Fox News’ Non-Stop Zarqawi Party

The news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is deservedly blanketing the airwaves. He was a significant figure in Iraq and was responsible for untold devastation. He was certainly a major target of the U.S. military, who can view his demise as a success.

But Fox News may be carrying the celebration into a bizarre area. Their commentary is almost devoid of the rational reality that Zarqawi was not a lone wolf. The Iraqi insurgency is a diverse group that is still capable of much turmoil. By overplaying the impact of this, they could even end up diminishing its value.

Zarqawi was not Superman. Indeed, just a few weeks ago the Pentagon was ridiculing him as incompetent. They released a video of him wearing American sneakers and struggling to operate an automatic weapon. In addition, he was not considered to be an icon of stability. He feuded with his al Qaeda handlers and Osama bin Laden, who opposed the beheadings as a tactic that generated bad PR. It is hypocritical to portray him as a buffoon when he is at large but a terrorist mastermind in death.

Fox anchors have repeatedly referred to this news as a turning point in the war in Iraq. They have said that other recent news that casts a negative light on the war, like the massacre at Haditha, will be subsumed by this morning’s events. The problem with this short-sighted and unseemly journalistic cheerleading is that it will only take one new bombing to demonstrate that this war is still in progress and decidedly deadly. In fact, as I write this, CNN is reporting a bombing in Baghdad that has killed 19 and wounded more than 65 Iraqis.

Yet Fox soldiers on conducting an interview with the father of Nicholas Berg, the contractor who was reportedly beheaded by Zarqawi. The interview took on a confrontational tone because Mr. Berg is a critic of President Bush, but Fox was in no mood to tolerate criticism. They were able to quickly regain their footing by interviewing a procession of retired officers who were more cooperatively positive.

As for turning points in the war, there have already been many that turned out to be cul-de-sacs. The declaration of “mission accomplished”, the capture of Saddam, and the annoucements of several diplomatic milestones in the development of the new Iraqi government, are all examples of raised hopes that were followed by evermore increasing violence. And therein lies the danger that media hype presents in these matters. Each time the press gloats about having turned a corner, and then is confronted by more turmoil, the enemy is emboldened and less likely to take the news seriously or be demoralized by it. They may even be motivated to escalate violence to prove that they have not been deterred by the loss of a leader.

What will Fox and other media optimists say if things continue as they have been for the past months and years? What will they say if things get worse? I’m all for personally savoring victories when we have them, but the media must be more reflective and responsible because the consequences of their missteps can be far-ranging and destructive.

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Cheney’s Obsession With Secrecy

Vice-president Dick Cheney has a well-known penchant for secrecy. Whether it’s the energy task force he headed or his attempts to hide the facts about his shooting a friend on a hunting trip.

Now he is trying to suppress a congressional investigation into the administration’s wiretapping affair. The Republican chairman of the senate Judiciary committee, Arlen Spector is accusing the VP of interferring with the oversight responsibilities of congress. In a letter to Cheney, Spector said…

“I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point.”

Spector said Cheney had lobbied Republicans to oppose the holding of any hearing, even a closed one. He argued that the telecommunications companies were “not to provide any information to the committee as they were prohibited from disclosing classified information.”

These admonitions were given in advance of the hearings and represent a kind of executive prior restraint since there was no evidence that the companies intended to disclose anything of a classified nature. The administration has been working hard to keep the facts surrounding their unlawful eavesdropping from seeing the light of day. They have even cut off Justice Department investigations by refusing to grant JD attorneys the necessary security clearances to conduct their investigation.

Is this the behavior of a White House that has nothing to hide?

More UN Bashing From Bolton

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown gave a speech on “Power and Super-Power” before the Century Foundation and Center for American Progress — Security and Peace Initiative. Much of the speech was directed at encouraging greater participation by the U.S. in both world affairs and the U.N.’s operations and reforms. But while Brown lamented the absence of U.S. participation, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, seemed to take the whole speech as an affront to America and Americans.

Brown’s central observations were concerned with U.S. officials and media that promote hostility toward the U.N.:

“…today, on a very wide number of areas, from Lebanon and Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and the Palestinian issue, the US is constructively engaged with the UN. But that is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.”

We can add John Bolton to that group. Before his recess appointment (he has never been confirmed by the Senate for his post), he was quoted as saying that, “If the UN Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” His response to Brown’s speech demonstrates that his mood has not mellowed.

“Even though the target of the speech was the United States, the victim, I fear, will be the United Nations…Even worse was the condescending and patronizing tone about the American people.”

Bolton went on to say that, should Brown’s speech not be repudiated, he fears the consequences for the organization. Bolton’s predilection for making up affronts to Americans and his fondness for throwing threats around is an affirmation of the substance of Brown’s speech. I’m not sure where we can expect to go from here when we have an ambassador who feels insulted by a colleague who is admiringly pleading for a closer, less hostile relationship with the U.S.

Prosecute The Messenger, Part II

Deputy U.S. Attorney Matthew W. Friedrich appeared before the Senate Judiciary committee to reiterate the Justice Department’s threats to criminalize journalism. And he stayed just long enough to anger even the Republican members of the committee by stonewalling them.

Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) told Friedrich, that he should be ashamed of himself for, “…taking what would be called a testifying Fifth Amendment.” Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), scolded Friedrich for spinning an answer to refer hypothetically to the past. “I’m not interested in history this morning,” Specter told him. “I’m interested in current events.” And Charles Grassley (R-IA) wondered aloud why the Justice Department would send a representative to testify who wouldn’t answer the committee’s questions if they had, “any respect for this committee whatsoever.”

What Friedrich did say was that the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, was correct when he said that, with regard to prosecuting journalists who receive leaks from anonymous sources…

“There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that [prosecution] is a possibility.”

He would not say whether or not such prosecution had been considered, except for his cryptic reference to “historical examples.” He also wouldn’t comment on the JD’s attempts to seize records from the estate of investigative journalist, Jack Anderson.

One thing he did make a point of saying was that he doesn’t believe new legislation is needed to protect reporters. Protecting reporters is, in fact, the last thing this Justice Department is interested in. Their every occupation and utterance is directed at intimidating and emasculating what remains of an independent press, even unto the grave in Anderson’s case.

Some of the members of the Judiciary committee showed a little gumption by challenging Friedrich, but the media itself has been typically silent. It’s their asses in the sling, yet they still can’t bring themselves to fight for their honor and, by the way, the right of Americans to enjoy the benefits of our constitutionally guaranteed free press.

Busloads of Ads

Here’s a great idea: Let’s pump ads at our kids as they are transported to and from school everyday. Let’s make them a captive audience for corporations who want to turn them into little consumption machines. What better way to indoctrinate the next generation of shopaholics than by forcing them endure commercial broadcasts in their school buses?

That’s the business that BusRadio has embarked upon. Their website touts the service as taking:

“…targeted student marketing to the next level. Every morning and every afternoon on their way to and from school, kids across the country will be listening to the dynamic programming of BusRadio providing advertiser’s with a unique and effective way to reach the highly sought after teen and tween market.”

Finally, targeted student marketing advances to the next level where our highly sought after children are effectively served up to advertisers. And all of this is done through the compulsory education system with the official imprimatur of school administration. School districts that allow this are admitting that their core mission is not education, but indoctrination. They are also conceding that functioning as a day care is more important than educating children. Indeed, BusRadio promotes a study that finds that kids are quieter and more obedient when exposed to their service. And parents that permit this have effectively surrendered their children to the media overlords.

This new enterprise is filling a void that exists because we don’t already have enough advertising infecting every vacant inch of our consciousness. And preparing young minds for their eventual enslavement to Madison Avenue can only make their transition to servitude proceed more cooperatively. If not, there is still Ritalin and Prozac.

Stalking Points Memo – Defending Atrocity

Defending Atrocity

Bill O’Reilly chooses the aftermath of the massacre at Haditha as an opportune time to praise Bush and Rumsfeld on their management of the war. In fact, he ridicules the notion of accountability and threatens those who are critical of military crimes. In other words, Billness as usual.

(Click the pic here to go to Stalking Points Memo page, then click the pic there to start the Flash movie)

Update: The Stalking Points Memo has been entered in the Huffington Post Contagious Festival. You can help promote it (and see a whole bunch of other cool stuff) by clicking on this link. Thanks.

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Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs?

This may be the funniest best of list I’ve ever seen. Contemporary artists from diverse pop genres are pumping out material critical of Bush and his administration. Neil Young (Let’s Impeach the President), Pearl Jam (World Wide Suicide), Pink (Dear Mr. President), Dixie Chicks (Not Ready to Make Nice), Green Day (American Idiot), Bruce Springsteen (We Shall Overcome), and that’s just the superstars. These progressive artists are producing new work with specific targets in public life. Now right wing rockers are feeling left out, so they have compiled their own compendium of headbangers that they believe places them in with the in crowd. It’s such a pathetic exercise in desperation that it transcends satire.

Here are a few choice examples:

  • 1) “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who
  • 3) “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones
  • 13) “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders
  • 20) “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash
  • 35) “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

These are just a few of the more blatantly liberal, anti-establishment songs and/or artists that the right is misinterpreting in their pitiful yearning to play with the cool kids. Many of these artists would laugh themselves into convulsions if they found their music on this list, particularly artists like The Clash or The Sex Pistols who had outright disdain for traditional authority.

It should be noted that the majority of the list was released between 15 and 40 years ago. Only four were recorded this century. None of them were overtly pro-conservative politically, but rather had a theme (or just a single line) that expressed what conservatives view as their exclusive values. I’m not sure that the Beach Boys lyric anticipating a happy future married to a loved one could be considered conservative. The last I heard, liberals like to marry their lovers too.

Contrast those tenuous ties with the unequivocal revulsion in the brand new work by progressive artists that is directed squarely at our current neocon political leaders. There really is no comparison. This compilation just demonstrates the lengths to which these sad and envious losers will go to convince themselves that they’re popular.

Stalking Points Memo – Pop Politics

Pop Politics

The Dixie Chicks arouse O’Reilly’s ire about the stupid, lazy, good-for-nothin “young’uns” in America. He’s apparently upset because they are so stupid that they would rather listen to the Dixie Chicks than to his pontificatious puke.

(Click the pic here to go to Stalking Points Memo page, then click the pic there to start the Flash movie)

Novak Promised To Protect Rove

When Karl Rove picked Robert Novak to leak the name of a covert CIA operative, he got his money’s worth. Three days after an investigation into the leak began, Novak called Rove to promise that no harm would come to him as a result of their fling.

Rove testified to the grand jury that during his telephone call with Novak, the columnist said words to the effect: “You are not going to get burned” and “I don’t give up my sources,” according to people familiar with his testimony.

This might have been nothing more than a reporter assuring a source that his anonymity would be preserved. Except for the peculiar timing. Coming just a few days after it became known that an investigation had begun, the call could also have been an attempt to synchronize stories. Lawyers routinely advise clients who are witnesses to refrain from talking to other witnesses.

Either Rove and Novak were not getting legal advice or they were ignoring it. The motivation to do so would be compelling because they would be looking at charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

It’s surprising that under the circumstance, Novak is still a working journalist. But it is not surprising that he is working at Fox News Channel, where he landed after an embarrassing on air tantrum got him suspended at CNN.

Voice Of America Silenced In Baghdad

The Baghdad bureau of the Voice of America closed six months ago when it’s last reporter left due to security concerns. Alisha Ryu asked to be transferred after an attack that killed a member of her security detail.

Iraq is the world’s most dangerous country for the media, with 69 fatalities since 2003. The closing of VOA is just the latest example how difficult it is to get reliable news out the country. The VOA could not say when there might be another reporter assigned to Baghdad but Ryu was quoted as saying that there were no volunteers.

Ryu has published stories detailing occurances of abuse and torture by Shiite militias in conjunction with Interior Ministry prison authorities. These reports may have targeted her for retribution.

While the VOA ostensibly operates independently, it is an arm of the U. S. government and is required by its charter to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.” If they can’t keep the mood upbeat, I don’t see why any other news organization (other than Fox) can be expected to do so.

The Bush administration is fond of complaining that the media is ignoring all the positive stories in Iraq. It must be hard to ferret out all those postitive stories when you can’t even leave your hotel without getting kidnapped or shot at or killed. Jill Carroll, Bob Woodruff, and 69 disembodied souls can attest to that. If the environment is so dangerous that field reporters, an uncommonly sturdy bunch, can’t be recruited, it puts the lie to the administration’s lament that there is an abundance of good news that is just being missed.