Getting It Wrong: The NSA Surveillance Program Topic: NewsBusters
In a Jan. 29 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard takes a whack at the New York Times for an editorial attacking the Bush-approved NSA surveillance program, claiming that the paper "prosecuted its case, and acted as both judge and jury to seal a conviction." Sheppard rebuts the article point-by-point; let's take a look at some of Sheppard's points, shall we?
-- Sheppard claims "the Old Grey Lady criminally decided to out" the surveillance program, which conflicts with his concluding claim criticizing the Times for "convicting people in its publication before they’ve been charged with a crime."
-- Sheppard claims: "The reality is that what the New York Times has reported up to this point has been called into serious question by administration officials including the deputy director of National Intelligence and the former director of the NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden, just this past Monday. As such, the Times here is introducing its own opinions as fact." But Sheppard has no basis on which to authoritatively claim that what Bush administration officials such as Hayden are telling is the truth; he has merely assumed, as has his fellow NewsMax posters, that because the Bush administration is Republican, it's telling the truth, and that because the Times is purportedly liberal, it must be lying.
-- In response to the Times' claim that the surveillance violates the FISA law, Sheppard states that it "is thoroughly ignoring previous administrations that have made exactly the opposite case, including the Clinton administration in Congressional hearings in 1994." That's a false claim. While the hearings Sheppard cites do assert a claim that some spying was legal under FISA, it was made illegal in 1995.
-- Sheppard claims that "there was Congressional oversight over this program inasmuch as high-ranking members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were apprised of the program’s creation, and regularly apprised of its on-going activities." Not entirely true; the members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have said that the administration likely did not inform them of the operation to the extent required by law, or about the program's full extent.
And as far as "convicting people in its publication before they’ve been charged with a crime" goes, Sheppard might want to thumb through the MRC archives and count how many times its writers have done just that to Bill Clinton.
SympathyBusters Topic: NewsBusters
The folks at NewsBusters have never been all that sad to see a journalist die, as we've documented. Now a NewsBusters commenter, "blogonator," has exonentially upped the hostility level in an otherwise sympathetic post regarding ABC anchor Bob Woodruff, who was injured by a bomb in Iraq:
I must be the only one here with the guts to say what we're all thinking which is that this is one less liberal journalist spreading bs propaganda. Remember, this is war - both here in the us and abroad. Woodruf went to Iraq to present our enemies as victims and be sympathetic - that makes him a facilitator of terror if not an enemy. Now his role has been nutralized ironically by the very people he was aiding. Sure I feel sorry for his family, but now they will see the truth and will see that terror is real and join the fight against it. This is not a sad day.
Human decency? These journalists trivialize the war on terror and the protection of american lives and you CRITICIZE ME? You think this guy was over there to report how well we are doing in Iraq? You really are naive... or worse, a fence sitter. In war, people die - Good guys, bad guys and innocents. This guy was hardly good or innocent. He's an american just like John Walker Lind is. Just because our constitution here keeps us from nailing him, doesn't mean he isn't the enemy. I don't want to see him die. But I think I speak for all us who take terrorism seriously at NB that I hope this guy is incompacitated enough that he won't be returning to "the field of battle"
You accuse me of taking pleasure in their injuries. I don't. All humans come into the world equally. It is tragic that some become lost and seek to destroy that which provided them a safe homeland. Woodruff was a sympathetic character until he fell over the fence. Iraq was his last chance. He could see for himself the justness of our actions and could have walked away from his job as a journalist. He didn't. Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. Did he deserve it, yes. ... I can tell you Woodruff isn't going to return to TV. He likely will have impaired speech and movement, not to mention facial damage. But he's stable and will survive. So we both get our cake and eat it too. One less journalist, 0 fatalities. You probably will not see it that way. Anything short of a full recovery and a return to the lib media will be called an outrage by you.
As I said, this isn't personal. Woodruf obviously made bad decisions. It is these decisions that have led to his family's suffering. Al queda have families too. When will kill them, we are freeing their families and preventing them from following in their foot steps. Same goes for Woodruff. They probably won't become journalists after this for sure.
Dubious Claim Watch Topic: WorldNetDaily
A Jan. 29 WorldNetDaily article by James L. Lambert quotes people making dubious claims -- and hides a bunch of other stuff.
The lead of the article claims that "The ever-expanding pornography industry is now targeting America's children." Despite the fact that no self-respecting pornograher is claiming such a thing, Lambert makes the unsupportable assumption that because pornographers are making downloadable adult content playable via the Apple iPod, they are ipso facto "targeting America's children."
The two people Lambert cites as making the claim (which he downgrades later in the article to an "apparent targeting of youth") are Patrick Truman and Judith Reisman. Lambert describes Truman only as a "former Justice Department prosecutor," but he is also a former (if not current) senior legal counsel for the conservative Family Research Council. According to Truman, "Apple has the responsibility to avoid providing porn content." Does that mean Sony has the "responsibility" to avoid showing porn on its TV sets, too?
Reisman is described only as "a veteran federal consultant and former Commission on Pornography member" and gets a "Ph.D." stuck after her name, but she is best known for her obsessive, hyperbolic anti-Kinsey crusade.
Lastly, we know Lambert is not a full-time WND employee. So who is he? Lambert appears to be a "Real Estate Loan Sales agent" who does freelance and opinion pieces for conservative websites, most frequently at AgapePress. Indeed, a version of this article appeared at AgapePress on Jan. 20.
NewsBusters Nonsense du Jour Topic: NewsBusters
-- Brad Wilmouth makes a federal case out of a technicality, claiming Keith Olbermann attacked Bill O'Reilly "for saying something the FNC host did not actually say." In fact, Olbermann's only offense is that he considered MSNBC the equivalent of NBC, ABC and CBS. That's apparently a no-no in MRC land.
-- Mark Finkelstein thinks Ellen Ratner, whose highest-profile regular gig is a weekly column at WorldNetDaily, is part of the "MSM elite." Or is Finkelstein making an overgeneralized assumption that all liberals are "elite"?
-- NewsMax is none too happy with the idea of a new book by "two top New York Times reporters" that will look in part at Hillary Clinton's "enemies" -- NewsMax, of course, being one of them. Maybe NewsMax can take heart in the fact that one of the proposed book's authors, Jeff Gerth, is the same guy whose biasedreporting on alleged Clinton scandals helped fuel the conservative anti-Clinton machine that NewsMax was (and still is) part of.
Today's NewsBusters Nonsense Topic: NewsBusters
-- Tim Graham once again confuses a columnist saying mean things about President Bush with media bias.
-- Mark Finkelstein again fails to note that under Jack Abramoff, Indian tribes directed much more money to Republicans than they did pre-Abramoff.
-- Noel Sheppard attacked a statement by ex-CNN anchor Aaron Brown that many Americans on the left and the right aren't interested in the truth, but simply want news that confirms their viewpoints, adding: "You'd think that it's no more complex than good vs. evil." Sheppard claimed the statement was "shocking for someone who was so clearly dogmatic in his reporting" (though he offered no examples of Brown being "clearly dogmatic") and added: "Sadly, the article didn’t convey whether Brown addressed how he fit in to this hypocrisy." Sheppard also noted that Brown said that for conservatives, "Any criticism of the administration is regarded as hatred of the president and hatred of the country itself." Sadly, Sheppard didn’t convey how he and the MRC fit in to this hypocrisy.
Today's NewsBusters Nonsense Topic: NewsBusters
This is threatening to be a regular feature...
-- Mark Finkelstein praises Katie Couric for browbeating Howard Dean for making a factually accurate statement ("Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff went to any Democrat at any time"), then added that "while Abramoff didn't contribute his own money to Dems, he directed his clients, notably Indian casinos, to do so. A classic distinction without a difference." Wrong: Indian tribes who were Abramoff's clients donated much more money to Republicans than they did pre-Abramoff.
-- Noel Sheppard breathlessly reports on the conservative media food chain regarding a "shocking" poll claiming that Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice have similarly negative numbers regarding a 2008 presidential run, which Sheppard claims "the press appear frightened to share with the public":
Rush Limbaugh reported about this during his program yesterday, which means that he had this information in the AM Wednesday. As the Drudge Report posted the story at 10:52 AM EST (assuming I'm doing a good job of converting from GMT!), this makes sense. An hour later, both NewsMax and World Net Daily reported it.
Yeah, if Rush, NewsMax and WND say it's story, then by golly, it must be. We suspect they weren't playing up the fact that Rice's negatives were nearly as high as Hillary's.
New Article: A Highly Compromised Disseminator Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily, self-proclaimed exposer of government corruption, has been all but silent about two big government corruption cases -- Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff. Is it because they're Republicans? Read more.
NewsBusters Nonsense Topic: NewsBusters
-- Lyford Beverage, in a Jan. 25 post, falls for the same fallacy that fellow NewsBuster Michael Rule did -- that anything the Bush administration says is automatically true because they're Republicans. Like Rule, Beverage claims that the NSA's eavesdropping isn't "domestic spying" simply because Michael Hayden said it wasn't.
(UPDATE: Beverage falls for it again in another Jan. 25 post, claiming that the Associted Press has "implicitly called him a liar by continuing to call the program 'domestic spying' when the White House has repeatedly pointed out the inaccuracy of the term.")
-- Clay Waters approvingly reported on an article by David Boaz of the Cato Institute in Reason magazine claiming "an undeniable pattern of media unease in the network and newspaper coverage of the nomination of conservative Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, compared to how those same outlets treated Bill Clinton's 1993 nomination of liberal ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg." But the report, by David Boaz, contains a serious whopper: "Obviously [Byron White's] replacement by the former general counsel of the ACLU was going to 'move the court dramatically to the left.'" Boaz makes no mention of the fact that Ginsburg compiled a largely centrist record on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- where she served for 12 years after her ACLU stint -- often voting with conservative judges such as Kenneth Starr and Laurence Silberman.
-- Cinnamon "The Terrorist Whitewasher" Stillwell weighs in with a Jan. 25 post linking Pete McCloskey, who is running as a Republican for Richard Pombo's House seat, to Lyndon LaRouche and Holocaust revisionists. Stillwell noted that "Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay’s names are invoked frequently" in articles on McCloskey, but she never says why. That would be because Pombo has been implicated in a Abramoff-like scheme to keep the FDIC from investigating a banking buddy of DeLay's. That seems like it would have been important to mention, but as we know, Stillwell isn't into stuff like that.
-- In a Jan. 24 post, Dave Pierre dismissed Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, who wrote a column claiming that he didn't support our troops, as the product of a "sheltered, out-of-touch, Hollywood mindset." Pierre might want to rethink that stance: Stein also supports the great conservative cause of cutting off government funding for public broadcasting.
CNS Continues Disingenousness Streak Topic: CNSNews.com
In a Jan. 25 letter to the editor, a CNSNews.com reader named Ed writes: "I find it incomprehensible that you trash fellow Vietnam vets like former Vice President Al Gore, Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Murtha while glorifying President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who were not in Vietnam." To which the "editor" (presumably editor in chief David Thibault) responded: "Ed, I respect your viewpoint, but Cybercast News Service has never “glorified” the military records of President Bush or Vice President Cheney. It never happened and never will."
That is a disingenous response, one of several such responses emanating from CNS in the wake of its John Murtha hit job. CNS has not defended Cheney's military record because he has no record to defend, having recieved five deferments from military service during the Vietnam era.
While a quick search through CNS' news archive revealed no explicit examples of CNS "glorifying" Bush's military record, CNS attacked anyone who criticized it: It was a early promoter of attacks on CBS' report on Bush's National Guard record based in part on unauthenticated documents (while ignoring other questions about Bush's service not connected to the documents), and it served as an uncritical mouthpiece for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's accusations against John Kerry. Thibault himself was as eager to smear Kerry and CBS as his news service; a Sept. 20, 2004, commentary by him gleefully observed "the credibility of CBS News, its 72-year old anchor Dan Rather and their left wing media and public sycophants spiraling down the drain" and claimed that Kerry "set the events in motion" by saying "Reporting for duty" during his August 2004 acceptance speech, despite the fact that CNS was reporting on the Swift Boat Veterans in May, three months before the convention.
Any chance CNS will offer readers an honest response to its Murtha attack -- you know, that they're unabashed conservatives whose only mission was to attack a critic of a conservative president? Don't count on it.
Framing the Debate Topic: NewsBusters
A Jan. 24 NewsBusters post by Michael Rule accuses CBS of trying to "frame the debate" over the NSA wiretapping program as "'domestic spying' and warrantless wiretaps," as if it was fictional that there weren't domestic spying and warrantless wiretaps going on.
Rule also quoted ex-NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden as insisting that the eavesdropping wasn't "domestic spying" without pointing out that Hayden is trying to "frame the debate" as much as Rule accuses CBS of doing, if not more. As a government official trying to defend the program, Hayden has a highly interest in framing the debate, and Rule should acknowledge that.
Let's not give the Bush administration a pass and assume it's telling the truth just because it's Republican, OK, Mike?
Compelling vs. Factual Topic: NewsBusters
A Jan. 23 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard complained the no TV network "did justice to the extraordinarily compelling description of the NSA eavesdropping program" by former NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden. NBC was singled out by Sheppard for ignoring "the most compelling statement made today by Gen. Hayden: 'Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.'"
But "compelling," alas, is not the same as "factual." As Media Matters notes, Hayden never substantiates his claim that warrantless wiretapping would have prevented 9/11, and that the U.S. had information in hand that could have stopped 9/11 had bureaucratic snafus not gotten in the way.
A lot of things are compelling, but that doesn't make them factual. Doesn't Sheppard know that yet?