Monthly Archives: June 2004

FCC May Ban TV and Radio Ads for “Fahrenheit 9/11”

Moore-MichaelLooks like the Bush administration is trying to use the FCC to stifled dissent. Roll Call reports that the FCC general counsel has issued an advisory that ads after July 31 for the Michael Moore film may violate the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

In a draft advisory opinion placed on the FEC’s agenda for today’s meeting, the agency’s general counsel states that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

The opinion is generated under the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which prohibits corporate-funded ads that identify a federal candidate before a primary or general election.

The proscription is broadly defined. Section 100.29 of the federal election regulations defines restricted corporate-funded ads as those that identify a candidate by his “name, nickname, photograph or drawing” or make it “otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference.”

Should the six members of the FEC vote to approve the counsel’s opinion, it could put a serious crimp on Moore’s promotion efforts. The flavor of the movie was encapsulated by a recent review in The Boston Globe as “the case against George W. Bush, a fat compendium of previously reported crimes, errors, sins, and grievances delivered in the director’s patented tone of vaudevillian social outrage.”

The FEC ruling may also affect promotion of a slew of other upcoming political documentaries and films, such as “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War,” which opens in August, “The Corporation,” about democratic institutions being subsumed by the corporate agenda, or “Silver City,” a recently finished film by John Sayles that criticizes the Bush administration.

Another film, “The Hunting of the President,” which investigates whether Bill Clinton was the victim of a vast conspiracy, could be subject to regulations if it mentions Bush or members of Congress in its ads.

Perhaps working in tandem, one of the GOP 527 groups is planning a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission that Moore’s film violates the law.

David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, plans to allege that “Fahrenheit 9/11” violates federal election law, arguing that “Moore has publicly indicated his goal is to impact this election season.”

Bossie had planned to file a complaint with the FEC yesterday but postponed action because his lawyers want to review it at the last minute, said Summer Stitz, a spokeswoman for Bossie’s group.

“I don’t think much of Michael Moore or his two-hour political advertisement — that’s all it is,” Bossie said. “He uses all of these words to make it look like he makes documentaries, but it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Documentaries tend to be fact-based.”

Don’t you love it, Republicans worrying about fact-based anything.

Meanwhile, MoveOn, the liberal advocacy group, says it has organized more than 1,500 “Turn-Up-the-Heat” parties across the nation for Monday night. They will include a conference call with Moore. To find a party near you, go here.

In a Word

“Fuck yourself.” OK, it’s two words. This unoriginal and weak insult by VP Dick Cheney is quoted in this morning’s Washington Post page A4 story by Helen Dewar and Dana Milbank. Cheney’s office doesn’t deny it. No Democrats expressed outrage. Even A4 is probably giving too much attention to the remark, which seems to be the writers’ attitude.

First, there is the inscrutable lead: “A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.” What makes “fuck yourself” “big time”? If anything, it pretty small time and lame as far as insults go. Perhaps it’s because it’s Cheney’s nickname, but given and used by whom we don’t know.

And there’s the curious blend of the four letter word I’ve never seen before in the Post and this later in the story:

This was not the first foray into French by Cheney and his boss. During the 2000 campaign, Bush pointed out a New York Times reporter to Cheney and said, without knowing the microphone was picking it up, “major-league [expletive].” Cheney’s response — “Big Time” — has become his official presidential nickname.

Then there was that famous Talk magazine interview of Bush by Tucker Carlson in 1999, in which the future president repeatedly used the F-word.

Saying this is a “foray into French” either revels the writers’ attempt to further demonize the French or a playfulness suggesting that they had a hard time writing this story with a straight face.

But why do they replace what I assume is “asshole” or the more passe “jerk-off” with “expletive deleted”? Is asshole or jerkoff more offending than fuck? Or is it all right to reveal the VP’s crudeness but not the president’s? And why refer to the president’s use of fuck as “the F-word”? Maybe one of the two reporters is salty and the other prim and proper and the compromise was using the word only once. Who knows?

The reporters, however, are quick to mention Republican hypocrisy.

Gleeful Democrats pointed out that the White House has not always been so forgiving of obscenity. In December, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry was quoted using the same word in describing Bush’s Iraq policy as botched. The president’s chief of staff reacted with indignation.

“That’s beneath John Kerry,” Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said. “I’m very disappointed that he would use that kind of language. I’m hoping that he’s apologizing at least to himself, because that’s not the John Kerry that I know.”

My view is that this point was unnecessary. After all, with the Republicans that control this White House, finding hypocrisy isn’t all that difficult, and certainly we’ve learned by now that there’s not much that’s beneath them.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Tickets on sale for the shows tomorrow at the Fairfax Cinema Arts. First time I’ve ever bought tickets for a movie a day before it opened. Even for a Woody Allen movie.

Labor and Profits

Brad deLong’s blog entry yesterday is getting good coverage – with good reason. He writes that the economic news sounds good, if you listen to reporters. But reporters frequently don’t have a clue as to how to interpret news; they tend to simply regurgitate the spin. The news actually isn’t all that good.

That the labor market is finally improving–that it is no longer becoming harder and harder month by month to find jobs–does not mean that the labor market is good. A few months of employment gains are good news: they mean that it is a little less bad out there in the labor market than it used to be. But don’t confuse rates of change with levels: there are still perhaps 4 million people either unemployed or out of the labor force who would have jobs if we had a labor market in equilibrium. (And there are 6 million who would have jobs if we were in a boom like the late 1990s.) It’s still unusually hard for Americans to find work–just not as unusually hard as it was six months ago.

The best little chart in the one of how more of our national income is going to profits than to labor compensation than it has in 40 years.


Liberal Bias, Blah, Blah, Blah

Editor & Publisher, the heretofore placid trade magazine that is getting an edge under editor Greg Mitchell, takes on Paul Wolfowitz this morning, as did the even more placid Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post. Wolfie dissed the press in testimony on the Hill. And now he’s already issued an apology.

Now if he’s just issue a resignation.

Still, I’m not happy with E&P and its decision to study whether the media is liberal. Following the Pew report that conservatives have hyped relentlessly as proof of the media’s bias, E&P said it will conduct a study.

The evidence is thin, though Robert Samuelson in yesterday’s Washington Post column says the proof is there.

Rush Limbaugh has 14.5 million weekly listeners. According to Pew, 77 percent are conservative, 16 percent moderate and 7 percent liberal. Or take Fox’s 1.3 million prime-time viewers: 52 percent are conservative, 30 percent are moderate and 13 percent liberal. By contrast, 36 percent of Americans are conservative, 38 percent moderate and 18 percent liberal. The liberals’ media favorites are slightly less lopsided. The audience for “The NewsHour” is 22 percent conservative, 44 percent moderate and 27 percent liberal. NPR’s audience is 31 percent conservative, 33 percent moderate and 30 percent liberal. Of course, many news outlets still have broad audiences. Daily newspapers are collectively close to national averages; so is CNN.

First of all, the definitions are murky. What is a liberal? And then, Samuelson says the balanced audience of The NewsHour of PBS and the almost 1/3 split of the audience for NPR proves they’re biased liberally. I’m not so sure that’s proof. Or even makes sense.

But there goes E&P, with its shorts in a knot, worrying that the media is biased in favor of liberals. I can name at least three conservatively biased news/talk show hosts for every liberal one. In fact, the latter are few and far between. But conservatives point to every journalist who isn’t some sort of O’Reilly nut case and claim that because they’re not like him, they must be liberal.

Jay Rosen at Press Think has more than you could ever want to read about this.

Reagan Wants Dubya Out

Jr., that is. Former President Ronald Reagan’s son Ron, in an interview with Larry King last night, made it clear today’s Republicans are a different brand from his father’s party.

CALLER: Do you think your father’s, this is for Ron, do you think your father’s Republican Party is the same Republican Party that exists today?

REAGAN: I’m probably not the best qualified to answer that, because I’m not a Republican and don’t hang out with Republicans all the time. But looking from the outside, I would say no. It’s a much meaner party today. It’s been largely coopted by the religious right. And the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and beat each other’s brains out during the day, but after 5:00 have a beer and you can be friends?

KING: Ronald Reagan was that way, Goldwater was that way too.

Reagan also said he’s in the “Anybody but Bush” camp.

KING: You said, dad was also a deeply unabashedly religious man, but he never made the mistake of wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. Were you referring to the president?

REAGAN: You know, it’s interesting.

KING: Everyone thought that.

REAGAN: I know. I wasn’t watching TV much after I delivered the eulogy for a few days. But after a couple of days I started getting calls from people saying, boy you really stirred something up, didn’t you? I thought, well, what? Well, you know, the stuff you said about Bush. I said, I didn’t say anything about Bush, why would I mention George W. Bush in my father’s eulogy?

No, no, no, no, the stuff about the religion. I thought, ha, funny, you then everybody thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I heard — everybody thought I was talking about George — but people connected with George W. Bush thought I was talking about George W. Bush. And then I began to think, maybe I was, I just didn’t know it.

KING: Do you think he wears his religion on his sleeve? He certainly refers to it more than your father ever did.

REAGAN: Well, you know, there was that answer he gave to the question about, did you talk to your father about going into Iraq? No, I talked to a higher father, you know, the almighty. When you hear somebody justifying a war by citing the almighty, God, I get a little worried, frankly. The other guys do that a lot. Osama bin Laden’s always talking about Allah, what Allah wants, that he’s on his side. I think that’s uncomfortable.

KING: Do you have thoughts on the war?

REAGAN: Sure, I have thoughts on the war.

KING: And what do you think?

REAGAN: And I think we lied our way into the war.

KING: You think it’s a mistake?

REAGAN: Absolutely, a terrible mistake. Terrible foreign policy error. We didn’t have to do it. It was optional. And we were lied to. The American public was lied to about WMD, the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, which is virtually nonexistent except for fleeting contacts. But they’re still trying to pull that one off now, Cheney and all are out there flogging that.

KING: Can I gather from that, that you will not support this president?

REAGAN: No, I won’t.

KING: Will you support his opponent?

REAGAN: I will vote for whoever the viable candidate is who can defeat George W. Bush, yes.

KING: So, you might vote for Ralph Nader?

REAGAN: If he were a viable candidate I might.

KING: So the obviously you’re going to vote — what did you think your father would say, if he were here and listening to this?

REAGAN: I don’t think he would have gone into Iraq. I think he would have been much more interested in going after Osama bin Laden, who after all planned the 9/11 transactions.

KING: Would he be mad at you for saying, I’m not going to vote for this Republican?

REAGAN: I can’t imagine he would be. So long as I was telling the truth he’d be okay with that. And I am. So — no, I don’t think he’d be upset. Again, these are just my personal feelings you’ve asked, so I’ll answer.

KING: You’ve answered.

REAGAN: I just think it’s a terrible mistake. Terrible mistake.

Virginia News

Gov. Mark Warner’s effort to raise taxes is being touted as a blueprint for John Kerry with this Associated Press article by one of its better known political writers and distributed through Yahoo News. The article also says that although he’s been touted as a VP candidate, Warner hasn’t talked to Kerry about it and his financial holdings haven’t been investigated at by the Kerry campaign.

Seeing … Blue?

A few weeks ago, John Kerry decided to spend some campaign funds in Virginia for advertising, a move thought by some to be futile, given the conventional wisdom that the Commonwealth is solidly in the Bush column. Now, we learn that our next door neighbor may not be as “red” as was once thought. Bush’s lead over Kerry in N.C. is only five points – and that’s without N.C. Sen. John Edwards on the ticket.

The new poll hints at some of the reasons why:
* On the economy, 56 percent of those polled do not think Bush has done enough to protect furniture, textile and other manufacturing industries from foreign trade.
* On the war in Iraq, 46 percent of those polled approve of Bush’s leadership there while 44 percent disapprove. This is a remarkably narrow divide given this state’s long-standing support for the military.

Bush beat Gore in ’00 by 13 points.