Persistent Legislative State

Persistent Legislative StateWith the passage by Congress of the Terri Schiavo law, we have successfully completed our transformation from a nation of free citizens to a collection of Politi-borgs whose most personal and private affairs will now be dictated by government institutions.

The feeding tube is securely fastened and the capital drips are gushing. The media environment is plugged in and transmitting soothing platitudes by day and fear-inducing threat-level warnings by night. We can now all rest easier while we tremble in our paranoid stupor.

God Bless Amerika

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Supreme Court Takes Shield Law From Media, Gives It To Lying Politicians

By declining to hear the appeal of a Pennsylvania publisher last week, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that may allow a newspaper to be held liable for defamation simply for reporting the news.

In 1995, the Daily Local News in West Chester, PA., published an account of borough Councilman William T. Glenn Sr. as “strongly implying” that council president James B. Norton III and Mayor Alan M. Wolfe were “queers and child molesters.” Norton and Wolfe denied the charges and filed suit against Glenn for defamation. The suit also named the Daily Local who had merely reported factually that the exchange took place and included Norton’s and Wolfe’s denials.

After finding that Glenn had defamed Norton and Wolfe and awarding them damages, the jury found that the Daily Local was not liable, partly due to the doctrine of neutral reportage. That doctrine permits recounting a public figure’s comments as long as they are reported neutrally and accurately. In other words, if the Mayor calls the Governor a lush, the newspaper can report what the Mayor said without being responsible for his veracity. However, the jury’s verdict with regard to the paper was reversed on appeal and the lawsuit against it reinstated. Now the paper must defend itself on the grounds that it had exercised no actual malice.

The neutral reportage privilege is a perfectly reasonable first amendment protection for the media when it is informing the public about events that actually occur. The public should have the right to assess facts that are fairly presented. They also should have the right to be fully informed about public figures who make outrageous and untruthful public statements. The appellate court, in finding that the neutral reportage privilege does not exist in Pennsylvania or federal law, puts the press in the position of being unable to report events in the news if the events happen to contain potentially defamatory charges. These events, or as I like to call them, political campaigns, would have to forego almost all media coverage. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after all.

As a consequence of the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the case, we are left with the following scenario from the example above: The press could not report what the Mayor said without first ascertaining that the Governor is, indeed, a lush. If the Governor is a teetotaler, the press could not report the exchange at all without exposing it self to a possible lawsuit. The public would then never hear from the press how the Mayor made an ass of himself. So much for a free press.

Single Informant Theory

Single Informant Theory

It’s been two years since the onset of the Bush administration’s mis-adventure’s in Iraq. By now, everyone knows that the tales spun by an obediant media into a gullible public about weapons of mass destruction were, indeed, lies. The masquerade continues.

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilitites of the United States Concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction (PDF) was released on March 31, 2005, and seeks to affirm an accounting of events that deftly avoids any material accountability.

Prewar claims by the United States that Iraq was producing biological weapons were based almost entirely on accounts from a defector who was described as “crazy” by his intelligence handlers and a “congenital liar” by his friends ….. Despite persistent doubts about his credibility, Curveball’s claims were included in the Bush administration’s case for war without so much as a caveat.

Anyone who thinks that Curveball was a lone actor in this passion play is criminally naive. He supplied CIA and DIA operatives with data that was described as having “remarkable specificity”. It was later discovered that he was not even in Iraq at the time he was purportedly gathering data. How, then, was he able to be so specific? The commission also points out that:

The reports triggered a flurry of escalating U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq, even though the DIA “did not even attempt to determine Curveball’s veracity,” according to the report.

So, in the run up to a pre-emptive invasion of another country, our intellegence professionals didn’t consider it necessary to verify whether or not the only source of information we were relying on was telling the truth. This leaves the American people (and the world) to decide whether our government is dangerously inept or maliciously dishonest.

In the end, all we have to go on is the report of a Presidential Commission that lays the blame on a single informant that no one in U. S. intelligence has ever met and was described as a crazy alcoholic by his German handlers. The media, of course, regurgitates the commission’s report in accordance with their role as PR agency for a rogue administration.

How Many F#$king Scandals Does It Take?

The Gannon Chronicles, while revealing in many senses of the word, may be pointing the way to an even richer treasure. Over the past few months, the Republican press gaggle has been inflicting itself with black eyes, bruised ribs and multiple compound fractures of the ethics bone. One after another, wingnut weebles have been wobbled, but the damn things just won’t fall down. The list is long and disturbing:

  • HHS distributes “news” videos to TV stations to be aired without disclosing their source or that the “anchors” were actually actors.
  • Bill Bennett, author of “The Book of Virtues” is a compulsive gambler.
  • Fox reporter, Carl Cameron, whose sister worked for the Bush campaign, publishes false Kerry story at
  • Monica Crowley, former Fox Analyst, now co-hosting her own show on MSNBC, is outted as a plagiarist.
  • Rush Limbaugh is a drug addict.
  • Armstrong Williams, and others, were paid by the DoE to promulgate propaganda.
  • Bill O’Reilly settles an allegation of sexual harrassment.
  • And, of course, JimmyJeff Gangucnonkert.

Lest we forget, there were also fabricated stories of war heroes Jessica Lynch (who did not fight till the last bullet) and Pat Tillman (who was actually killed by friendly fire). I’m sure I’ve left some out, but clearly our leaders have been playing us for chumps.

You would think the weight of this mass of embarrassments would cause some dinghy in this fleet to sink. But, what was that old saying: A right-wing tide lifts all restrictions on theo-con morality so they can all go out and buy more boats.

There must be more examples of this kind of misbehavior. Just the fact that those that have been discovered were so amateurishly executed and easy to find tells me that their designers were none too bright and raises the likelyhood that we have just scraped the surface. What do you suppose we could learn by investigating Sean Hannity with the zeal we’ve employed on Gannon? What about Ann Coulter; Jim Pinkerton; Jonah Goldberg; Fred Barnes; Michael Reagan; Laura Ingraham? I truly believe that if we shake these trees there will be snakes falling out and we’ll have all the apples we can eat. If there is one thing we’ve learned about these moralizing twits, it’s that they have no morals.

But the big picture here is that there has to be a way to assert some consequences on those responsible for these compounding failures. I think the way to do that is to try to make an issue of the fact these are not isolated infractions. While the corporate media has done an atrocious job of reporting on these singular events, there has been some light squeaking through. Now its time to flood the stage. How can the media refrain from commenting on the fact that all of these individual pieces form a picture of a brazenly corrupt administration that is transparently manipulating the press and the public. And doing it very badly (except for the fact that its working). It may be difficult to recruit the press into this because doing so will expose them for their myopic timidity. On the other hand, they are also victims of the manipulation and should be angry enough to want some payback. More likely, we could frighten them into participating because not doing so will result in them being shown up again by the bloggers, and you know they’re getting tired of that.

So, how many scandals does it take before the media gets its head out of its ass (don’t want to get hit with one of those new indecency fines). This isn’t a bunch of lone gunmen. Its a friggin crime spree!

White House Press Credentials Incredible

The contingent of reporters that cover the President are presumed to be professionals that have earned their access through years of journalistic acheivement. Right. And if ever a wonderful Wiz there was The Wizard of Oz is one because…..oh nevermind.

The White House press corpse was recently infiltrated by a right-wing mole whose resume boasted of a weekend seminar at the conservative Leadership Institute. His name appeared to be Jeff Gannon but was later discovered to be James “JD” Guckert.

Gannon (as I’ll call him for convenience), has been attending White House briefings for about a year, asking questions that were loaded to the max. For example:

“…You’ve said you’re going to reach out to [Senate Democrats]. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?”

“Is this another piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda?”

“Doesn’t Joe Wilson owe the President and America an apology for his deception and his own intelligence failure?”

“Since there have been so many questions about what the President was doing over 30 years ago, what is it that he did after his honorable discharge from the National Guard? Did he make speeches alongside Jane Fonda, denouncing America’s racist war in Vietnam? Did he testify before Congress that American troops committed war crimes in Vietnam? And did he throw somebody else’s medals at the White House to protest a war America was still fighting?”

So who is Jeff Gannon? This reporter was called upon frequently by the President’s press secretary, Scott McClellan, and even by the President himself at his January 20, news conference. They called on him by name and must have known that he could be counted on to lob a softball. He represented Talon News, a conservative website that is run by Bobby Eberle. Eberle is also a Republican operative in Texas and the CEO of GOPUSA. As Talon’s correspondant, Gannon was denied capital hill press credentials when Talon could not prove that it had advertisers or paid circulation. But Gannon did manage to get accredited at the White House.

Gannon is not an unknown quantity in this administration. His name appeared on a list of people the FBI wants to question in regard to the Valerie Plame affair (Plame is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. Her status as a CIA operative was unlawfully disclosed in news reports by Robert Novak and others, alledgedly to punish Wilson for statements he made that were critical of the administration). The FBI’s interest in Gannon was connected to his possession of a classified CIA memo that addressed Wilson’s assignment to Niger. How did he get that memo and why was he allowed to use it to malign Wilson with impunity?

This story gets more bizarre from here. Gannon is also the owner of a number of provacative web site domains:, This recent revelation seems to have prompted the retirement of Gannon and his Talon News has deleted all its stories by Gannon, as well as his bio. The uncreating of Jeff Gannon is in progress.

Its interesting that none of what we know about any of this was uncovered by the corporate media. The investigations and reporting on this was done almost entirely by enterprising and intrepid bloggers like those at and

From an administration that has already been exposed for having paid reporters to hawk its propaganda (Armstrong Williams, et al), for distributing videos to TV stations without disclosing the source or that the reporters in them were actually actors, what can we conclude from all of this? Is Jeff Gannon a creation of the White House designed to put pro-Bush sound bites into the media? Was he operating covertly to punish White House enemies? New York representative Louise Slaughter is calling for an investigation. If we are ever to get answers to these questions, let’s hope we get one.

New MSNBC Anchor – A Plagiarist

MSNBC is said to be preparing a new program that will feature the anchoring duo of Ron Reagan, Jr. and Monica Crowley. Crowley is a former foreign policy aide to Richard Nixon and comes to MSNBC following a stint as a Fox News political analyst.

Over the years she has also been busy writing books and magazine and newspaper articles, often about Nixon. The only problem is that her authorship, at least on one occasion, appears not to be her own work. The filching was reported at the time by Timothy Noah for Slate.

In August of 1999, Crowley wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal commemorating the 25th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation. Four days after the article ran, the paper published the following:

“There are striking similarities in phraseology between “The Day Richard Nixon Said Goodbye,” an editorial feature Monday by Monica Crowley, and a 1988 article by Paul Johnson in Commentary magazine … Had we known of the parallels, we would not have published the article.”

The similarities are indeed striking:

From Johnson’s “In Praise of Richard Nixon,” Commentary, October 1988:
“There was none of the personal corruption which had marked the rule of Lyndon Johnson, let alone the gross immoralities and security risks of John F. Kennedy’s White House.”

From Crowley’s “The Day Nixon Said Goodbye,” Wall Street Journal, August 9, 1999:
“There was none of the personal corruption that had marked the rule of Lyndon Johnson or the base immoralities and outrageous security risks of the Kennedy and Clinton White Houses.”

“Nixon … consistently underestimated the unscrupulousness of his media enemies and their willingness to sacrifice the national interest in the pursuit of their institutional vendetta.”

“Nixon, though always suspicious of his political enemies, consistently underestimated their ruthlessness and willingness to sacrifice the national interest in the pursuit of their institutional vendetta.”

“So great was the inequity of Nixon’s downfall that future historians may well conclude he would have been justified in allowing events to take their course and in subjecting the nation to the prolonged paralysis of a public impeachment, which at least would have given him the opportunity to defend himself by due process of law. But once again his patriotism took precedence over his self-interest …”

“Given the inequity of Nixon’s downfall, historians may yet determine that he would have been justified in allowing events to take their course and subjecting the country to a prolonged process of impeachment, which would have given him the chance to defend himself by due process of law. His allegiance to the country, however, overrode his political self-interest.”

Characterizes the 1960 election as “one of the most corrupt elections of modern times.”

Characterizes the 1960 election as “one of the most corrupt elections of modern times.”

[This assertion, unlike the others, has some merit, and it’s possible the two arrived at the phrase independent of one another; but given the other examples cited here, that likelihood is not great.]

“By a curious paradox Richard Nixon was one of the very few people who emerged from the Watergate affair with credit.”

“Ironically, Nixon was one of the few people who emerged from Watergate with credit …”

[Johnson is British, Crowley American; why would she, on her own, use a Britishism like “with credit”?]

Slate reports that this rather blatant plagiarism was not widely disseminated at the time. Certainly Fox’s journalistic standards would not preclude the hiring of such an ethically-challenged individual, and maybe MSNBC’s standards are no better. But some attempt should be made to disseminate this story now and force MSNBC to defend (or even articulate) their standards.

Reagan has paid his dues at MSNBC and should not have to share this program with an avowedly right-wing hack who lacks the requisite principles for the job. Furthermore, if the network is seeking to achieve ideological balance, the last thing they need is a conservative analyst from Fox. Reagan should anchor the program himself or be paired with another independent-minded former Republican, Arianna Huffington.

Crowley needs to be challenged. It is unseemly for news professionals to be promoted with unexamined issues like this in their past. And it is dereliction on the part of the network (and news consumers, i.e. us) to ignore such a violations of the integrity of authorship. Ms. Crowley and/or the network should be required to answer this allegation and we should put their feet to the fire.

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Freedom of Speech Now Requires Permission From the Feds

Freedom may be on the march, but freedom of speech is under the boot. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury recently issued regulations that forbid American companies from publishing works by certain foreign authors without first getting permission. If the authors are from countries that the U.S. has targeted for sanctions, a license would be required to publish their work in the U.S. unless it has been previously published in the country of origin. Ironically, the result of these regulations would allow writings that were appproved by the author’s repressive native government, but prohibit writings that criticized it, because a repressive regime would be unlikely to publish such work.

Violators in the U.S. face penalties of up to $1 million dollars and 10 years in prison. The regulation is being contested legislatively by Rep. Howard Berman of California, and several weeks ago, Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi (above) filed suit after discovering that publishing her memoirs in the U.S. would be illegal. Other litigants include the PEN America Center and Arcade Publishing.

The absurdity of silencing the very voices that represent the best of American values is disturbing, to say the least. Compounding that is the frightening notion that any American publisher must seek permission from a federal agency to exercise what should be guaranteed under the first amendment’s freedom of speech.

Nothing Matters

In the wake of the 2004 election, there has arisen a desperate caterwaulling of Democrats and progressives hoping to exorcise themselves of the demons that must have possessed them, else how could they have believed that victory was possible. This primal scream of hope takes many forms: defiant disbelief; enduring will; critical self-examination; poetic rage; and philosophical visions of Valhalla to come. But as we race through the stages of emotional response to the passing of our hopes, we must take our place at acceptance, and acceptance means that…

Nothing Matters

All of the speculation as to how we might assuage our grief amounts to nothing more than a prescription of the latest Placebo© brand cognitive mollifier. The regrets, the accusations, the mea culpas, the calls of the resolutionaries to move on, speak only to symptoms. The disease lingers, it lounges, it enjoys the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the boss is on vacation. No one is looking over its shoulder and it can get away with murder. The barn door is open and there’s nothing in the barn. And, as we’ve already established…

Nothing Matters

Nothing but perceptions. Perceptions are the new reality and the architects of perception are its masters. We are a maleable population, easily manipulated by those who guide the most fundamental decisions of our lives: the soap we use; the movies we watch; the breakfast cereal that starts our day. Its the marketing kingpins that shape our world. Not just in terms of what we consume, but also how we vote. The suggestability we exhibit defines us not so much as citizens, but as consumers. Consumizens? And for those who wonder what to do about the proclivity we have for coming up short, the answer is clear. We have have to sell better. We have to convince people that our product tastes better, lasts longer, makes you sexier, and comes with a free prize in every box. The box itself has great significance, particularly if it has the facade of a lovable cartoon charactor. It doesn’t matter what’s in the box because, other than the effectiveness of the marketing campaign…

Nothing Matters

The Real Fake News

Speak Fake To Power

The cast and writers of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show have taken on an awesome assignment. While delivering biting satire on the events of the day, they are also savagely exposing the journalistic failure of the conventional media.

Anchor, Jon Stewart, is fond of referring to the program as the “fake” news. He displays an abundance of modesty that suggests that he truly doesn’t grasp the impact this program has on its viewers and its conventional news counterpart. Peter Jennings, in naming Stewart the ABC Person of the week, said that he is

“…the man who often says in public what the rest of us tend to say only in the newsroom.”

The recognition the program receives belies Stewart’s protests that all he does is a funny show on a comedy network that follows puppets making crank phone calls. The show has won five Emmys. It won a Peabody award for election coverage. The Columbia Journalism Review included Stewart on its list of the nation’s 10 most influential political reporters. Newsday placed Stewart on their list of the 20 media players who will most influence the 2004 campaign. Ranking lower on the list were the likes of Tim Russert, Ted Koppel, and Sean Hannity, among others. And yet, when Stewart is confronted with compliments about his strikingly funny presentation of important social events, his response is that

“…that either speaks to the sad state of comedy or the sad state of news. I can’t figure out which one.”

I’m going to have to go with the latter.

The Daily Show’s popularity is significant and growing. It has averaged about 1 million viewers per episode this season, surpassing the total number of viewers for real cable networks like CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. This audience is not, as Bill O’Reilly tagged them, a bunch of “stoned slackers”. According to the National Annenberg Election Survey, Daily Show viewers know more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television news. They are 78 percent more likely than the average adult to have four or more years of college education. O’Reilly’s audience is only 24 percent more likely to have that much schooling.

Which is the Real Fake News?

People turn to trusted sources to deliver the information they consider important about their lives and their world. And young people are increasingly turning to The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert, a Daily Show correspondent, has said that he doesn’t believe that viewers learn anything from the show. He contends that, if they weren’t already knowledgeable about political and social affairs, they wouldn’t get the jokes. This is certainly true, but it is possible for well informed persons to become better informed. The Daily Show does this often by juxtaposing a news event with additional relevant information in a way that other news outlets do not. For instance, earlier this year they played a video that aired on most news programs of Bush praising the productive spirit of the American worker in front of warehouse shelves chock full of the fruits of their labor. However, The Daily Show was the only broadcast that aired the camera zooming out to reveal that the scene of the fully stocked shelves was actually a painted backdrop. And in front of the president’s podium was a stack boxes with tape covering the words “Made in China”.

The evidence that The Daily Show is educating or enhancing the education of its viewers is borne out by the fact that viewers are choosing it as a source for news. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news. By contrast, 23 percent of the young people mentioned ABC, CBS or NBC’s nightly news broadcasts as a source.

The Daily Show has proven that it is a trustworthy purveyor of the news. Unfortunately, the “News” has done no such thing. With news fabricators like Steven Glass (New Republic), Jack Kelley (USA Today) and Jayson Blair (New York Times), representing only the fraternity of those who were caught, the mainstream media’s credibility is in freefall. Dan Rather’s sloppy reportage on the Texas Air National Guard’s special treatment of young Lt. Bush helps to speed the descent, as does Fox’s Carl Cameron who posted a false Kerry story on Fox’s web site by accident.

Even worse is when the government and the media work in concert to deceive. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that

“…the General Accounting Office concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services illegally spent federal money on what amounted to covert propaganda by producing videos about the Medicare changes that were made to look like news reports. Portions of the videos, which have been aired by 40 television stations around the country, do not make it clear that the announcers were paid by HHS and were not real reporters.”

WTVF in Nashville is one of the stations that aired the video. They later admitted that they learned of the segment’s fraudulent sourcing from watching The Daily Show’s coverage of the matter.

Recently, Jon Stewart appeared on CNN’s Crossfire. This program should be added to the curriculum of all journalism schools. From the very beginning, Stewart ripped into the famous bickerers and was unrelenting throughout. In the belly of the beast, Stewart accused them of being pawns to the politicians and corporations adding “…You’re part of their strategies. You are partisan…what do you call it…hacks.” He lamented that they are doing “…theater when you should be doing debate.” When Tucker Carlson belittled him by suggesting that he get a job at a journalism school, Stewart replied saying “You need to go to one.” Most memorable, however, was Stewart’s response to Carlson’s insult that “… you’re more fun on your show. Just my opinion.” Stewart fired back “You’re as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.” The next episode of Crossfire had co-host Robert Novak coming to Carlson’s defense declaring that he thinks Stewart is not funny, and that he knows Stewart is uninformed. He did not say how he knows this. Maybe he disagrees with Stewart’s pet name for him: the Douche Bag of Liberty.

This kind of uncensored honesty is almost never seen in the conventional press. But maybe it is just what is needed now. USA Today reported last year that

“Public confidence in the media, already low, continues to slip. Only 36%, among the lowest in years, believe news organizations get the facts straight, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.”

While esteem for the media is spiraling ever-lower, respect for The Daily Show continues to grow. It receives awards for both its humor and its news content. And it performs the function of a media watchdog, alerting us to the hypocrisy, collaboration, and contrivance of the corporate-dominated media.

If it seems depressingly ironic to you that the mainstream media is now being monitored and corrected by Comedy Central’s “fake” news, the only advice I have is to watch The Daily Show. It might cheer you up for at least half an hour.

Sinclair Broadcasting’s Election Tampering

Sinclair Broadcasting is inserting itself into the presidential election in the most abusive way imaginable. They are ordering their 62 affiliates to preempt regularly scheduled programming to air a dubious and blatantly anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor, produced by a former Washington Times writer.

This is the same company that forbade its affiliate from airing the episode of Nightline, The Fallen, that paid tribute to soldiers that died in Iraq.

Several groups have sprung up to oppose this programming decision, among them:
Stop Sinclair is an online petition.
Boycott Sinclair has complied a list of advertisers to put pressure on.