Extra! July/August 2006

    The 'Cheat Sheets'

    [Note: This piece is a sidebar to "Subverting, Not Preserving, Democracy."]   One of the many issues raised in Rep. John Conyers’ report on the 2004 Ohio election but not tackled in the press was the accusation that the electronic voting company Triad had provided a “cheat sheet” for election officials participating in the Ohio recount, with the intent of artificially jibing results to avoid further scrutiny. In a sworn affidavit, Sherole Eaton, who in 2004 was the deputy director of the Board of Elections in Hocking County, Ohio, claimed that a representative from Triad had come to assist her ...


    Invisible Violence

    In an eight-minute report (6/5/05) in which she rode in a U.N. armored personnel carrier and extolled the bravery of U.N. soldiers, NPR correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro cited “human rights organizations” as saying that “things have improved since the Aristide days.” The NPR report interviewed two members of the U.N. force, one U.S. police trainer, one Haitian police official and Gérard Latortue, the head of Haiti’s unelected interim government. It neglected to quote any victims of the violence perpetrated by the Latortue regime or any human rights organizations critical of the governmental-sponsored violence—perhaps because they might have pointed out that such ...


    Sidebar: The Internet Problem

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Move Over—Over and Over: Media's rightward push for Democrats] Political reporters looking to identify a new obstacle standing in the way of Democratic electoral success often find it online, where party activists and progressives congregate around liberal blogs and websites. Writing under the headline “Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for the Center” (1/29/06), Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei reported that “Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest ...


    Sidebar: 'They Didn't Even Know This Was Mardi Gras'

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Katrina's Vanishing Victims] CNN’s Anderson Cooper was the first journalist to be made into a star by Hurricane Katrina: The image of Gloria Vanderbilt’s son leaning into gale-force winds had barely faded from the nation’s screens when he was elevated to replace Aaron Brown as CNN’s top news anchor (11/8/05). And Cooper returned the favor, spending as much time revisiting the Gulf Coast and reporting on Katrina’s aftermath as any other national journalist. From the start, Cooper staked his ground as a critic of the dysfunctional bureaucratic response to the disaster. As the ...


    Katrina's Vanishing Victims

    It happened on the afternoon of September 1, three days after Hurricane Katrina pushed a wall of water onto the city of New Orleans. CNN had been airing just-received videos of tens of thousands of people trapped at the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center, without food or supplies-scenes of elderly residents left to die by the roadside, of children chanting, "We want help!" Anchor Wolf Blitzer turned to CNN commentator Jack Cafferty to ask how it could be that, with all the advance warnings of disaster bearing down on the city, so many people had still been left ...


    Sidebar: 'Can't We Give This a Rest?'

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Katrina's Vanishing Victims] Of the broadcast network news anchors, NBC’s Brian Williams distinguished himself for taking the plight of New Orleans’ poor residents to heart. Shortly after NBC’s Bob Faw (9/1/05) declared that “disasters do not treat everyone alike” and called Katrina “a catastrophe shedding light on class, on race and misery,” Williams told St. Petersburg Times media columnist Eric Deggans (3/1/06), “If this does not spark a national discussion on class, race, the environment, oil, Iraq, infrastructure and urban planning, I think we’ve failed.” If Williams didn’t quite live up to his ...


    Subverting, Not Preserving, Democracy

    As the 2006 mid-term elections near, it is worth looking at the way the press handled the important claims of vote fraud in the last election. Extra! examined the 2004 post-election coverage of major news outlets, focusing on the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today, along with network TV news coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC. Extra! looked at this coverage in light of allegations detailed in Rep. John Conyers' report, "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio." On January 5, 2005, the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee, led by Conyers of Michigan, issued a report ...


    O Say, Can You See?

    I love the “Star Spangled Banner.” It strikes me as the perfect anthem for the United States of America. Not the full version, of course. If you try to get through the whole thing, you find too many lines like “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,” and “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.” But nobody sings those verses anyway. As it’s actually sung in its one-verse form, the lyrics are quite remarkable. “Oh say, can you see” the flag, the anthem asks? During the night, “the rockets’ red glare” and “the bombs bursting ...


    Tom Friedman's Flexible Deadlines

    New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman is considered by many of his media colleagues to be one of the wisest observers of international affairs. “You have a global brain, my friend,” MSNBC host Chris Matthews once told Friedman (4/21/05). “You’re amazing. You amaze me every time you write a book.” Such praise is not uncommon. Friedman’s appeal seems to rest on his ability to discuss complex issues in the simplest possible terms. On a recent episode of MSNBC’s Hardball (5/11/06), for example, Friedman boiled down the intricacies of the Iraq situation into a make-or-break deadline: “Well, I think ...


    The Morales Moral

    To several observers in the U.S. media, Latin America’s leftward shift is the misguided product of a naïve populace that can’t understand economics and demagogic leaders who need to be scolded back into line. So when the recently elected president of Bolivia, populist Evo Morales, announced that he would be re-nationalizing the country’s natural gas reserves, the media response was swift and firm. A Newsday editorial (5/3/06) called Morales’ move “obtuse economics” and admonished, “Nationalization of major industries has proved to be a road to economic ruin in an era of globalization.” The paper noted the Bolivian people’s “steady drop ...


    Impeachment Not on Media Radar

    There is a growing grassroots campaign demanding the impeachment of George W. Bush. Across the nation, towns and cities have been passing pro-impeachment resolutions. Websites promoting impeachment keep springing up. In several states, bills have been introduced in state legislatures that, if passed, would become formal bills of impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, requiring initiation of impeachment hearings under congressional rules dating back to the early 19th century. Starting last fall, several polls (Zogby, 10/29-11/2/05, 1/9-12/06; Ipsos, 10/6-9/05) reported that a majority of Americans thought Bush should be impeached if he lied the country into war in Iraq ...


    Letters to the Editor

    Don’t Shut Down Dobbs Regarding the CNN TV program Lou Dobbs Tonight (“CNN’s Immigration Problem,” Extra!, 5-6/06), I watch this program and wish to tell you what I learned from it. Lou Dobbs: 1. Does not talk against legal immigrants or legal immigration. 2. Often has people speak in favor of illegals; presents many sides of this issue. 3. Has firmly pushed for “securing our borders” before any amnesty programs. 4. Is critical of our government which does not enforce laws against hiring illegals. 5. Points out that large corporations (and small) exploit poor people who enter this country illegally. ...


    Sidebar: Another Clinton?

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to Move Over—Over and Over: Media's rightward push for Democrats] So who do political reporters now expect to close the “cultural gap” that supposedly prevents Democrats from winning at the polls? Many look to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who represents many of the centrist qualities media insiders prescribe for Democratic electoral success. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman (11/21/05) wrote that Kaine “provided a road map into the cultural mainstream for national Democrats.” The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt (2/20/06) described Kaine as an advocate of “pragmatic politics, stressing sound management and moderate bipartisanship over ideology.” Hiatt advised ...


    SoundBites

    They’re All We’ve Got “The only check-and-balance we have left is the media. That is, we didn’t find out about the N.S.A. domestic surveillance program, which is a federal crime, we didn’t find that out from members of Congress, we found it out from the media. . . . That doesn’t mean that the media doesn’t make mistakes. It does. But pound for pound, the media has done more to improve government than any other institution. But more importantly, they’re all we’ve got right now. There’s a reason why the administration has been threatening prosecution of journalists. Because they’re the ...


    Meet the Oil Executives

    At a time of dramatic increases in gasoline prices and jaw-dropping oil profits, NBC’s Sunday morning talkshow Meet the Press has convened two panel discussions dominated by guests close to those interests—with no input from environmental or citizen groups critical of the energy industry. On April 30, Meet the Press devoted its entire hour to a conversation about rising gas prices, featuring Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman (a former chemical industry executive), Red Cavaney of the American Petroleum Institute, corporate energy analyst Daniel Yergin (who is also on a board of advisers to the Energy Department), CNBC host (and corporate cheerleader) ...


    Bolivia's Soul Sold?

    [Note: this piece is a sidebar to The Morales Moral] Mainstream U.S. media have portrayed Bolivian President Evo Morales’ efforts to renegotiate Bolivia’s oil and natural gas contracts as a leftist conspiracy orchestrated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The New York Times (5/3/06) reported, “Bolivia’s nationalization of its energy industry, announced Monday by President Evo Morales, was a vivid illustration that the populist policies, championed most prominently by Venezuela, were spreading.” But the idea of controlling national resources didn’t need to “spread” to Bolivia, which first nationalized its petroleum industry in 1916, 38 years before Chávez was born. Morales, who ...


    Move Over--Over and Over

    It’s an article of faith in the elite ranks of journalism: Political virtue and electoral success reside in the ideological center. Though it’s not overwhelmingly popular with the American public, centrism is the dominant message of national political pundits and journalists—at least for Democrats. While few commentators would disagree with the conventional wisdom that Republican success depends on the care and feeding of the GOP’s conservative base—GOP leaders would laugh at them if they did—pundits who make the same argument for the Democrats are virtually non-existent in national media. Instead, many of the most prominent political journalists in the country ...