What Exactly Are They Fighting For?

Friends of Wonkette discovered that, while it’s OK to fight for freedom, it’s not OK to practice it. Here is a list of the responses received when our soldiers attempted to access the following web sites:

  • Wonkette (http://www.wonkette.com/) – “Forbidden, this page is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion.”
  • Bill O’Reilly (www.billoreilly.com) – OK
  • Air America (www.airamericaradio.com) – “Forbidden, this page is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
  • Rush Limbaugh (www.rushlimbaugh.com) – OK
  • ABC News “The Note” – OK
  • Al Franken (www.alfrankenshow.com) – “Forbidden, this page is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
  • G. Gordon Liddy Show (www.liddyshow.us) – OK
  • Don & Mike Show (www.donandmikewebsite.com) – “Forbidden, this page is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”

Do you detect a pattern? That’s right – Wonkette and Al Franken have not been accused or convicted of crimes, unlike O’Reilly (sexual harrassment), Limbaugh (drug use/trafficing), and Liddy (Watergate).

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Fight For Your Right To Lobby

The poor, disenfranchised lobbyists of Washington have found an advocate. The past few months, the denizens of K Street have had to suffer the embarrassment of multiple scandals. Their poster boy, Jack Abramoff, fell from his perch and pleaded guilty to multiple felonies. So did Rep. Duke Cunningham of California. Tom DeLay continues to fight for his political life along with an indictment for money laundering. And DeLay’s gerrymandered redistricting scheme is also coming under legal scrutiny. Lobbying is coming to be seen as dishonorable and corrupt.

Reformers in and out of Congress are calling for members to refrain from accepting gifts, travel, and even money, from now unwelcome lobbyists. Committees hold hearings; legislation is drafted; Sunday morning talk shows are swamped by ravenous demagogues jonesing for air time. And just when things look bleakest, a champion appears.

Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah has courageously taken up the battle on behalf of this oppressed minority. In a lonely battle for liberty, Bennett expressed concern that strong regulation of lobbyists would violate their First Amendment rights.

“Lobbying is a right, not a privilege,” Bennett said. “It’s there in the Constitution – the right to petition your government.”

Thank goodness there are brave men governing us that will sacrifice themselves to defend the constitution and the weak, downtrodden corporate shills that that document was conceived to protect.


The Power of the Media

This should lay to rest any doubts about the media’s power to manufacture a message.

Fox News asks: Is all-out civil war in Iraq a good thing?


Sure, who wouldn’t enjoy a good civil war every now and again?

Then Fox News asks: Did the media make up the civil war in Iraq?


Of course. And they also made up a bombed-out holy shrine followed by over 200 dead Iraqis.

News Corpse asks: Is it a good thing that Fox News makes up sensationalistic stories that exploit suffering and death to promote their own propaganda?

I don’t know. I’m just preparing to deploy for the War on Easter.


FOX Ratings In Free Fall

The just released February ratings (pdf) for cable news networks tell a tale that is decidedly downbeat for Fox News. In a comparison with February 2005, the numbers for every network are up except for Fox.

This may come as some surprise to Bill O’Reilly who, in a moment of empathy for his competition at MSNBC, started a petition to replace Keith Olbermann with former MSNBC host, Phil Donahue. O’Reilly felt sorry for what he said was the net’s poor performance. Never mind that Olbermann’s show drew more viewers than MSNBC’s conservative hosted shows. And I certainly doubt that Bill was just being indignant because Keith was being mean to him on a nightly basis. Now Bill has to swallow the difficult truth that Keith’s viewership is growing while his own is shrinking. In the key demographic group of viewers aged 25-54, the Total Day ratings for MSNBC rose 47% while Fox declined -13%.

Fox’s Prime Time erosion was even greater at -21%. In fact, in every hour in the daypart, from 3:00pm till midnight, Fox numbers were lower. This is a distinction that only Fox, of the five nets surveyed, was able to achieve.

The largest decline was suffered by Greta Van Susteren’s On The Record (-22%), followed closely by O’Reilly (-21%). Hannity & What’s His Name took the Bronze (-17%). Of the MSNBC programs opposite those losers, Olbermann’s Countdown was the biggest gainer (55%), which I’m sure doesn’t bother O’Reilly at all.

The growing feud between Bill and Keith is something unique in commercial television. It has taken on a personal tone that I can’t recall witnessing before. There is, however, a difference in style. While Olbermann is merciless in his mockery, he sticks to commenting on the substance of O’Reilly’s program and the stupid or demonstrably false things that O’Reilly says. Billy, on the other hand, seems to respond only by pointing out that more people watch his show than Olbermann’s. You know, the 2 million flies defense. But if O’Reilly isn’t careful, he may soon not have even that to crow about.


Bush Thanks bin Laden For Campaign Help

In a just published book by former Washinton Times reporter Bill Sammon, the president has finally gotten around to showing some appreciation for bin Laden’s contribution to Bush’s campaign.

The president has steadfastly rejected any allegations that he has ever sought to politicize the War on Terror. This despite the constant and false association that he and his administration make between 9/11 and the war in Iraq. In the book, Strategery : How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media, Bush comes clean and reveals that there was “enormous amounts of discussion…” about the bin Laden video released in the final days of the campaign. Says Bush:

“I thought it was going to help. I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.”

The president, and his minions in the media, then set about to disburse bin Laden’s comments throughout the mediasphere knowing full well that it was a political strategy that they were employing. So much for not politicizing the War on Terror.


The Memory Hole Gets Deeper

The legacy of the Bush administration may turn out to be that its greatest contribution to American productivity is its unparalleled production of secrets. It has long been readily observed that BushCo wants nothing more than to keep its own affairs private while, ironically, digging more into the affairs of private citizens. After having opposed investigations into 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, wiretapping, and more, we have this:

“U.S. intelligence agencies have been secretly removing from public access at the National Archives thousands of historical documents that were available for years.”

So says the New York Times. Over 55,000 documents that were declassified have been reclassified since 1999, with the pace increasing after Bush came to power. This is hardly revelatory for a presidency that has secured its place as the most secrecy-obsessed administration in history.

  • In 2004 the government classified a record 15.6 million new documents, an increase of 81% over 2000.
  • President Bush’s chief of staff ordered a review that lead to 6,000 documents being pulled from government Web sites.
  • The Department of Defense banned photos of military caskets being returned to the United States.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney kept his energy task force records secret “to hide the influence of Kenneth Lay, Enron and other energy moguls.”
  • The CIA asks a new question during its standard employer polygraph exam: “Do you have friends in the media?”
  • There have been more than 1,200 presumably terrorist-related arrests and 750 people deported, and no one outside the government knows their names or how many court docket entries have been erased or never entered.
  • Secret federal court hearings have been held without any public record of when or where, or who was tried.
  • When the American Civil Liberties Union challenged provisions of the Patriot Act, it was prohibited from telling anyone about it.
  • The Washington Post reported that in recent years, judicial committees acting in secret stripped information nearly 600 times from reports intended to alert the public to conflicts of interest involving federal judges.

Bill Moyers recently delivered the keynote speech for the 20th anniversary of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research institute and library at The George Washington University. The speech covered a lot of territory and included this tasty morsel:

“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.”

The speech further reveals that BushCo’s zeal to dismantle FOIA has roots that go back to the Ford Administration when Ford was talked out of signing legislation that would have strengthened the act. This feat of persuasion was carried out by his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy chief of staff, Dick Cheney (with additional help from Justice Department lawyer, Antonin Scalia).

Ford’s brain trust has ascended to even higher plateaus of power and their penchant for secrecy has not abated. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon was recently exposed for having paid Iraqi news outlets to publish positive stories written by American PR consultants. Cheney successfully defended his efforts to keep secret the names of corporate energy honchos whom he met with to craft energy policy. That defense included a Supreme Court victory partly decided by his other hunting pal, Antonin Scalia (with whom he was hunting just weeks before Scalia would rule on his case).

The administration is getting help from outside its own coven. The White House’s exposure to the NSA wiretapping scandal is being protected by friendly committee chairs in Congress who have agreed not to initiate oversight hearings. And the scandal itself was hidden from the public by the New York Times, who sat on the story for over a year at the President’s request. This may be the most forboding aspect of the whole affair. When the press joins the conspiracy to keep Americans in the dark about government initiatives conducted in their name, we are truly approaching the end of our brief experiment in the rule of the people.

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Fox Censors Its Own Cheney Exclusive

The hardworking journalists at Fox News managed to snag one of this year’s most eagerly anticipated exclusive interviews. After four days of silence, Vice President Dick Cheney stepped up to Birt Hume to make his first public comments about having shot a man in the face.

How Fox secured this editorial coup is beyond me. Maybe they know people in the White House. Or maybe Cheney just felt confident that he could stand up to to the notoriously withering brand of hardball journalism as practiced by the feared Mr. Hume.

Either way it further boggles the mind that, after winning this interview, the Fox editors decided to censor it. Media Matters has documented the deed:

In airing Brit Hume’s interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Fox News omitted Cheney’s comments about drinking a beer the day he shot his hunting companion. Fox News even excluded the comments from what it said was the “full interview” posted on its website.

Why would Fox do such a thing? With their reputation for being fair and balanced you would think they would jump at the chance to showcase a public servant who was fairly stewed and unable to keep his balance.


Reporter Held Hostage In Iraq

There are few, if any, non-military professions that expose its practitioners to the measure of risk that journalism does. Yet some independent journalists answer the call with the hopes of providing a vital public service in a dangerous world.

Too frequently these reporters are targeted by combatants and pay a heavy price for their service. There is presently a journalist being held in Iraq whose fate is unknown and dire. This reporter’s captors are determined and are known for acts of brutality. The reporter’s family is being kept in the dark and the government is helpless.

I am not referring to Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor correspondent that is being held by a group of Iraqi insurgents. Her abduction has been reported widely by the media in the U.S. and throughout the world. There is another reporter in detention about whom less is known and whose story is not being told. Abdel Amir Yunes Hussein is a journalist who was working for CBS on April 8, 2005, when he was wounded by U.S. soldiers and taken in to custody. They have been holding him ever since on the vague charge that there is “probable cause to believe that (the detainee) poses an imperative threat to coalition forces.”

The U.S. has produced no evidence that Hussein posed any threat, a charge that Hussein denies. But they continue to keep him incarcerated at Abu Ghraib without formal charges or access to an attorney.

And that’s not all. Sami Al-Hajj was working as a camerman for Al-Jazeera in Afghanistan when he was arrested as part of the “war on terror.” He had been shuttled around several prisons and now resides at Guantanamo Bay. He also has baseless charges hanging over his head, but he has been held with no legal rights for over 4 years. Hajj reports that he has undergone torture and that his captors have been trying to coerce him into testifying that there is a link between Al-Jazeera and Al-Qaeda.

The U.S. military has a history of violence against Al-Jazeera. In 2001 they bombed their offices in Kabul, Afghanistan. In 2003 their office in Baghdad was bombed, killing a cameraman. The Pentagon described both incidents as mistakes. And then there is the notorious conversation wherein British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to talk President Bush out of bombing Al-Jazeera offices in Qatar. [As an aside, the British government has charged the reporter who disclosed this conversation, with violating the Official Secrets Act, despite the government’s contention that the conversation never took place].

Reporters Without Borders has released a report on these acts of overt hostility to journalists trying to cover the war on terror. It includes additional examples of reporters who were arrested and released with no charges being brought. It also reveals an antagonistic pattern of behavior on the part of the U.S. toward the press. This report, and the others cited above, suggest that the U.S. is not providing a particularly good role model for the emerging democracy they claim to be building in Iraq.


Deadlines

For those who care enough to have noticed…..Yes, I have not posted in a little while. I am preparing for an exhibition in early February and this has dominated every spare moment I have. But New Corpse marches on because there is an enemy that lurks (the media). In the meantime, here are some juicy tidbits to keep you irritated.


Bush is now putting the squeeze on leakers and journalists

With the vice president’s former top aide Lewis Libby under indictment and Karl Rove still in the special counsel’s sights, the Bush administration is eager to go on the offensive about classified leaks.

Debunking the Myth of a Liberal Media
A new right wing-funded ‘study’ employs comically unsound criteria to rate the media.

Reporters Ejected from Gov. Jeb Bush Speech in Florida
Five hotel security staffers and a sheriff’s deputy led reporters away from where they could hear the governor in the middle of a speech.

UPN and WB to Combine to Form New Network
Because more consolidation is exactly what broadcast media needs.

Paper Shutters Blog After Ombudsman Post
In her Sunday column, ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote that Abramoff “had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties,” prompting a wave of nasty reader postings on post.blog.

CNN Headline News adds talk radio’s Beck to lineup
Beck’s selection has alarmed some liberal media watchdog groups, who view his new show as a sign that the CNN network is embracing the kind of opinionated conservative talk shows that helped make Fox News the top-ranked cable news channel.

White House Follows NewsMax’s Lead
[T]he administration does not want the public to think President Bush authorized “an illegal and unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of all Americans,” they are pushing back with a new name for the program.


NewsBlusters

NewsBusters is a new project of the Media Research Center (MRC), the official public relations arm of the right-wing propaganda machine. A co-production of the MRC’s Brent Bozell and the team behind RatherBiased, NewsBusters describes their mission as providing, “…immediate exposure of liberal media bias, insightful analysis, constructive criticism and timely corrections to news media reporting.”

With a pedigree like that, you would be right to expect a frothing puddle of drool staining the blognoleum. Their current front page contains six alleged examples of liberal media bias that are actually the work of opinion columnists not reporters. Columnists, of course, are paid to be biased, and they share space/time with their conservative counterparts. One post that does address bona fide news content condemns the liberal slant because the reporter, Terry Moran, asks General Peter Pace, Chaiman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if he is concerned about the possibility of civil war in Iraq. How dare Moran ask such a reasonable question?

But the slimiest strand of spittle hanging from the NewsBuster’s lip is the article where they catch Jon Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek, explaining to Tim Russert that a new generation of news consumers may be less than impressed by the Bush administration’s accomplishments in 2005. NewsBusters says:

Meacham zeroes in on Bush as he bemoaned how Bush’s conduct “has raised a lot of questions about fundamental competence of the government, both abroad and at home, whether it’s in Baghdad or in New Orleans.” A conservative might see that as an unintended positive development.

Thank you, Buster Brent Baker, for admitting that conservatives view the tragedies in Iraq and New Orleans as positive because of their ability to paint government as incompetent. Now we know that the true agenda of BushCo all along was to fail so badly that America’s youth would learn to despise its government. Submission Accomplished.