Saturday, October 16, 2004


"September 11, 2001 ... cannot be the day liberty perished":
Protesters win one on appeal

The School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been the elite training academy for Latin America's dictators, mass murderers and torturers—an education provided for them by the U.S. government. It has changed its name but not its ways. Now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, this carefully guarded "school" has been the site of annual protests since 1990.

In 2002, police from Columbus, Georgia, using the threat of post-9/11 terrorism as a justification, decided to inspect the 15,000 or so protesters attending the event with a metal detector—one at a time. If any metal was detected, the police would then search the person and his/her belongings. Needless to say, the effect was chilling.

The School of the Americas Watch (SAW) and its founder, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, sued in U.S. district court for a temporary restraining order and an injunction to stop the searches as violations of their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

The City of Columbus argued as justification for the searches that

... the Department of Homeland Security threat assessment level was “elevated,” indicating a “significant” risk of attack. Second, protestors in previous years had demonstrated a history of “lawlessness” because many of them engaged in frenzied dancing, did not immediately disburse at the end of the scheduled protest, and “formed a ‘global village’ from large debris.” In addition, some of them ignited a smoke bomb, and a few entered onto Fort Benning in a peaceful march to the SOA. Finally, SAW had invited several “affinity groups”—in particular, the Anarchists—to attend the protest that had allegedly instigated violence at other, unrelated protests such as the one that led to a riot in Seattle during a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization. [emphasis added]

The judge—perhaps fearing the possibility of more "frenzied dancing"—refused to issue an injunction, so SAW and Bourgeois took the matter on to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. While the case was under appeal, the 2003 protest was held and the police repeated the search procedure.

Yesterday the appellate court agreed with SAW that

the mass, suspicionless, warrantless magnetometer searches violate their Fourth Amendment right to be free of "unreasonable searches and seizures."

The court's decision dissects the city's argument that it needed "non-discriminatory, low-level magnetometer searches at large gatherings."—

This argument is troubling. While the threat of terrorism is omnipresent, we cannot use it as the basis for restricting the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections in any large gathering of people. In the absence of some reason to believe that international terrorists would target or infiltrate this protest, there is no basis for using September 11 as an excuse for searching the protestors.

Even putting aside the City’s ill-advised and groundless reference to September 11, its demand for the unbridled power to perform “magnetometer searches at [all] large gatherings” is untenable. The text of the Fourth Amendment contains no exception for large gatherings of people. It cannot be argued that the Framers simply failed to foresee the possibility of large protests of this character.

As SAW points out, under the City’s theory,

mass suspicion-less [sic] searches could be implemented for every person who attends any large event including: a high school graduation, a church picnic, a public concert in the park, an art festival, a Fourth of July parade, sporting events such as a marathon, and fund-raising events such as the annual breast cancer walk. And if the government began to pick and choose amongst [sic] these groups, viewpoint discrimination would likely result.

.... It is quite possible that both protestors and passersby would be safer if the City were permitted to engage in mass, warrantless, suspicionless searches. Indeed, it is quite possible that our nation would be safer if police were permitted to stop and search anyone they wanted, at any time, for no reason at all.... Nevertheless, the Fourth Amendment embodies a value judgment by the Framers that prevents us from gradually trading ever-increasing amounts of freedom and privacy for additional security. It establishes searches based on evidence—rather than potentially effective, broad, prophylactic dragnets—as the constitutional norm.

We also reject the notion that the Department of Homeland Security’s threat advisory level somehow justifies these searches.... Given that we have been on “yellow alert” for over two and a half years now, we cannot consider this a particularly exceptional condition that warrants curtailment of constitutional rights. We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War on Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over. September 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country. [emphasis added]

The court also took the city to task for its violations of the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. It found that the city had violated those rights in five ways:

First, it is a burden on free speech and association imposed through the exercise of a government official’s unbridled discretion; restrictions on First Amendment rights may not be left to an executive agent’s uncabined judgment. Second, the searches were a form of prior restraint on speech and assembly; to participate in the protest, individuals had to receive the prior permission of officers manning the checkpoints. Third, the search policy was implemented based on the content of the protestors’ speech. Fourth, even assuming the searches were implemented exclusively for content-neutral reasons, they were impermissible because they did not constitute reasonable time, place, and manner limitations, which are the only permissible content-neutral burdens that may be placed upon free speech and association. Finally, even putting aside First Amendment analysis, the search policy constitutes an “unconstitutional condition;” protestors were required to surrender their Fourth Amendment rights ... in order to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The court noted that SAW had never conducted a violent demonstration and that

the magnetometer search policy has not been implemented for any other large gatherings the City has faced. In particular, sporting events—at which large crowds gather; where authorities have no way of knowing who is coming; at which “affinity groups” of various sorts are regularly in attendance; where “violent acts had in fact occurred....

The court found that the city was requiring the protesters to give up a right in order to exercise other rights—

This case presents an especially malignant unconstitutional condition because citizens are being required to surrender a constitutional right—freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures—not merely to receive a discretionary benefit but to exercise two other fundamental rights—freedom of speech and assembly.

The court granted a permanent injunction against the city of Columbus' search policy.

So if you should happen to be in the area of Fort Benning, Georgia on November 20-21, you may drop by to protest the barbarism without fear of search. Or so the theory goes.

Related links:
Roy L. Bourgeois v. Bobby Peters, Case #02-16886 [pdf]
School of the Americas Watch (SAW)


Stress in the workplace: Is Bill O'Reilly going mad?

Stress in the workplace can do terrible things to people. A British insurer lists a number of consequences of workplace stress, both physical and mental.

Physical symptoms include—

Emotional symptoms frequently noted are—

Perhaps because it is less common, the list omits another sequela of workplace stress—stark-raving madness.

As I read the transcript of Bill O'Reilly's radio show from last Wednesday, I began to fear that just such an outcome has been visited upon Bill.

He feels under threat—

You know we live in a treacherous world. Particularly those of us in the public eye. And I talked about this a little bit but not a lot over the past year or so, that we get lots of threats against me here at FOX News and Westwood One [syndicator of O'Reilly's radio show]. And most of the threats come in [a] physical manner, we're gonna kill him or hurt him or get his family or burn his house down, and -- you know, whatever.

This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. Who would want to hurt Bill?

But it's not just the physical fear that's torturing him, it's the mental anguish—

And then the other category of threats are basically -- we're gonna destroy your career. We're gonna say something bad about you to the press. We're gonna defame you. And you all know about the books and all of that, that have been out -- you know. And those threats have been intensifying over the last six months as we get stronger and stronger. And after the interview with the president and the story on 60 Minutes, they became a crescendo of, particularly in one area.

Classical paranoia with delusions of grandeur.

O'Reilly then speaks of the lawsuit that he has had to file "against a Manhattan law firm and an attorney, and a woman who are trying to extort $60 million from me and FOX News." And it is here that the anxiety overwhelms him—he breaks into what the psychiatrists like to refer to as a "florid schizophrenic excursion."

.... And I have no idea what they're gonna say about me, because I haven't been served with anything, and I don't know what -- I know who these people are, and they're not very nice people. But I don't know what it's gonna come down to. But I'm sure it's gonna be nasty. I mean, $60 million -- as far as I know I was never at the Neverland ranch with Michael Jackson, so we have to rule that out, right?

But Michael Jackson needs that kind of money.

You see that I am not making this up.

Why are "they" after him? Because he's so great and powerful—

About a year ago there was a guy from the Midwest who was tracking down old friends of mine, college buddies, things like that -- old girlfriends, and he was offering them a cashier's check on the spot of $25,000 if they would sign an affidavit attesting to something that I had done, and he had like three or four choices. It was a multiple-choice affidavit. He did X, he did Y, he did Z. All right? If you sign, you get $25,000 on the spot. Now, FOX lawyers, we got tipped by friends calling me and saying this guy's doing this, here they are -- we've tracked 'em, we found 'em okay? And FOX lawyers took care of them.

But that's the kind of stuff that's goin' on. Why is it going on? That's the next question. It's going on because we have now become -- FOX News, and The Factor, and Westwood One, and all of that -- pretty much the most powerful voice in the country as far as public affairs are concerned because we combine a tremendous television audience with the radio audience, where a million people every second we're on the air, are listening to the radio program.

And you know it's funny, The New York Times wrote that even -- that Dan Rather had twice as many viewers than O'Reilly's presidential interview with Bush. That's just not true. You know, I mean, we had the same amount of viewers watching Dan Rather as watching that interview that day that we ran it, the first day.

But be that as it may, everybody knows the power of the books, the column, the radio, the television and they -- people who don't like me, and they come from primarily the left, all right? We believe that the people behind this lawsuit are on the left. But on the right, too, I mean, I get a lot of lunatic-fringe right people screaming and yelling. And they want to do anything they can to destroy the voice. They want us off the air. They want FOX off the air; they want O'Reilly off the air; and the other commentators they don't like.

So his enemies are not just from the left. They're from the right as well. In fact, they're everywhere.

He compares his case with that of another great name in broadcasting—

I do expect that I will be, over the next week or so -- get the Rush Limbaugh treatment. I'll get it. They'll do whatever they wanna do and -- you know -- and then you gotta decide what you think is legit.

I've been looking over a list of triggers of work-place stress to see if I could determine the cause of Bill's discomfort. To my amazement, every item in the list seemed to some degree to hold true, though some—which I have marked with an asterisk—really stand out—

If Roger Ailes, President of Fox News, has an ounce of humanity left in him, he will give poor Bill some time off—and I don't mean just a week. This poor man, so tortured by his own demons, is due for an extended R&R.

Related post:
Foreplay with a loofah? (updated)


Quote of the Day

If Bush is re-elected, the work continues, and if Kerry is elected, the work continues. Just because Kerry is elected doesn't mean we have the kingdom of God here on Earth.
—the Rev. Dr. John C. Lentz Jr. of the Forest Hill Church, insisting that the liberal churches will not stop their efforts after the election

Vote early and often

Voting in Florida begins this Monday. According to the Division of Elections,

all supervisors will begin conducting early voting in their main and branch offices 15 days before the election. In addition, supervisors may designate any city hall or public library as an early voting site; however, if so designated, these sites must be geographically located so that all voters in the county have an equal opportunity to cast a vote. Early voting will continue through the day before the election.

Early voting will be conducted at least 8 hours per day on each weekday during the early voting period and will be provided for 8 hours in the aggregate for each weekend during the period.

Voters who want to vote early should remember to bring a photo and signature identification with them.

The main office is the office of the Supervisor of Elections for your county. You may call the office to determine if there are other designated locations.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign is urging people to vote early. By voting early you will

Friday, October 15, 2004


Quote of the Day

Sure we'll have fascism in America, but it'll come disguised as 100 percent Americanism.
—Huey P. Long, as quoted by Molly Ivins

Some perspective on Sinclair Broadcasting (footnote added)

If Sinclair Broadcasting runs the anti-Kerry propaganda film as news, they should lose their broadcasting licenses—period. But that is not going to happen. There are two consequences, however, that are in the realm of the possible, and they are consequences that would and should affect broadcasters other than Sinclair.

In the meanwhile, we have a greatly consolidated media and no Fairness doctrine and numbers of Liberals who are concerned about being "fair" to Sinclair. The Right couldn't be happier.

As you've probably heard, a small weekly newspaper that serves Crawford, Texas, the Lone Star Iconoclast, made national news September 29 when it editorially endorsed Kerry over Bush. The paper had endorsed Bush in the previous election. Newspapers have no requirement to be "balanced." So let's see how the Right-wingers have handled the problem.

I thought of Sinclair Broadcasting as I read this note in Andrew Buncombe's "Election Diary"—

There is a danger with newspaper endorsements, as the Lone Star Iconoclast, a weekly in President George Bush's home town of Crawford, has discovered. The paper's publisher, W Leon Smith, decided to endorse John Kerry rather than the local man and the reaction has been severe. Businesses have pulled adverts and refused to sell the newspaper while many have cancelled subscriptions. "I knew a person or two might pull an ad, that we might lose a subscriber or two. But this has turned a little more vicious," said Mr Smith.

Just how "vicious" has it been? The NY Times reports,

.... A local weekly newspaper, The Lone Star Iconoclast, living up to its name, has also declared for Mr. Kerry, paying a steep price in canceled subscriptions and hate mail.

.... A fourth staff member listed on the masthead, David Anderson, associate editor, has dissociated himself from the editorial, said Michael Harvey, spokesman for the editor in chief, W. Leon Smith.

Mr. Smith, 51, the Iconoclast's snowy-bearded majority owner and fervid Ronald Reagan admirer, said in his cluttered office in nearby Clifton that all three of the newspaper's outlets in Crawford had stopped selling it and that a readers' boycott had cut newsstand and subscription sales to 482 copies a week from 920.

In a note to readers in the Oct. 6 issue, he also said, "Unfortunately, for The Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats - big ones including physical harm." ....

The newspaper's Web site reported that 700 letters had poured in, pro and con, and that nearly 100 people had opened new subscriptions.

Joyce Smith, who works at the Fina station, where the newspaper has been pulled off the stands, was adamant. "Everybody has freedom of expression," she said, "but there are repercussions."

She and others in town complained that Mr. Smith had chosen to foist his views in the special issue devoted to the Tonkawa Traditions Festival, the annual Crawford fair, named for an Indian tribe, which raises money for community improvements and scholarships. "He took advantage of the advertisers," Ms. Smith said.

To "dispel the rumor that the town backed Kerry," 128 individual and commercial supporters of President Bush took out a two-page advertisement on Oct. 7 in another weekly, The McGregor Mirror, declaring that they "wholeheartedly endorse" him for re-election.

Mr. Campbell, 61, a Methodist pastor who has been mayor since 1999, said he saw the momentum shifting to Mr. Kerry. "I think a lot of people are looking seriously to switch to his side," he said. Of course, the businessmen were Republicans, he said.

"They're for Bush," he said of the stores on either side of his small municipal office on the main street. "The bank's for Bush, the Yellow Rose is for Bush. When you think about it, business is for Bush. He helps them." [emphasis added]

Please note that unlike broadcasters, newspapers never did and (if the First Amendment is preserved) never will have a responsibility to be "fair," that is—to print opposing views. If run as a business, they operate completely at the whim of the market. And for the Lone Star Iconoclast, supporting John Kerry has been a very bad business decision.

In the matter of Sinclair, Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, announced yesterday that the FCC would take no action to halt the broadcast.

But as Reed Hundt, former FCC chairman, said in a letter to Josh Marshall,

.... If Sinclair wants to disseminate propaganda, it should buy a printing press, or create a Web site. These other media have no conditions on their publication of points of view. This is the law, and it should be honored. In fact, if the FCC had any sense of its responsibility as a steward of fair elections, its chairman now would express exactly what I am writing to you here.

Since there is to be no intervention from the FCC, it is up to the Left to make Sinclair's action a very bad business decision.

Write to Sinclair's advertisers and support the boycott of any advertiser that continues to give its money to Sinclair Broadcasting. And if you're of the hand-wringing Liberal persuasion, just remember that anything short of a bomb threat is likely to be "fairer" to Sinclair than the Right would be.


1 From the archives of the Sustainability Institute

The Fairness Doctrine is best explained by telling a few stories of its use.

In 1976 when Congress was debating legislation on strip mine reclamation, radio station WHAR in Clarksburg, West Virginia, refused to carry any coverage of the issue. The station's owner said the subject was too controversial. Citizens used the Fairness Doctrine to force the station to air the debate -- both sides of it.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric launched a major campaign in 1976 to promote its request for a rate increase. The Oklahoma Coalition for Older People approached radio and TV stations asking for a balanced presentation as required by the Fairness Doctrine. One station then scheduled two half-hour public affairs programs on the rate hike. Others aired spot announcements opposing the hike.

The Fairness Doctrine was an ingenious device, because it empowered the public, not the government, to monitor the fairness of the airwaves. Citizens who felt that a public issue was not being fairly discussed brought complaints directly to broadcasters. Most of those complaints were settled then and there, usually by the simple provision of time for another point of view. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came into a case only rarely, when the broadcaster and the citizens could not agree. Even then, the FCC did not impose fines or dictate how the station should respond; it only directed the station to come up with more balanced coverage. [emphasis added]

So what happened to the Fairness Doctrine?

In 1982 WTVH-TV in Syracuse, New York, ran ads promoting the Nine Mile II nuclear power plant as a "sound investment for New York's future." The Syracuse Peace Council asked for time to point out that the plant, originally budgeted at $400 million, had by then cost $5.1 billion and was far from a sound investment. The station appealed to the FCC, which ruled that WTVH must air the opposing point of view.

But the owners of WTVH appealed that ruling. The case was brought to the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals, with Judge Robert Bork, of all people, on the bench, along with then Judge Antonin Scalia. The Court reached far beyond the limits of the particular case and asked the FCC to determine whether the Fairness Doctrine restricts the right of free speech of broadcasters.

The Reagan Administration, which has always opposed the Fairness Doctrine, was waiting for this opportunity. In August 1987 the FCC repealed the Doctrine, claiming that it was unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1969 that the Fairness Doctrine was not only constitutional but essential to democracy.

As for that 1969 Supreme Court ruling, the Museum of Broadcast Communications describes it this way—

The FCC fairness policy was given great credence by the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case of Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. FCC. In that case, a station in Pennsylvania, licensed by Red Lion Co., had aired a "Christian Crusade" program wherein an author, Fred J. Cook, was attacked. When Cook requested time to reply in keeping with the fairness doctrine, the station refused. Upon appeal to the FCC, the Commission declared that there was personal attack and the station had failed to meet its obligation. The station appealed and the case wended its way through the courts and eventually to the Supreme Court. The court ruled for the FCC, giving sanction to the fairness doctrine.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Sinclair broadcasting "threatened"

The freepers were beside themselves after this NewsMax story was posted
"Listen - they better look out there at Sinclair Broadcasting," campaign spokesman Chad Clanton threatened, as the controversy around Sinclair's decision to broadcast a documentary about Kerry's anti-Vietnam War protests continued to heat up.

"I'm not a lawyer, but they've stirred up a lot of hatred," Clanton continued to rail on Fox News Channel's "Dayside with Linda Vester."

"We've got thousands of people now very mad, jackballed up - calling these [Sinclair] stations, protesting, threatening boycotts of their sponsors," he claimed.

"I think they're going to regret doing this," the Kerry spokesman warned before adding - "They better hope we don't win."

If Sinclair wasn't in enough hot water, Frederick Smith, vice-president of Sinclair and a member of the family that owns the conglomerate, is being sued over racial discrimination at a Maryland trailer park that he owns. According to WBAL-TV,

The company address for Todd Village LLC is 10706 Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville, Md., which is the same address for the world headquarters of Sinclair Broadcasting, the company Frederick Smith serves as vice president.

If your screen is blurring, it's probably those crocodile tears I've been shedding all afternoon.

Previous posts:
In other media matters: Sinclair Broadcasting (updated)
The "Left" gets all wobbly at the very thought of success (updated twice)


Quote of the Day

[T]his war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.
—Thomas Friedman, today's column

Foreplay with a loofah? (updated)

I had hardly gotten over my shock from the flailing on Fox television of a nearly nude man by women with pixelated breasts when we are presented with this. From the LA Times:
Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, the nation's top-rated cable news host and an insistent advocate for personal responsibility and self-control, was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a producer on his show who says O'Reilly repeatedly pressured her to engage in phone sex and frightened her with lewd "monologues."

The suit, filed in New York by Andrea Mackris, a 33-year-old associate producer on "The O'Reilly Factor," quotes O'Reilly as speaking to her in highly explicit terms about vibrators, oral sex, masturbation and a fantasy involving a Caribbean hotel room shower.

The people at Fox just can't seem to leave children alone. I hate to mention the P-word, but I report, you decide—

Last month he published "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids," a bestseller in which "he lays bare the unvarnished truths about sex, money, smoking, drugs, alcohol and friends," according to the publisher. It was ranked No. 40 in sales Wednesday.

How does O'Reilly even know about such things? And just how old are those friends, Bill?

O'Reilly is claiming this is an act of extortion by—oh, no!—a Democrat—

O'Reilly and Fox News said Mackris' allegations "may … be motivated by Morelli's political connections to the Democratic Party." Morelli has given to the campaigns of Democratic candidates including Sen. John F. Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, the suit says. "The extortion scheme is timed to coincide with [the] upcoming presidential election, to cause maximum disruption and damage to plaintiffs, while at the same time benefiting Fox's major competitor CNN," the papers say.

What to say to the folks at home?—

On his show Wednesday, O'Reilly told his viewers that the suit was "the most evil thing I have ever experienced."

"We are living in treacherous times," he said. "Just about every famous person I know has been threatened and worked over by somebody…. But there comes a time when enough's enough …. Obviously, I can't get into specifics as the litigation is in motion … but I do respect my audience and feel you should know exactly what's going on."

I feel that way too, Bill. And I intend to find out.

I know that my gentle readers would never want me to go into the lascivious details. But for the benefit of legal scholars and sexologists, I will point out that has a copy of the lawsuit and that the juicy parts begin here. (Please be sure that the children have left the room.)

The countersuit asserts that Makris and her attorney asked for a cool $60 million not to file the suit, and that "the length of the quotes and the specific verbiage used made it appear that Makris was taping O'Reilly during the conversations."

It appeared that way to me too. Which makes it all the more wonderful.

The appearance of extortion would be somewhat compelling. But Makris' suit also alleges that "... Defendants BILL O'REILLY and WESTWOOD ONE ... maintained a virulently hostile work environment through explicit, rampant, pervasive and continued sex discrimination and sexual harassment against Plaintiff ... and other female employees [emphasis added]," which implies that there may be other women waiting in the wings—which may also be why Fox has decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns. Sixty million here, sixty million there could give Rupert Murdoch the pip.

In further support of that theory, the suit asserts,

During ... their dinner in early May 2002, Defendant BILL O'REILLY proceeded, without solicitation or invite, to inform Plaintiff ... that he had advised another woman to purchase a vibrator, and had taught that woman how to masturbate while telling her sexual stories over the telephone. O'REILLY told Plaintiff ... that she knew the woman from Fox.

Then there's the matter of Roger Ailes, President of Fox News, and his connections to Bush and Cheney. O'Reilly is quoted in the complaint as saying—

If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it's not just me, it's ... Roger Ailes who will go after you. I'm the street guy out front making loud noises about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he's going to get a knock on his door and life as he's known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me.
... Defendant O'REILLY bizarrely rambled further about Al Franken: "Ailes knows very powerful people and this goes all the way to the top." Plaintiff queried: "To the top of what?" Defendant responded: "Top of the country. Just look at who's on the cover of the book [Bush and Cheney], they're watching him and will be for years.

On another occasion, Makris and O'Reilly watched a Bush press conference together. Afterward, "Plaintiff ridiculed President Bush." It's not germane to the lawsuit, but wouldn't you love to know what he said?

Makris is sitting on a gold mine.


One of the bloggers at Brutal Hugs says he has a friend who knows Makris, and the friend says that Makris does indeed have tape—videotape!

Related post
Fox network gets spanked over pixelated breasts (10/13/04)

Follow-up posts
Stress in the workplace: Is Bill O'Reilly going mad? (10/16/04)
Fox News buys the O'Reilly videotapes (10/29/04)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


A very brief reaction to the debate (updated)

Kerry managed to be Kennedyesque in his closing statement and nearly so at other times. That's just the right note, and I thought he gave his best performance yet.

Bush had the oddest look while Kerry was speaking during the early portion of the debate. It was as if he couldn't control his face, and it seemed to vacillate between a slight smile and a pout. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Strong win for Kerry—and I say that without the slightest prejudice.

Scott Lindlaw of the AP also noted Bush's odd facial mannerisms—
He stifled most of the facial expressions that marred his first performance, ending each answer with a smile, though the camera occasionally captured him dropping it abruptly a few seconds later.

The man lacks self-control—even over his face.


The truth about the truth

The truth is useless. You have to understand this right now. You can't deposit the truth in a bank. You can't buy groceries with the truth. You can't pay rent with the truth. The truth is a useless commodity that will hang around your neck like an albatross -- all the way to the homeless shelter. And if you think that the million or so people in this country that are really interested in the truth about their government can support people who would tell them the truth, you got another think coming. Because the million or so people in this country that are truly interested in the truth don't have any money.
—Jeb Bush, speaking to Naval Intelligence Officer Al Martin

He got that part right about the money.


Fox network gets spanked over pixelated breasts

The FCC has ruled that Fox television has been programming content "relating to sexual or excretory functions" when children might see them. It would be far healthier and far more legal if the little tykes were watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which should also help the war effort. The FCC is proposing a $1.2 million fine.

I would spare you the details if they hadn't already been reported in the Washington Post

.... The episode was watched by an estimated 388,000 children age 11 and younger, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Yesterday, the FCC said that even though "Married by America" digitally obscured, or "pixelated" exposed breasts, the pixelation "does little to obscure the overtly sexual and gratuitous nature of the bachelor/bachelorette party scenes," the FCC wrote.

The FCC said the six-minute segment included a variety of sexual activities, including a man in his underwear on all fours being spanked by two topless strippers.

Well, better on TV than in a sex-ed class.

One Hollywood executive who works in reality television and agreed to talk only anonymously complained that viewers have more power to shield their children from scheduled television shows than they do from unexpected commercials for R-rated movies or promotions for local news shows that tout "20 dead, five raped, coming up at 11."

"The FCC is wasting time and they should recognize that as adults we can be responsible for our children. They should monitor things we don't have control over," the executive said. "It's a Fox show and people should know what they're getting themselves into."

Indeed they should. But at least half the male viewers felt that the man on all fours had been very, very bad and wondered what they could do to deserve the same.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


The "Left" gets all wobbly at the very thought of success (updated twice)

An ad-hoc anti-Sinclair blog has sprung up written by "trooth." He or she is disturbed.

It's not the law, but...

Boycott Sinclair has picked up a wee bit of steam. Great.

What do we do if this gets anywhere on Monday, when the Sinclair people get back to their desks? I have to say, I'm leaning towards asking for equal time. Sinclair shows "Going Upriver" or Fahrenheit 9/11 or "Outfoxed", and the calls and emails stop.

Many reasonable people have warned against acting like the zealots on the right who forced Viacom to yank "The Reagans".

Since Reagan nixed it, Equal Time is no longer the law. But it is FAIR.


Well, yes, I have a few.

It's not the law, but...

Then forget about it.

Boycott Sinclair has picked up a wee bit of steam. Great.

What did you expect?

What do we do if this gets anywhere on Monday, when the Sinclair people get back to their desks? I have to say, I'm leaning towards asking for equal time. Sinclair shows "Going Upriver" or Fahrenheit 9/11 or "Outfoxed", and the calls and emails stop.

Well, gee. "If this gets anywhere," I guess we'll just have to figure out some way to get their asses off the hook.

Many reasonable people have warned against acting like the zealots on the right who forced Viacom to yank "The Reagans".

I have never claimed to be reasonable—in fact, I avoid reasonable people—and I don't mind acting like zealots on the right. Never bring bourgeois values to a cat fight. Who are you trying to prove you're better than? God?

Do they have a point?

Yes, they have a point. They prove to the Right what pussies they are. If the tables were reversed, the Right would be going after their financial asses if they couldn't figure out some way to confer jail time.

Since Reagan nixed it, Equal Time is no longer the law. But it is FAIR.

See first comment above. So while your opponents recognize only the law (if that), you want to place an additional impediment to any response—your sense of "fairness."

If you ever want to see your sense of fairness implemented, you must make it very costly to your opponent to behave otherwise.

FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) is running an "Action Alert" entitled "Sinclair's Partisan Ploy Cries Out for Equal Time"

See above, about the law. What we are witnessing is an attempt to subvert the FCC requirement that equal time be given to the candidates by declaring that patently false propaganda is "news." It is to further corrupt the very discourse of this society, if that is possible.

The consequence for subverting the equal-time requirement should not be equal time.

FCC chairman Reed Hundt wrote to Sinclair (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/04):
How can it be part of a broadcaster's public interest obligation to aspire to alter the perceptions of the audience about a presidential candidate by showing biased content that in no way reflects either breaking news or even-handed treatment of the issues? Why should a broadcaster keep its licenses if it behaves in this manner?

That's the stuff to give 'em!

A missive from FAIR

In my Inbox was a message from FAIR telling me how badly MSNBC had behaved after the Cheney-Edwards debate.

FAIR wants me to "encourage MSNBC to offer a more balanced panel discussion following tomorrow night's presidential debate....As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone."

Does FAIR think it's my nanny? As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if they know you've got the goods on them.


In other media matters: Sinclair Broadcasting (updated)

If you are not aware of the decision by the owners of Sinclair Broadcasting to require all their 62 television stations to carry "Stolen Honor," a movie attacking Kerry's Vietnam record, you can get caught up by reading this Washington Post article.

According to Daily Kos, Sylvan Learning Centers has stated that it will pull its advertising. The goal is to get all advertisers off the Sinclair stations. The list of advertisers may be found here.

Sending a protest to the FCC is made easy at

For more actions you can take, check

Some of the Sinclair stations were running online polls for viewer reaction. I tried them, and they've either been pulled or the servers are overwhelmed.

Cross-ownership in media markets and concentration of the media has to be stopped!

I got through to vote at the Flint, MI station, a Fox channel.

The question: Do you think Sinclair Broadcast Group should run the documentary?

Response to date: No 68%    Yes 32%


The Indymedia seizure and the media

Last Thursday October 7, the FBI seized two servers in London which contained the content of a number of Independent Media Center (Indymedia) websites. As John Lettice writes in Britain's The Register,

.... [T]he procedure ought to send shivers down the spine of every publishing organisation on the Internet. It is clearly perfectly possible for their operations to be crippled without warning, without their being told what it is they've done, and without explanation. Depending on whether the authorities (under the international MLAT regime this could be many, many authorities) want something you've got or just want to stop you doing something, the crippling could be pretty extensive and pretty long term.

The BBC reported yesterday,

The seizure has sparked off protests from journalist groups.

"We have witnessed an intolerable and intrusive international police operation against a network specialising in independent journalism," said Aidan White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.

"The way this has been done smacks more of intimidation of legitimate journalistic inquiry than crime-busting."

In the US, the civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it was working with Indymedia over how to react to the seizures.

"The constitution does not permit the government unilaterally to cut off the speech of an independent media outlet, especially without providing a reason or even allowing Indymedia the information necessary to contest the seizure," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl.

A more blatant infringement on freedom of the press does not readily come to mind.

Media coverage

Given the extraordinary implications of what has transpired, you would expect the seizure to be front-page news in every major newspaper in the United States, Europe and Australia. You will therefore not be surprised to learn that it is not. The media matter occupying the mainstream press has been the contempt citation against NY Times stenographer Judith Miller1 for not revealing her sources in the Valerie Plame affair.

All three major wire services—AP, Reuters and AFP (Agence France-Presse)— have carried the story of the seizures in that vague sort of way that is guaranteed not to make the public sit up and pay attention.

Currently the only two media organizations investigating the story are Indymedia itself and The Register, a British technology publication that has a digital-rights component to its coverage. StateWatch, the European Union's equivalent of the ACLU, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are also investigating.

Of the newspapers that I have checked, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Houston Chronicle, the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times have not run so much as the AP report. USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle ran the wire service story, and the NY Times also carried it in—Oh, come on, guess! I'll tell you at the end of this post. The only mainstream newspaper that has attempted to write its own story is the Sydney Morning Herald,2 though it appears to be based on the wire-service accounts.

And the American networks? ABCNews has the AP article online under "Business." CBS and MSNBC have apparently not noticed.

Why should they care—the print media and the networks? Because their own content is being delivered more and more via the internet. If the FBI can bust an Indymedia server in London, why not the NY Times servers in New York?

This being the case, it behooves us all to encourage these centers of media power to investigate. Write their news desk editors, their ombudsmen and any journalists you happen to know. This story needs to stay alive!

Oh, yes. I promised to tell you where the NY Times ran the story. You'll find it under "Technology."

Previous post:
This is serious: Indymedia servers busted (10/08/04)


1 Miller could be held for up to a year and a half for contempt, but the judge has allowed her to remain free while she appeals. It is highly unlikely that Miller will ever see a day behind bars.

Miller, of course, is the NY Times reporter who wrote all those breathless front-page accounts of weapons of mass destruction dictated to her by Ahmad Chalabi in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and for which the NY Times apologized—sort of. Rather than suffer any kind of punishment, she will most likely gain undeserved notoriety as a staunch defender of freedom of the press. [back]

2 I am going to say a kind word here for the Sydney Morning Herald. Their reporter Paul McGeough wrote the story of Iraq's Allawi shooting six prisoners in cold blood, which was promptly removed to the "ancient history" section by the American media and ignored. They later provided me information on the Australian kidnapping affair that no other paper provided. And finally, one of their online blogger-columnists had the extraordinary perspicacity to link to a post on this blog. [back]

Monday, October 11, 2004


More comment on the dollar

Juan Cole of Informed Comment quotes from a missive from John Waldridge, who holds the Chair of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.

Your readers might be interested in my private index of the progress of the War on Terror: the exchange rate of the dollar against the euro and the Pakistani rupee:

On Sept. 11, 2000, while Clinton was in office the euro traded at about $.86. By Bush's inauguration it had gone up to about $.96, but it had declined to $.91 by Sept. 11, 2001. On Sept. 11, 2002, the euro had risen to $.97, a year later in 2003 to $1.12, and by Sept. 11, 2004, it was trading at $1.23, over a third above where it was at the time of the attacks--in other words, a 26% devaluation of the dollar in the course of the War on Terror. This devaluation is the dog that didn't bark in the current presidential campaign.

A more telling index of the progress of the War on Terror is the exchange rate between the dollar and the Pakistani rupee.... When I first encountered the Pakistani rupee in September 1997, it was trading at a little over 41 to the dollar. On Sept 11, 2000, it traded at 55 to the dollar, which had fallen to 59.5 by Bush's inauguration, and 64.2 by 9/11/2001. The rupee rose to 59.6 by Sept. 11, 2002 and 57.8 by Sept. 11, 2003. It has since dropped slightly to 59.5 to the dollar.

Therefore, during the course of the War on Terror, the Pakistani rupee has risen about 8% against the U.S. dollar, despite having lost 20% against the euro in the same period.

In other words, if the money changers of Pakistan are to be relied upon--and they are nobody's fools in my experience--the prospects for economic stability in Pakistan are shaky, as witness the decline against the euro, but the prospects for the United States economy are worse. [emphasis added]

It's one thing for the dollar to lose against the euro—but the Pakistani rupee? Hell, even I could make money in the foreign currency market—if I had any to start with.

Previous post:
Something you should know about your dollars


George Bush's global test

A Scrivener's Lament has managed to get a copy of Bush's global test. I'm afraid he may be due for a spanking.

Afghani independent commission to investigate election

To quell all the nasty talk of vote fraud, the Afghanis (read "Washington") have decided to set up a special commission to investigate.

Meanwhile, the 15 candidates in opposition to Karzai, all of whom withdrew their candidacies in protest, are being pressured (and probably bought) to accept the result. The AP reports,

International officials met privately in an effort to end a boycott of the ballot by opponents of U.S.-backed interim President Hamid Karzai, a heavy favorite to win.

Who knows what the commission may find...Oh, wait. Here's a clue—

In Washington, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice predicted that "this election is going to be judged legitimate."

"I'm just certain of it," she said.

Previous post:
Afghani election fraud


Voter-intimidation campaigns (updated)

I almost never link to because you have to sit through a series of ads to get to the content, but they're running an article today by Farhad Manjoo that really should not be missed, and besides, today's ad is only one frame.

From the article—

The voter-intimidation campaign that Republicans mounted in Philadelphia was not an anomaly. Instead, it marked a routine occurrence in American elections, a national scandal that rarely makes the front page. The sad fact is that voter-intimidation efforts aimed at minorities have been carried out in just about every major election over the past 20 years. The campaigns are almost always mounted by Republicans who aim to reduce the turnout of overwhelmingly Democratic minority voters at the polls. Now, in what's shaping up to be a razor-thin presidential election, Democrats across the country are pointing to what occurred in Philadelphia as an example of what they have to fear from Republicans this election year.

If you're not signed up as a poll watcher or as a volunteer to ferry people to the polls, it's not too late. I have the feeling that in some precincts would-be voters are going to have to run a gauntlet to be able to vote.

Count Every Vote 2004 is "recruiting and training domestic monitors to observe, document and report on the election process in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Missouri."

Many local Democratic parties and independent organizations are doing likewise.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


Quote of the Day

There was nothing under his suit jacket.
—Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign's communications director

There wasn't anything in his head either. So just SHUT UP!


Jacques Derrida deconstructed at 74

Jacques Derrida, whose critical method known as deconstruction has kept many an English major out of the soup lines, died this week. His intellectual wind never caught in my sails, but it did in David Ehrenstein's, who deconstructs Jonathan Kandell's obituary of Derrida in the NY Times with gusto.

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