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Archive for April 2009

Mike Allen abuses anonymity to bash Obama over releasing torture memos to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on April 23, 2009

Mike Allen

Anonymity should be sacred in journalism stories, given out only when absolutely necessary. But in the MSM, the standards for granting anonymity are so twisted that a pretzel would get dizzy just looking at it. There is the video from Sacramento where a local TV station granted anonymity to parents who ratted out a cheerleader coach and got her fired.

That example is bad enough, but when anonymity is granted in a political context to allow someone to attack without retribution, they end up here on the Media Putz list.

You might not know who Mike Allen is, but you certainly know where he works: Politico. Allen wrote a story on Obama’s consultations before releasing the torture memos on April 16. Toward the bottom of the story, Allen lets loose with his anonymous source:

A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”

“It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

“I don’t believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”

This had to be anonymous? You have to be kidding.

Bush officials, on the record, have expressed distaste for Obama for throwing back the curtain on the proverbial Wizard of Oz. And the words fit a pattern — not that we’re saying the Anon was Dick Cheney — similar to what Cheney told Fox “News” this week. So it’s not like it was anything more than what we’ve heard from people on the record. But somehow Allen felt that what this person had to add was so valuable that the identity had to be hidden.

The great thing for Anon is that the blows can be more distasteful, more inaccurate without fear of being called out as being wrong and seriously misguided. The bogeyman, “ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake” is a subplot that even the writers of “24” would consider over the top. Even MacGruber would think it was lame.

If you are going to stand up and say that torture and violations of the Geneva Convention and U.S. law brought “success,” those are very serious charges. Doing so by hiding under the skirts of Allen and Politico is unacceptable.

The ever-diligent Glenn Greenwald points out that Allen received the comments without them being noted that they were off the record. So they could have been used on the record. But Allen chose to ask this person to have the name on the record. The person said no. That should have been the end of the conversation.

But because they were sent to Allen, somehow Allen felt compelled to use them, as if the source put pressure on Allen to use the material. But unlike most Media Putz winners, we actually have some insight into why his decisions were made. The hornet’s nest that started from his original piece compelled Allen to write a story behind the story because as the headline warrants, “The left erupts.”

So at the bottom of the Axelrod story, I tacked on an ellipsized excerpt of the former Bush official’s quotes, removing several ad hominem attacks on Obama. I quoted less than half of the comment and took out the most incendiary parts — a way to hint at the opposing view without giving an anonymous source free rein.

So as horrible as what was published, the original e-mail was worse, much worse. And as for free rein, his source was much freer than even the most free range chicken.

We have seen countless times in the media where Bush people, and Republicans in general, get protected as anonymous sources. It’s all part of the protection game, where Washington Beltway Journalists protect people so that can gain more insight — and feel more powerful — which they then blow on writing more stories where anonymity is granted.

When these journalists are seen as more concerned about protecting the game than in uncovering the truth, they give a black eye to the profession, and let us down as news consumers. Mike Allen may be one small cog in the process, but this week, he did just enough to earn the Media Putz of the week.

Written by democracysoup

April 23, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Credit card relief could be coming, but it likely won’t be enough

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 04/22/2009 – 2:17pm

The battle over credit isn’t just between large banks and large companies. The clashes behind the headlines are getting ugly. Credit card companies jacking up interest rates and fees, not always for a specific reason.

There is some help coming from Washington, but the major issue is whether that assistance will be in the form of a 6-foot rope to a drowning man 18 feet from shore.

The House Financial Services Committee is all set to approve legislation going after “unfair and deceptive” practices by credit card companies.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), would according to CQ Politics, “restrict card companies from computing interest charges on balances from more than one billing cycle; prevent card issuers from suddenly raising rates without advance notice except in specific cases; and allow card companies to decide whether to apply payments in excess of the minimum to the highest interest rate debt, or apportion it equally between all of a cardholder’s debts.”

The Obama Administration wants to strengthen the bill to require information on each bill noting the long-term costs of sticking to just minimum payments, give power to the consumer to determine when in the month the bill will be due, and apply payments beyond the minimum to the debt with the highest interest rate first.

On the surface, Maloney’s bill addresses recent issues due to excessive behavior by credit card issuers, but doesn’t do much to address long-standing issues.

But the administration’s changes — with the exception of applying payments to the highest rate — feel more like the empty symbolism of President Clinton’s school uniforms crusade.

Since credit card legislation has been a difficult path to start down in the first place, the two different strategies emerge over whether it’s better to start out with a strong bill and watch it weaken down in the process, or try the “let’s get a bill, any bill, that will be better than where we are now.” If the goal is to get the bulk of HR 627 through the process — as envisioned by Schoolhouse Rock — of becoming law, which strategy will work best?

The defenses are really strong: Republicans aren’t the only source where there is pressure. Chris Dodd and the Senate ghosts of Joe Biden and Tom Daschle (from key credit card company states) loom large. And the lobbying from credit card companies — of which the last major bankruptcy bill is plenty of proof – is a monster Godzilla wouldn’t even take on in a fight.

If we, as consumers, are going to spend our way out of this recession, we need to have confidence that we can take those risks without being subjected to random, extreme penalties, especially in cases when consumers haven’t done anything wrong. And the protection we thought we had from our government is wafer-thin, and we can see the smiling faces of the credit card issuers on the other side, waiting to get more of our money.

Written by democracysoup

April 22, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Conservatives’ Anti Gay Marriage Debate Reduced to Beauty Queens and Rudy Giuliani

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 04/21/2009 – 1:42pm

We’ve seen Steve Schmidt last week and Meghan McCain this month rise up and speak up as Republicans, saying get out of the way on gay marriage.

So the last bastion for conservatives against gay marriage are Rudy Giuliani and Miss California.

Let’s start with the reigning Miss California, Carrie Prejean.

I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.

Well, she lives in and represents a state where people went to the polls and voted to limit marriage to “opposites.” And she mentions her family, though her sister is a gay rights activist. So it’s not true in “her country” or “her family.” Two strikes, so far.

But she uses the question and answer controversy to build on two themes. First, she says her honesty cost her the Miss USA crown. Prejean did finish as first runner up, but whether you’ve been to numerous pageants or you’re a pageant virgin, it can’t be easy to dissect narrow differences in such a competition. For all she knows, some of the judges might have liked her answer. Prejean chose to play the victim, a typical conservative reaction.

She also played up the support she has received since the pageant and the lack of hate she has received. Lack of hate? Okay. If that is true, the reason likely has to do with whether people care enough about beauty pageant contestants to express hate, and the lack of ease in contacting Miss California.

Then again, her post-pageant motivation could be to keep her name alive. After all, you know more about her than Miss North Carolina who won the pageant.

Prejean might be a little confused and definitely clueless, but it’s possible she’s being fairly honest. The same can’t be said for Giuliani.

When Giuliani ran for president, he had a chance to offer a different vision of Republicans: talk conservative about a few red meat items, but offer, by GOP standards, more tolerant positions on topics such as abortion and gay marriage.

We could point out his three marriages, one to a second cousin. We could discuss the distasteful, public and private, transitions between said marriages. We could even note that his gay pals, with whom he roomed for 6 months in 2001 in between marriage #2 and #3, are getting married in Connecticut this year.

In his run for president in 2008, and his possible run for the New York governor’s chair in 2010, Giuliani is bending over backwards to seem tougher on issues. If Giuliani were genuinely outraged, there could be a simple disagreement. But given Giuliani’s political history — not even counting his relationship history – there is no reason to think that even Giuliani believes what he says.

Howard Koeppel, a Republican and one of the two gay pals, told the press that Giuliani’s opposition to gay marriage stems from his religious beliefs.

“He isn’t an advocate for gay marriage because of his religious beliefs,” he said of Giuliani, who has supported abortion rights. “He is a traditional Catholic. Those teachings say marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

Now we have the religious card: you can’t be for gay marriage because you’re a Catholic. But not every conservative Catholic has that viewpoint.

Douglas Kmiec has a long history of being Catholic and conservative. Courtesy of Wikipedia:

He is the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University’s School of Law. He served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (U.S. Assistant Attorney General) for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush… Professor Kmiec is the former Dean and St. Thomas More Professor of the law school at The Catholic University of America (2001-2003). With leaves for government service, Professor Kmiec was a member of the faculty at Notre Dame Law School from 1980 to 1999. At Notre Dame, he directed the Thomas White Center on Law & Government and founded the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy.

Kmiec was on the “Colbert Report” last Thursday. And while he spoke in vague terms (e.g., never saying the phrase “gays should get married”), Kmiec outlined a conservative view on why the state should get out of the way of gay marriage.

“Fundamentally, there’s two principles involved. The state has an obligation to treat all of its citizens equally and to observe the principle of equality. So straight or gay, you go get a license from the state.”

Kmiec does taut religion in that it could add more to the relationship, but that isn’t part of the state’s role.

“The state should not be adopting any religion’s perspective, any one religion’s perspective and imposing it on us.”

In a contest to show who is more conservative than the other, Kmiec would blow Giuliani away. And even Kmiec gets it.

Religion is strengthened when the state gets as far away from it as possible. That’s a conservative position, by and large, where those on the left can nod in agreement. But it could be a selling point for religious conservatives to feel good about their positions, and still allow for gay marriage. If there is a storm coming, it’s one of tolerance, not intolerance. The list of Republicans who understand this is getting longer.

Written by democracysoup

April 21, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

‘Pensacola Jeff’: One brave soul speaks the truth, and is greeted by boos, at teabagging party in Pensacola, FL

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 04/17/2009 – 10:52am

You may have thought everything that was said at the teabagging parties on Wednesday was right-wing drivel designed to mislead and inflame the masses.

Well, there was at least one brave soul in Pensacola, Florida.

“Pensacola Jeff” is what we’ll call him because, well, his name is Jeff and he spoke in Pensacola.

He weaves in and out throughout his speech, using talking points designed to get cheers from the crowd, and sneaking in the truth like vegetables to a picky eater.

Pensacola Jeff starts out with a big shout-out to the troops and veterans. That line gets huge applause, as it should. Then he gives us a history lesson.

“Back in 2000, there was a budget surplus in the country.”

After Pensacola Jeff mentions the budget surplus, some guy in the crowd yells out, “What happened?”

Well, let’s find out.

“And during the next seven years, it was destroyed by the profligate spending of the Bush Administration. And here we are today, here we are today in a situation.”

At this point, he sees the crowd isn’t really following along, so he goes for the easy line.

“Let me ask you this: Cheer if you make less than $250,000 a year. Just cheer.” The crowd cheers: they are back on his side. “Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget. Congratulations.”

Pensacola Jeff then talks about being laid-off by his employer back in September due to budget cuts, pointing out that this was before the election. Then he goes in for the close.

“So let’s remember that if you’re going to argue about more taxes and less spending, to place the blame where the blame belongs, and that’s squarely in the hands of the Republican Congress until 2006 and the Bush Administration.”

Pensacola Jeff walks off the stage, arms raised up to a cascade of boos from the crowd.

When confronted with the truth, the real truth, not the made up baloney being peddled by the right-wing radio and TV, the crowd turns to boo the one person brave enough to stand up for the truth.

Keith Olbermann on Countdown last night played the Pensacola Jeff video, and he and his guest, Janeane Garofalo (above), discussed it afterwards. Garofalo’s initial reaction:

“There is nothing more interesting than seeing a bunch of racists become confused and angry at a speech they’re not quite certain what’s he saying. It sounds right to them and then it doesn’t make sense.”

Olbermann put it well later in the segment: “Our friend in Pensacola there who played them like a 3-dollar fiddle, and led them right down the garden path with nothing but facts and then they went, ‘wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like Rush Limbaugh.’ ”

It was the truth, but it wasn’t the “truth” they’ve been hearing from Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly, et al. And it certainly wasn’t facts as presented by much of the MSM from 2001-2007.

Written by democracysoup

April 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Fox ‘News’ sponsors teabagging Tax Day parties to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on April 16, 2009

Fox “News”

The bowl games at the end of the college football season used to have simple names: Cotton, Rose, Sun, Orange. Now, we get AT&T Fed Ex Capital One Papa John’s Tostitos bowls. Sponsorships run amok, but these are businesses trying to associate their name on a product for publicity.

This week, we had the “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties” — at least, this is the way the events were portrayed on the Fox News Channel. The day featured FNC personalities on the road as part of the process: Neil Cavuto in Sacramento, CA, Glenn Beck in San Antonio, TX, Sean Hannity in Atlanta, and Greta Van Susteren in Washington, DC.

You may have heard the phrase from serious journalists that “they never want to be part of the story.” A good journalist knows this. But then again, we are talking about the Fox “News” Channel.

Covering events is part of what journalists do. Promoting events, including but not limited to putting your initials before the event, is not what journalists do.

There are several Fox News contributors who are directly involved with the teabagging parties. Then there is the outright hosting of a party as Fox “News” new Web site, The Fox Nation, will “host a virtual tea party.”

What’s funny is watching how the Fox “News” Channel promotes the tea parties, but sometimes goes out of their way to say that they aren’t sponsoring the tea parties. From Steve Doocy of “Fox and Friends”:

“Right here on Fox & Friends, we’re going to be kicking things off throughout the day. And Fox isn’t sponsoring any of this stuff.”

Gee, Steve. According to the transcript, no one said you were sponsoring the events. Guilty conscience??

Having Neil Cavuto try and justify the difference in covering events was made even more hilarious as he claimed the channel covered an event (Million Man March) that happened before the channel went on the air. Nice research there, Neil.

But it’s what Cavuto said before his Million Man goof that speaks volumes to the “journalism” practiced by FNC.

“we are going to be right in the middle of these protests because at FOX we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests.”

Smack in the middle of the teabagging: a very strategic position. Seriously though, you aren’t supposed to be in the middle of anything. You stand outside and you cover.

It would be nice if there was footage of Fox “News” covering the Iraq War protests with equal passion, but of course, there is no video.

The piece de resistance was on Teabagging, er, Tax Day when Cavuto was caught exaggerating the crowd in Sacramento by at least 100%-200%, according to Daily Kos.

Why would you need to exaggerate the count unless your tie-in credibility would have otherwise suffered?

Fox News likes to pretend it’s in the journalism and cable news business. But its support of teabagging events is much more in line with its actual mission, spreading right-wing propaganda under the guise of “fair and balanced” and “journalism.”

For giving this honorable profession yet another black eye, Fox “News” wins the Media Putz of the week award.

Fox “News” previously won the Media Putz on May 15, 2008.

Written by democracysoup

April 16, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

Teabagging parties will end today, but people will still be looking for answers on April 16

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Wed, 04/15/2009 – 9:56am

It’s almost a shame that the teabagging revolution is coming to an end today — tax day, April 15. Besides the considerable immature, yet hilariously funny, teabagging jokes and references, watching the misguided rhetoric has brought laughter in these really tough times.

Behind the mockery and the jokes and those who are still obsessed about President Obama’s country of birth, there are some people attending these functions who are legitimately upset that our country is in a lot of debt.

If you’re progressive, read BuzzFlash, and generally pay attention to the news, you know our budget surplus at the end of the Clinton Administration turned into a massive budget deficit under George W. Bush. You even know that despite Clinton’s efforts, we were still in debt, though Bush took us much, much deeper into debt. And you know the difference between deficit and debt.

Imagine, though, that you suddenly found this out because the conservative, corporate, and mainstream media decided that under Barack Obama, you might want to know this. Imagine the shock that you would have. You would made enough to do something you don’t normally do — get out and protest.

And then a lot of the media that you consume — not just Fox News, but also right-wing talk radio — sponsor and encourage these rallies to give you a chance to be fed up. There are a lot of things all wrapped up in these emotions: the unstable economy, even if you have a job; the rising costs of gas, food, and even vacations; wondering whether your kids will have enough money for college.

The right-wing media, especially Fox News, but also the right-wing talk radio screamers, see a way to reach out to the people. “Someone understands your frustration.” “We know why you’re angry.” When you’re not used to protesting or even being upset at how your country is being run, it’s extremely easy to be swayed.

Let’s be absolutely clear: these are not stupid people. They lead extremely busy lives, and don’t have the mindset to wade through the media to know what is really going on. The MSM has, under the George W. Bush reign, buried the lead that we are heavily in debt. If these people had known 7-8 years ago that we were falling heavily into debt, they might have stepped up then. Maybe not. But they wouldn’t be as surprised.

The more sensible media outlets have mocked the protests as responding to tax rates that haven’t gone into effect, and having salaries that will take a tax CUT, not an increase. But the sincere people in the crowd — not the ones trying to take advantage of frustration to further a cause or make money — aren’t out there for well thought out reasons. They are angry. They are angry that good or okay jobs are disappearing, health care costs are skyrocketing if they can afford insurance. They are angry because even though they have struggled for the last eight years, they aren’t quitters and they can deal with tough times, but the current situation is growing beyond what they can handle, and that is truly saying a lot.

So when the last of the teabagging parties is cleaned up — maybe even hosed down — these people are still going to be angry, but they will be abandoned by the media that have built up these events. Sure Fox News will still mention how huge the deficit is, and right-wing talk radio will still be there to light the fire under their listeners, rather than discussing events. But these people want to know on April 16 what they can do about their lost economic opportunities, higher education chances, rising health care costs, and falling standard of living. The cameras will be turned off and the microphones put away, and once again, their voices will be silent in the media wilderness.

This is why President Barack Obama needs to institute bold initiatives in changing the way we do things in this country. This would be the part of the essay where the Democrats would be encouraged to pick up the pieces left behind, and use this as a way to gain stronger majorities.

But this time is different. Regardless of party, these people need to see that government can do some good. And Obama and the Democrats can’t do it for political gain. Cruelly, they might not even get the gain for awhile, even if they try for it.

These people don’t want a handout, they want a hand up. “Welfare” is a bad word, even if they don’t get that large corporations get way more than some African-American single mother. They want a life where if they work hard enough, they can have a good life. Even if they did vote for Reagan, H.W. Bush, Dole, W. Bush, and McCain — and these people failed them on just that point — they need to see that government can be just enough to help, but not so much as to be overbearing.

They understand that we are heavily in debt, but may not get that we have little to show for it. But what they don’t articulate is that they want bridges that work, roads that are smooth, and jobs that won’t go away. If you don’t have visual proof that government can work — and we know how much Republicans hate infrastructure — it’s easy to be angry with government and not know why. And that anger doesn’t disappear just because it’s April 16.

Written by democracysoup

April 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama makes good moves on Cuba, but shouldn’t stop until Americans can travel freely there

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 04/14/2009 – 9:48am

This is the old school way to learn about Cuba. The new way is to actually go there.

If you have recently renewed your passport, you have that new excitement over what stamps to add to this version. Given that the passport lasts 10 years, there is one stamp to add in that time frame: Cuba.

President Obama eased some travel restrictions for Cuba, many of those changes were reversals of Bush policies made even more stringent than the already overbearing restrictions. And restrictions are also being lifted on telecommunications companies applying for licenses to operate in Cuba. While it’s a nice start, and a welcome change after eight years, the moves fall way short of what we need.

In my lifetime, it has never been legal to travel to Cuba. “Traveling” is limited to documentaries, fictional films, lectures by professors, and even first-hand accounts.

We marvel at the loyalty that Democrats received when FDR brought in the New Deal. We have seen the amazing, stupefying loyalty that Reagan Democrats showed, even as he was destroying their middle-class success. This is Obama’s chance to show Floridians that we may not agree with their government, but we will no longer live in tyranny over being restricted to travel to Cuba. If Democrats want Florida in their column for a generation or two, President Obama needs to overhaul restrictions.

Cuba used to be the Third Rail in politics. Generations of Democratic and Republican politicians bowed down to the Fulgencio Batista friendly Cuban immigrants of South Florida. But as we’ve seen generational turnover, the younger generation has an alternative approach, and sees the errors in our restrictive policy. When George W. Bush decided to get tougher, there was a backlash against the GOP even from die-hard Republicans.

Making significant moves takes political capital. But the fears of losing Florida aren’t there anymore. And the rest of the country is befuddled that we are so timid that we can’t go to Cuba. The reward is so much greater for Obama and the Democrats than keeping the status quo. Imagine the freedom Americans say they have, yet Canadians and everyone else in the world can go to Cuba at the drop of a hat, and we can’t — new passport or old beaten up passport.

When Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) had a pizza delivered to the classroom, he was asked by Mr. Hand, “Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Spicoli got straight to the point, “Learning about Cuba, and having some food.”

Despite Spicoli’s best efforts, the best way to learn about Cuba is not to sit in a confined classroom, eating pizza. It’s tasting the salt breezes as you sit, watching the 1950’s classic cars go by, and waiting for your ropa vieja to be ready.

Written by democracysoup

April 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized