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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
CNS Selectively Questions Death Penalty Studies

A July 18 article by Kevin Mooney examined the possibility of New Jersey repealing the death penalty "in the face of academic studies challenging the view that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to murder." Mooney cited a number of studies that claim a state-enforced death penalty prevents murders, as well a study that claims the opposite, but he bolstered the claims of the former studies and denigrated the claims of the latter.

Mooney specifically cited two studies by Emory University researchers, as well as a study by University of Colorado researchers, claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect. He featured the first Emory study at length, which claimed "that there are an average of 18 fewer murders for every execution," quoting one of the study's researchers. Mooney also featured Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which favors the death penalty, calling these studies noteworthy because they come from economists "who have no political axe to grind."

Mooney also stated that "death penalty opponents cited another study, released last year in the Stanford Law Review, that directly challenging the findings in the Emory study and similar reports." But rather than bolstering the academic credentials of its researchers, Mooney quotes one of the authors of the Emory study calling it "a serious but flawed critique" and that "his team is preparing a rejoinder to the Stanford Law Review study."

Such selective reporting suggests that the Emory studies have never been seriously questioned on an academic level, which is false. As Casey Stubbs at the Huffington Post details:

John Donohue, Yale Law School professor and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Justin Wolfers, Wharton School of Business professor and Research Affiliate at the NBER, analyzed the same data used in the Emory and Denver studies, as well as other studies by the same researchers and many other nationwide reports. They found that if anything, executions increase homicides, concluding: "The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence ... On balance, the evidence suggests that the death penalty may increase the murder rate."

Donohue and Wolfers analyzed data from the 2006 study by the Emory researchers using non-death penalty states as a control group, a basic statistical tool used to study causation not used in the Emory study. When they compared death penalty states with non-death penalty states, they found no evidence of any effect of executions on murder rates, either up or down. Donohue and Wolfers also analyzed the data from the 2003 Emory study that concluded that each execution prevented 18 murders and found that the reduction or increase in murders was actually more dependent on other factors used in the study than whether or not the states had the death penalty. For example, when Donohue and Wolfers slightly redefined just one of the factors included by the Emory researchers, they found that each execution caused 18 murders.

Donohue and Wolfers also recomputed data from the Denver study of select states to account for overall crime trends, a factor not included in the Denver study, and reached inconclusive results. For two states included in the Denver study that had abolished the death penalty, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Donohue and Wolfers found that the homicides rates actually fell after capital punishment was ended.

There's a lot more death penalty research going on than Mooney suggests -- and, also, more questioning of the "deterrent effect" than he wants his readers to know.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:33 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:03 PM EDT
Farah's Disingenuous Puffery
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Mix a little shameless self-promotion with some misleading information, and what do you get? Joseph Farah's July 17 WorldNetDaily column.

Farah starts off by declaring that a Business Week column speculating on when the first major newspaper will stop publishing a print product and go completely digital is a "timely plug" for his own book, "Stop the Presses!" -- which is actually about using conservative media like WND to attack the "liberal" media (though he uses a couple pages in his book to rehash his bogus argument that WND isn't conservative). Farah then details financial losses by newspapers in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Boston, adding: "By the way, what do each of these candidates for demise have in common? They all face competition from much-smaller, but feisty alternative dailies with a more 'conservative' view."

Farah might have added: "and owned by secretive conservative billionaires with lots of money they can afford to lose in establishing said paper." That is the case with the competition in San Francisco (Philip Anschutz) and Pittsburgh (Richard Mellon Scaife, though his Pittsburgh operation was apparently losing money to the extent that it was downsized and layoffs were made). The competition in Boston also has a history of losses.

Conspicuous by its absence on Farah's list is the Washington Times, which has been supported by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church to the tune of billions of dollars. (Last time we checked, though, WND was singing the Times' tune.) Farah never explains why only the "liberal" papers (he never uses the word, but that's what he means), and not the equally money-losing conservative papers, are "candidates for demise."

Responding to the Business Week columnist's claim that those newspapers have "unassailable market positions, excellent editorial and massive traffic," Farah wrote, "To put this in perspective for those readers already inclined to the digital, all three of these major papers with 'massive' online presence are considerably smaller than the DrudgeReport. One of them, the Post-Gazette, is massively dwarfed online by WND."

To put it in even more perspective, Farah is comparing apples and oranges as far as website traffic is concerned. Regional newspapers (and their websites) cater to different audiences than nationally oriented websites like Drudge and WND. While the Post-Gazette's website may indeed be "massively dwarfed online by WND" in raw numbers, it's virtually certain that the Post-Gazette's website massively dwarfs WND's readership in the Pittsburgh area. Why? Because WND offers next to no news targeted to Pittsburgh, while local news is the Post-Gazette's job. Similarly, the Globe almost assuredly has more readers in Buston than WND does. Farah is being disingenous by omitting these caveats.

Nowhere in his column does Farah offer actual numbers regarding WND's website traffic or its financial situation, which would give his readers some raw data to examine. 

And it wouldn't be a Farah column without a dollop of puffery on his part: "I do believe I alone hold one distinction in this history of the New Media. I think I can safely claim that I am the first daily newspaper editor in chief to launch an independent daily news source on the Internet. I did it 10 years ago – and you are reading it right now."

We'll be giving Farah's book the once-over in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that Farah is as disingenuous in his book as he is in this column.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:16 AM EDT
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Folger, WND Still Mislead About Anti-Gay Protesters
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Janet Folger just bring herself to tell the real story about anti-gay protesters.

In her July 16 WorldNetDaily column, Folger purported to detail the "cliff notes of what so called 'hate crime' legislation has already done in America." She cited the following as "the facts":

Crystal Lake, Illinois. Two 16 year old girls are facing felony "hate crime" charges for the content of their flyers.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Linda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk.

But as we've detailed, Folger's not big on "the facts" when telling the story of anti-gay protesters:

  • The girls in Crystal Lake, in fact, faced charges after allegedly plastering their high school’s halls and distributing anti-gay fliers directed towards a fellow student in the school’s parking lot.
  • Elshinnawy and Beckman not the meek, ordinary grandmothers that Folger portrays -- they are anti-gay, anti-abortion activists in thrall to bullhorn-wielding street preachers.

Given that Folger is hiding the truth about the Crystal Lake and Philadelphia cases, she's likely doing the same about the other two cases she cites:

Elmira, N.Y. The Elmira police arrested seven Christians for praying in a public park where a homosexual festival was getting started. A female officer told the group, "You're not going to enter the park, and you're not going to share your religion with anybody in this park." The group of seven didn't say anything, but got down on their faces and silently prayed. They were promptly placed in handcuffs.

Folger (and Bob Unruh, in the July 7 WND article from which Folger apparently got her information) leaves out one important detail: According to a June 24 Elmira Star-Gazette article on the incident, the group did their silent praying in front of the stage, thus disrupting the event. Folger and Unruh also fail to mention, as the Star-Gazette detailed, that the protesters were quickly released and returned to the event, but not in the park.

A June 27 Star-Gazette article describes the leader of the protesters, Julian Raven, as "a born-again Christian street preacher" and quoted an Elmira pastor as describing Raven's preaching style as "zealous and militant." The article adds: "

Julian preaches loudly and with a passion that borders on anger. He holds a Bible in one hand and waves his other in the air as punctuation, while he wails of woes and bellows about schools removing the Ten Commandments, television shows "full of filth" and violence spreading across the city and the nation.

Sounds like Elshinnawy and Beckman's kind of guy. How about Folger's other example?

St. Petersburg, Fla. Five Christians, including two pastors, were arrested at a homosexual rally for stepping onto the public sidewalk instead of staying caged in their officially designated "free speech zone." Their signs were also "illegal" because they were slightly "bigger than their torsos." Apparently, large people are entitled to more speech than those with smaller frames.

Yep, the leader of the protests, Rev. Billy Ball, is another bullhorn-wielding street preacher. And it turns out that one of his protesters frightened an 8-year-old child by walking up to her and her mother with a sign that said, "You're Going To Hell."

Unruh, for his part, uncritically repeats Folger's claims in a July 17 article on attempts to add a federal hate-crime law into a defense spending bill. Unruh quotes several opponents of the law, but nowhere does he allow supporters of the law to rebut their claims. Further, nowhere does Unruh note that a clause of the bill states: "Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution." 

By painting these people as victims and Christian martyrs, Folger and Unruh clearly want to hide the true -- some might say obnoxious -- nature of these aggressive, boundary-pushing, bullhorn-wielding preachers and their followers.

Posted by Terry K. at 5:29 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 7:43 PM EDT
Baker Misleadingly States Bias Poll's Claims
Topic: Media Research Center

In a July 16 NewsBusters post (and July 17 MRC CyberAlert item), Brent Baker follows Noel Sheppard's lead by misleadingly stating the results of a Rasmussen Reports poll on media bias.

Baker wrote that "by about two-to-one or greater, the public recognize a liberal bias over a conservative bias on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR as well as in the New York Times and Washington Post." But that's not exactly what the poll numbers say. The lead claim -- that 39 percent of Americans believe that "the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals," compared with to "20 percent," the source of the 2-to-1 comparison Baker touts. But it's not clear from Rasmussen's press release what exactly the "20 percent" is referring to in relation to the 39 percent; the actual questions asked are behind a pay wall.

A much more accurate description of the poll's results would be to state that 61 percent of Americans do not believe network news is liberally biased -- but that wouldn't suit the MRC's agenda.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:18 PM EDT
Farah and Anti-Catholicism
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In a July 13 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah is weirdly proud that "non-Catholic Christians did not rise up in anger and violence when insulted by the pope," after Pope Benedict XVI declared that Protestants did not belong to the "true church." Farah adds: "I don't want to kill the pope because of his wrongful conclusions about me and my faith."

Farah doesn't have to; as a self-described "evangelical Christian" and head of WND, he can attack the pope and Catholics in other ways -- which has happened. WND's July 11 article on the pope's decree quotes six comments from a newspaper's comment board on the decree, only two of which (and the two shortest) supported the pope. The others included comments like "I am embarrassed to be Catholic" and "Just shows why it is almost impossible to remain a practicing Catholic."

Most notoriously, as we've noted, in an October 2006 article on Catholic Georgetown University's decision to remove non-Catholic ministries from its campus, WND suggested that Catholics weren't Christians, putting the word "Christian" in scare quotes in describing the university. But WND was silent when a Baptist school, Baylor University, removed all non-Baptist ministries from its campus a few years earlier.

Will the pope's decree cause Farah and WND to become more explicitly anti-Catholic? We'll be watching (and perhaps William Donohue should as well). 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:26 AM EDT
CNS' Selective Amnesia on Thompson

A July 13 article by Fred Lucas engages in a little selective amnesia. In claiming that "media scrutiny" (read: "liberal" media scrutiny) of Fred Thompson's record as a lobbyist is making him "a target for his political opponents" (read: liberals), Lucas makes no mention of an article he wrote a month ago detailing how Thompson's Senate voting record and previous comments could change the view of Thompson as "the great conservative hope of 2008."

Indeed, in his new article, Lucas cites only one attack on Thompson: the claim by what Lucas called "pro-abortion lobbyists" (thus perpetuating CNS' biased labeling practices) that Thompson lobbied for their group in the early 1990s.

Lucas then adds, parenthetically, that "Since the L.A. Times published its story, the paper has altered at least one dubious comment by DeSarno-in the website posting of the story-without issuing a correction or explanation." But Lucas does nothing to substantiate that assertion, not even reporting who originally made that allegation. Most likely Lucas got his information from NewsBusters' Warner Todd Huston -- who writes that, contradicting Lucas's assertion that the Times did not offer "a correction or explanation," the paper did, in fact, offer an explanation: The original website version of the article was replaced by the version that ran in the print edition. So Lucas seems to have suffered a tiny bout of amnesia here as well.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:47 AM EDT
Monday, July 16, 2007
NewsMax Scaring Folks Into Buying Radios
Topic: Newsmax

As we've noted, NewsMax is trying to cash in on recent reported terrorism threats by trying to get its readers to buy crank-operated radios. A July 16 article details the sales NewsMax has seen -- and the further scare tactics it's employing, as indicated by its headline, "Terror 'Chatter' Extremely High -- Prepare":

 Our recent e-mail news alert shattered sales records for our emergency radio — one every  home must have in the case of a terror attack or other catastrophe.

Just a  few years ago, Manhattan lost their electricity and millions of people had  no idea what happened.

Those  with emergency radios like the Kaito Emergency Radio, however, knew exactly what was happening.


Homeland  Security Chief Michael Chertoff believes a terror incident could happen  this summer. Other news reports indicate al-Qaida is back to full strength  and terrorist chatter is at an all time high.

Take  Homeland Security's advise and get your family an emergency radio.

NewsMax still hasn't reconciled this crass sales pitch with the Bush administration's claim (as reported by NewsMax itself) that there is no imminent terrorism threat against the United States.

Posted by Terry K. at 3:05 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:48 AM EDT
Graham Attacks Fein's Conservatism
Topic: NewsBusters

Tim Graham, in a July 15 NewsBusters post attacking a Bill Moyers program on PBS, wrote of guest and lawyer Bruce Fein: "Moyers labeled [him] a 'conservative,' but he compared Bush to King George III, to Adolf Hitler, to the communist autocrats of the Gulag, and to, well, FDR, in suggesting the post 9-11 era could see a mistake like our interning of Japanese Americans." In a later July 15 post, Graham went after Fein himself, putting "conservative" in scare quotes in the headline and claiming that "Fein was a member of the Reagan Administration, but during the Dubya years, Fein sounds a lot like your typical 'Bush hater,' comparing the president to a long list of historical villains."

Graham really doesn't disprove anything Fein says, instead pretending that Fein really isn't a conservative:

How "conservative" are the conservatives that PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers interviews? Sadly, when Moyers puts you on his show, every conservative in America should suspect you’re either (a) no longer conservative or (b) your conservatism/libertarianism at least somehow landed you in strange-bedfellows agreement with Moyers. In this case, if anything, Fein was not only fiercer in his denunciation of Bush-Cheney than Bill Moyers, he was harsher than the guy from The Nation magazine. Calling Fein a conservative is a little like trying to call Zell Miller a liberal. Would Democrats accept that?

Of course, Fein has conservative cred to spare, from writing a column for the Washington Times to scholar posts at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation to penning one of the articles of impeachment against President Clinton.

Graham never explains why no conservative is permitted to criticize President Bush; he seems to believe that one hallmark of a conservative is unquestioning fealty to all Republican officials no matter what, and to Bush in particular. Then again, unquestioning fealty to Bush is what the MRC does. It looks like the MRC will be as much a dead-ender with Bush as it is with Ann Coulter.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:37 PM EDT
WND Cranks Up Anti-Romney Jihad
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Joseph Farah's whim is WorldNetDaily's command. So when Farah declared in a July 13 column that Mitt Romney is a "political chameleon," a "charlatan," "as phony as a three-dollar campaign promise," that was the green light for WND's "news" side to trash Romney.

The festivities actually started a day before, with a July 12 article about "two dozen family values activists" who accused the conservative National Review of "puff" reporting on Romney's presidential campaign that ignores his "constitutional bungling" of the court decision that led to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The same day as Farah's column, WND summarized an editorial in the "Mormon church-owned Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City" attacking Romney for allegedly doing "nothing during his 10 years on the board [of hotel chain Marriott] to reverse the corporation's policy of offering pornography on TV in its rooms."

And a July 14 article by Bob Unruh followed up on the same-sex marriage talking point, quoting "constitutional experts" -- all of whom are linked to conservative activist groups -- as claiming Romney "did no more or less than create the first homosexual marriages recognized in the nation." In true Unruh tradition, he provides no opportunity for Romney's campaign or any non-conservative "constitutional experts" to rebut the charges made in the article.

These latest attacks have mostly stayed away from attacking Romney's Mormonism, though as we've noted, WND has promoted such attacks in the past.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:10 AM EDT
AIM Perpetuates Libby Fallacy
Topic: Accuracy in Media

A July 6 "special report" by Roger Aronoff asserted that Richard Armitage "was the real 'leaker' " in the Valerie Plame case. As we've detailed with others who have made the same claim, Libby did, in fact, leak Plame's CIA identity to at least two reporters. Aronoff is making the absurd argument that because Armitage leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak, and Novak was the first to report it ahead of the reporters to whom Libby leaked, that Libby's leak somehow magically didn't happen.

Aronoff also alleged that there is "evidence that Plame may have lied under oath before Congress about her role in her husband’s trip" to Niger that "deserve[s] follow-up." But as we've detailed, that "evidence" is a memo that shows, in fact, that Plame did not "recommend" or "suggest" her husband, Joseph Wilson, for the mission in Niger, that it was CIA higher-ups' idea to send him, and that Plame was reluctant about the idea.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:59 AM EDT
Sunday, July 15, 2007
A Reading Assignment for Noel Sheppard
Topic: NewsBusters

Has NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard ever heard of Media Matters? Apparently not, because he's written a few posts of late that make claims contradicted by my employer.

In a July 9 post, Sheppard singled out Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s "rant" during the Live Earth concerts asserting that conservative media figures such as John Stossel, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are "lying to you, lying to the American public, and telling you that global warming doesn't exist." He claimed to highlight Kennedy's remarks as being "[f]or those whose gastrointestinal tracts couldn’t allow them to stomach the goings on during Saturday’s Live Earth concerts." A July 15 post called Kennedy's statements "absurd" (and professed to be "verklempt" that Stossel and conservative radio host Steve Malzberg would trash Kennedy for saying such a thing).

But if Sheppard had read Media Matters, he would know that Stossel, Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh have indeed made false, misleading, or just plain wacky claims about global warming (among many other issues). 

In another July 15 post, Sheppard repeated a Rasmussen Reports poll that he claimed showed Americans "overwhelmingly believe" the media has a liberal bias. Well, maybe, if you think 40 percent is "overwhelming." He then went on to insult anyone who doesn't think otherwise, saying of the 25 percent who said that "ABC, CBS, and NBC deliver the news without any bias": "How’d you like to be part of that addle-minded minority?" In noting that 49 percent of liberals believe that network TV news has a conservative bias, Sheppard wrote: "Can you imagine the intellectual capacity of someone who believes that ABC, CBS, and NBC are conservatively biased? Must be the same people who think Michael Moore’s films are actually documentaries, and Al Gore is more qualified to make climate prognostications than accredited meteorologists and climatologists."

Of course, Media Matters has documented numerous instances of pro-conservative, anti-liberal tilt on CBS, NBC and ABC

The question is, can Sheppard tear himself away from thinking up new insults for Al Gore long enough to do some actual research and check out that newfangled thing called Media Matters?

Posted by Terry K. at 11:26 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2007 11:27 AM EDT
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Speaking of Off-Limits ...
Topic: NewsBusters

A July 13 NewsBusters post by Joe Steigerwald attacked a Washington Post aticle for noting that "Al Gore’s film has raised awareness of energy conservation," asserting that "While the article stumbles over itself bestowing platitudes on Al Gore’s “documentary,” it – of course – fails to mention that while Al was busy lecturing America about the evils of carbon emissions, his own house in Tennessee was using over 20 times more energy than the national average." Steigerwald added: "Of course people caught up in the hysteria of the green movement constantly 'forget' to include little things like that in their stories. Mentioning such a thing about their hero Albert is obviously off-limits."

What appears to be off-limits for Steigerwald (not to mention the rest of the NewsBusters crew, especially Gore Derangement Syndrome victim Noel Sheppard) is telling the full truth about Gore. Steigerwald "forgot" to mention that Gore paid above and beyond his normal electricity bill in order to buy energy from solar or other renewable energy sources. Nor does Steigerwald note that Gore had to battle local zoning laws to get solar panels installed.

Speaking the full truth about Gore at the MRC -- or even mentioning anything positive about Gore -- is obviously off-limits. 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:42 AM EDT
Friday, July 13, 2007
Meanwhile ...
Topic: Newsmax

Media Matters catches NewsMax's Ronald Kessler pedding a falsehood (itself peddled by Bay Buchanan) about Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and 9/11 -- the same one he uncritically repeated in his June 18 profile of Buchanan and her Clinton-bashing book.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:52 PM EDT
FrontPageMag's False Comparison
Topic: Horowitz

A lengthy July 13 FrontPageMag screed by John Perazzo against Media Matters (my employer) makes this claim: "Such assignments [to monitor conservatives in the media] are made possible by Media Matters' $8.5 million budget, which is, by way of comparison, more than ten times as large as the budget of a website like FrontPage." The Horowitz crew has made this comparison before; Jacob Laskin wrote in a 2005 article that Media Matters' $2 million in start-up money "was a sum larger than a ten year budget for a site like"

But that is a false comparison because FrontPageMag, as a opinion journal, is not the same thing as Media Matters, a media watchdog group. A much more logical comparison would be to the Media Research Center, which employs at least 60 and has income of at least $15 million.

(Plus, Perazzo's and Laskin's comparison of Media Matters only to FrontPageMag curiously glosses over the fact that FrontPageMag is a division of a much larger operation, the David Horowitz Freedom Center. They are silent on the subject of the Center's overall budget.)

Also, Perazzo notes the number of Media Matters staffers who have ties to the Democratic Party -- which involved little more than copying-and-pasting information posted on Media Matters' website. But since he refused to parallel Media Matters with the MRC for funding purposes, he thus ignores the number of MRC staffers with ties to the Repubican Party (a few of which we've noted).

Perazzo (and the Horowitz operation in general) is pretending that an operation like Media Matters doesn't exist on the conservative side, when in fact it has for 20 years.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:50 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2007 1:10 PM EDT
NewsMax Headline Bias Watch
Topic: Newsmax

The headline the Associated Press put on a July 12 article: "Democrats Assail Bush Record on Race."

The headline NewsMax put on it: "Obama Plays Race Card on Libby Decision." 

Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT

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