As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 07, 2005

No Pundit Left Behind

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Here's a collection of Armstrong Williams' excuses so far today: 1) The Education Department paid for ADVERTISING, not shilling (even though he never informed his audience that what they were listening to was advertising; 2) "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in," so it's OK being paid to shill propaganda because I believed it at the time, and 3) I'm a pundit, and therefore not actually a journalist, and therefore not bound by the standards of journalistic integrity.

Well, I agree that pundits aren't journalists. Therefore, what citizens have to learn from this is, we should assume that all pundits who spout their opinions on television, radio or the Internet are being paid by the government or some power sympathetic to their claim. Any liberal on Sean Hannity's show should answer every question by asking him "How much were you paid by the Bush Administration to make that last comment?" Same with Limbaugh. O'Reilly. Savage. All of them.

This is actually a huge opening into the realities of how the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy works. Scaife and other billionaires pay for huge structures to funnel their ideas into the media. In some cases, it appears, they actually eliminate the middle man and pay the media. So we should just assume that they're paying everyone.

Before you think that this tactic is dishonest, read this sentence:

The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum...

Ketchum is the same company that helped the Department of Health and Human Services put out fake video news releases touting Medicare that looked like the real thing.

This is what the right does. They pull the wool over the eyes of the public by paying for media coverage, making it look like everyday journalism. Citizens should flat-out see this for what it is, and they should not (given the evidence) trust any conservative opinion on television. Based on the preponderance of evidence, we should assume Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter and everyone else is being bought and paid for. And that should characterize every interaction with them on TV or radio by every liberal from now until the end of time.

Republicans never worry about whether or not their charges are baseless. They just charge. We could learn from that, and thank Armstrong Williams with the ammo to put all conservative pundits on the defensive.


Bill Frist, the candidate that cares

After spending the first part of the week warning Democrats that he'd change Senate rules eliminating the filibuster for judicial confirmation, then lying about having never used the filibuster himself while in the Senate (a claim obliterated by The Center for American Progress), Majority Leader Bill Frist is touring the affected tsunami region in Sri Lanka, looking for a good spot to get a 2008 Presidential campaign photo op:

Just before his helicopter lifted off, Frist and aides took snapshots of each other near a pile of tsunami debris.

"Get some devastation in the back," Frist told a photographer.

Yeah, could you prop up a couple bodies behind me so I look all compassionate and stuff?

I can't wait to see the picture as part of the Iowa or New Hanpshire fundraising letters. Hope they got a lotta devastation in there

[UPDATE] Here's another thing I never knew about Frist '08:

While in medical school, Frist fraudulently adopted cats from animal shelters, then experimented on and killed them. Later, in his book "Transplant," he called this behavior "a heinous and dishonest thing to do."


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Brains of Stone

I'm a good liberal, but I can't get behind this:

LONDON - Often-controversial director Oliver Stone has blamed the failure of his epic film Alexander on the "raging fundamentalism" in the U.S. South.

Really, that's why it tanked in every city in the country, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and all parts north, south, east and west inclusive? You mean it wasn't just because it was a long, boring, crappy movie? It couldn't be that?

I don't doubt that a certain element might have heard about the frank depiction of bisexuality and got a little squeamish. But to blame the film's entire demise on that? Well, I guess the director of "JFK" would have to come up with a conspiracy theory. Ollie, listen up, sometimes bad movies are bad movies because they're bad movies.


Burying Social Security in the backyard

The Republicans want no less, and if you want proof, read the now-infamous Wehner memo, leaked in the past 24 hours:

WASHINGTON - The success of President Bush’s push to remake Social Security depends on convincing the public that the system is “heading for an iceberg,” according to a White House strategy note that makes the case for cutting benefits promised for the future.

Calling the effort “one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times,” Peter Wehner, the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove, says in the e-mail message that a battle over Social Security is winnable for the first time in six decades and could transform the political landscape.

“We have it within our grasp to move away from dependency on government and toward giving greater power and responsibility to individuals,” said Wehner, the director of White House Strategic Initiatives. He called the Democratic Party the “party of obstruction and opposition. It is the Party of the Past.”

But the administration must "establish an important premise: the current system is heading toward an iceberg," Wehner’s e-mail said.

We have to read this as a window into how Republicans will frame this argument. They want to destroy Social Security, so they have to prove it doesn't work (hence the "headed for an iceberg" part. Social Security is not only in decent shape for the next 42 years (and would be for far more if Bush hadn't made a mess of this economy), it's well-liked by everyone. People like getting their checks. They like having a safety net after they retire. So Republicans have the daunting task of changing their minds.

Furthermore, their goal will be to determine that any deviation from White House policies is "obstructionist." I think that's a pretty weak place to be.

Our frames are simple: We have a responsibility to protect our seniors, and all Americans who need a guarantee that they will be taken care of when they retire. Proposing a system that borrows $2 trillion dollars (off-book, mind you) makes our economy and nation weak. We want to keep it strong, and Social Security is a strong system that has worked for hundreds of millions of Americans for 60 years.

Republicans have to get rid of Social Security because it represents a threat to their worldview: that big government programs don't work. Well, wrong. They can. As long as we don't destroy them in the name of "reform."


In other news...

The first promo for Inside Politics today focused on the "Yappy Homecoming" of the new White House dog.

Nothing on the electoral challenge.

I will now tear out my eyeballs.


My Meeting with a Real Live DNC Member

So I went to last nights DFA meetup in West LA, and we did an exercise on framing debates with conservatives, aided by a video from George Lakoff. But after that, I was shocked by an unexpected guest, one of the 444 members of the DNC, a member of the California delegation named Garry Shay. The notion that a DNC member would go to a grassroots meetup was very encouraging in and of itself. But his reason for appearing was even more impressive.

He invited everyone there to a public meeting for grassroots Democrats to provide input to DNC delegates from California. At least 15 DNC members are confirmed for the meeting, and it could reach 18. This is the real power brokers of the Democratic Party opening up the process and actually listening to its constituents, which is mind-blowing (this is even sponsored by the DFALA group). I'll give the info for that meeting in a bit. But first, here's the inside dish on the meeting:

1) This guy was in front of a hostile audience. The DFA audience, composed mainly of ex-Deaniacs, has a bit of a hate-hate relationship with the national party. Mr. Shay, seemingly a big Dean supporter, also remarked that he gets a lot of letters from committed Democrats wanting him to help reform the party, but that the end of the letter is usually "and if you don't do this, I'll never support the Party again." He said that he doesn't respond well to threats of that type. So tact might go a long way to getting a Reform Democrat in the DNC chair.

2) At the same time, when asked what he feels will be the outcome to the DNC Chair fight, he said that "While we've decided not to make a final decision until we interview candidates later this month, I can tell you that the people I'm talking to seem to be leaning in the direction of the man I'm guessing all of you want." So the Dean for DNC movement should take a lot of solace in that comment.

3) Shay took a lot of rants from the audience, but he seemed firmly in the Dean camp. He mentioned that we cannot be Republican-lite, that he's against the rightward shift in the Party since 1972, and, in answer to my comment about Tim Roemer, he said, "Let me assure you of one thing. I will not vote for Tim Roemer." Looks like that's yet another establishment figure headed down in flames. And rightly so; while he has the 9/11 Commission on his resume, anyone that voted against Clinton's 1993 budget bill and FOR Bush's 2001 tax cuts should not be heading the party.

4) The whole time, I was completely heartened by the fact that a DNC member was standing in front of the room of Deaniacs, asking to hear their passion, looking for ideas on how to better reach America with a progressive message. I know this is the CA delegation and not necessarily indicative of the DNC as a whole, but it's really incredible if you think about it. I thanked Mr. Shay for his presence, and the whole crowd clapped.

So, last thing: anyone in LA that wants to talk about where the Democrats should go from here, in a room full of people that can actually implement your ideas, should go to this public meeting next week. You'll get two minutes to address the delegation.

Saturday, January 15
Patriotic Hall
1816 S. Figeuroa St.
Los Angeles, CA

Or, you can forward your input via email to


clap clap clap

for my Senator, from the great state of California, Barbara Boxer.

For standing up when it counts.

The next couple days are going to be fun.

...UPDATE... This is really historic. I know this debate is kind of spitting into the wind, but the Democrats have grabbed hold of the political football, at least for a couple of hours. We can be happy about that.

Kudos to proud Democrats Debbie Stabenow, Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Frank Lautenberg (who trotted out a fundraising letter from Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell BRAGGING about delivering the state to Bush), Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, and the more to come. We have to thank them, with our praise, and with our dollars.

...UPDATE... This is going down to defeat in the Senate (and I assume the House, though I only have CSPAN-2 available to me right now), but it'll still get us on the front pages of America tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with using Constitutional methods to lodge a complaint, whatever we'll hear from the Republicans about how dreadful an affair this was. Protests are patriotic. In fact, they're what started America. Let's hope people take notice, and propel electoral reform into the forefront of political debate.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Tomorrow might be fun

According to Bloggermann, at least 6 Democratic Senators will stand up to challenge the Ohio electors, along with the House group headed by John Conyers of Michigan. This might get interesting, folks. Stay tuned.

I wonder if the Republicans, led by Bill "nuclear option" Frist, will filibuster to stop the challenge to the electors? Nah, that'd be too hypocritical. We never see anything like that.


Anti Torture!

Congratulations, America. Soon you will have an Attorney General who has come out firmly against torture! How low has the bar been set? Is it under the floor? The guy writes memos calling the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and spends years as Bush's personal counsel looking for rationales to legally justify torture, but never mind that, he's AGAINST it!

Well, doesn't that settle things!


CNN tells the truth?

So, Chimpy is doing a "live news event" in Collinsville, Illinois today, giving a speech on medical liability reform.  And of course CNN is carrying it live.  It's basically a campaign speech two months after the fact.  But I was struck by how the words at the bottom of the screen did in no way match the words from Bush's mouth.

As Bush was speaking on the need for medical liability reform, four factoids flashed across the bottom of the screen.  They were as follows:

"Medical malpractice payments have dropped 11% in the last 9 years."

"Medical malpractice insurance is less than 1% of overall medical costs."

"Between 44,000-49,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors."

"Preventable medical errors cost Americans $17-29 billion dollars every year."

I had the feeling I was watching the sign-language lady during the Ukraine election who signed "Don't trust this report, the government is lying to you."  And they came along in such a rapid-fire way, it seemed deliberate.

Two things:

1. Bush is going to try to gather support for his horrible ideas by running it like he did the campaign.  He'll be giving a round of speeches to "reglar folks" that will be sure to get nightly coverage.  
2. There is an easy way to knock down these lies, with cold, hard facts.  The guy writing in 4 factoids on CNN just smacked down the President so hard it was almost embarrassing.

I don't know how these facts got through.  Now the facts on the side of the screen are being spun THE EXACT OPPOSITE WAY (talk of rises in malpractice costs, jury awards, etc.).  I almost feel like somebody tunneled in to Atlanta and printed the truth for a few seconds, only to be overwhlemed by information overload and meaningless rhetoric.

Did anyone else see this, or am I nuts?  Either way, we need to speak these facts loudly, over the top of the standard anti-lawyer rhetoric coming from the White House.  It'll work.  It would've worked for anyone watching CNN at 11:20.

(UPDATE) My cross post at Daily Kos has a lot of great information.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Now That's Some Bad TV

Ugh. Instead of providing an unabashed counterweight to Fox News, Al Gore and his INdTV network is looking to capture the nonexistent "youths that want to watch other youths produce bad TV" market. You know, aside from large sections of conservatives wanting their batty ideas confirmed in the media, Fox News works for another reason: their productions look good. They have a sense of rhythm and pacing, and they've generally dressed up their ridiculous ideas in a pretty package. If this memo is an indication of what we can expect on INdTV, they're fighting fire with two wet twigs:

• "That's F*ed Up: Is there something unfathomable going on around the corner or down the street? Some state of affairs that just doesn't make sense? You can rant all you want -- it just better be good TV."

• "INdTV Paparazzi: Get someone famous to opine on something substantive. ('Hey Paris -- what did you think of Rumsfeld's quote on the armored Humvee shortage in Iraq?') Or, ask a serious figure about something not-so-substantive. Note: Don't be a stalker."

• "Citizen Reporter: Pick a news story and tell it the way it should be told. No teleprompter, no static stand-ups, no local-news hair. Honesty and humor will go a long way. This is our chance to unwind the spin."

• "All-Nighter: What goes on in your town between 2 and 5 a.m.? We're looking for truly unique stuff, anywhere from the local late-night diner to the woods down by the creek."

• "State of the Union: Give us your wisest, most irreverent State of the Union address. We're talking improvised podium, pomp, politics, personality and, of course, most importantly: sound bites."

• "Addicted: What's your addiction? Food? A fetish? A relationship? Do you lead a double life? This is first-person: time to confess."

• "INdTV Is The New Black: Are you a trend-spotter? A cool-hunter? Take off your trucker cap (or put it back on) and show us the next big thing in clothes, culture, style or slang."

I'm one of the few people in the world that can honestly say I've tried to make this kind of television. I worked on a show called "You Made It" on what was then called ZDTV (now G4TechTV). It consisted entirely of video submissions from viewers. Guess what? They looked like crap, and no amount of prettying them up could fix it.

Are you telling me that the antidote to the Corporate-Controlled Media is going to be made on miniDV shaky-cams by a bunch of teenage would-be Fellinis? How about hiring the right people, spending the right amount of money, and just doing it better? This is going to tank hard, and I won't be happy when the entire media world laughs in its face. Come on, Al, are you serious with this?


Upon Further Review

You know, what I've been saying about the tsunami relief is that rather than criticizing what other folks are doing, it's easier and more useful to do something yourself. Nevertheless, I think this report from Working For Change is, as Brit Hume famously said, "descriptive of something":

As of December 30, some of the president's major family-values constituents have yet to be heard from: It's business as usual at the web sites of the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Coral Ridge Ministries.

These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

In fact, there is no mention of the giant earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Asia. There are no headlines about the dead, injured or the tremendous damage; there are no urgent appeals for donations; there are no phone numbers to call; there are no links to organizations collecting money and providing aid for the victims.

There's a rundown over there of the drivel that does appear on their websites, including such important issues as movie reviews of Fat Albert, and the truth about Alfred Kinsey. This from the arbiters of moral values. Keep lecturing me on that, by the way. My response will be, "Physicians, heal thyself."


Got Bluggered Last Week

Between New Year's in New York, and a problematic Blogger server, posting was, shall we say, light last week. Needless to say I think the rest of the blogosphere picked up the tsunami story for me. I gave to the Red Cross, I have no idea which aid outfits are better or worse, in fact I'm in the midst of a travel book about Africa that suggests aid and development has nothing but a negative effect on that region of the world. The argument among conservatives and liberals about "are we giving enough" is I think irrelevant, on both sides. How about doing whatever YOU can instead of finding joy or fault in the federal government. Anyway, federal aid is often the worst managed, the worst implemented, and the least effective.

Yeah, it was tacky to initally pledge $15 million when the inauguration will cost three times that. But the scope of the problem was not widely known at that time. I don't think you can put a number on human suffering. The point is, you can go to Google and find 100 or so links to give relief aid, so go ahead and do your part and shut up about it.

More later.