News

March 14, 2006

06:00
The New York Times tried to tell the story of the man behind the infamous Abu Ghraib photo. But the paper may have had the wrong prisoner.
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
05:28
Women fueled the rise of the Islamist party through their work in schools and hospitals that serve the Palestinian people.
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
05:00
The festival premieres films about Al Franken, the Pixies and the music biz. Plus: Did Andy Dick really hump an audience member's head?
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
04:48
Doomsayer Mike Davis offers a new reason to panic: Earth is turning into a giant slum.
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
04:11
Things could always be worse.
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
04:09
There were other places he could go, and I wanted to be alone with my boyfriend.
Source: Salon.com
Categories: News
01:00

TERRORISM: Prosecutorial Incompetence

Categories: News

March 13, 2006

17:56
Nicholas von Hoffman writes that as Congress jacks up the rates students and their parents are paying for college loans, the consequences are already being felt by young people whose ability to have a child or own a house is limited by debt.

Categories: News
17:14

In his March 13 "Best of the Web Today" column, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto responded to a March 10 Media Matters for America item highlighting Taranto's false characterization of Media Matters' coverage of Rep. John P. Murtha's (D-PA) call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Taranto again falsely claimed that Media Matters is "desperate to distance" itself from Murtha.

Once again, Media Matters has neither endorsed nor condemned any of Murtha's positions. We have not articulated any position on Murtha's proposal for Iraq -- so there is no way in which we can be said to be "distanc[ing]" ourselves "from Murtha." We have focused on misinformation from those in the media, such as propagated by Taranto, who have falsely claimed -- again and again -- that Murtha called for the "immediate withdrawal" of U.S. troops from Iraq. Taranto has yet to acknowledge his errors, continues to repeat them, and insists on introducing new ones in the form of falsehoods about Media Matters.

From Taranto's March 13 "Best of the Web Today" column:

Murtha? Who's That?

From MediaMatters.org:

In his March 10 "Best of the Web Today" column, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto falsely claimed that Media Matters for America "cheered" Rep. John P. Murtha's (D-PA) call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq but also "denied that he had done any such thing." Media Matters neither endorsed nor condemned Murtha's proposal, nor did we deny Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Boy, these guys are desperate to distance themselves from Murtha, aren't they?

Categories: News
17:14

During Hardball's March 11 live coverage of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, MSNBC host Chris Matthews misrepresented the position of 2002 Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien, asserting that her "idea of the age of consent was, like, three." In fact, O'Brien said during her campaign against now-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) that she advocated lowering the age at which a pregnant teenager could obtain an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16, arguing that it should be the same as the state's age of consent for sexual relations. Matthews made his assertion during a discussion with MSNBC correspondent David Shuster about Romney's attributes as a potential 2008 presidential candidate compared with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).

From the March 11 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

SHUSTER: Frist is one of these guys who, in person, he does very well; he doesn't translate so well on television. But what was so interesting about Romney, when you look at his speech there in the room, you think, "Well, does it connect? Does it not connect?" When we were looking at the tapes, Chris, on television Romney is electrifying, far more so than he seems in person. He's one of these candidates who just comes right -- comes across very well on camera. And in a television battle, I think that's where Romney perhaps may have an edge, because he looks great, he sounds terrific.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he did well in Massachusetts when he ran for office up there? He ran against a weak opponent, Shannon O'Brien, whose idea of the age of consent was, like, three.

From the October 30, 2002, edition of The Boston Globe:

It was one last chance to make an impression on live local television -- and both gubernatorial candidates clearly came prepared.

In a relatively civil encounter, Democrat Shannon O'Brien and Republican Mitt Romney strived to offer a more substantive discussion.

There was still some of the he said-she said exchanges that have characterized past encounters, and they talked over each other several times. But during last night's final gubernatorial debate, O'Brien and Romney staked out their positions on several key issues. The following are excerpts from the hourlong contest.

[...]

On whether the age that a woman can get an abortion without parental consent should be lowered from 18 to 16:

O'Brien: "The age of consent for having sexual relations is lower than the age of 18, so I certainly think that if someone is able to engage in that activity that they should be adult enough to make the decision. ... Understand that this right on the national level is in jeopardy. We need to make sure a woman, every young woman, has the opportunity to control her own health care decisions. They should be adult enough to make that decision. And in cases of child abuse, frankly, sometimes a young woman doesn't feel comfortable going to her parents."

Ronmey: "Protecting a woman's right to choose, I've been very clear on that. I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and I'm very dedicated in honoring my word. I will not change any provisions in Massachusetts on pro-choice laws. And as far as considering the age of consent, it is currently 18 years old. If one wants to have an abortion younger than that, one has to have a parent go along and go to a judge or justice."

Categories: News
17:14

The March 13 edition of ABCNews.com's The Note attacked New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's column (subscription required) of the same day, claiming simply: "Paul Krugman writes with selective facts that [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] is not a maverick, a moderate, nor a straight talker." The Note offered no facts to rebut Krugman's "selective facts."

ABCNews.com describes The Note as "a morning news summary that will tell you what you need to know about politics at that critical moment in the news cycle."

In his March 13 Times column, Krugman wrote of McCain: "He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be." Here are some of the examples Krugman offered:

  • McCain's recent vote to extend President Bush's 2003 tax cuts on dividends and capital gains after years of opposing them
  • The "rogue state rollback" policy McCain offered during his 2000 presidential campaign, which Krugman argued "anticipat[ed] the 'Bush doctrine' of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later
  • McCain's hawkish stance on the Iraq war
  • McCain's spokesman's recent statement that McCain "would have signed" a South Dakota law banning all abortions except when the life of the woman is threatened. The spokesman explained that McCain "would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." As Krugman noted: "But that attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest."

The Note labeled these examples "selective facts": McCain's changing position on the central facet of the Bush administration's economic policy; the foreign policy initiatives he espoused during his last presidential bid; his stance on the defining foreign policy issue of this administration; and his muddled stance on one of the most divisive social issues of the past 40 years. But The Note offered no counter-examples to rebut Krugman's argument that McCain "is not a maverick, a moderate, nor a straight talker."

Rather than "selective facts," some might consider Krugman's examples "salient" -- The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for one. No one's source for "liberal" commentary, the Journal noted on February 18: "And speaking of that election, the most intriguing vote on behalf of the tax cut this week was cast by Arizona's John McCain. He and two other Republicans opposed these same tax-rate cuts in 2003 on grounds that they added to the budget deficit. His opposition meant that Vice President Dick Cheney had to break a 50-50 tie to pass the lower rates. ... Our guess is that Mr. McCain may also be looking ahead to the 2008 GOP Presidential primaries, which won't be kind to candidates who've voted for tax increases."

While The Note complained about Krugman's use of "selective facts" to contest the notion that McCain is a straight-talking maverick, it has demonstrated no similar concern about the use of selective facts to promote that notion.

The Note did not criticize ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos when he asked McCain "[t]wo straight talk questions right at the top" of the February 6, 2005, edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Nor did The Note challenge Stephanopoulos when he introduced McCain as "the maverick Senator with his eye on the White House" on the May 15, 2005, edition of This Week. The Note itself had no problem quoting Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein on April 25, 2005, describing the hypothetical pairing of McCain and former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) as the "all-maverick independent ticket" for the 2008 presidential campaign. Nor did it take issue with Brownstein's statement on January 17, 2005: "Until recently, complaints about the Pentagon's personnel strategy came from Democrats and a few maverick Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona." It appears that The Note has a problem with "selective facts" only when it disagrees with the conclusion.

Categories: News
17:14

A March 12 Washington Post article on the "partisan infighting" on the Senate Intelligence Committee failed to report that, in response to calls from Democrats and some Republicans for an investigation into President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) threatened to restructure the committee "so that it is organized and operated like most Senate committees." As presently constituted, the Senate Intelligence Committee's rules grant the minority party more power than on other Senate committees; for example, the ranking minority member holds the position of "vice chairman," has the power to issue subpoenas, and assumes control of the committee in the chairman's absence. A restructuring such as Frist has threatened would likely eliminate those powers; as the Los Angeles Times noted, a restructuring would also grant the majority party an additional seat on the committee and "end any pretense of nonpartisan cooperation."

As Boston Globe Washington bureau chief Nina Easton explained on the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Frist "is concerned enough, or bothered enough" by a potential investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program that he is "threatening to remove that kind of power status for the minority" on the committee.

In his March 12 article, Post staff writer Charles Babington acknowledged the uniqueness of the Intelligence Committee's structure and rules, and noted that Frist previously interrupted committee business for partisan reasons:

Some in the intelligence community find the warring especially disappointing because the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was fashioned 30 years ago to be less partisan than the typical congressional panel. Reacting to domestic spying abuses uncovered by the so-called Church Commission, lawmakers designed the committee to have an 8-to-7 majority-minority makeup, no matter how many senators each party has. Most of its staffers have no clear connection to either party. The committee's top minority member serves as the vice chairman -- and takes the gavel in the chairman's absence -- in contrast with the typical committee's "ranking minority member" who has little real authority.

[...]

The Iraq war has accelerated the fracturing, with Democrats and some outside groups saying Republicans seemed more eager to control GOP political damage than to conduct independent oversight. In November 2003, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) abruptly canceled the committee's hearing into prewar intelligence on Iraq because of GOP anger over a leaked memo -- written by a Democratic aide -- that suggested a strategy for extending the probe more deeply into the executive branch.

A March 10 Los Angeles Times article also examined the increased infighting on the Senate Intelligence Committee; unlike the Post, it noted Frist's threat:

This month, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) issued a letter that blamed Democrats for undermining the committee with "stifling partisanship," and threatened to restructure the panel, which would give Republicans another seat, let each side hire its own staff and end any pretense of nonpartisan cooperation.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly responded with a letter of his own, complaining that Republicans had repeatedly blocked investigations that might embarrass the administration, and suggesting that the panel had "become an extension of the White House public relations operation."

Categories: News
17:14

In an interview with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on the March 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge Gonzales's dubious claim that "if the need were not there for the United States of America to detain people that we catch on the battlefield, then we would not be having to operate" the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Blitzer could have noted recent news reports, such as those by the National Journal and The New York Times, pointing out that many -- if not a majority, as the National Journal asserts -- were not caught by American soldiers on the battlefield but turned over to the U.S. by third parties.

Blitzer also allowed Gonzales to evade his question as to whether or not the treatment of one Guantánamo prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani -- as described in a February 27 New Yorker article -- constituted "torture." Rather than answer, Gonzales replied that there is "no way of knowing" the veracity of the report, even though the New Yorker's description of Qahtani's treatment is in line with the findings regarding his treatment contained in a June 2005 Army report by Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow on detainee treatment at Guantánamo.

Blitzer asked Gonzales, "Should the Guantánamo base be shut down?" Gonzales replied: "[W]e operate Guantánamo because of necessity. And so, if the need were not there for the United States of America to detain people that we catch on the battlefield, then we would not be having to operate Guantánamo." Gonzales's rationale for the necessity of the Guantánamo prison echoes a similar assertion by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. On June 27, 2005, Rumsfeld said: "If you think of the people down there, these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9-11 hijacker."

But, as Media Matters previously noted, a February 3 National Journal report that documented the apparent lack of evidence against many of the detainees also reported, basing its account on military documents:

One thing about these detainees is very clear: Notwithstanding [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld's description, the majority of them were not caught by American soldiers on the battlefield. They came into American custody from third parties, mostly from Pakistan, some after targeted raids there, most after a dragnet for Arabs after 9/11."

According to the National Journal report, "most of the men at Guantánamo, or at least the 132 with court records and the 314 with redacted transcripts, came into American custody by way of third parties who had their own motivations for turning people in, including paybacks and payoffs":

Some of the men at Guantanamo came from targeted, U.S.-guided raids in Pakistani cities, and the cases against those men tend to be fairly strong. But the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan. Once arrested, these men passed through several captors before being given to the U.S. military. Some of the men say they were arrested after asking for help getting to their embassies; a few say the Pakistanis asked them for bribes to avoid being turned over to America.

Others assert that they were sold for bounties, a charge substantiated in 2004 when Sami Yousafzai, a Newsweek reporter then stringing for ABC's "20/20," visited the Pakistani village where five Kuwaiti detainees were captured. The locals remembered the men. They had arrived with a larger group of a hundred refugees a few weeks after Qaeda fighters had passed through. The villagers said they had offered the group shelter and food, but somebody in the village sold out the guests. Pretty soon, bright lights came swooping down from the skies. "Helicopters ... were announcing through loud speakers: 'Where is Arab? Where is Arab?' And, 'Please, you get $1,000 for one Arab,' "one resident told Yousafzai.

"The one thing we were never clear of was where they came from," [former CIA officer Michael] Scheuer said of the Guantanamo detainees. "DOD picked them up somewhere." When National Journal told Scheuer that the largest group came from Pakistani custody, he chuckled. "Then they were probably people the Pakistanis thought were dangerous to Pakistan," he said. "We absolutely got the wrong people."

In addition, as Media Matters has noted, a March 6 New York Times article reported that recently released Pentagon documents regarding the detainees "underscore[] the considerable difficulties that both the military and the detainees appear to have had in wrestling with the often thin or conflicting evidence involved." The article reported that, although there are those imprisoned at Guantánamo "who brashly assert their determination to wage war against what they see as the infidel empire led by the United States," there are "many more, it seems, who sound like Abdur Sayed Rahman, a self-described Pakistani villager":

But there are many more, it seems, who sound like Abdur Sayed Rahman, a self-described Pakistani villager who says he was arrested at his modest home in January 2002, flown off to Afghanistan and later accused of being the deputy foreign minister of that country's deposed Taliban regime.

"I am only a chicken farmer in Pakistan," he protested to American military officers at Guantánamo. "My name is Abdur Sayed Rahman. Abdur Zahid Rahman was the deputy foreign minister of the Taliban."

Blitzer could have also challenged Gonzales's evasion of his question regarding torture at Guantánamo. Blitzer quoted from a February 27 New Yorker article by staff writer Jane Mayer that described the treatment of al-Qahtani. According to the article, Qahtani "had been subjected to a hundred and sixty days of isolation in a pen perpetually flooded with artificial light. He was interrogated on forty-eight of fifty-four days for eighteen to twenty hours at a stretch. He had been stripped naked, straddled by taunting female guards in an exercise called 'invasion of space by a female'; forced to wear women's underwear on his head and to put on a bra; threatened by guards, placed on a leash, and told that his mother was a whore. ... Qahtani's heart rate had dropped so precipitately [sic], to thirty-five beats a minute, that he required cardiac monitoring."

Blitzer then asked Gonzales if this constituted "torture," to which the attorney general responded: "Wolf, I have no way of knowing whether any of that information that you've just read is, in fact, true, or how much of it is true. It's easy to make allegations about mistreatment in places like Guantánamo." Blitzer failed to challenge Gonzales despite the fact that a June 2005 Army report by Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow on detainee treatment at Guantánamo reported many of these events. While the Schmidt-Furlow report is itself classified, there is an unclassified executive summary. Below are some examples in which the report documented the treatment the New Yorker described for "the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan," who, a July 14, 2005, Washington Post article confirmed, is al-Qahtani:

Finding #15: From 23 Nov 02 to 16 Jan 03, the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was interrogated for 18-20 hours per day for 48 of the 54 days, with the opportunity for a minimum of four hours rest per day.

[...]

Finding #16a: That the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was separated from the general population from 8 Aug 02 to 15 Jan 03.

[...]

Discussion [for finding #16a]: The subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was never isolated from human contact. The subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was however placed in an "isolation facility" where he was separated from the general detainee population from 8 Aug 02 to 15 Jan 03. The subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan routinely had contact with interrogators and MPs while in the "isolation facility."

[...]

Finding #16b: On 06 Dec 02, the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of the interrogation.

Finding #16c: On 17 Dec 02, the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was told that his mother and sister were whores.

[...]

Finding #16e: On 20 Dec 02, an interrogator tied a leash to the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan's chains, led him around the room, and forced him to perform a series of dog tricks.

[...]

Finding #16g: On several occasions in Dec 02, the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was subject to strip searches. These searches, conducted by the prison guards during interrogation, were done as a control measure on direction of the interrogators.

Finding #16h: On one occasion in Dec 02, the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan was forced to stand naked for five minutes with females present. This incident occurred during the course of a strip search.

[...]

Discussion: ... Particularly troubling is the combined impact of the 160 days of segregation from other detainees, 48 of 54 consecutive days of 18 to 20-hour interrogations, and the creative application of authorized interrogation techniques. Requiring the subject of the first Special Interrogation Plan to be led around by a leash tied to his chains, placing a thong on his head, wearing a bra, insulting his mother and sister, being forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator for five minutes, and using strip searches as an interrogation technique the AR 15-6 found to be abusive and degrading, particularly when done in the context of the 48 days of intense and long interrogations.

From the March 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about torture. It's a sensitive subject, one that I know you've studied thoroughly. The allegations are significant. I want to read to you from an article that appeared in The New Yorker magazine, the February 27th issue, referring to one Mohammed al-Qahtani, a detainee at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, someone who is suspected of having been -- played a role in terrorism against the United States. "[Mohammed] al-Qahtani had been subjected to a hundred and sixty days of isolation in a pen perpetually flooded with artificial light. He was interrogated on forty-eight of fifty-four days for eighteen to twenty hours at a stretch. He had been stripped naked, straddled by taunting female guards in an exercise called 'invasion of space by a female'; forced to wear women's underwear on his head and to put on a bra; threatened by dogs, placed on a leash, and told that his mother was a whore." Eventually, he needed cardiac treatment because his health had deteriorated so significantly. Is that torture?

GONZALES: Wolf, I have no way of knowing whether any of that information that you've just read is, in fact, true, or how much of it is true. It's easy to make allegations about mistreatment in places like Guantánamo. What I can say is that we have worked very hard throughout the administration to ensure that everyone understands what the legal requirements are. And to the extent that people aren't meeting those requirements, there are investigations, and people are held accountable.

BLITZER: Should the Guantánamo base be shut down, as the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says? He says, "I think sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo, and I think it will be up to the government to decide, hopefully, to do it as soon as possible." What do you think?

GONZALES: Well, we operate Guantánamo because of necessity, and so, if the need were not there for the United States of America to detain people that we catch on the battlefield, then we would not be having to operate Guantánamo. We are continually reassessing all of our activities in the war on terror, including operational facilities like Guantánamo, to ensure that they remain effective as a tool in the war against terror, and that they remain lawful. So this is something we are constantly reevaluating in terms of -- what is the appropriate way ahead to ensure the national security interest of our country, and to ensure that we're fighting this war against a deadly enemy in a lawful manner.

BLITZER: You were the White House counsel, now you're the attorney general. You know all the laws that have been enacted, the guidelines. Are you comfortable in saying that you would hope that American detainees held by a foreign government would be treated as foreign detainees are being treated by the U.S. government?

Categories: News
17:14

In an appearance on the March 12 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) challenged host Tim Russert's previous suggestion -- which Media Matters for America noted at the time -- that Democratic lawmakers seized on the recent ports controversy in order to build their national security credentials. He noted that Russert "in effect" said that "Congress hadn't done much" on the issue of securing the nation's ports. Biden then countered: "Back in 2001, we introduced legislation for port security and rail security; 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. It's been repeatedly spurned by the administration." Indeed, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republicans have repeatedly defeated Democratic proposals to bolster port security nationwide.

On February 22, amid the growing criticism of the Bush administration's approval of a deal to transfer terminal operations at six U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of Dubai, Russert appeared on NBC's Today and suggested that Democrats were simply exploiting the issue for political gain. In doing so, he joined the chorus of media figures who, in their coverage of the ports controversy, framed national security as a right-wing value and depicted Democrats as new converts to the issue.

But such characterizations ignore congressional Democrats' substantial track record of promoting port security, as Biden made clear during the Meet the Press interview. In recent years, Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly put forward legislation to bolster port security, only to see these measures defeated by Republicans. The following are several examples:

  • In 2003, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) proposed an amendment to the 2004 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to provide $460 million for port security. The Senate rejected a motion -- which required a three-fifths majority to pass -- to allow a vote on the amendment, by a 43-50 vote. Forty-nine of the 50 members voting against the motion were Republicans.
  • In 2003, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) proposed an amendment to the 2004 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to provide $70 million for research and development to stop nuclear materials from entering U.S. ports. The Senate rejected a motion -- which required a three-fifths majority -- to allow a vote on the amendment, by a 45-51 vote. Fifty of the 51 senators voting against the motion were Republicans.
  • In 2003, Sen. Ernest Hollings proposed an amendment to the 2004 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to increase port security funding by $300 million. Senators voted down the measure by a 50-48 vote. Forty-nine of the 50 members who voted to table the amendment were Republicans.
  • In 2004, Schumer proposed an amendment to appropriate an additional $150,000 for port security research and development grants. The Senate rejected a motion -- which required a three-fifths majority to pass -- to allow a vote on the amendment, by a 50-46 vote. Forty-five of the 46 members voting against the motion were Republicans.

From the March 12 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Senator Biden, what has the port controversy done to the Bush presidency?

BIDEN: It's sort of stripped away the curtain that there was any competence on homeland security. I heard you on another show with [Today host] Katie Couric, Tim, saying something, in effect that the Congress hadn't done much either. Back in 2001, we introduced legislation for port security and rail security; 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. It's been repeatedly spurned by the administration. Virtually nothing's been done. Their priorities are backwards, Tim. Tim, if, in fact, they spent as much money on homeland security as they do one year on Star Wars, we could fund another 13,000 police locally, another 1,000 FBI agents. We could have every container at every port inspected with gamma rays as well as with radiation. We could, in fact, secure our railroads. These guys have priorities that are backwards and they're dangerously, dangerously incompetent. And this is going to be the next place you're going to see that incompetence show.

Categories: News
17:14

The March 20 issues of Time and Newsweek magazines both granted anonymity to sources making statements in defense of President Bush. Specifically, the two weekly news magazines quoted White House officials claiming that Bush was well aware of the conflagration in Congress over the deal that would allow Dubai Ports World to assume control of operations at six major U.S. ports.

Mike Allen wrote in Time: "White House officials contend that Bush quickly realized the ports affair was a fiasco. 'I know a prairie fire when I see one,' the Texas rancher told an aide."

The article in Newsweek by senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe and White House correspondent Holly Bailey was explicit in noting that White House officials were repeating the "prairie fire" quote to refute suggestions that Bush was unaware of the likely demise of the deal:

Two days later, the deal was dead and the last trace of trust had vanished between the GOP-led Congress and the president on the ports deal. George W. Bush's allies marvel that the White House could have misread them for so long. And they still disagree about the basic facts, including what happened last week when GOP leaders trooped into the White House to tell Bush they couldn't (or wouldn't) stop their own members from blocking the takeover. "It's not going to work," House Speaker Dennis Hastert [R-IL] told Bush, according to one GOP aide. That's not the way the White House saw the meeting. "News flash: it wasn't like that at all," scoffed one senior Bush adviser (who, like the GOP aide, declined to be named while talking about a private session). "The president knows a prairie fire when he sees one."

As Media Matters for America previously noted when an article in the December 19, 2005, edition of Newsweek by Wolffe and Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas featured various anonymous quotes and statements from White House aides praising and defending the president, Newsweek's guidelines for anonymous sourcing stipulate that "the burden of proof should lie with the reporters and their editors to show why a promise of anonymity serves the reader," and that Newsweek must "help the reader understand the nature of a confidential source's access to information and his or her reasons for demanding anonymity." Wolffe and Bailey merely repeated the Bush aide's reason for demanding anonymity. They failed to explain why the aide, in defending Bush, deserved anonymity or how that anonymity served the reader.

Time's Allen did not even give a reason for granting his source anonymity. His use of the words "Texas rancher" to describe Bush is presumably a reference to Bush's property in Crawford, Texas, where he vacations. The property was once a working cattle ranch, but there is debate over whether the property can now actually be called a "ranch." As the Los Angeles Times reported on August 29, 2005, "The Secret Service agents now outnumber the cows." The Times went on to note: "Bush prefers bicycles to horses and never claimed to be a cattleman. He has described himself as a 'windshield rancher' who likes to escort such visitors as Russian President Vladimir Putin around his property in a pickup."

Categories: News
17:14

During a March 12 interview with C-SPAN president and chief executive officer Brian Lamb, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann said: "There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE [General Electric Co., NBC's parent corporation], the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all. ... There are people who I work for who would prefer, who would sleep much easier at night if this never happened." He added, "On the other hand, if they look at my ratings and my ratings are improved and there is criticism of the president of the United States, they're happy."

Olbermann also discussed his relationship to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and claimed: "O'Reilly's agent calls the head of NBC week after week saying, you have got to get Olbermann to stop" criticizing O'Reilly.

From Olbermann's interview with Lamb, aired on the March 12 edition of C-SPAN's Q&A:

LAMB: We have got some other quotes about Fox from you: "Fortunately for the free world, News Corp.," which owns FOX, "is very aggressive but ultimately not very bright."

OLBERMANN: Yes, they are somewhat self-destructive. And that's the best hope for mankind, relative to them. In other words, you know, Bill O'Reilly, who has an audience at 8 o'clock [p.m. ET] that even with recent programming gains on the part of my show, the total audience that he has is still, what, six, seven times what we are doing. Even -- as Fox and News Corp. put it, the "money demo," the 25- to 54-year-old news viewers who don't watch news, even there they are still about double what we are doing.

When I attack Bill O'Reilly or criticize him for something that he said on the air, some ludicrous suggestion like, you know, we should let Al Qaeda go in and blow up San Francisco because he doesn't like San Francisco, I mean, just lunatic things, if I punch upwards at Fox News, the clever response, the cynical and brilliant response is to just ignore. Like, well, why do we have to worry, they have one-seventh of our audience? They attack. Bill O'Reilly's agent calls the head of NBC week after week saying, you have got to get Olbermann to stop this, as if for some reason there are rules here. We have -- these are the people who have suspended the rules, and they want the referee to step in protect them against my little pinky.

LAMB: More quotes. This is about Rupert Murdoch: "His covey of flying monkeys do something journalistically atrocious every hour of the day."

OLBERMANN: Yeah. I think that's probably true. I think -- well, sometimes they miss. They are sometimes -- there are a few hours in a row where there might not be a flying monkey appearing, devastating society.

LAMB: Doesn't this work for both of you?

OLBERMANN: I don't think so. I haven't met a lot of flying monkeys at NBC. I have met people who -- and by the way, this is the great freedom and the great protection of American broadcasting, commercial broadcasting -- we made a mistake in the '20s. We let broadcasting in this country develop with commercial broadcasting taking the lead and all other kinds of information on radio or television secondary or tertiary. But the protection of money at the center of everything, including news to the degree that it is now, is that as long as you make the money, they don't care what it is you put on the air.

They don't care. There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE, the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all.

Anybody who knew anything about American history and stepped out at any point in American history and got an assessment of this presidential administration would say, "Yeah, I don't know how much they need to be criticized, but they need to be criticized to some degree."

There are people who I work for who would prefer, who would sleep much easier at night if this never happened. On the other hand, if they look at my ratings and my ratings are improved and there is criticism of the president of the United States, they're happy.

If my ratings went up because there was no criticism of the president of the United States, they'd be happy.

Categories: News
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A March 10 Cybercast News Service (CNS) article falsely reported that Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, a retired Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., called the Mexico City Policy -- a Reagan-era rule, reinstated by President Bush, that prohibits U.S. funding of international groups that provide abortion services or "actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" -- a "disgrace." In fact, Dixon, who was speaking at an International Women's Day event coordinated by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, was referring to Bush's proposed cuts in financing for international family planning programs. Cybercast News Service is a division of the conservative Media Research Center, an organization that purports to "prove -- through sound scientific research -- that liberal bias in the media does exist," and to "neutralize its impact on the American political scene."

The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, was rescinded on January 22, 1993, by former President Clinton. Bush reinstated the policy on January 22, 2001.

According to the CNS article, by staff writer Monisha Bansal:

For more than 20 years, when a Republican has been in the White House, international family planning organizations that either discuss or perform abortions have been barred from receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars. Pro-abortion activists continue to be angry about what they call a "global gag rule."

The regulation, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, is a "disgrace" said Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, a retired Episcopal bishop from Washington, D.C., and member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). She complained that under the Bush administration, "international family planning, maternal health and child survival programs have been cut to their lowest levels in years."

"This is a disgrace for a country that prides itself on its generosity to those in need and its commitment to the fundamental dignity and equality of every human being," Dixon stated.

Dixon was not, however, referring to the Mexico City Policy, but to Bush's proposed $79 million cut in financing for international family planning programs, as a March 8 Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice press release indicated:

Leaders of major American religions today decried the Bush Administration's proposed $79 million cut in U.S. assistance for international family planning and called on Congress to increase funding for these programs. They spoke at an International Women's Day event at the United Methodist Building in Washington coordinated by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Affirming their faith traditions' commitment to women's health as a core religious value, they urged Congress to support the Focus on Family Health Worldwide Act (HR 4188), a bipartisan approach to meeting the critical family planning needs of the world's poorest families sponsored by Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), and co-sponsored by Representative Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) and others. McCollum and Ramstad spoke at the event.

The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, retired Episcopal Bishop of Washington, said that "international family planning, maternal health, and child survival programs have been cut to their lowest levels in years. This is a disgrace for a country that prides itself on its generosity to those in need and its commitment to the fundamental dignity and equality of every human being..."

A February 15 New York Times article clearly differentiated the family planning cuts outlined in Bush's 2007 budget proposal from the Mexico City Policy:

President Bush, who acted on his first full day in office five years ago to deny federal aid to overseas groups that help women obtain abortions, is for the first time proposing sharp cuts in financing for international family planning programs that the White House had described as one of the best ways to prevent abortion.

Since 2001, the administration had adhered to Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain the financing of such programs at $425 million, the same level as in the last year of the Clinton administration.

But in the president's new budget proposal, financing would fall 18 percent, from $436 million this year to $357 million.

Categories: News
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On the March 9 broadcast of Fox News's Hannity & Colmes, while discussing congressional Republicans' willingness to oppose the Bush administration's position on the Dubai Ports World (DPW) controversy, co-host Sean Hannity claimed that Republicans "are not Kool-Aid drinkers, like some of the Clinton supporters that defended the indefensible." But from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay to radio host and CNN analyst Bill Bennett's controversial abortion remarks and Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson's comparison of embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments, Hannity has gone to astonishing lengths in defense of what are, at best, highly questionable comments and actions, often with falsehoods of his own. For instance:

  • Hannity downplayed Abu Ghraib prison abuse

On the June 7, 2005, broadcast of ABC's daytime talk show The View, Hannity downplayed the abuse of prisoners by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib by claiming that the extent of the abuse was limited to "underwear on the head of one of them." Numerous photos from news sources and an Army report documenting individual instances of abuse prove otherwise. On the September 10, 2004, edition of his ABC Radio Networks show, Hannity suggested that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) may have been behind the Abu Ghraib prison abuse photos, stating: "Was that a DNC plot, too?"

  • Hannity minimized abuse at Gitmo

On the May 31, 2005, edition of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity claimed that "we didn't hurt anybody" at Guantánamo, despite first-hand accounts by FBI agents and humanitarian workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross documenting prisoner abuse that included, but was not limited to, hooding and slapping prisoners, sleep deprivation, the use of dogs for intimidation, temperature extremes, persistent noise, and "some beatings." During the March 3 edition of Hannity & Colmes, despite several reports to the contrary, Hannity asserted: "There's nobody at Guantánamo Bay that's there for nothing."

  • Hannity defended Bennett's controversial race comment

On January 18, Hannity defended a controversial remark by Bennett, former Secretary of Education under President Reagan -- that "if you wanted to reduce crime ... you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Hannity echoed Bennett's own false claim that the remark was not his "theory" and that Bennett was "quot[ing] from a book." As Media Matters for America noted, Bennett purported to explain the comment by falsely claiming that he was simply reiterating a theory presented in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But, neither Levitt, nor the book, discuss "the racial implications of abortion and crime," as Bennett did.

  • Hannity defended Dobson's Nazi comparison

During an interview with Dobson on the August 9, 2005, broadcast of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity defended Dobson's August 3, 2005, comments, in which he compared embryonic stem cell research with Nazi experiments conducted on live human patients prior to and during the Holocaust. Hannity told Dobson: "You said if any ethics or morality is removed, then you have Nazi Germany. You were very clear. You weren't making a comparison."

  • Hannity attacked caller for linking Rove to Plame leak

On the October 25, 2005, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Hannity responded to a caller's assertion that White House senior adviser Karl Rove was "involved" in the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity by labeling the caller a "nut case" and accusing him of "hatred, hatred, hatred for Bush and anyone associated with him." Rove did reportedly disclose Plame's identity to a reporter.

From the March 9 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, which featured co-host Alan Colmes and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA):

COLMES: It's pretty astounding to have one of the president's biggest supporters basically say -- you know, distancing himself there from what the White House is doing.

GINGRICH: Well, wait a second. I mean, [Rep.] Mark Foley [R-FL] was describing the Constitution of the United States. Article I, Section 1, is the Congress. Now, the job of the Congress is that nobody in Congress is on the president's team. They are independently elected members who work with the president. They are not people who work for the president.

COLMES: And he was making it very clear that he wanted to create some distance between House Republicans --

GINGRICH: Well, look --

COLMES: -- and the White -- and the West Wing.

GINGRICH: Look, on this particular issue -- and I know you love hearing this, Alan, so I -- I don't know. I don't know. Between now and your radio show later on tonight --

HANNITY: Hey, we got to -- we --

GINGRICH: -- how -- how many times you are going to want to go at this, but I concede this was a mistake. I -- you know, I feel very strongly this was a mistake. I'm glad it's now over.

HANNITY: Mr. Speaker, hang on one -- right there one second. And -- and, actually, we are not Kool-Aid drinkers, like some of the Clinton supporters that defended the indefensible, which is interesting.

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At Media Matters for America, we monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Bill O'Reilly's steady stream of misinformation gives us plenty of material, and we thought it particularly noteworthy when he denied making personal attacks, given that he has such a long history of making them.

We encourage you to click here and tell your friends about this clip.

You can see more of O'Reilly's misinformation here.

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What you need to know about Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito. Includes action opportunities to help you protect the Supreme Court.
Categories: News