May 1 2010


CNN Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel

John King promised that his new CNN show, replacing the failed Lou Dobbs program, would focus on news, not opinion; he told Politico (11/12/09) that he was averse to guests “on news shows who start the conversation with a bias.”

So who does CNN hire to do regular political commentary on King’s show? Right-wing blogger Erick Erickson, who described Supreme Justice David Souter upon his retirement as a “goat-fucking child molester” (FAIR Action Alert, 3/16/10). Erickson has also asserted that “the full gay rights agenda” involves child molestation, that Barack Obama won the Nobel Prize because of “affirmative action,” and that that “feminazis” objected to an anti-abortion Super Bowl ad because “that’s what being too ugly to get a date does to your brain.”

Here’s Erickson talking about fed-up voters: “At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?” What tyranny provoked this call for violent resistance? It involved regulation of dishwashing detergent.

So much for not starting the conversation with a bias.

Pay No Attention to the ‘Venting’

The Washington Post’s March 9 article about a congressional debate over the legality of the Afghan War began: “Liberals in the House, who have spent much of the past year complaining that other congressional Democrats and the White House are insufficiently progressive, will get a chance this week to vent about one of their biggest concerns: the war in Afghanistan.”

With the Beltway’s leading news outlet declaring that the debate would be a pointless emotional outburst by whiny lefties, the Washington press corps ignored the proceedings almost entirely, leading to this declaration from the House floor (TPM, 3/10/10) by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-Mass.):

“There’s two press people in this gallery…. We’re talking about war and peace, $3 billion, 1,000 lives and no press? No press.” He added: “The press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance and that’s the laying of lives down in the nation for the service of our country. It’s despicable, the national press corps right now.”

The Bill of Rights Is Not an Option

“Experts Urge Keeping Two Options for Terror Trials,” declared a March 9 New York Times headline. “Two options” refers to using both the regular criminal justice system as well as ad-hoc military tribunals to try those accused of terrorism-related crimes. But who does the Times mean by “experts,” exactly? The story, by Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, specifically cites “national security officials who served in the Bush administration”—though later on, “national security officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations” are also mentioned. Balancing these voices of the national security establishment are various Republicans and conservatives who argue that military tribunals alone should be used in terrorism trials.

Conspicuously missing from this framing was the position that the military tribunals are unconstitutional, since even people accused of terrorism are protected by the Bill of Rights. Given that the Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that the tribunals as set up by the Bush administration did not pass constitutional muster, this is not exactly a fringe position. But for the New York Times, apparently the Supreme Court majority isn’t “expert” enough to be included in the debate.

(Reluctant) Arms Dealer to the World

Under the headline “A Killer Deal for Russia,” Newsweek correspondent Mac Margolis (3/1/10) warned of a specter haunting Latin America: “Moscow is cutting deals across the region, selling the latest hardware, from rifles to fighter jets, in exchange for influence and access to the area’s plentiful oil and gas reserves.” And, Margolis warned, the U.S. is letting this happen because it’s just too damned ethical: “The U.S. has imposed restrictions on arms sales to many nations suspected of being soft on terrorism or roiled by internal conflict. So many on that watch list have turned to Moscow, which asks no questions.”

Well, here’s a question: How do Russia’s arms sales compare with the U.S.’s? The answer: The U.S. is far and away the world’s biggest arms dealer, responsible for two-thirds of all the world’s arms traffic in 2008—selling 10 times as much military hardware as Russia (New York Times, 9/6/09). And Washington is more than happy to sell weapons to just about anyone, roiled by internal conflict, soft on terrorism or not—as satisfied clients from Azerbaijan to Yemen, and Colombia to Pakistan, will tell you (Arms Control Today, 1-2/08).

The one example Margolis gives of a country that the U.S. won’t sell arms to is Venezuela. It’s odd for him to complain about that, given that he regularly depicts that country as the hemisphere’s biggest menace (Extra!, 1/10). But if you want to argue that the world’s biggest arms merchant is too reluctant to sell weapons, maybe you have to run with whatever evidence you have.

To PBS, All Smart People Are Centrists

The head of PBS’s flagship New York station, WNET’s Neal Shapiro, defended the choice of Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and former MTV and NPR host Alison Stewart to co-host PBS’s forthcoming program Need to Know, which is replacing Now and the Bill Moyers Journal: (FAIR Action Alert, 3/10/10). “They are both are incredibly smart,” he told Broadcasting & Cable (3/17/10). “And I think, given their intellect, neither are people you can pigeonhole left or right.” Right, anyone who’s smart is a centrist—not one of those pigeonhole-able dummies like Noam Chomsky or Milton Friedman.

Death Panels—Yet Again?

After noting that GOP leader Michael Steele had predicted that healthcare reform would be “a death panel for the Democrats this fall,” the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut (2/28/10) helpfully explained: “Death panels became part of the debate last summer, after prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, claimed the government would set them up to decide who could live or die.” It would have been more helpful, actually, if Kornblut had explained that such panels were a figment of the conservative imagination, and were never part of any healthcare proposal.