Monthly Archives: February 2004

Osama’s a Frightened Girl

A recent Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language film, “Osama” is reportedly a powerful film about a young Afghan girl who is forced to disguise herself as a young boy in order to work to feed the family. The story depicts life under the Taliban, where women who found themselves with no male relatives to support them faced starvation because women were not allowed in public without a male companion.

A story (Go to For U.S. Officials, ‘Osama’ a Must-See Film) on NPR’s morning edition Friday reported that the Bush administration wants to publicize the film. The president and Secretary of State Colin Powell both saw the film, which is the first to be produced in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. I was alerted to this story by a woman who was outraged. She had known of the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule, having read a story (I’m uncertain if this link is the story she was referring to) in Marie Claire magazine in March 1996.

But what outraged this woman was the quote attributed to Powell in the NPR story. “You’ll learn why President Bush is right about waging a war on terrorists until there are none of them,” Powell said, according to the report. This woman’s letter Download file is very powerful.

If you want more information about the plight of Afghan women, go to the site of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Be forewarned that the site has disturbing and violent video and photos.

Liberals: The Anti-Christs

In an AP story about the level of anger at Bush by Democrats (and 10% of Republicans), the following appears:

John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University, said resentment of Bush is particularly strong among liberals who already hold three things against him: “First, he’s a conservative. Second, he’s a Christian. And third, he’s a Texan. When you add all of those things up, that invokes pretty much every symbol of the cultural wars.”

“It’s particularly galling when somebody who mangles his syntax and doesn’t pronounce words extremely well and is from Texas beats you,” McAdams added.

I don’t know who the hell McAdams is, but such a patronizing, bigoted characterization is beyond the pale. So liberals are the anti-Christ and hate Texans? It’s particularly galling when stupid pundits mangle their 15 minutes of fame. Google the guy. A lot of people think he’s nuts.

Balanced or Pandering?

Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler today discusses a recent front page story about the wall Israel is building around Jerusalem. The article prompted at least one reader, a Jew who spent time in the West Bank, to challenge American politicians to see for themselves how the wall is an impediment to peace while we send $13 million A DAY to Israel for its defense, according to the writer.

In Getler’s column, he addressed criticism of the article from David Bernstein, executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s Washington branch. Bernstein wanted mention of the suicide attacks. Getler defended the article but agreed the suicide attacks should have been acknowledged and then summarized the suicide death toll. He then mentions that that summary was just reported in a Post story 10 days before the article in question.

In every article about suicide bombers, does The Post mention the pernicious policies of Israel that cause such deep frustration and anger in Palestinians? No, of course not.

You rarely see in Getler’s column acknowledgement of complaints from readers who think The Post’s coverage, placement or headlines have an anti-Palestinian bias. Yet, I know there is a deep frustration at The Post’s stance and it hears from pro-Arab groups. But their complaints don’t make the paper.

One issue I’ve constantly communicated to Getler is The Post’s habit of making suicide bombings in the Middle East front page news, while the murders of Palestinians are usually buried in the paper. Here’s the text of my last email to Getler:

On Jan. 30, on A1 The Post ran the story “11 Killed By Bomb On Bus in Jerusalem.”

Today [Feb 12, 2004], on A32 The Post has “Israeli Raids in Gaza Kill 15 Palestinians.”

Exactly what is the criteria that dictates that the killing of 11 Israelis in yet another tragic suicide bombing is A1 news but the killing of 15 Palestinians in yet another Israeli raid A32 news?

I’ve pointed out many instances of this pattern to Getler over the last couple of years, but as usual, I received no response.

This is not a criticism of the reporters, especially John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore, who do a terrific job of reporting from the Middle East, but rather of editorial judgement about how such stories are played. Anderson’s story about the wall deserved to be front page and I applaud The Post for putting it there. I just wished Getler would be as sensitive to complaints from the other side.

We Don’t Spread Rumors But We Report When Others Do

Also in Getler’s column today, he defends The Post’s coverage of the rumor that Sen. John Kerry had an affair with an intern, which turned out to be untrue: She neither had an affair with him nor was an intern. Here’s part of what Getler writes:

Although several mainstream news organizations reported Kerry’s denial and briefly explained the situation over the weekend, The Post did not publish a story until Tuesday. [Post Executive Editor Len] Downie explains: “When a former Associated Press reporter issued a public statement [on Monday] saying that she was the subject of rumors about Kerry, that it had caused problems for her and her family and that they were untrue, we published a story about those facts that focused on the role of the Internet in spreading the rumor and how the mainstream media reacted.”

The article may have focused the role of the Internet, but it nonetheless perpetuated the rumor. I don’t know if I would have written the piece that Howard Kurtz did, but I certainly think that would have been enough. But not for Getler:

The Post, it seems to me, acted properly and carefully in this episode, although I have to admit that, as a reader, I was looking for a story by Saturday or Sunday, for sure, explaining what Kerry was talking about.

And then how about a story of what Kerry was thinking about and how he was feeling about it and how his wife felt about and ad nauseum until, as so many of the vicious rumors initiated by the right, they become fact. Read Big Lies.

Don’t Ask, Won’t Tell

Lawyers have a cardinal rule: Don’t ask witnesses on the stand questions that you don’t know the answers to. The Dems might follow that advice regarding Bush’s National Guard service. Today’s story in The Post pretty much exonerates him, or at least reporter Josh White didn’t quote any credible skeptics. If the Dems keep suggesting Bush was AWOL and he comes up with irrefutable proof late in the campaign, their credibility is damaged. Quiet research is the better strategy.

It’s Official: GOP Ugliest Campaigners

The GOP has a greater (if that’s the right word) history of going negative in campaigns, according to a study by a University of Mississippi professor. During the last 50 years, we were more likely to see attacks on a candidate’s character from the GOP than the Dems by a margin of 44-33%. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the Dems. Eleven percent difference! But in the stolen 2000 election, the Bushies directed 43% of its attacks on Gore’s character while the Dems did only 16% character assignation ads.

Experience Counts?

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz today discusses Sen. John Edwards lack of foreign policy experience on the front page. In the story, Balz, who lately hasn’t much profound to say in such “analysis” pieces, nonetheless states what’s been missing from such discussion in the past. One can understand why the right wing Fox talking heads don’t mention it, but the mainstream press should: Dubya had NO foreign policy experience before becoming president. From The Post:

Edwards has served three years on the Senate intelligence committee…. Edwards’s advisers challenge those who question the North Carolina senator’s foreign policy credentials. He has, they say, as much experience or more than did Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter when they were first elected.

The Senate Giveth and It Taketh Away

Virginia senators passed two measures Friday. One increased taxes, the Chichester tax reform plan. Included was a 32.5 cent hike in taxes smokers will pay per pack of smokes. The other measure gives Phillip Morris a tax credit of $6 million dollars a year for its products sold abroad.

So on the one hand, we’re raising taxes because a) we can get more money, b) traditional wisdom (really suspect here) says it should dissuade kids from smoking and c) that extra money will help pay for the people who get sick from smoking.

But on the other hand, we’re paying the company, Phillip Morris, that produces the death sticks in Virginia to pedal them elsewhere because, proponents said, it would save jobs.

Help me out here. I don’t have much sympathy for smokers, especially those that get sick and then sue as if it was somebody else’s fault. But I think smokers have a case. Why should they pay more while the company gets a tax break for producing them? (The $6 million almost covers the cost of Phillip Morris CEO’s bonus last year, according to Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax.))

And how does it save jobs? Well, of course, if we don’t give PM a tax break, they could take their cigarette making factories elsewhere, and Virginia tobacco farmers would have a tougher go of it.

We want to discourage kids from smoking and pay for the health effects through higher taxes but we want Virginians to keep growing the stuff. Someday, some politician is going to stand up and say, “Sorry, tobacco farmers, the gig’s up.” I’d fully support spending money to retrain them and help them turn their land for another profitable but healthy product. But to continue along this conflicted public policy is stupid and, of course, a waster of taxpayer money.

As Sen. Yvonne Miller (D-Norfolk) said, “Our values are twisted. It’s crazy.”

No, senator, it’s old Virginny.

Forced Homosexuality

I’ve been married 19 years to a pretty wonderful woman. But if we don’t stop this movement toward same-sex marriages, I may be forced to leave her. That’s right. In a story about the burgeoning movement, the president of the Family Research Council said, “We cannot permit a few states and cities to force same-sex marriages on the rest of America.”

I love you, babe. It’s been great, but these judges and cities and states are making me do it. We could probably use a toaster for a wedding present, and I don’t have any high heeled shoes.

Media Intimidation

Any of a number of recent books tell the story of right wing intimidation of the media. It’s been a coordinated campaign since Spiro Agnew complained about the nattering “nabobs of negatively.” Since Goldwater’s defeat, the right wing has systematically intimated the media, accusing it being liberal and biased against conservatives. Even if you think there was some truth to it 40 years ago, the right wing’s campaign has turned it around 180 degrees – and then some. Today, the media is intimidated, bending over backwards to prove they aren’t liberal.

The result has been a free ride for much of the right wing agenda the last couple of decades. The media was merciless towards Clinton, but rarely challenged Bush until the Democratic presidential campaign heated up.

An argument made by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank on MSNBC points out that part of the reason is that Democrats had lost their voice for so long. Now, with the wimps getting a backbone thanks to Howard Dean, the press has begun to ask Bush tougher questions.

So expect more columns like Charles Krauthammer’s in today’s Post. He chides Democrats for being negative. This from a Republican, the party of Lee Atwater, one of the first mudslingers the GOP has employed over the years. It’s been Bush and company who have suggested opponents to the Iraqi war are treasonous. Krauthammer accuses the Democrats of playing to the camera. Bush rarely faces a tough crowd, favoring delivering his lies to any camera he wants. No president has held so few press conferences in the post World War II era.

Another example of intimidation is today’s Wall Street Journal column that claims a double standard at work within the fourth estate. Many journalists have been either unusually silent or outright hostile to Robert Novak’s claim that he is protecting his sources by not revealing who told him that Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plume, was a CIA operative. For no apparent journalistic reason, Novak included in his column criticizing Wilson, who publicly questioned the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was buying uranium to build the big one, outed Plume. Whoever told Novak may have committed a national security crime.

So the Journal’s op-ed page, influential but very conservative, thinks there is a double standard because not every journalist is coming to Novak’s defense. If a law was broken and the value of the fact was superfluous to the column, some think Novak should come clean. It’s fair to wonder if journalists are inconsistent. But one thing I can assure you: If it were a Clinton White House staffer who revealed a CIA agent’s identity, the Journal and every other right wing pundit and politician would be calling the journalist who reported the identity a traitor and demanding that he or she patriotically fess up. That’s the double standard here.

The Krauthammer and WSJ columns will be just two of many accusing the media of an anti-Bush or liberal bias. And I fear, as in the past, it just might work because if there’s ever a thin-skinned group, it’s journalists.