Jul 1 2008

Letters to the Editor

Beyond the Beltway

Interesting articles in the May/June issue on media coverage of candidates’ stances on civil liberties and the semantics of waterboarding. I wondered, though, why the surveys were limited to the New York Times, the Washington Post, a few additional papers and the networks. A broader look would have found articles contradicting Cynthia Cooper’s thesis that the press is ignoring the candidates’ views on basic rights.

An outstanding example was a December 22 piece in the Boston Globe by Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage, giving details of each candidate’s position on a variety of issues related to presidential power. I wrote a somewhat less-comprehensive article in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 14 on the candidates’ responses to questionnaires about executive power, wiretapping and interrogation, as well as articles January 2, on their views on the International Criminal Court, and February 10, on crime and the death penalty.

Isabel Macdonald’s conclusion that the media have fallen in line with a description of waterboarding as “simulated drowning’’ certainly isn’t true of everyone. For example, my stories in the Chronicle on March 9 and March 12 both referred to waterboarding as “near-drowning.’’ I used that term after reading accounts similar to those cited by Macdonald, and I doubt I’m the only one. The March 9 article, which focused on Sen. John McCain’s opposition to a bill that would have extended to the CIA the Army’s ban on waterboarding and other painful techniques, included critiques by human-rights lawyers and a link to McCain’s Senate floor statement explaining his vote.

My purpose isn’t to promote myself or my paper, but to suggest that surveys limited to a small number of Beltway outlets, no matter how prominent, can give the mistaken impression that the entire public is being told the same story in the same way.

Bob Egelko

Staff writer

San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco, Calif.

Healthcare Coverage

Think of it, all of those debates and not a single convincing healthcare strategy from any of the major candidates in sight. And no media in sight to point that out, except FAIR! Thank you for vol. 21, number 3, in which the article on healthcare is nestled in a host of gems.

Bob Ackermann

Amherst, Mass.


I just read your article about healthcare on page 17 of the May/June issue of Extra! and have a suggestion. You nowhere mention the high cost of drugs as one of the reasons healthcare and insurance are so high.

Please read Our Daily Meds by Melody Petersen if you haven’t. The section called “The Tab,” starting on page 268, is especially relevant.

I’ve read that a huge percentage of our costs cover expenses in the last year of life and this tells about “life-saving” drugs given then for enormous prices. Some only keep the patient alive an average of 4-5 months more, one only an extra 12 days, but they are so expensive they can bankrupt a family. This drives up the cost—and price—of health insurance for all of us.

In my case, I’m in good health at 84, but my cost for Medicare has risen every year, as well as the cost for Medicare B and the price of supplementary insurance. How much of that is to pay for obscenely expensive drugs that do little? This would be an important addition to your article or even the basis for a new article.

I’m extremely glad that someone is giving us the information you do about how little the mainstream media tell us and how much of that is twisted or false. Thank you!

Shirley E. Hastings

What About Obama—and Ivins?

I enjoyed the article on John McCain, “Media’s ‘Maverick.’” Any chance you could do a similar article on Barack Obama? He’s being hyped as a liberal, an alternative to George W. Bush. He’s even portrayed as being against the Iraq War. It would be great if someone from your staff could compare his image to his actual voting record and corporate campaign contributors.

Rob Roper

Denver, Colo.


Steve Rendall’s amusing, informative article debunking the late William F. Buckley’s reputation (5-6/08) reminded me of another overrated journalist who received a drastically different post-mortem from Extra!: Molly Ivins.

Just as Buckley showed little consistency on issues of “academic freedom” and “political correctness,” Ivins supported Tipper Gore’s crusade against musicians’ First Amendment right to free expression, but displayed a streak of raunchy Texas-style humor in her own writings.

Buckley’s proposal to tattoo HIV-positive people was outrageous, but he also supported ending drug prohibition. By contrast, Ivins called for a kinder, gentler version of the Drug War, saying the government should “make” convicted illegal-drug users “go to a doctor” for “drug treatment,” whether they wanted such “treatment” or not. I suspect Ivins would have seen things differently if some drug addict had forced the overweight, self-described “beer-drinking feminist” to attend AA meetings, or consult a nutritionist, without her consent. And Ivins’ belief in forced “treatment” apparently applied only to the hoi polloi: She congratulated her friend, Texas Gov. Ann Richards, for voluntarily seeking help for her substance-abuse problem.

While Buckley got a well-deserved roasting in Extra!, Ivins received fulsome praise upon her death (3-4/07). But, just as Buckley’s patrician manner concealed his fundamental cruelty and brutality, didn’t the populist stance Ivins adopted mask her essential elitism?

Jon Swift

Baltimore, Md.


In the May/June 2008 issue, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard was mistakenly described as a former National Journal employee. On page 20, a reference to “MSNBC’s Chris Wallace” was meant to be a mention of both Fox’s Chris Wallace and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. On page 30, a William F. Buckley quote about “liberals’ fetishistic commitment to democracy” should have been cited to John Judis’ book William F. Buckley. Extra! apologizes for the errors.