Friday, December 29, 2006

Craig on Lieberman

What people need to realize about Joe, is he's basically putting his name on things the White House wants to tag as bipartisan, to pay them back for getting him all that money and republican support during the election. It's smart on the White House's part, sock puppetry on Joe's part. It isn't bipartisan, it's republicans and Joe, and Joe is not a democrat...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shhhhhhhhhh!

What they don't know can't hurt us.

* For more than a year, the Interior Department refused to release a 2005 study showing a government subsidy for oil companies was not effective.

* The White House Office of National Drug Policy paid for a 5-year, $43 million study which concluded their anti-drug ad campaigns did not work -- but it refused to release those findings to Congress. (Thanks to skeptic)

* In 2006, the Federal Communications Commission ordered destroyed all copies of an unreleased 2004 draft report concluding that media consolidation hurt local TV news coverage, which runs counter to the administration's pro-consolidation stance. (Thanks to Jim Tobias)

* After Bush assumed power in 2001, the Department of Labor removed from its Web site "Don't Work in the Dark -- Know Your Rights," a publication informing women of their workplace rights. (via the National Council for Research on Women)

* The Department of Labor also removed from its Web site roughly two dozen fact sheets on women's workplace issues such as women in management, earning differences between men and women, child care concerns, and minority women in the workplace. (via the National Council for Research on Women)

* In February 2004, the appointed head of the Office of Special Counsel -- created to protect government employees' rights -- ordered removed from a government Web site information on the rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in the public workplace. (via the National Council for Research on Women)

This Just [Not Really] In...

From Justin Rood, at the TPM Muckraker:

Reader SB points us to an entry today at The Corner, a blog belonging to National Review magazine, entitled "FROM IRAQ: A MARINE’S NOTES."

Among other things, the unnamed Marine tells the National Review that:
Morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe that they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them.

That sentiment seems a bit out of place, given that the president himself admitted last week the United States isn't winning the war. Granted, his words were widely reported by the media -- but that's hardly a reason to hate on the messenger.

Turns out the post is out of place, as SB discovered: the "MARINE'S NOTES" are actually an excerpt from an e-mail that circulated widely around November 2005, perhaps earlier.

The e-mail is said to have been written by an unnamed Marine or just-retired Marine, who had recently (at the time of the e-mail's alleged writing) returned from Iraq.

However, the differing provenances given by the blogs which reprinted the e-mail when it circulated last year makes it hard to confirm its authenticity.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

John McCain Hires Communications Director

for his New Hampshire campaign.

It's Jill Hazelbaker.

Yep, Jill Hazelbaker.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Media Regains Watchdog Edge...

...over something completely irrelevant:

Q Tony, can you tell us about Mrs. Bush's skin cancer? How is she doing? And how was the decision reached not to disclose this publicly until questions were asked?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I talked to her a couple of minutes ago. She's doing fine. And she said, "It's no big deal, and we knew it was no big deal at the time." Frankly I don't think anybody thought it was the sort of thing that occasioned a need for a public disclosure. Furthermore, she's got the same right to medical privacy that you do. She's a private citizen; she's not an elected official. So for that reason she didn't disclose it. But she's doing fine, and thank you for your concern.

Q She is often an advocate for women's health in the area of breast cancer or heart disease, advocating screenings, preventative care. Is she likely to talk about skin cancer in that way?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Fortunately, squamous cell carcinoma, at least in this particular case, was not dangerous. But let me just say, without having cleared it with her, I'm sure that she would be more than supportive of anybody to go out, and if you think you've got a problem with a change in a mole or some skin problems, go get it checked out by a doctor.

Q And she didn't feel any obligation as a person of public status to talk about this?

MR. SNOW: No, again, there are any number of -- this is a room full of public people who tend not -- and I know you say, wait a minute, I'm different than the First Lady. Well, no, she's a private citizen. And the fact is, she is entitled to her medical privacy. And, again, it's no big deal. In this case, it's just not a big deal.

Q May I follow on that? The President is also a private citizen, as well as being the President. So --

MR. SNOW: Well, he's an elected official. It's different.

Q He's an elected official and a private citizen. You can make the same claims of a number of people who have public lives. Mrs. Bush has made herself part of this party and this White House's very public face. So my question is, if this were to be something that is a big deal, would the White House feel obliged to share that with the public?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. She didn't feel obliged, and she believes that she has the same medical privacy rights that you and I have.

Q Did the White House doctor treat her?

MR. SNOW: That I don't know. I didn't ask. There is the confidentiality -- and guess what? Medical privacy also applies to her case in this particular incident.

Q This morning you said you'd make that inquiry.

MR. SNOW: Yes -- you know what, I didn't.

Q But you will?

MR. SNOW: No. It's medical privacy, and I'm not going to get into this.

Q Was it done offsite or was she treated here at the White House? That's a question to add to your list.

Q May we ask, just so that you don't say, you never asked so that's why we haven't told you -- is the Vice President well these days? Has there been any medical incident that would be of interest to the American public?

MR. SNOW: As you know, whenever there is a medical incident involving the Vice President -- I've been an anchor when these things have happened -- you are notified promptly and immediately; cameras are dispatched to the scene, where people stand and wait and wait and wait and wait, until they can see the Vice President getting back into a limo and returning to wherever he is.

So as you know, the President and Vice President, being the two chief elected officials in this country, if there are important health developments, you hear about it. And we think that that's appropriate.

Q Tony, on this point, did the First Lady say she actually does not plan to come out in any way? You know, as someone who would advocate for people --

MR. SNOW: Let me repeat to you exactly what she said. She said, "It's no big deal, we knew it wasn't a big deal at the time." Apparently, she's wrong about this.

Q No, what I'm saying is, as far as encouraging people to be checked. What I'm saying is even though she may not be an elected official, she's a very public official and very well loved. And as someone who has two adolescents who don't like to listen to mother when she says, put on the sun screen, get out of the sun, she could potentially have a great influence on a lot of people's lives, especially young women.

MR. SNOW: She's also had colds, she's had the flu, she's had stomach aches --

Q When? (Laughter.)

Q But those tend not to be --

MR. SNOW: -- she's had a number --

Q Melanoma can kill, skin cancer can kill. It can be very serious.

MR. SNOW: This particular one could not.

Q But she could still -- it could be a platform.

MR. SNOW: You guys are really stretching it. I mean, it is now officially a really slow news day.
*

Q Going back to Mrs. Bush, it seems that there are two things going on, in terms of not informing the public and the press. Which was it, was it that it was medical privacy that was the reason for not informing us, or was it that it was no big deal?

MR. SNOW: It was medical privacy, but also what we're trying to do is to console you with the notion that, in addition, it was no big deal.

Q So there was a conscious decision that, okay, we're not going to tell anybody because this is medical privacy, this is something for us, it's not for --

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know, if you'll be happy to share all your private medical information, maybe we can change it around. But I don't think that's appropriate, nor does the First Lady. She's got the same privacy rights when it comes to her medical information that you and I do.

Q But was the decision made not to share it?

MR. SNOW: Yes, in the sense -- let me put it this way: It never occurred to anybody that this would be a big deal. It never occurred -- but suddenly everybody is --

Q First it was described as a sore, and now, a month-and-a-half later, it's revealed that it's cancer. So there was one story out there that's been corrected.

MR. SNOW: Do you understand -- if you've been -- there are literally millions of Americans who have been through this, and you can ask them whether they thought this was a big deal or not. It was quickly diagnosed. They said, the sore is not going away, we're going to take a look at it. They did. They did a biopsy, they found out it was a squamous cell cancer and they removed it. They did local anesthetic; they removed it.

Q But the White House might have had an interest in correcting the record when bad information was out there.

MR. SNOW: No, there wasn't bad information. She had a sore. It wasn't bad information -- that's what she knew at the time.

*

Q Is the administration's policy when it comes to Medicare or Medicaid health care coverage, as well as health savings accounts (inaudible) -- part of your policy is to encourage regular screening, health care screening, as well as the importance of early protection and treatment. And if you do that then it avoids becoming a big (inaudible). So I'm just trying to understand the message (inaudible).

MR. SNOW: The First Lady, at the first sign that she had not a nick on her shin but, instead, a squamous cell cancer had it dealt with immediately.

Q I know, but I don't understand --

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that -- look, as somebody who has been through colon cancer, there's screening for that. The people who have been through breast cancer, there's screening for that. Perhaps I am ignorant, and I'm sure I am, of the situation when it comes to squamous cell cancer, but I'm not sure that there's a regular screening process. However, it's important that people take care of themselves. There is also an element of personal responsibility involved. I don't think, and I think it's a real stretch, Paula, to say that this is a mixed signal. What I'd ask you to do is consult your common sense.

Q I'm sorry, but there are -- and I know, personally, of instances where there is a chance of recurrence of this type of cancer. So isn't it important to stress skin cancer?

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, we consider it stressed. Absolutely, take care of yourselves. Get tested all the time -- still do. In fact, I have my next test tomorrow -- day after.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Message from DraftObama.org

We need your help urgently to get our message on Cable TV in pivotal regions of the country.

In just over three weeks, thousands of Americans like you have come together at DraftObama.org to urge Senator Obama to run for President. Our impact has been incredible -- we have gotten tremendous coverage from all the major television news networks, mention in hundreds of newspaper articles nationwide and attention from all the "talking heads" on TV and print media.

The momentum we have helped to create behind Senator Obama - should he decide to run -- is literally unprecedented in modern-day American politics.

And we have only just begun.

This week, we launched a fantastic television advertisement that we intend to run in the coming week in New Hampshire, Washington, D.C. and perhaps, Hawaii. The ad has been shown on several national cable news programs already and is among the most popular videos at YouTube. If you haven't seen it already, you can check it out on our website.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shut Up, Einstein, It's Election-Time

10,000 US researchers have signed a petition meant to shed light on Republican interference in the scientific process. Their statement sites instances of scientists in federal agencies being asked to change data to reflect current policy. From BBC News:

The [American Geophysical] Union has released an "A to Z" guide that it says documents dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science, covering issues ranging from global warming to sex education.

The claim is a direct attack on the Republican congress and it's misuse of scientific data to support initiatives, and their disregard for scientific integrity. The guide sites specific instances of censorship and misrepresentation, and claims the practice has been increasingly prevalent in recent years.

Among the 10,000 signatures are those of 52 Nobel Laureates, and previous scientific advisers to administrations dating back to the 1950's. The Union does say they have hope that the incoming Democratic Congress will turn the tide.

The petition includes signatures from both sides of the political fence.

It seems to me this is more than another signal of political arrogance and irresponsible decisions. It is more than hubris. What does it say about a nation that they allow into power a group willing to distort information that in a very real and immediate way effects our daily lives and decisions for the future. What does it say about a people who not only voted these individuals into power, but also show only moderate outrage at the bounds they have so often overstepped?

As Americans, we pretend to pride ourselves on being informed and literate regarding the ways of the world. Those who support the current war will be the first to tell you we are liberating an oppressed people.

One of the greatest tenants of oppression is control and restriction of information. With the distortion of scientific research, our elected officials are not only creating a misinformed public and faulty "way forward," but they are also laying the framework (as eventually, they begin to believe their own perpetuated fallacies) for a fool of a nation, stumbling about spouting jibberish, bullying any who descent, and steadily losing every last semblance of credibility or relevance.

This is more than just a few lying Republican's bent on keeping their power. The fact that this kind of practice can exist in an American congress, alongside the fact that these "leaders" were voted into power by a "free" people, decries a will of the people to not only repress themselves, but also to blindly support and encourage a government that believes we are too inept to be dealt the truth in all matters.

There are many kinds of oppression, some blatant, and some quite subtle. Accepting a misinformed concept of reality, and tolerating any chosen representative who does not afford us the respect of truthful data with which to gauge our support is the first step down a very quick path to what we all, Republican and Democrat alike, fear most: our loss of freedom.

Information and Democracy are inextricably linked. In a large population, once cannot exist without the other.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Headlines: Soldiers Die Protecting President's Approval Rating

As if he could predict the outcome of the Iraq Study Group, Bush made it widely known that in addition to the Baker/Hamilton study, the White House would be conducting it's own internal review to offer suggestions in what they are calling a "way forward."

Today the recommendations of that internal review were revealed, and surprise surprise, they recommend the opposite of the advice offered by the Baker/Hamilton Report. It's almost as if Bush was just smart enough to know what the Baker/Hamilton Report would say, and in the only sign of intelligent (if too late) political posturing this administration has ever shown, rushed together a "crack team" of "experts" (including a historian, and we all know you can't disregard the military advice of an academic historian when it comes to war) to assure that on the heels of the recommendations of Baker/Hamilton for the withdrawal/realignment of US troops, the White House's own review would, days later, recommend the opposite.

How does the White House review compare to the Iraq Study Group? Well, for one, the Baker/Hamilton Report was produced through several months of examining the dynamics of the region, the abilities of the current US military, the costs and benefits of multiple courses of action in the future of the war, and the effects possible outcomes. The White House review, however, seems to have focused more on the timing of the release.

When the White House review began, the interagency group debated whether to try to beat the Iraqi Study Group's report or let it play out and then look "bigger and better" by doing a report later, said an official familiar with the discussions.
They decided to wait, to preserve political timing, rather than soldiers' lives.

The White House panel, made up of retired Army generals and academics (and don't forget, a historian!) spent one month (a very violent month, according to fatality reports) deliberating before releasing official recommendations to the President, in person. And during that month, they remained focused on their illustrious goal:
...the emphasis throughout the month-long process has been to produce a strategy that would be deliberately distinct, the official added.
Notice there is no mention of producing a strategy that would be "smart" or "effective."

Finally, the Baker/Hamilton Report, while not perfect, was at least an attempt to provide possible alternatives to a failing war, a contemptuous White House, and an effectively duped American populace. The White House review seems to be a cheap attempt to present Americans with an alternative to intelligent strategy.
The White House review does not have the depth or scope of the Iraq Study Group's, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. "There's a lack of thinking on other big issues -- oil, the economy, infrastructure and jobs," said one source who was briefed on the interagency discussions.
The driving purpose behind the review seems founded more on creating support of the President's previous decisions, and perhaps an attempt to pave the way for his continued stubborn disregard for the will of, and the protection of, the American people. It can be seen simply as an alternative recommendation, or a thinly veiled and poorly contrived attempt to justify "staying the course."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report...Report

On December 7th, after the release of the Iraq Study Group Report, the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reviewed headlines from 197 newspapers, and discovered that most headlines regarding the report were split into two (partisan?) primary groups:

One portrayed the report as largely critical of the Bush administration and/or emphasized how dire and grim the situation was in Iraq. The other, somewhat more neutral in tone, focused on the report’s theme that a shift in direction was necessary. While neither message was particulary cheery, editors seemed split over whether to focus on the idea of failure and blame or the need to change.
The first group weighed in more heavily with 88 headlines. Outside of the majority, other headlines focused instead on the legitimacy of the study group itself.
At least five of the headlines focused on criticism of the study group report, including one in The Tribune of San Luis Obispo California that concluded: “Iraq Study Group report is short on how to clear hurdles.”
Overall it seems the report was given a fair chance in the nations print media (Let's not even discuss how it was handled on cable "news"). Perhaps the most valuable return from the PEJ review was the discovery of a headline from a Pennsylvania paper, the Erie Times-News, reading:
“Iraq report out – now what?”

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Todays Reality Check

courtesy of the Center for American Progress "Under the Radar" Report:

HUMAN RIGHTS -- SPECTER AND LEAHY INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RESTORE HABEAS PROTECTIONS FOR DETAINEES: Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VA) have introduced the "Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006," legislation that would reinstate federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees and other suspected enemy combatants. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which President Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who are not U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. The new bipartisan proposal would would repeal two provisions that severely limit the right of a citizen to question before a judge whether his detention is legal. Specter said Tuesday that the Military Commissions Act violates the Constitution, despite the fact that he voted for legislation. "The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion," Specter said on the Senate floor. "We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion." Leahy added, "Abolishing habeas corpus for anyone who the government thinks might have assisted enemies of the United States is unnecessary and morally wrong. It is a betrayal of the most basic values of freedom for which America stands." Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) earlier introduced the "Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act," which also amended the Military Commissions Act to institute a more effective process for bringing terrorists to justice.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Information and Democracy, Part II

The Media

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed... And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment--the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution--not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. - John F. Kennedy
On March 6, 2003, President George W. Bush held his second news conference since assuming office (the first being one month after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center). The purpose of the press conference was to stress to the nation the threat that Iraq posed to our War on Terror, state the existence of intelligence showing Saddam Hussein was moving his weapons of mass destruction every 12 to 24 hours, and that “diplomacy was in its last phase.” Most questions posed by the media revolved around disagreeing opinions issued by France and Germany on the justification to invade Iraq.

At one point during the conference, a member of the press was called on by the President, and made these comments:
Mr. President, as the nation is at odds over war, with many organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus pushing for continued diplomacy through the U.N., how is your faith guiding you? And what should you tell America? Well, what should America do collectively as you instructed before 9/11? Should it be pray? Because you are saying, "Let's continue the war on terror."
The now historic press conference has since been a focal point for those calling for a more responsible media, consensus being this press conference illuminates a pandering Press Corps too eager to roll over for white house staff. Nearly a year later, at a forum conducted by Townsend University and the University of California, New York Times White House correspondent Elizabeth Bumiller, who attended the 2003 press conference, was asked to respond to statements that the media had lost its direction, had forgotten its role of skeptic in a democracy. Bumiller said:
I think we were very deferential, because in the East Room press conference, it's live. It’s very intense. It's frightening to stand up there. I mean, think about it. You are standing up on prime time live television, asking the president of the United States a question when the country is about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and I think it made -- and you know, nobody wanted to get into an argument with the President at this very serious time. It had a very heavy feeling of history to it, that press conference.
In only the second press opportunity provided by an administration about to lead us into a war, about to plan and execute the first invasion in the history of the United States, nobody wanted to get into an argument with the President.

The Bush White House has been described as one of the most secretive since Nixon. Not a fan of Washington, or the media, the President and his staff placed great importance on controlling the way information was disseminated through the media to the public. One of the few interviews granted the media was offered to Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, an Assistant Managing Editor at the Washington Post. Woodward published three books, from 2002 to 2006, Bush At War, chronicling the days after September 11th, Plan Of Attack, on the move from Afghanistan to Iraq, and in 2006, State of Denial.

Public reaction to the first two books was mixed. Many praised what they read as a positive depiction of the President, as a man of belief, and resolve; a problem solver, similar to the image the White House had been trying to convey. Critics of Bush saw Woodward’s books as another compromise of journalism. After all, this is the reporter who, with Carl Bernstein and the Washington Post, took on the Nixon White House, and exposed the Watergate cover-up. The man who once embodied, in many people’s minds, the very essence of the beat reporter, digging for the news, uncovering the truth, not afraid to challenge the White House or even the President himself. Critics felt the books were praising a President that Helen Thomas, a 56 year veteran of White House reporting, was simultaneously calling “The worst President in the history of the United States.” Thomas’s editorial comments and press conference tirades were lauded by many, while critics found her attacks on policy during press briefings inappropriate.

The third book, State of Denial, was a portrayal of the Bush administration as a secretive, dysfunctional group that has not been forthright with the American people and has mishandled the war in Iraq Liberals rejoice, decrying Woodward’s redemption as a journalist. Conservatives, including the White House, felt betrayed, describing his reporting as “cotton candy,” despite praise of the earlier books.

Woodward’s defense of the trilogy of books was simply that he was reporting the information made available at the time, and didn’t have the information for State of Denial when he was writing the first two books. “I wish I had,” he said. Helen Thomas’s defense of her comments during press briefings is that since retiring from UPI, she was no longer just reporting, but freely speaking her opinion as a columnist.

These examples are presented as very different, yet related, scenarios of how the press functions in today’s politics.

The 2003 press conference shows a media body cowed by the traumatic events of 2001, and the very human emotional reaction. It sheds light on a press corps afraid to challenge a president, with no questions to ask of greater import than “Mr. President, should we pray?” The press was not kind to the White House out of loyalty, or allegiance, the press was afraid to challenge the conventions and ideology of a very charged and idealistic White House. Who dared to be the first to burst the bubble and risk accusation of dissention, in order to ask questions and reveal the truth of are reason for invading a third world country? Very few, and their voices could not be heard over the cheerleading media blinded by patriotism, and perhaps wanting, as much as those who supported going to war, the United States to exact revenge on those who had attacked us.

The polarized reactions to Woodward and Thomas illustrates that politicians and the public are eager to pin the media down to a side, and discover their personal beliefs, as a way of separating fact from fiction. Woodward’s books are suspect, depending on where his partisan loyalties lie, regardless of factual merit. Yet he commented once that he decides who he is going to vote for on the 10 minute walk to the polling station. Are we willing to pinning our determination of truth versus fiction on the labels of Democrat or Republican, and the media’s 10 minute walk to the polling stations? Helen Thomas has gone to lengths to remind us she is no longer simply a reporting. "I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now [as a columnist for Hearst] I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?'” But the distinction seems lost. The line between reporting and editorializing has been obscured.

Regardless of which side a person falls regarding our invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent ongoing war, few could argue that the media in general has earned the title “Watchdogs of Democracy.” Ask around your neighborhood or workplace, and you will find most people now have a “favorite” news channel, or a most hated news personality (a word once reserved for talk shows). Fox News endures accusations for conservative leanings, and MSNBC and CNN grapple to keep up with Jon Stewart (having been bested several times by the satirical news show, when it comes to exposing the truth). We, the voters, are getting lost in the new partisanship of warring news agencies. And no where is the battle about truth, or fiction, it is about which party we support.

The problem is not the person lucky enough to have a book contract. The problem is not the local correspondent who works into a talk show on Fox, nor the street reporter who becomes editor of a large corporate newspaper. The problem is that we, the public, have no faith we can strip fact from fiction, or see the lie within the truth. We expect our politicians to be corrupt, and our media to tell us what to think through scandal and reality TV shenanigans, and to taint our news with partisan politics. We have grown accustomed to being talked over, or talked down to, and we have accepted it without a fight.