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Friday, April 25, 2008
Correlation-Equals-Causation Fallacy Watch
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center has latched onto the Republicans' latest talking point: the steep rise in oil and gas prices in the past several months is the fault of the Democrats because they now control Congress.

An April 21 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones uncritically repeated the GOP's accusations of a so-called "Pelosi Premium" without giving Pelosi, or any other Democrat, a chance to respond.

Jeff Poor wrote in an April 22 NewsBusters post:

[W]hen the Democratic-controlled Congress was sworn in on Jan. 7, 2007, the average price of a gallon of gas was $2.32 cents a gallon, according to AAA.

Over the six years (2191 days) Bush was president with a Republican-controlled Congress, the price of gas increased 85 cents per gallon. The price has gone up $1.19 in the 472 days Democrats have controlled Congress.

Neither Poor nor Jones offer any evidence that any act of the 110th Congress -- which would, by the way, have to be approved by a Republican president -- contributed in any way to the rise in gas prices. That's called a correlation-equals-causation fallacy.

Poor and Jones might try getting their noses out of GOP press releases and try being a little more honest.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:25 AM EDT
AIM's Other Guilt-By-Association Attack: Obama's A Commie!
Topic: Accuracy in Media

In an April 23 Accuracy in Media column, Cliff Kincaid keeps up his guilt-by-association attacks on Barack Obama, now claiming that Obama's a secret communist who wants to turn your kids into terrorists (and dope smokers). No, really:

An objective observer might conclude that [William] Ayers, [Bernardine] Dohrn and their comrades are now dedicated to creating a new student and youth movement, like the one they participated in which eventually developed into a full-blown terrorist organization that killed our fellow citizens and tried to eliminate the “Thin Blue Line” of police separating us from the criminals. 

In this new crusade, they not only have an inspiring leader, Barack Obama, who attracts young people with his promise of “change,” but a moneybags named Soros, who has funded causes such as rights for convicted felons and legalization of dope.

Kincaid, of course, has no evidence to prove any of this, just guilt-by-association smears.

Kincaid also claims, "The real issue is whether Obama shares Ayers’ communist views. Obama admitted to exchanging ideas with Ayers on an irregular basis but" -- insert sinister-sounding background music here -- "did not say what those ideas were." Gasp!


Posted by Terry K. at 9:10 AM EDT
WND Lies and Misleads About Library Internet Filters
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An April 24 WorldNetDaily article by Alyssa Farah creatively reinterprets a debate over Internet content filters on public-access computers in Sacramento, Calif., libraries.

How creative? The term "content filter" doesn't appear anywhere in her article. Instead, Farah has unilaterally decided that the issue is pornography and only pornography. According to her lead paragraph: "Are public library restrictions against pornography access unconstitutional?"

As per the usual WND bias, Farah quotes only opponents of "pornography in libraries" -- that is, supporters of content filters. The other side of the story is represented by a single sentence fragment: "the American Civil Liberties Union maintained the position that restricting public access to pornography in libraries would be unconstitutional."

But Farah offers no evidence that the ACLU said "restricting public access to pornography in libraries would be unconstitutional" in those exact words. That's because it didn't. Farah is lying to her readers.

In fact, a Feb. 25 letter from the ACLU of Northern California contains no such statement or any other explicit endorsement of "pornography in libraries." Rather, the ACLU expressed its opposition to the use of "blocking software" on public Internet computers, pointing out that of the more than 3 million Internet sessions recorded on Sacramento library computers, only 24 complaints were filed regarding Internet content. The ACLU also pointed out that content filters inevitably block legitimate research materials.

None of this information appears in Farah's article.

WND has misled about Sacramento library content filters before, as we've noted; a January 2007 article claimed as fact without supporting evidence: "While pornography itself doesn't 'shoot the bullet' for sex crimes, it does 'cock the trigger,' and Sacramento officials who supervise their public library system have told porn addicts to go ahead and get loaded."

Alyssa Farah is the daughter of WND editor Joseph Farah. Sadly, it appears that she's picking up some of dad's more mendacious qualities.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:18 AM EDT
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Farah's Disingenous Defense Continues
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In his April 24 WorldNetDaily column, Joseph Farah plays dumb again, repeating his insistence that "I never suggested, stated, hinted or even thought about air-dropping pig's blood over Afghanistan," as claimed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Ibrahim Hooper, and ponders whether to sue CAIR for libel.

As before, Farah didn't tell his readers the basis for Hooper's claim: A Sept. 27, 2001, WND column by Paul Sperry advocating telling Afghanis that the U.S. has "enlisted Afghani moles to contaminate their water supplies with pig's blood."

While Hooper's claim is inaccurate in that he attributes the statement to Farah, Farah should know that there is a kernel of truth for the claim -- while Farah did not advocate using pig's blood against Muslims, Farah's website did -- yet he won't mention the Sperry column. especially since one can easily argue that WND is a reflection of the personal biases and agenda of its founder and editor, Farah. Hooper and CAIR should properly attribute the claim -- but it's disingenuous for Farah to keep whining about it without acknowledging the factual basis of the complaint.

Farah goes on to complain to the New York Daily News, which first printed Hooper's statement:

I always thought the standard practice was to print accurate and truthful statements about known individuals – named or not. I always thought the standard operating practice was to allow people attacked verbally like this to respond and correct the record. I always thought that once a story or column was challenged, corrections would be made – if they were in order.

But WND regularly attacks people and organizations without giving them an opportunity to respond -- columnist Olivia St. John is just one recent example. And "print[ing] accurate and truthful statements about known individuals – named or not" is simply not WND is known for, despite what Farah would like us to believe -- just ask Clark Jones. Or Barack Obama. Or Islamic Relief. Or Michael Schaivo. Or Teresa Heinz Kerry. Or ...


Posted by Terry K. at 9:31 AM EDT
Aaron Klein Mighty Wurlitzer Watch
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In an April 22 WorldNetDaily article, Aaron Klein once again plays his Mighty Wurlitzer and hits the note of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace. This time, he claims the group is "are seeking to counter European funding to leftist Israeli organizations that promote land giveaways."

Klein never describes the RCP as right-wing, although they are, especially in this instance through their countering of "leftist Israeli organizations"; rather, he merely calls the group "a coalition of more than 350 Israeli rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis." Indeed, the words "right-wing" or "conservative" appear nowhere in the article -- a Klein aversion we've previously noted.


Posted by Terry K. at 8:41 AM EDT
New Article: Stop the Mendacity!
Topic: WorldNetDaily
WorldNetDaily doesn't practice what its founder, Joseph Farah, preaches in his hagiographic book. Instead, he hides behind his Christianity as an excuse to practice crappy journalism. Read more >>

Posted by Terry K. at 1:31 AM EDT
AIM Still Playing Guilt-By-Association on Obama, Slavery Reparations
Topic: Accuracy in Media

We noted last month how desperate Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid is to smear Barack Obama by suggesting that he supports slavery reparations without offering any actual evidence that he does -- so desperate that one of his crucial pieces of evidence toward that end was that a character on "The West Wing" purportedly based on Obama supported reparations.

AIM keeps it up in an April 21 AIM Report (unbylined, but presumably written by Kincaid) that plays the guilt-by-association card again, claiming that people with whom Obama has had contact with support reparations and thus suggesting that he does too. (Fictional characters are left out of it this time, though.)

Like before, AIM offers no actual evidence that Obama supports reparations or any evidence that it tried to contact Obama's campaign to find out if he did.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:34 AM EDT
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
WND's Cheap Publicity Stunt for Anti-Islam Book
Topic: WorldNetDaily

As we've noted, WorldNetDaily is promoting its new book, "Why We Left Islam," as "the first U.S. book ever to feature an image of Muhammad on the cover." In articles on April 21 and April 22, WND editor Joseph Farah goes on to say: "If Muslims rioted around the world after a Danish newspaper published a political cartoon making fun of Muhammad, what will they do in response to this?"

Farah is clearly seeing dollar signs at the possibilities.

The only reason to put Muhammad on the cover of the book is to be provocative -- and gin up book sales from the controversy. Seeing the Danish controversy, Farah obviously wanted to get the same reaction for WND Books' latest title, and what better way to generate some cheap publicity than a little religious blasphemy?

(Of course, the occasional disingenuous attack doesn't hurt, either.)

As for the book itself, Richard Bartholomew notes of the authors:

Why We Left Islam is edited by Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson. Crimp is a veteran journalist-biographer, and her past subjects include Joan Collins, Elton John and the Kennedys; she has also written a book on Mother Teresa, entitled Touched by a Saint. Richardson, meanwhile, is the author of Antichrist: Islam's Awaited Messiah, whcih according to an endorsement from Pastor Reza Safa, "is central to recognizing the fulfilment of Biblical End-Times prophecy in our day and understanding the role that Islam plays in it"; Robert Spencer adds that it's a "must read". "Richardson is apparently a pseudonym due to death threats, although no details are given.

And we have to wonder: Will one of the people in the book telling their story of how they "left Islam" be Walid Shoebat? As we've detailed, questions have been raised about the veracity of his claim to be an ex-terrorist. And Bartholomew notes that the Jerusalem Post raises even more questions have been raised about him and his foundation -- none of which, by the way, has ever been mentioned at WorldNetDaily, a longtime promoter of Shoebat.


Posted by Terry K. at 2:18 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 2:32 PM EDT
CNS Serves Up More Gay-Bashing from Matt Barber
Topic: CNSNews.com

CNSNews.com has given Concerned Women for America's Matt Barber yet another opportunity to spread his gay-bashing views.

An April 23 column by Barber pines for "a fitting redefinition of so-called 'homophobia,' that being 'Homophobia: the rational fear that 'gay sex' will kill you!' " Barber adds: "The fact that we don't have mandatory surgeon general warnings on the side of condom wrappers is a testament to the power and influence wielded by the radical homosexual lobby."

Barber also attacks the "Day of Silence" event, asserting that it teaches "that biblical truth, which holds that human sexuality is a gift from God shared between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage, is 'homophobic,' 'hateful,' and 'discriminatory.' " Barber doesn't explain the evidence for this claim; still, he goes on to add: "Our schools are supposed to be places of learning, not places of political indoctrination." Barber doesn't explain how the "Day of Silence" is "political indoctrination," either.

Barber's anti-gay attacks are repeated in an April 22 article by Melanie Hunter-Omar, who does not provide anyone an opportunity to respond to them.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:26 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 4:03 PM EDT
Graham: McCain Anger Story Untrue Because McCain Flack Said So
Topic: NewsBusters

In an April 21 NewsBusters post, Tim Graham repeats a claim that a Washington Post story about "John McCain’s 'volcanic' outbursts of anger" is "99 percent fictional." And just who made this claim? Mark Salter, longtime McCain staffer who is, as Salon.com once claimed, the voice of John McCain.

Graham offers no independent evidence to back up Salter's claim, just merely repeats what he says, then adds ominously: "This severe a charge will need to be answered by the Post." Graham also offers no reason to take a paid flack at face value; after all, Graham would never do the same for an aide to a Democratic presidential candidate.

Graham also fails to mention that, as we've noted, his fellow conservatives -- chief among them Newsmax's Ronald Kessler -- were among those pushing the McCain-is-too-angry-to-be-president story during the Republican primary season earlier this year, which makes it difficult to hang that particular meme around the neck of the so-called liberal media. Will Salter and Graham attack Kessler's veracity as aggressively as they have attacked the Post, even though they wrote about the exact same subject? Will Graham insist that Newsmax "need[s] to respond" to the suggestion that its reporting is "99 percent fictional"? After all, since it appears that Salter is denying the truth of all incidents of McCain anger, it stands to reason that Kessler must be as much of a liar as Salter claims the Post is.

Will Graham hold Newsmax and the conservative media who have reported on McCain's anger to the same standard he's holding the Post? As fellow NewsBuster Noel Sheppard might say, it's a mathematical impossibilty.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:29 AM EDT
Farah's Disingenous Defense
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An April 21 WorldNetDaily article repeated criticism of WND Books' upcoming title, "Why We Left Islam," "first U.S. book ever to feature an image of Muhammad on the cover":

"This book is put out by WND Publishing (sic), which promotes hate every day on its extremist anti-Muslim hate site," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the New York Daily News. "The editor is a guy who suggested air-dropping pig's blood over Afghanistan. There are 7 million American Muslims and over a billion worldwide who love Islam and practice it peaceably on a daily basis."

Joseph Farah, an Arab-American and the only person ever to serve as editor of WND, said, in response, he has never advocated air-dropping pig's blood over Afghanistan.

"CAIR can always be counted upon to make wildly untruthful and reckless claims about others, while maintaining a hypersensitivity about its own concerns," said Farah. "Here, for example, Hooper makes this claim that WND promotes anti-Muslim hate on its site every day, offering only one example – and that one is totally untrue. Why other responsible media outlets continue to offer CAIR a platform for making such outrageous statements is beyond me. How many CAIR staffers and officials need to be indicted and convicted before my colleagues recognize these people as the extremists they are?" 

But CAIR's claim is not as "wildly untruthful" as Farah portrays it. On Sept. 27, 2001, WND did publish a column by then-WND reporter Paul Sperry making the following plan on how to defeat the Taliban:

Few in Washington want to admit it, but these Islamic fanatics have baited us into a holy war. And like it or not, we'll have to use their religion against them to win.

U.S. forces should start by dropping leaflets over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, warning residents, in their native Persian tongue, that we've enlisted Afghani moles to contaminate their water supplies with pig's blood.

The propaganda would also warn that American soldiers have greased their bullets with pork fat. We could tell them, while we're at it, that we've ordered special pigskin-lined fatigues for this mission.

At night, we could bombard bin Laden's camps with recordings of hog-snorting. If he and his fellow terrorists won't come out of their caves, send pen-loads of trotters in to nuzzle them.

Can't find bin Laden? Force-feed Taliban clerics pork rinds until they give up his location. If that doesn't work, air-lift pigs into their homes.

In the meantime, airlines could reupholster plane seats with pigskin, and cover cockpit yokes with the "unclean" hide to repel future Islamic hijackers. For insurance, serve passengers bacon bits instead of peanuts.

If their religion is driving them to hate Americans, and rewarding them to kill our people, then it's hardly indecent to use their faith against them to protect us.

Hit them where it hurts. They hit us where it hurts – and they're already planning to do it again.

They're not afraid of death. However, they are afraid of pigs. Send in the porkers, lock them out of Paradise, and watch them surrender.

Editor's note: Letters threatening physical harm to WorldNetDaily.com staffers will be forwarded to FBI Deputy Director Tom Pickard, who is heading the PENTTBOM investigation at the Special Information and Operation Center in Washington. 

Since WND is less a "news" website than a platform to advance the personal views and agenda of its founder and editor -- Farah -- it's a logical assumption that Farah condones, if not approves, such actions. For Farah to narrowly defend himself and portray CAIR's claim as completely baseless is disingenuous and a cynical attempt to sell books.

UPDATE: Richard Bartholomew adds: "Joseph Farah, of course, has a bit of a problem: [h]e wants us to hate and fear Muslims, but as a Christian dominionist he also despises habits of religious moderation, pluralism, secularism, and respect for reason which would provide a sensible way forward for the Muslim world."


Posted by Terry K. at 9:16 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 1:34 PM EDT
WND Distorts Its Web Traffic Stats
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An April 20 WorldNetDaily article proclaims that WND "ranks among the top 25 news websites in both unique visitors and sessions per user, according to March statistics gathered and analyzed by Nielsen Online."

The link WND supplies to back this up is a Nielsen list of news sites ranked by "sessions per user." It proves to be a strange metric in which WND ranks ahead of the Washington Post website. Also included in those stats, though, are the unique-visitors numbers, which shows a little more realistic view of things: the Post website draws nearly nine times as many visitors as WND.

WND also misleads with these numbers as well. In claiming that WND "ranks among the top 25 news websites in ... unique visitors," it appears all WND did was take the sessions-per-user list and reordered it by unique visitors. In other words, it's not an actual top 25 unique visitor list.

Newsmax treated this traffic-count issue a little more honestly. In a March 19 article, based on Nielsen stats from February, it proclaimed itself "the Web leader among independent news sites, sites unaffiliated with major media companies like the Huffington Post, DrudgeReport, and Salon."

The stat list it provides, for unique visitors, shows Newsmax with 4.1 million visitors in February -- and 1.2 million for WND. Newsmax's list is only of "selected web sites," so it doesn't offer a full picture either. But apples are being compared to actual apples, compared with WND's deceitful approach. (There's no mention whatsoever of Newsmax in the WND article.)

WND also claims that "By WND's own traffic counts, the site attracts about 6 million "unique visitors" (meaning different people) every month." That, of course, is just self-promotional blather, meaningless unless it makes public details of those numbers as well as the counting method used to arrive at them so their adherence to accepted statistical analysis models can be determined.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:55 AM EDT
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Frustrated Spin Dept.
Topic: NewsBusters

An April 22 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham claims that the hiring of "leftist cultural analyst" Thomas Frank to write a weekly column on the Wall Street Journal editorial page "frustrate[s] the Rupert's Right-Wing Ruination spin."

Graham does not say whether CNN's hiring of Tony Snow as a "conservative commentator" frustrates the MRC's CNN-Is-Liberal spin.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:09 PM EDT
Kessler Recycles False Clinton Attack
Topic: Newsmax

In the midst of an April 21 Newsmax column attacking Jimmy Carter as "the least likeable" president who "treated those who helped and protected him with contempt," Ronald Kessler writes:

After Reagan was inaugurated, GSA discovered that the Carter staff had left garbage in the White House and had trashed furniture in the old Executive Office Building, much as Bill Clinton’s staff trashed the White House before President Bush moved in.

But Clinton staffers didn't trash the White House. As we detailed when conservatives were originally peddling this meme, the federal General Accounting Office issued a June 2002 report rebutting claims of office-trashing by Clinton staff. Further, the GSA determined that "the condition of the real property [at the end of the Clinton administration] was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy."

Kessler's eagerness to swallow and regurgitate that lie about the Clintons makes us wonder about the veracity of his attack on Carter.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:07 AM EDT
Olivia St. John, Propaganda Recycler
Topic: WorldNetDaily

In an April 18 WorldNetDaily column promoting the new anti-evolution film "Expelled,", Olivia St. John unquestioningly regurgitates claims to support the film without telling the full story.

The first example, St. John caims, comes from "an April 11 news release by the American Center for Law and Justice," which is representing a college student, Gina DeLuca, who "was penalized by a pontificating professor determined to not only silence her beliefs but also have her renounce her Christian faith." But St. John offersd no evidence to back up her claims. Further, the ACLJ is representing DeLuca and, thus, has an agenda to push -- make DeLuca a victim and the professor a villain, no matter what the actual facts of the case are. That makes it a less-than-reliable source of information.

An April 11 WND article similarly regurgitated without question the ACLJ's side of the story without telling the other side. 

St. John continued:

In another recent case, California high school teacher James Corbett articulated Nazi-style aspersions that Christians are a threat to society. On April 2, Fox News' website reported Corbett's words: "What country has the highest murder rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rape rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rate of church attendance? The South!"

[...]

Thankfully, 16-year-old sophomore Chad Farnan outsmarted Corbett by tape recording the teacher's lecture for his study notes. And just as the ACLJ threatens to file a federal lawsuit in the DeLuca case in New York, the Farnans are seeking redress through the law firm Advocates for Faith and Freedom. In an amusing twist, Fox News states that the family may consider dropping their lawsuit "if the school agrees to put Corbett through sensitivity training and requires him to apologize to the students he offended." The school district is undoubtedly stunned at having the same tactics they use on students – turned in their direction. What comic justice!

Again, St. John makes no effort to tell the full story. As one student has stated, "The quotes are taken out of context. ... He's sarcastic in a rhetorical way to help prove a point. He tries to inspire free thinking." 

Corbett himself, meanwhile, has defended his teaching:

“Of all classes, we know that kids hate history the most,” Corbett says. “They see it as irrelevant. I’m making it relevant. . . . That really—sadly, on some levels—is the job of a social-science teacher: You must get across to the kids that there are many different points of view. And of course, the problem comes when you start dealing with recent history.

“As soon as you start talking about what’s going on now,” he says, “then there are people who have a position—and they don’t want that position challenged.”

[...]

Corbett says he denied Chad permission to record the lectures and encouraged him to take quality notes instead. But Chad hid the recorder and taped anyway, says Corbett—which, he says, violates the state’s education code.

[...]

He hands over a statement titled “How to Succeed in European History,” which he sends to students’ homes during the summer before they begin his class. “That’s one of the problems with this whole thing no one understands,” he says. “As you can see there, I spend 10 minutes or so each day, sometimes more, talking about current events.”

He is explicit in the letter: “Discussions will be quite provocative and focus on the ‘lessons’ of history,” it reads. He also explains that his goal for the current-events segment is for students to go home “with something that will provoke discussion with your parents.”

“Students may offer any perspective,” it reads. “I encourage a full range of views.”

[...]

Before the lawsuit was filed in mid-December, neither Corbett nor the principal nor the district had heard from Chad or his parents regarding the allegations in the suit. “If his parents had come to me, I think we could have solved all of this without going to court,” says Corbett.

[...]

Corbett maintains that his comments in class were and are not hostile to Christianity. “Honestly, I think that most people who hear what I have to say are going to realize that I would never do what they have accused me of doing,” he says. “I don’t care what other people’s religion is. I will admit that I’m intolerant of religious-based racism, misogyny, homophobia and a variety of other religious-based excuses for discrimination.”

One of Corbett’s former students, a staunch Christian who plans to earn a master’s of divinity, recently sent a statement to Corbett about his years as a pupil: “Dr. Corbett does not hate religion or religious people,” Taylor Ishii wrote. “As an educated person, he understands a lot about Christianity and has no problems with pointing out if things that Christians do don’t line up with their core beliefs. Never did I feel like he hated me or persecuted me in class for my beliefs. If anything, he challenged me to think more critically from my given Christian perspective.”

Quite a different picture than the one St. John painted, isn't it? That's what happens when a columnist's blinders are so narrow as to read only what fits into her predetermined biases.


Posted by Terry K. at 1:04 AM EDT

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