done by trampling civil liberties and denying due process.”

Sacramento Bee: “[Bush] has done himself no favors on that count by commuting the prison term of I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.”

Dallas Morning News: “…the last thing this president needed was to further antagonize Capitol Hill regarding abuse of executive power.”

Rocky Mountain News: “…the president should have restrained his compassion – and delayed his commutation – for at least a few more months, lest he be perceived as subverting justice”

Did you spot them? That’s right, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, and his object of desire, the Wall Street Journal. I can hardly wait to see what Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and the rest of the Fox News law and order crowd have to say.

Sicko Is A Question

In the first act of Sicko, Michael Moore introduces the audience to several unfortunate souls who have had to suffer both poor health and poor access to care. But that is not what the film is about. As it proceeds we meet individuals who have been mistreated by giant corporations that promised to protect their well being, but betrayed them when need arose. But that is not what the film is about. Moore takes us on a world tour of nations that offer services not provided in the U.S. They see these services as birthrights for fellow citizens who are human and in distress. But that is not what the film is about.

Most people’s expectations for Sicko probably encompass scenes that are part lecture to school the audience on the dry statistics of health care policy, and part screwball satire to illustrate points that Moore has preselected. But that is not what the film is about either.

While there is an abundance of information imparted in the course of the film, and there is much of the trademark humor for which Moore is famous, the most surprising ingredient is a generous portion of heart. This film is, at its core, a moving drama about genuine people whose hopes and fears are alarmingly similar to yours and mine if we were struggling with critical health issues – and some of us are – and all of us will.

But if there were one theme that could be rendered a conclusion, it would be that “we can do better.” Many critics of the film allege that Moore is merely bashing our current system and recruiting foreigners to help him do it. But I don’t see it that way. I see Moore asking us all a question: Why has a nation as great, as rich, as compassionate as this one is, fallen short with regard to caring for every ailing neighbor. I think Moore is baffled as to why other nations are able to accomplish something so fundamentally necessary for survival while our nation cowers before greedy conglomerates as if they were the ones deserving of sympathy.

After seeing this film, I left the theater feeling that I had experienced something that was enlightening, depressing, and inspiring, all at the same time. And I hope I also came away with a sense that there is work to be done to improve our country and ourselves. In that regard I think it is vitally important to heed the words of Tony Benn, a former member of the British Parliament who was interviewed by Moore:

We must not succumb to our fears and frustrations. There is too much at stake to allow ourselves to be led off the path.

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Kurt Loder: MTV’s Hatchet Man On Sicko

Heavily Doctored” by MTV’s venerable newsreader, Kurt Loder, is an embarrassingly flawed and tendentious attack on Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko. This tediously protracted diatribe is neither a review nor a balanced examination of the important public policy issues raised by the film.

The article begins with Loder reciting several of the health care horror stories exposed in the film. His tone is deceptively favorable as he describes the purpose of good muckraking. But it doesn’t take long for him to plant his ideological flag. After alleging that Moore is a brazen con man who cherry-picked facts and manipulated interviews, Loder lobs this rhetorical grenade:

“As a proud socialist, the director appears to feel that there are few problems in life that can’t be solved by government regulation…”

Moore regularly articulates his pride in being an American – and one who advocates the fruits of capitalism for himself and all Americans. But Loder doesn’t stop with this ad hominem insult. He continues with the utterly false and unsupported (and prejudicially phrased) assertion that “Americans have never been keen on socialized medicine.” Someone needs to introduce Loder to the most popular government-managed programs ever created – Social Security and Medicare. Additionally, polls show that Americans would overwhelmingly approve of a national health insurance program, even if it would require higher taxes (64% for, 35% opposed).

Still, Loder persists in mischaracterizing the reality of the health care crisis and the response to it in the United States and around the world. In a rebuttal to Sicko, he offers up a short and undistinguished 2005 documentary called Dead Meat.” This film is the flip side of Sicko, recounting alleged horror stories of government-managed health care. Although he devotes six paragraphs to the film, Loder neglects to provide some illuminating facts about Dead Meat and it’s producers.

The film made its debut at the Liberty Film Festival, which describes itself as “a forum in the heart of Hollywood for conservative and libertarian filmmakers.” In 2006 the festival operations merged with ultra-right wing provocateur David Horowitz‘ Freedom Center.

The film’s credits include special thanks to the rightist Manhattan Institute, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Heartland Institute. The latter is particularly notable for its refusal to acknowledge the dangers imposed by global warming or smoking – both of which they feel are frauds based on junk science. All three institutes are partially funded by pharmaceutical companies or lobbies.

The producers have also released films critical of immigration reform protests and what they perceive as a left-wing assault on free thought in U.S. universities.

Health care expert, Loder, doesn’t hesitate to dispense advice on policy matters. His prescription for reform is firmly planted in the free-market medicine camp. And despite the fact that there is nothing identifying this article as an editorial, it is overflowing with opinion and innuendo. Here is another example of his insertion of bias that is presented without context but with the expectation that we accept it on faith:

“When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they’re inevitably forced to ration treatment.”

Loder doesn’t seem to appreciate that there is no system that produces a greater degree of rationing than one that denies care to all but the fortunate. The kind of system that is presently in place in the U.S.

The rest of the article provides incontrovertible evidence that, in addition to being an inferior analyst and a prejudiced observer, he also lacks any sign of a sense of humor. He totally misses the satirical points made in episodes involving French excesses in care and the now famous Guantanamo landing. As such, Loder proves that he is ill-suited for this type of assignment. His readers would be better served if he would just put his sunglasses back on and take his mark on the red carpet in time to welcome back the Spice Girls.

Update: I was just alerted to this column wherein Loder predicted that “An Inconvenient Truth” would win the Oscar for best documentary:

“Actually, the best film in this category is Amy Berg’s devastating “Deliver Us from Evil,” a true investigative report on a shameful cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church of 20 years of child-molesting by one of its priests, Oliver O’Grady. But Al Gore’s environmental alarmism – much of it since heavily questioned – no doubt plays better in Beverly Hills.”

Loder is apparently fully subscribed to the anti-science, free market philosophy of the three institutes cited above (whom I will now refer to as the “Dead Meat Coalition” because that perfectly describes the contents of their craniums).

Murdoch On Murdoch

Time Magazine joins the rush to profile the 21st century’s Minister of Propaganda, Rupert Murdoch. In case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Slate, Keith Olbermann, and others have taken turns trying to analyze the man and/or the deal to consume Dow Jones and it’s pearl, the Wall Street Journal.

Time’s piece covers a lot of the same territory as the others, but delivers some choice quotations from the dark horse’s mouth:

“Why would I spend $5 billion for something in order to wreck it?”
Gee, I don’t know. Why did you do it to the New York Post and your London papers?

“When you’re a catalyst for change, you make enemies – and I’m proud of the ones I’ve got.”
Like the employees of Dow Jones who staged a “sick out” to protest your attempt to buy the company? Being proud of your enemies is not exactly a display of journalistic neutrality.

“…if you look at our general news, do we put on things which favor the right rather than the left? I don’t know. We don’t think we do. We’ve always insisted we don’t. I don’t think we do. Aw, it’s subjective. Neither side admits it.”
That’s some pretty fancy footwork. Plus, it sounds like you’re admitting what you say neither side admits.

“My worry about the New York Times is that it’s got the only position as a national elitist general-interest paper. So the network news picks up its cues from the Times. And local papers do too. It has a huge influence. And we’d love to challenge it.”
Asserting that you want to challenge the influence of the “national elitist” New York Times is further proof that you intend to shape the content of the Journal despite your denials.

It couldn’t be more clear, to anyone with a discernible pulse, that Murdoch is determined to burn his brand onto the Dow Jones properties regardless of what promises he mumbles to seal the deal. If the Bancrofts consent to Murdoch’s overtures they cannot later claim that they had no idea what damage he would do. They cannot pretend that they thought the paper’s integrity had been protected. They will be forever culpable for their naivete and their greed. No excuses – just a legacy of shame.

Moyers On Murdoch

Bill Moyers, perhaps our country’s finest journalist, expounds on the evils of Rupert Murdoch, the Media Mephistopheles.

“…Murdoch is no saint; he is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power he’s carnivorous: all appetite and no taste. He’ll eat anything in his path. Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract or the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash. He hires lobbyists the way Imelda Marcos bought shoes, and stacks them in his cavernous closet, along with his conscience…”

Damn, I wish I’d said that. Murdoch is actually well represented as Mephistopheles, the demon to whom Faust sold his soul for knowledge. Knowledge, in this respect, is the information that comprises the news. The role of Faust is currently being played by the Bancroft family as they contemplate selling Dow Jones, and their souls, to Murdoch.

Watch the whole essay from Bill Moyer’s Journal.

To Catch An Sleaze Monger

“I’m Chris Hanson of NBC News…”

With those words the cameramen and production crew slither out of the crevices of the simulated suburban home like cockroaches freed by the dark. The would-be pervert is stunned into either silence or stuttering excuses for having shown up for a sexual encounter with a minor. It’s another gripping episode of infotainment that includes all the requisite ingredients for ratings: sex, crime, suspense, confrontation, and instant resolution. It’s great television but it is not news.

NBC’s To Catch A Predator has been manufacturing crimes for three years. During that time they have generated much controversy for “entrapping” suspects without producing convictions. But now they have a bigger problem:

“One of the 25 men caught in the sting – a prosecutor from a neighboring county – committed suicide when police came to arrest him. The Murphy city manager who approved the operation lost his job in the ensuing furor. And the district attorney is refusing to prosecute any of the men, saying many of the cases were tainted by the involvement of amateurs.”

This is what happens when journalists stray from their ethical boundaries and engage in the sensationalistic construction of pseudo-news. However, NBC is unlikely to absorb the lesson. They have made far too much money on this exploitation fare to offer anything other than stuttering excuses for their contribution to perverted journalism.