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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
NewsMax Takes Bait on Gore Attack
Topic: Newsmax

A March 20 NewsMax article regurgitates verbatim a press release from Sen. James Inhofe claiming that Al Gore committed a "clear violation" of Senate committee rules by not submitting copies of his committee testimony 48 hours before.

But what NewsMax and Inhofe (via Marc Morano) don't report is that the committee chairman has the discretion to waive or ignore that requirement. Further, Sen. Barbara Boxer has noted that at least four Republicans have violated that same rule without apparent protest from Inhofe.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:11 PM EDT
CNS Finally Tells Other Side of Attorney Story
Topic: finally does some substantive reporting on the Democrats' side of the fired U.S. attorneys story. Well, "reporting" may be a bit of a stretch; what a March 21 CNS article by Susan Jones mostly does is pull items out of a press release issued by Harry Reid. While Jones allows the majority of the claims to stand unchallenged, she also makes sure to inform us that she's pulling it from a "news release" and that these are Democratic "talking points" -- something we suspect Jones doesn't point out when she rewrites press releases by Republicans.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:49 PM EDT
Despite Claims, NewsMax Still Clinton-Bashing
Topic: Newsmax
More evidence contradicting Christopher Ruddy's claim that he's mellowed about the Clintons: NewsMax is promoting R. Emmett Tyrrell's new Clinton-bashing book with a rapturous review by Paul Crespo ("immensely informative and highly readable") and by giving it away with new subscriptions to its magazine.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT
We Get Letters
Topic: WorldNetDaily

From a reader:

I'm just commenting on this piece criticisind WND's treatment  of the Melissa Busekros case. Although I agree that Bob Unruh has, in some regards, exaggerated the situation with hyperbole (e.g. it is not definite that the State wants to take away the other Busekros children, but the fact that they want to have the parental practises assessed and the accusations made by the Jugendamt against the family indicate that this is a strong possibility in the future), some of the criticism of him here is unfair.

Let me just place myself in context. I am an atheist, home-educating mother of four children living in Germany.  Although I am not German, I am fluent in that language and am very familiar with German educational and social nuances. I am also involved in a legal dispute with our local school authorities, due to the fact that our children are home-educated.

Back to the blog article in question. Although compulsory schooling was introduced by the Weimar republic, it was possible to fulfil this requirement by attending a private school or by being tutored at home. Thus, as Unruh correctly states, public education was not mandatory before the Nazi era.

The Reischsschulgesetz (school law) introduced in 1938 eliminated both these possibilities, making the State school the only recognisable form. It also introduced Schulzwang (enforced schooling), which made it possible for the police to take children to school, something that still happens today in Germany. Although, after the Second World War, private schools were once
again legalised, the requirements for starting private schools are very restrictive.

Although I am aware that one should be careful of slinging the "Nazi" label around, it is also true that the kind of statist mindset that led to the rise of the Nazis is still very present in Germany.

Maybe I am wrong, but isn't this blog entry a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Is the author of the entry being biased him or herself? Basically, homeschoolers are "pro-homeschool ideologues" (the use of this term is what makes me question the author's own unbiasedness), it would be ridiculous for them to be anything else. Even when they are, like me, ex-schoolteachers.

I agree that journalists should be careful of becoming advocates. I would also be interested if the author of this blog entry has made anything of both sides of the story. They are freely available on the webpage of the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, which has documentation of court cases and statements by representatives of the state.

To respond: My problem with WND is not that its writers are homeschoolers or have a pro-homeschool bias but, rather, that they won't honestly admit that they have this bias (among others), portraying it instead as their brand of "new media." My rhetoric is no stronger than what they themselves use. If Unruh would tell the full story of the Buskeros case -- which involves talking to the other side, which, aside from copying quotes from a Spiegel article, he has yet to do -- I would have no problem. But since he chooses to gather his information almost exclusively from one side of the case and portray the other side only has described by the side he associates with, we have a problem with journalistic integrity and credibility.

While I try to tell the other side of the story of cases that I take on, it's very difficult to do in the Buskeros case because it is taking place in a non-English-speaking country and I've forgotten pretty much all of the two years of German I took in high school. Thus, it behooves those who call themselves journalists -- as Unruh does -- to make the effort to tell a full and fair version of the story. Unruh has not done so, and that's what I'm pointing out

Posted by Terry K. at 1:25 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 1:28 AM EDT
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
MRC To Honor Limbaugh
Topic: Media Research Center

So the Media Research Center is going to give its inaugural "William F. Buckley, Jr. Award for Media Excellence" to Rush Limbaugh. A few things come to mind:

1) Are repeating misleading claims, making misogynistic and racist statements and smearing people really the MRC's idea of "media excellence"?

2) Apparently so; also appearing at the 20th Anniversary Gala at which Limbaugh will receive his award is Ann Coulter, just a few weeks after most people (but not the MRC) criticized Coulter for calling John Edwards a "faggot."

3) How does William F. Buckley -- whose demeanor is the polar opposite of Limbaugh's -- feel about someone like Limbaugh being honored in his name?

Posted by Terry K. at 7:47 PM EDT
CNS Still Not Telling Full Story on Attorney Firings
Topic: claims that it "endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story," but it has yet to do so in the story of the eight fired U.S. attorneys.

In a March 20 article on conservatives who complain that conservatives who break laws or ethical standards are treated harsher than liberals or Democrats who violate the same offenses, Fred Lucas offers balanced explanation on all cases raised, but he gives short shrift to the attorneys case. While Lucas allows the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein to rebut the discredited claim that the firing of the eight attorneys is equivalent to President Cinton's replacement of all 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office by pointing out that it's "a false analogy," he lets another claim by Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid stand unrebutted -- that it's merely a "perceived scandal" because of "the Bush administration's defensive handling of questions."

A March 20 article by Susan Jones, meanwhile, embraces the 8-equals-93 analogy:

A number of conservatives also note that while the Bush administration has been blasted for firing eight out of 93 U.S. attorneys, the Clinton administration got a free pass when it fired all 93 U.S. attorneys in 1993 -- for political reasons, conservatives insist. (Liberal websites make a distinction between Clinton firing 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of his administration -- normal housecleaning, they say; and Bush firing 8 in the middle of his -- political maneuvering, they insist.)

Jones doesn't note Ornstein's statement in Lucas' article that the 8-equals-93 claim is "a false analogy," which happens to debunk her claim that only "liberal websites" (gee, is she perhaps referring to us?) are making that distinction. The AEI's not exactly "liberal," after all.

UPDATE: The bogus 8-equals-93 talking point is one that the rest of the MRC seems to have abandoned. The best Scott Whitlock could do in a March 20 NewsBusters post was complain that ABC used the "visual aid" of a stack of paper to represent the 3,000 pages of emails released by administration officials. Whitlock asserted that this was part of ABC's "campaign to have Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired."

Posted by Terry K. at 3:00 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 5:22 PM EDT
NewsMax Loves the Lord (Monckton)
Topic: Newsmax

A March 19 NewsMax article bites on the same press release that Noel Sheppard did about Lord Monckton's debate challenge to Al Gore. But unlike Sheppard, somebody at NewsMax made the effort to go beyond the press release. It's biased, of course, but at least the effort was made.

NewsMax repeats Monckton's claim, originally made in his London Telegraph article -- NewsMax reported on it last November, and it's where its non-press release stuff comes from -- challenging an apparent claim in a 2001 United Nations, changed from a 1996 report, that there was no "warm period" during the Middle Ages. But as George Monbiot reported in the Observer, Monckton was comparing apples and oranges: the graph in the U.N. report Monckton criticized measured global temperatures, while Monckton was citing European temperatures.

Monbiot, by the way, calls Monckton's article "a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation and pseudo-scientific gibberish," adding, "There is scarcely a line in Lord Monckton's paper which is not wildly wrong." NewsMax didn't note that, just as Sheppard didn't.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:56 AM EDT
Monday, March 19, 2007
The Powers That Mislead
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily's Doug Powers signs onto to the discredited 8-equals-93 meme. From his March 19 column:

The Democrat freak-out to the eight firings was immediate, loud and annoying – I mean, worse than usual. Some Republicans are now getting on board in calling for Gonzales' firing or resignation.


What did we hear from Democrats when Bill Clinton had Janet ''Why's That Guy Going Into The Women's Restroom?'' Reno fire all U.S. attorneys – all 93 of them? We heard nothing except the sound of crickets, pierced occasionally by intern giggles and ice rattling in Ted Kennedy's Chivas tumbler.

Of course, as we've detailed, there is a difference between the replacement of attorneys at the start of a new administration, as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush also did (which Powers doesn't note), and firing attorneys the administration itself first appointed for apparently not being partisan enough.

That link in the Powers excerpt goes to a 1998 National Review article by Robert Bork, who simlarly claimed that "suddenly fired all 93 U.S. attorneys" but not that Reagan got rid of 'em too.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:55 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2007 5:05 PM EDT
Sheppard Loves the Lord (Monckton)
Topic: NewsBusters

A March 19 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard touts a challenge by Lord Monckton, "a former advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher," to Al Gore to hold "an internationally televised, head-to-head, nation-unto-nation confrontation on the question, 'That our effect on climate is not dangerous.' " But Sheppard doesn't tell us the rest of the story.

According to The Raw Story, Lord Monckton (aka Christopher Monckton, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) has no scientific credentials, holding degrees only in classics and journalism. So why is he in any way authoritative on the issue of global warming? Apparently, he wrote a long article in the London Telegraph claiming that, in the words of British Guardian columnist George Monbiot, "climate change is a hoax perpetrated by a leftwing conspiracy coordinated by the United Nations." Monbiot calls Monckton's article "a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation and pseudo-scientific gibberish," adding, "There is scarcely a line in Lord Monckton's paper which is not wildly wrong."

Further, as Raw Story also notes (but Sheppard doesn't), Monckton's challenge is being promoted by the conservative Center for Science and Public Policy, whose operator, Frontiers of Freedom, has received funding from ExxonMobil and tobacco companies.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:34 PM EDT
New Article: The Difference Between Eight and 93
Topic: Media Research Center
The Media Research Center defends the Bush administration over the firings of U.S. attorneys by picking the wrong Clinton administration analogy to contrast it with. Read more.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:24 AM EDT
Sunday, March 18, 2007
WND Readers Issue Death Threats
Topic: WorldNetDaily

That headline is not hyperbole -- that's the unavoidable conclusion of a March 18 WorldNetDaily article. It noted that Idaho college professor Jessica Bryan, who "defended saying 'anyone who's ever voted Republican' should be executed by noting she delivered her opinion to students 'with a smile' " is "reportedly the target of e-mail death threats and offensive comments from people across the country." The article stated that the Spokesman-Review newspaper "referenced WND's earlier coverage of Bryan's statements and noted WND included the teacher's e-mail address, which was publicly available on the college's website."

I think we can put two and two together: WND publicized Bryan's email address; Bryan started receiving death threats; therefore, those death threats are coming from people who have read the WND article. Further, the article doesn't quote any WND officials denying such a link or criticizing the newspaper for making the implication.

Of course, this is a silly non-issue: After all, WND prints columns by Ann Coulter, who has advocated poisoning a Supreme Court justice and blowing up the New York Times building -- also, purportedly, with a smile on her face -- and WND hasn't seemed too bothered by that. That professor is just following in Coulter's footsteps. Where's the problem?

Posted by Terry K. at 4:56 PM EDT
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Fighting Bias With, Er, Bias
Topic: Media Research Center

This is sad. In a March 16 NewsBusters post attacking Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein for "peddling the old canard that Fox News is exponentially more biased than 'mainstream' news organizations," Tim Graham's evidence to counter it is ... the fact that Fox News isn't covering the U.S. attorney firing scandal, or in Graham's words, "playing the Charles Schumer script of 'Bring Me The Head of Alberto Gonzales.' "

Of course, as we've noted, the MRC is not truthfully covering that scandal either. So Graham countered the claim that Fox News is conservatively slanted with evidence that, um, Fox News is conservatively slanted. 

Posted by Terry K. at 10:09 AM EDT
MRC Using the Wrong Analogy
Topic: Media Research Center

In all of its attempts to equalize President Clinton's replacement of nearly all U.S. attorneys when he took office in 1993 with the Bush administration's firing of eight prosecutors, there is one thing the various tendrils of the Media Research Center have never addressed: the specific circumstances regarding the firing of the Bush prosecutors.

For instance, a March 15 NewsBusters post (and March 16 CyberAlert item) by Brent Baker includes a snippet of transcript from ABC in which it is asked whether there was "political motivation involved" in the firings of the attorneys and that "Democratic senators are saying tonight, the White House hasn't been forthcoming with how this whole plan began." That, of course, is the reason there is a controversy; as summarized here, one attorney was replaced specifically to install a former aide to Karl Rove, and there's evidence that administration officials fabricated evidence of "performance related" issues to remove others.

Yet, Baker obsesses over whether the mostly irrelevant issue of Clinton's actions regarding attorneys is mentioned. 

The problem appears to be the MRC's failure to choose a properly analogous Clinton situation. Rather than the routine start-of-new-administration replacement of attorneys, a better comparison is to Clinton's replacement of employees at the White House travel office -- which Clinton had the power to do since they, like the attorneys, serve at the pleasure of the president, yet a stink was raised about it anyway.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:13 AM EDT
Friday, March 16, 2007
Meanwhile ...
Topic: NewsBusters
Media Matters notes that in a March 15 NewsBusters post, Warner Todd Huston repeats the discredited claim that Barack Obama attended a madrassa as a child.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:17 PM EDT
Farah Still Thinks WND Is A Watchdog
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In his March 16 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah harps on his idea of the press having become lapdogs instead of watchdogs, adding "This is a constant theme for me – and, to be quite honest with you, ONLY ME!" First, Eric Boehlert might beg to differ, though to our knowledge Farah's has never noted this.

Second, and more importantly, Farah is once again implying that WND is the embodiment of his ideal of serving as "a watchdog on government and other powerful institutions – to root out our corruption, fraud, waste and abuse wherever they are found." As we've repeatedly documented, it's not. And Farah has declared the U.S. attorney scandal a nonstory, even though there is evidence that officials including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have lied in their public statements. Indeed, we can't think of a single instance of government corruption WND has uncovered that directly involved the Bush administration.

The one place that currently comes to mind as consistently breaking news about government corruption these days is Talking Points Memo and its sister site TPM Muckraker. Indeed, as the Columbia Journalism Review has noted, TPM did the work to make connections that showed how fishy those attorney firings were after the story was dismissed by the MSM (and Farah), to the point where Time writer Jay Carney apologized for blowing off the story.

Also worth noting: Among the list of things Farah says is not the answer to the question "What is the proper role of a free press in a free society," he writes, "It is incorrect if you answer: 'To be fair and balanced.' " While on the surface, that appears to be a dissing of the Fox News approach to journalism, in practice it is his excuse to tell biased stories and ignore inconvenient facts. In other words, it explains things like Bob Unruh.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:05 AM EDT

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