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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here We Go Again, Indeed
Topic: NewsBusters

In a May 14 NewsBusters post (and May 15 CyberAlert item), Brent Baker claimed that "media outlets cannot resist again hyping dire stories about the supposed 'record high' price of a gallon of gas when, adjusted for inflation, the current $3.10 average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is still lower than in 1981."

It's important to remember that, as we've previously noted, the interest of Baker and the MRC in the accuracy of "record high" claims vis-a-vis adjustments for inflation depends on whether adjusting for inflation makes Republicans look good and/or Democrats look bad.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:46 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:48 PM EDT
Kessler Fluffs Romney
Topic: Newsmax

NewsMax's Ronald Kessler appears to be trying to wean himself his Bush-fluffing ways -- that little gravy train won't be running for much longer -- by glomming onto a new person to fluff: Mitt Romney.

The process of shifting started in February, when Kessler detailed the "striking similarities between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney." It exploded with a pair of May 14 articles. the first is a heavy defense of Romney, in which Kessler backed his anti-abortion claims, asserting that "Romney as governor took pro-life stands, which is far more important than what he said in 1994 during a debate with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, presented what might described as cheapskate ways ("Instead of buying popcorn at a movie theater, Romney has been known to pop it in advance and take it with him") as a positive character trait ("Imagine Romney with a veto pen in his hand") and proudly noted that not only "among the leading Republican candidates, Romney is the only one still married to his first wife," a friend reports that Romney "confided to him before marrying Ann that they planned to consummate their marriage after the ceremony." Kessler also states:

Still, the media focus on atmospherics, Romney's Mormon religion, and his change in position on abortion, rather his record of accomplishment and character. In the last analysis, character is what voters care about, Karl Rove has told me.

Because, you know, Karl Rove is all about character. 

In the other article containing a few brief items, Kessler extends his fluff work to the rest of Romney's family, getting a little dig at the competition in the process: "In contrast to Rudy Giuliani's two children, who are estranged from him, all five of Mitt Romney's sons are campaigning for him." Kessler adds that Romney's kids have "Gap-ad good looks."

And speaking of digs, another item in the article takes yet another shot at John McCain's alleged temper problem. 

Posted by Terry K. at 1:18 AM EDT
Monday, May 14, 2007
Biting-The-Hand-That-Feeds-Us Watch
Topic: The ConWeb

Yes, conservative Angela McGlowan is advertising on this website. Why? She wanted to, and who are we to turn down advertising revenue? We generally don't reject ads; the only one we have rejected advertised something that looked a lot like a pyramid scheme. (You can buy a ad here too, BTW.)

In a effort to learn more about our advertiser, we read a May 14 interview of Angela McGlowan by Lisa De Pasquale. In it, McGlowan claims:

It was not until recently, and after the release of Bamboozled, that the most awful and disgusting campaigns have been lodged against me. From Media Matters to pornographic chat rooms, liberals have tried to use every means to discount and destroy my efforts to educate Americans on the lies of liberal agenda.

Aside from the clumsy attempt to link Media Matters (my employer) to porn, the fact is that the most recent mention of McGlowan at Media Matters occurred in July 2006, several months before "Bamboozled" came out; Media Matters has mentioned McGlowan a total of only three times since 2004.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:20 PM EDT
Huston Battles 'Lies' With Dubious Claims
Topic: NewsBusters

A May 14 NewsBusters post by Warner Todd Huston claimed that a Washington Times op-ed by Alex Gerber is "filled with lies," but Huston promotes a couple deceptions himself to attack the op-ed.

Huston claimed that Gerber "ignored all the evidence that says more armed people in a given area actually lowers gun violence," adding, "I would not claim to know that, should other students have been armed, fewer would have died, but the evidence that more guns means fewer gun crimes is strong enough that the idea should be considered sensible. Whereas the opposite, that posited by Gerber, simply is not as logically deducible. But, either way, no one will know unless the idea is tried." In support of his claim, Huston linked to an interview with researcher John R. Lott Jr., who wrote the book "More Guns, Less Crime." But Lott's thesis has been criticized for alleged flaws in his methodology and unsubstantiated claims. (And we haven't even gotten to the whole Mary Rosh thing.)

Huston adds:

And, I have to say, it has always amazed me that "Doctors" like Gerber get in such high dudgeon over 15,000 some murders a year, but they don't bother their self-righteous selves about the 39,189 auto deaths in the US. (see US murder rates since 1965 here See 2005 auto accident stats here) How are guns more dangerous than autos at this rate?

Has Huston never heard of safety improvements in autos or anti-drunk driving campaigns, signs that people have in fact been in "high dudgeon" over vehicle fatalities? Indeed, the auto accident statistics to which Huston links shows definite improvement over the years; while the number of fatalities have increased, the rate of deaths per capita and per miles traveled has decreased. Huston also plucked the wrong statistic out that report -- 39,189 is the number of fatal accidents in 2005, not the number of victims (which for 2005, including pedestrians, was 43,443).

Posted by Terry K. at 1:58 PM EDT
Unruh Gets Even More Dishonest About Grandmas
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily's Bob Unruh managed to top himself in a May 12 article by offering his most dishonest take yet on the arrested-grandmothers case. After claiming that "the "Thought Police" already have prosecuted Christians," Unruh wrote:

One Philadelphia woman, Arlene Elshinnawy, 75, and grandmother of three, was holding a sign: "Truth is hate to those who hate the truth," before she was hauled off by police officers, according to reports.

"According to reports"? Of course, other reports -- known in the trade as factually accurate reports -- state that Elshinnawy was part of a group led by a guy with a bullhorn who interrupted a gay festival and failed to obey a police order to move.

The article to which this claim is appended is headlined "Bill requires hiring 'gays,' cross-dressers," despite Unruh offering no evidence whatsover of what the headline implies -- that every business must have a gay or cross-dresser working for them. As is Unruh's practice of biased journalism, he quotes only opponents of the issues at hand and unfairly frames the controversy in the language of those opponents.

An unbylined May 12 WND article, meanwhile, tries to play the depiction-equals-approval fallacy card by claiming that a university that purportedly designated a restroom as being for "transgenders" is "participati[ng] in the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle." Of course, accomodation and promotion are two separate things.

The article also deceptively cropped a newspaper quote. From the WND article:

The wire reported wrote: "Leah Barrett, the BSU student union's director, said she told a group of student lawmakers the new restroom would be suitable … for transgender students."

In fact, the ellipsis deleted the context of what the restrooom is for. From an Oregonian article on the issue (deleted text in bold):

Leah Barrett, the BSU student union's director, said she told a group of student lawmakers the new restroom would be suitable for people with disabilities, for families -- and for transgender students.

In other words, it's not only for transgender students -- it's your ordinary unisex restroom. And WND is the news organization that its founder and editor insists has a track record of "honesty, integrity and standards"?

Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 AM EDT
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Huston Shocked By Existence of Hyperlink
Topic: NewsBusters

In noting that "Democrat Party [sic] presidential candidate John Edwards has issued a call to turn Memorial Day from a day to celebrate our troops to a day pushing a political message that attacks them," Warner Todd Huston observes in a May 13 NewsBusters post:

How often do you see MSM sources giving direct links to websites outside their own site? How many times have you seen a story mentioning a website, maybe even including the name of the website somewhere within the story, yet the story won't give the full address? Also, how many times do you see a web posting that actually includes a hypertext link to any website outside any paper's site? Not very often. But today the Washington Post has given John Edward's anti-war website a big boost by not only writing a story about it, but creating a direct link to it at the end of their story.

Imagine that: a news story that features a clickable hyperlink. The nerve of the Post to do such a thing! Huston adds:

Now, before it seems that I am decrying a paper linking to any other site, I have to say I am not against the concept. But there has been a practice by most newspaper websites of never linking to a source outside the paper's (except for paid advertisers) and they almost never create a link to a site that is in the news, causing their readers to make their own efforts to seek out the website in discussion.

Actually, it's not unusual for the Post to include hyperlinks to outside websites. (Associated Press articles normally include at the end links to relevant websites.) Logic would dictate that in a news article on a website that includes an address for another website, that address should be clickable. Perhaps newspapers are starting to figure that out.

Huston also shows an, er, unusual level of concern about the icon the Post uses for its political coverage:

Now, take a casual look at it, or perhaps squint a bit at it. Doesn't it look like you are looking at a drawing of a donkey with it's rear end facing you, as if it is looking back at you over it's haunches? Notice how the rear end is ACTUALLY the face of the elephant? Doesn't the trunk of the elephant look like the donkey's right, rear leg? Doesn't the curve of the ear of the elephant look like the donkey's tail? And the eye of the elephant is the donkey's.... well... not an "eye" exactly?

I wonder if the graphics guys at the Washington Post thought it might be funny to make the elephant's head the donkey's rear end? As a graphic artist myself, I cannot eliminate the possible symbolism, especially coming from the editorial position of the Post!

You mean the one that often agrees with the conservative Wall Street Journal?

Posted by Terry K. at 9:24 PM EDT
Farah's Priorities
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah has not yet responded to or otherwise acknowledged our letter, but he found time to devote his entire May 12 column to reponding to a letter writer who criticized a column he wrote eight years ago.

Looks like Farah would rather spend his precious time slapping down extreme or loopy claims, thus portraying them as representative of all criticism of him, than engage in a substantive debate. We're not surprised, but still...

Posted by Terry K. at 12:47 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, May 13, 2007 12:48 AM EDT
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Meanwhile ...
Topic: NewsBusters
Media Matters notes that NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield was part of the army of right-wing bloggers who promoted the false claim that Barack Obama muffed a statistic about the gas mileage of Japanese cars.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:04 AM EDT
Friday, May 11, 2007
Then and Now, Fake But Accurate Edition
Topic: Horowitz

"The claim that CBS's forged documents were 'fake but accurate' has been subjected to well-deserved derision."

-- War Blog, FrontMageMag, Sept. 24, 2004

"The statistics in his article were incorrect, but the points the article makes about liberal hypocrisy and liberal racism were not."

-- David Horowitz, May 10 FrontPageMag blog entry on Lawrence Auster's FrontPageMag article on "the legal lynching of the Duke students," in which he misinterpreted federal statistics to falsely assert that were no rapes of black women by white men in 2005.

We've written about Auster before. James Wolcott, with an assist from Undercover Black Man, has more on Auster's article, history of racism and his relationship with Horowitz.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:22 PM EDT
We've Been Sued!
Topic: The ConWeb
Well, us and our boss. By this guy.

Posted by Terry K. at 11:54 AM EDT
A Dare Accepted
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Dear Mr. Farah:

In your May 11 WorldNetDaily column, you note that your April 16 article on the alleged health hazards of compact fluorescent lights is used as an "example" of a fallacious charge on Snopes. You write:

The story was so good, if I do say so myself, it was picked up internationally.

Everything in the story is 100 percent accurate and truthful – and not a word of the original story has been altered.


Snopes reports my story is an "example" of this ludicrous assertion: "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb."

Now, I dare you. Go read my story and tell me where I, the reporter in this case, suggested any such nonsense.

We'll take you up on that dare.

You did, in fact, suggest the "nonsense" that "An environmental clean-up crew needs to be called in to deal with the mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb." Quoting from your April 16 article:

So, last month, the Prospect, Maine, resident [Brandy Bridges] went out and bought two dozen CFLs and began installing them in her home. One broke. A month later, her daughter's bedroom remains sealed off with plastic like the site of a hazardous materials accident, while Bridges works on a way to pay off a $2,000 estimate by a company specializing in environmentally sound cleanups of the mercury inside the bulb. 


The specialist warned Bridges not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself – recommending a local environmental cleanup firm.

That company estimated the cleanup cost, conservatively, at $2,000. And, no, her homeowners insurance won't cover the damage.

Since she could not afford the cleanup, Bridges has been forced to seal off her daughter's bedroom with plastic to avoid any dust blowing around. Not even the family pets are permitted in to the bedroom.

Further, while the Ellsworth American newspaper article you apparently lifted the Bridges story from quotes a spokesman for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection points out that it "isn’t necessary to hire professionals at all” for a light bulb and quotes the state toxicologist as saying it would be unlikely that a person could contract mercury poisoning from the levels of mercury found in Bridges’ daughter’s room, you included none of that information in your article. By listing only the $2,000 cleanup job as an option for cleaning up the broken bulb, you committed bias by omission and created a highly misleading -- if not, in the words of Snopes, "fallacious" -- article.

If the "original article" that you claim "not a word of ... has been altered" is the Ellsworth American article, you did indeed "alter" it by not completely reporting all the relevant claims it made -- specifically, that a $2,000 cleanup job is not the only option Bridges has.

That newspaper article also noted that Bridges has "spent roughly two to three hours a day over the past several weeks, talking on the phone and in person and contacting local papers to get the word out on what she believes are dangerous light bulbs." Is WorldNetDaily one of the news outlets to whom Bridges shopped her story?

You conclude your column by stating: "Long story short: Learn to trust those with track records of honesty, integrity and standards. WND has those traits." No, it doesn't; Refusal to report crucial, complete information -- information you failed to include in your original article on CFLs -- is not the hallmark of a news organization that puts into practice "honesty, integrity and standards."


Terry Krepel
Editor, ConWebWatch

Posted by Terry K. at 2:03 AM EDT
Thursday, May 10, 2007
WND Hypes 'Anti-God' Starbucks Cups, Buries 'Pro-God' Cups
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A May 6 WorldNetDaily article reported that Starbucks had a coffee cup in its "The Way I See It" series of quotes that included what it called an "anti-God" quotation. WND followed up the next day with an opt-in poll asking, "What do you think of the so-called "anti-God" message on Starbucks coffee cups?" The third-place answer, with 21 percent, was, "I bet Starbucks would not print a quote promoting the belief in the God of the Bible."

Nowhere did it note the fact that, as Pandagon pointed out, Starbucks does, in fact, have cups with "pro-God" sayings.

Pandagon's post appeared in the morning of May 9; WND followed up on the evening of May 9 with an article by Joe Kovacs proclaiming: "Starbucks markets more anti-God cups." Kovacs cites only one other "anti-God" cup that didn't appear in the previous WND article: a quote from humorist Joel stein stating that "Heaven is totally overrated" and that "They're basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell." Kovacs even cited the results of WND's opt-in poll on the issue -- but didn't mention that the gripe out that Starbucks wouldn't promote God or the Bible.

It's not until the 16th paragraph of his article that Kovacs notes that "Starbucks provided WND with some cup messages that could be viewed as 'pro-God.' " One of them, though, is from 'Purpose-Driven Life" mogul Rick Warren, whom WND is currently feuding with.

Doesn't the fact that Starbucks offers "pro-God" cups negate criticism over the "anti-God" cups? Or is Kovacs' and WND's goal to attack and marginalize anything that could be considered criticism of Christianity? They don't say.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:53 PM EDT
CNS Follows WND's Template, Misleads on Fluorescent Bulbs

A May 10 article by Fred Lucas took a page out of WorldNetDaily's notebook to make misleadingly alarmist claims about compact fluorescent lights. Focusing on the that WND's Joseph Farah did -- that of the Brandi Bridges family -- stating that "Bridges dropped a fluorescent bulb in her daughter's room and it shattered, leaving potentially unsafe levels of mercury inside the rug. At the suggestions of the state's Department of Environmental Protection, she now has to pay $2,000 for a professional environmental clean up. Her seven-year-old daughter sleeps in the family room, as her room is sealed off by plastic."

But like Farah, Lucas descends into scaremongering and ignored information showing that the Bridges case was overblown. Like Farah, Lucas fails to mention that, according to the newspaper article from which they both apparently took their claims about the Bridges case, another spokesman for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection points out that it "isn’t necessary to hire professionals at all” for a light bulb, and that the specialist who responded to Bridges’ broken bulb was trained to respond to chemical spills and to clean up such spills to "appropriate standards."

Lucas wrote that "In Bridges' case, the shattered glass couldn't be easily removed from the carpet and reached a level of 1,939 ng/m3 (monograms per cubic meter) in the single area. For her daughter's entire room, the levels in the air were well below 300, considered the threshold for safety." But the newspaper reported the rest of the story:

State Toxicologist Andrew Smith said it would be unlikely that a person could contract mercury poisoning from the levels of mercury found in Bridges’ daughter’s room.

“In this situation, my understanding, was this 1,900 was the sign reading right at the spot of the floor where the bulb broke,” said Smith. “While 1,900 was certainly considered an elevated reading of mercury vapor, it was a very localized level that I would not expect to result in any sign of mercury exposure.”

Lucas also failed to mention that, acccording to the newspaper, Bridges "spent roughly two to three hours a day over the past several weeks, talking on the phone and in person and contacting local papers to get the word out on what she believes are dangerous light bulbs." Was CNS one of the news outlets Bridges contacted in her media blitz?

Posted by Terry K. at 9:34 AM EDT
WND Promotes Skewed Abstinence Poll
Topic: WorldNetDaily

A May 8 WorldNetDaily article promoted a "Zogby Poll done for the National Abstinence Education Association" which claimed that "nine out of 10 parents agree being sexually abstinent is best for their child's health and future and, mostly, believe the message to wait is lost when sex education teaches the use of contraceptives." The article quotes Valerie Huber, the association's executive director, as saying that the poll "also reveals the preference for abstinence-only education programs rises sharply – from 40 percent to 60 percent – when parents understand that sex education programs encompassing contraceptives do encourage sexual activity."

But a closer look at the poll shows it to be, in essence, a push poll designed to elicit that response.

Of course, since the National Abstinence Education Association paid Zogby for this poll, the entire point is to obtain results that conform with their agenda, and a look at the poll questions show how that was done. Before the survey got to the que4stion asking whether "Sex Education classes in public schools should place more emphasis on promoting abstinence rather than on condom and other contraceptive use" (question 18), respondents were targeted with a series of questions with scary, unsupported and/or unexplained claims:

7. According to the publication Contraceptive Technology, among typical couples using condoms for birth control, more than one in ten become pregnant each year. Do you ... that your child should be educated on how often condoms fail to prevent pregnancy based upon typical use?

8. Since adults only use condoms consistently less than 50% of the time, according to a study done by the University of California Berkeley, it is even less likely for teens to correctly use a condom every single time they have sex[?]

10. According to the Centers for Disease Control, condoms do not offer 100% protection against any sexually transmitted disease or STD. Do you ... that your child should be instructed on the limitations of condoms in preventing specific STDs?

12. Do you ... that promoting different forms of sexual activity in sex education classes, such as showering together and mutual masturbation as alternatives to intercourse encourages sexual activity among teens?

The poll questions also, without evidence, unfavorably compare comprehensive sex education with abstinence-only sex ed:

19. If you knew that typical Comprehensive Sex Education programs spend as little as 5% of the time teaching abstinence, while instead, some programs spend much more time teaching students how to put condoms on models of male genitalia, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

20. If you knew that typical Abstinence Education Courses place a higher emphasis on building healthy relationships, bolstering self worth and self-control, rather than on condom usage skills, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

21. If you knew that some Comprehensive Sex Education courses may advise students to experiment with different flavors and colors of condoms as part of its sex education, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

22. If you knew that typical Abstinence Education Courses teach teens how to develop healthy relationships to improve their chances for a healthy future marriage, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

23. If you knew that some Comprehensive Sex Education teaches and promotes alternative forms of sexual activity, called outercourse, which may include showering together and mutual masturbation as effective ways to avoid pregnancy and disease, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

24. If you knew that typical Abstinence Education Courses teach how an unplanned pregnancy and/or contracting sexually transmitted diseases can negatively affect a teen's future physically, financially, and emotionally, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

25. If you knew that typical Abstinence Education Courses teach teens about increasing their self-worth as a method for reducing premarital sexual activity, would you be ... to support teaching Abstinence Education in place of Comprehensive Sex Education?

The poll offers respondents no evidence for its attacks on comprehensive sex ed, nor does it raise questions about the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex ed (remember who paid for the poll). Indeed, a week after the polling was completed, a congressional study reported that abstinence-only sex ed does not keep teenagers from having sex, nor does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

In other words, the Zogby study is too biased to be meaningful to anyone other than pro-abstinence, anti-comprehensive sex ed activists.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:40 AM EDT
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Speaking of Pots and Kettles ...
Topic: NewsBusters

A May 9 NewsBusters post (and Times Watch item) by Clay Waters claimed it was a "pot meets kettle" moment when the New York Times described the New York Post and Fox News as being "known for their right-wing political bent and racy tone." Waters writes: "Strange how the Times never cops to its own undeniable liberal bias, yet doesn't hesitate to label Fox News as right-wing or conservative."

And it's equally strange how Waters offers no evidence to contradict the Times' claim. He and his MRC buddies just can't quite admit that Fox News skews right. Perhaps doing so would jeopardize the fawning coverage Fox gives to them.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:16 PM EDT

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