Thursday, May 25, 2006

Howard Kurtz Botches Another One

Sometimes an allegedly objective columnist can miss the mark by such a wide margin, and write something so misleading, that one wonders what the true motivations behind the column were.

Today, Howard Kurtz' Media Notes column in the Washington Post astounded me.

In his column, Kurtz delivered a mind-boggling blast at the protest of Senator John McCain's commencement speech at New York's New School.

After bragging about his commitment to free speech, Kurtz writes, "if someone like John McCain comes to your school--even if you strongly disagree with everything he stands for--why not listen to what he has to say, instead of trying to block him from stepping foot on your campus?

"Sure, the students who do that, or wave signs, or heckle, or otherwise protest such appearances, are expressing their free-speech rights as well. But what message are they sending? We feel so strongly about our views that we simply refuse to listen to anyone else?"

Doesn't Mr. Kurtz read? Because it was made abundantly clear that Sen. McCain was giving the exact same speech that he had given at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, as well as Columbia University. The exact same address!

The fact that everyone knew exactly what was going to be said was what motivated student Jean Sara Rohe to refer to what McCain was about to say!

One would think that a commencement speech would take into account the individual institution where the address was being given. Instead, McCain delivered for consumption the same message he delived at the ultra-right-wing Falwell institution. Verbatim! How fair was it for the students there to be subjected to a stump speech? This wasn't a message prepared specifically for them. It was a means to further McCain's campaign posturing for '08.

After railing about the student's refusing to hear what McCain had to say, I expected at least some acknowledgment that many already knew the content because the prior addresses had been posted on the Internet. But, dishonestly, he left that fact out.

Instead, Mr. Kurtz deceptively makes it appear that the only reason that people protested McCain was his politics.

Student speaker Rohe was very clear on her motivations. In a Huffington Post blog, she writes:

"Had he been speaking at something other than our graduation, or had he spoken about almost anything other than his life and his position on the Iraq War and Darfur it might have been OK. But what did he expect? Campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination at the New School is like trying to catch fish in a swimming pool. It was just totally out of place. Many thanks go to the people in the audience who managed to capture with a few yelled and widely-quoted phrases, just exactly what was going on there."

And, she added:

"More importantly, I feel obligated to respond to one thing that McCain told the New York Times. 'I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others,' he said. This is just preposterous. Yes, McCain was undoubtedly shouted-out and heckled by people who were not politely absorbing his words so as to consider them fully from every angle. But what did he expect? We could've all printed out his speech and chanted it with him in chorus. Did he think that no one knew exactly what he was about to say? And it was precisely because we listen to the views of others, and because, as I said in my speech, we don't fear them, that we as a school were able to mount such a thorough and intelligent opposition to his presence. Ignorant, closed-minded people would not have been able to do what we did. We chose to be in New York for our years of higher education for the very reason that we would be challenged to listen to opposing viewpoints each and every day and to deal with that challenge in a nonviolent manner. We've gotten very good at listening to the views of others and learning how to also make our views heard, even when we don't have the power of national political office and the media on our side."

What part of that does Howard Kurtz not get and why does he choose to deliberately mislead his readers by not reporting on this aspect at all, making it seem as if the issue is merely one of intolerance?

Could it be an agenda? I suppose we'll find out if we see Mr. Kurtz fawning over Sen. McCain's every word come campaign time. It would not surprise me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Big Brother Knows No Bounds

Part of the problem with the lack of oversight of the Bush administration's trashing of civil liberties, in the guise of fighting terrorism, is that there really are no limits to the abuse that is being perpetrated.

If we do not say no...when we hear of illegal prisons
If we do not say no...when we hear of torture
If we do not say no...when we hear of illegal wiretaps, allegedly only affecting international communications
If we do not say no...when we hear that all of our phone records are being collected in data mining projects

...then we have nobody to blame but ourselves when we wake up one day to find ourselves in a fascist, police state controlled by 'big brother.'

No oversight means that those in power can use the information they collect against their political enemies.

This all seems to tie in with today's revelation...the records of ABC news reporters are being examined to find out who in government they are speaking with.

Whatever sources have revealed the illegal goings-on that this government is involved in are the true patriots.

The levels that this administration will go to in violating our constitutional rights is chilling.

Hopefully, this message is starting to resonate loud and clear.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Those Hope-less FEMA Trailers

Since we are just a few weeks away from the start of the official hurricane season and we are hearing how the Bush Administration is now totally prepared to deal with a crisis, I got to wondering....whatever became of those more than 10,000 trailers?

You know, the ones that are being stored in Hope, Arkansas, but never got used.

This is how CNN covered the story back on February 19th, after the story had been languishing for just under a week:


"MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There are about 10,000 mobile homes in this field in Hope.

"WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At a cost of, what, $300 million?

"CHERTOFF: Well, that's the purchase price. Now they will eventually be used. Some of them will be used with respect to areas of the Gulf that are not in a flood plain. Some of them have been used with respect to wildfires, people who lost their homes to wildfires in Oklahoma and Texas. Some will be used in hurricanes season this year. For example, in we have hurricanes in Florida or other places where there's wind damage but not flood damage. So this is not going to go to waste.


"LIN: FEMA managers acknowledge that some of the trailer homes parked in Arkansas are sagging under their own weight but they insist that all of the mobile homes will be used in the future."

Of course, by then, it wasn't even a top story on CNN. As they put it, they were all "abuzz" about a Powerball lottery winner. And preparing us for the upcoming dangers of bird flu.

The news life of this story was shorter than Ryan Seacrest's relationship with Terri Hatcher. And that is saying something.

However, the unused trailer story remains in the news. It's just that nobody is covering it.

Among the latest developments, Ralph Nader made an appeal to President Clinton. In a letter dated March 15th, Nader appealed to the 'man from Hope' to get those trailers out of Hope and off to where they could provide some good.

On April 5th, Nader got the following response from the Clinton, "I have worked to right this wrong since I first heard reports of the trailers' existence. Many communities have been unwilling to host the trailers because they don't want them in their neighborhoods, lack the capacity to house them, or face utility problems."

So I guess this is now a NIMBY issue. NIMBY, as in 'not in my backyard.'

"From the horse's mouth, here is a FEMA factsheet, dated April 20th:

"More than 10,000 (10,112 as of April 20) of these fully-maintained and ready-for-use mobile homes are staged in Hope, Ark.—easily accessible to housing operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, the units are also available for other disasters in which there are needs for direct housing, such as the areas ravaged by tornadoes this spring.

"FEMA mobile homes staged in Arkansas are fully habitable, available and properly maintained. These mobile homes represent one component of FEMA’s comprehensive housing strategy which has already helped more than 825,000 hurricane victims from Katrina and Rita with temporary housing assistance."

However, there is a caveat. Early reports suggested that the mobile home foundations were not especially stable and were becoming more unstable as the homes settled. And then of course, was this early nugget from CNN on February 13th, from CNN correspondent Susan Roesgen:

"FEMA says these mobile homes aren't allowed in a flood plain, which pretty much rules out most of southeast Louisiana. Why did FEMA order them in the first place if they can't be used in areas where people need them? That's what I asked, but nobody seems to know. So the mobile homes sit there, immobile, 450 miles away from the Gulf Coast."

Well, if we ever get another hurricane, that does not affect an area in a flood plain, these trailers will really come in handy.

Oh, by the way, was anybody held accountable for this exceptional misuse of taxpayer money? Nobody? How surprising.

At any rate, I am sure everybody is happy that our Commander-in-Chief is boldly prepared to step up to the plate in the upcoming 2006 hurricane season. According to the AP, on his visit to New Orleans a little over a week ago, Bush said, "Pray there is no hurricane this coming year, but we are working together to make sure if there is one, the response will be as efficient as possible."

Sure it will, George. Sure it will.

(Photo courtesy of AP)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why Can't News Outlets Just Tell The Truth?

Today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was strongly challenged at a speech in Atlanta. Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, accused Rumsfeld of lying. When Rumsfeld denied the charge he was met with his own quotes.

Anyone watching "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" got to see the supportive evidence that Rumsfeld was indeed lying. So why does coverage often not reflect this?

This is how CNN covered it online, using a thoroughly incomplete AP story:

"Protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech Thursday, and one man, a former CIA analyst, accused him of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence in an unusually vociferous display of anti-war sentiment.

"'Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?' asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.

"'I did not lie,' shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies."

Mr. McGovern used verbatim quotes by Sec. Rumsfeld that the Secretary denied making. But those quotes were, in fact, correct, and part of the public record. Why would AP not report about that?

Meanwhile CNN's Paula Zahn, interviewing McGovern, asks him if he has an axe to grind, instead of discussing the implications of Rumsfeld being caught in a lie.

If an official is shown to lie isn't that at least peripherally newsworthy?

Instead, the entire story is about the fact that critics are able to challenge this insular White House at all.

As we continue to note these news institutions as MIA, it makes it easier to understand the role they played in helping lead us into war.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Neutered Press

I finally finished watching George Clooney's excellent flick, "Good Night, And Good Luck," and it left me depressed, to say the least.

Clooney's movie, which focused on legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow's decision to take on Joe McCarthy, serves as a testament to the power and responsibility that the press has, in confronting the abuse of governmental power.

What makes it depressing is that it reminds us that there are no Edward R. Murrow's around today to set the record straight.

That movie takes on especial irony as I read today that the Clooney appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner was one of the main attractions. This, as the clueless press ignores the implications of Valerie Wilson's attendance, all the while slavishly praising the dueling dubya's and simultaneously trashing Stephen Colbert's brilliant skewering of our fearless leader.

I did appreciate Josh Orton's blogging of the event on the Huffington Post.

One comment Mr. Orton makes is especially telling:

"The program began, and the Correspondents Association President began by noting yet another challenging year for the press corps...and how catching heat from both political parties proved that once again, the press got it right."

In other words, unlike when Clinton was president, moral equivalency rules the day.

It's the reason that watching "Meet The Press" or "Hardball" is the entertainment equivalent of getting one's dog spayed.

No matter what Dubya and his GOP lapdogs inflict on America, the press will bend over as much as possible to neuter the implications of the GOP's ruinous policies.

Unfortunately, it's America that winds up getting screwed.

The Clooney portrait of Murrow was not entirely shot behind rose-colored lenses. The movie makes clear the influence that Murrow's on-camera smoking and his program's Kent sponsorship, had on the health of Americans.

However, there is nobody of that stature operating today. Katie Couric's ascendancy to CBS anchor tells you all you really need to know.

It's the entertainment, stupid.