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Saturday March 13, 2004

Here's some more on the manufactured outrage over the Bush 9/11 ads:

Call it "three green suitcase" journalism. Let's say a feature writer thinks green luggage is becoming popular. So the reporter taps out a story citing three people in different states who have given up black suitcases and bought green ones. The second paragraph begins: "All across America, people are switching to green suitcases." This creates a media trend that might be real but is probably bogus and certainly isn't established by three sales.

The uproar over President Bush's 9/11 ads was a classic three-green-suitcase story. The New York Daily News broke the story on March 4, with a huge headline "STORM OVER BUSH 9/11 AD." As howling front-page storms go, this one was small. The story quoted three unhappy members of victims' families and one fireman. There were more bylines (four) than outraged family members (three).

The size of the headline letters, 2 inches tall, in a famous big-city daily, established that a major story was underway. With an extra day to rewrite the News, the Washington Post kept the story rolling, although, it could find only two displeased family members and one fireman. So did USA Today. TV and print media blossomed with furor stories, prodded along by a quick press release from the Democratic National Committee that pointed to the storm in that morning's Daily News. By dinnertime, the story was all over TV. The next day, was talking about "a flood of anti-ad criticism."

This "flood" consisted mainly of 10 or 12 people quoted over and over. Some people turned up in stories because they were already in reporters' Rolodexes as complainers, unhappy about many different 9/11 issues. This group included a lot of vocal anti-Bush activists, who were not really representative of the victim-families movement but were fairly well known to the media.

One of the conservative bloggers, John Hawkins at, figured out early what was happening. He pointed out that in the big Associated Press story on the alleged furor, "5 out of 6 people interviewed had an ax to grind with George Bush." Monica Gabrielle, who called the ad "despicable," is a Bush-basher who turned up on at least nine news sites. David Potorti, who was also quoted in many stories, said last October, "I feel like the foreign policy of the Bush administration is almost like a second assault on us." Readers and viewers were not told about these anti-Bush sentiments in stories about the ads. (emphasis added)

The Blogosphere is now an important check and balance on the major media. They simply can't get away with blatant bias and distortion of the news without being called to account. Some people think that's a bad thing.

Now this is a bad thing:

Iran indefinitely froze further inspections of its nuclear program Saturday, protesting a resolution by the U.N. atomic agency's governing body that censured Tehran for hiding suspicious activities.

Gee whiz, you find a little unexpected U-235 and all of a sudden the Iranians don't want us to inspect any more. I just don't get it.

U.N. nuclear inspectors have found traces of extremely highly enriched uranium in Iran, of a purity reserved for use in a nuclear bomb, European and American diplomats said.

Among traces that inspectors detected last year are some that have been refined to 90 percent of the rare 235 isotope, the diplomats said. Although the International Atomic Energy Agency has previously reported finding "weapons grade" traces, it has not revealed that some reached such a high degree of enrichment.

For the tin foil hat crowd:

In comparing the Madrid bombings to the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the United States, there are some interesting numerical ties.

There were 911 days in-between the terror attacks in Madrid and Sept. 11, 2001 - or 9-11 as it has become known - when al-Qaida-backed terrorists slammed planes into the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania and the World Trade Center towers in New York, destroying them.

The Madrid bombings - which happened on 3-11 - also came 2-1/2 years to the day after the 9-11 attacks.

Don't know much about history:

If high-school students seem bored by history, consider what they get to read. A panel of scholars perused the pages of this country's history textbooks and found weighty volumes filled with shallow writing masked by colorful illustrations, bright graphics and copious quantities of white space.

Lots of white space and shallow text. That's because the textbook writers have eliminated all potentially offending words. Anything descriptive is out. Old. Young. Skinny. Fat. Poor. Rich. These are unacceptable. All interesting and meaningful text has been sacrificed on the altar political correctness.

Here's a portion of a review of Diane Ravitch's book, The Language Police, which describes the unbelievable extent to which textbook editors have abolished any meaningful information in order to avoid potentially offending anyone, anywhere, anytime:

It is in the California market that publishers feel the most pressure from the left. This pressure is to exclude any word that begins or ends with man (mankind, postman, human, etc.) or refers to any racial or ethnic group in a "negative manner," or seemingly any manner at all. In this case, negative manner expands to include a member of the group engaging in behavior stereotypical of that group. Thus, a story about an Asian person who happened to be a math whiz or a chef would be unacceptable, as would a story about a black athlete or a woman who knits. In Texas, the state board feels pressure from the Christian Right to exclude activities and ideas that are at odds with their own conception of what is proper. This cuts out not only disobedient children or irresponsible fathers, but also references to pre-historic times, which suggest evolution. Certainly in this world there is no drug use, no divorce, no lawlessness, and no homosexuality.

Perhaps you would think that these two sets of standards oppose each other and would cause intense disagreement between two groups that were not so friendly to begin with. However, textbook and testing companies, ever the peacekeepers, were able to satisfy everyone by eliminating, well, everything. Stories may not refer to a specific region of the country because "children should not be expected to read or comprehend stories set in unfamiliar terrain." Stories may not show "a preference for light over darkness" as it is "a manifestation of bias." Stories may not refer to animals, places, or symbols that any culture, ethnicity, or religion may find offensive, including Mount Rushmore, as some Lakota Indians consider it a desecration of the holy Black Hills (not that you could say Black or Hills). Thus textbook editors excise all places, customs, and peoples out of fear that exposure to factual content might actually be harmful to children. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to see where the line was crossed from protecting young children from profanity and stopping the reinforcement of discrimination to impeding the intellectual development of children by shielding them from anything but a projection of lobbying groups' notions of an ideal society.

ELISABETH BUMILLER has an interesting piece on the nastiness of campaigns past:

One of the nastiest campaigns was one of the first. In the election of 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was tarred as an agent of the French Revolution, while President John Adams was decried as a monarchist; after Jefferson won, his enemies spread the story that he had a slave mistress, Sally Hemings.

What I really don't like about the campaigning and politicking is that both sides distort the truth in such a way as to make you unsure of where reality lies. That's why I, Eric S. Livingston approve of this message: to get the real skinny go to That's truly a no-spin zone.

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes truth and fiction collide:

Leaders of the cash-strapped city are considering selling the naming rights for Los Angeles to a variety of products. Coke or Pepsi could be the city's official soft drink, for instance, and Lexus or BMW the official automobile.

Lawmakers say the choice for a budget-crunched city like Los Angeles comes down to raising taxes or finding other ways of raising necessary funds. New York and San Diego are already in the sponsorship game and are making millions.

A while back, I wrote what I thought was a satire:

Missouri, like many States, is in the midst of a looming budget shortfall. This despite a tremendous growth in revenues in the past decade. Unfortunately the rapidly increasing revenues were met with equally (in some cases more rapidly) increasing expenditures....

...This was the backdrop which prompted some genius pundit to comment in my local paper that the only way a State can increase revenues is to raise taxes. "It' not like they can sell off a State Park or a lake", geniuspundit said. Well, that got me to thinking....

...It's happening all over corporate America. Taco Bell Fiesta Bowl, 3Com Park, Enron Field--well, maybe that one didn't turn out so well. Missouri has plenty of landmarks that corporate America would pay good money for. Mark Twain State Park? Well, ole Sammy Clements doesn't have particularly deep pockets at this point in time. I'd bet American Airlines would pay a pretty penny for American Airlines Flyover State Park. The pilot could even announce it in flight, like they do for the Grand Canyon.

We have a beautiful lake in Missouri--Lake of the Ozarks. I'm bettin' that we get no additional revenue from the Ozarks. They're mountains,well hills really, and they are unemployed. We'd do much better with The Bass Pro Shops Lake of the PartyBarge. Or what about this Mississippi River. Mississippi is such a poor state. Exxon Haz-Waste River may not be worth the additional revenue. Perhaps Culligan River or Absopure River. Either way, we could do better than Mississippi.

Wednesday March 10, 2004

I've read that these "families of victims" of the 9/11 attacks who oppose the recent Bush ads actually amount to no more than 1% of the families of victims. They are a small group with a left-leaning agenda and have been protesting the "War on Terror" since it's inception. The major media has been giving this group a free pass and accepting it at face value. Here's a bit more from the Wall Street Journal editorial pages.

Has anyone else out there begun to wonder just who these 9/11 "families" are that have been interviewed without end the past week about their "outrage" over President Bush's TV ads with a quick clip of September 11? Are they all neutral innocents, as depicted, or are they part of an organized anti-Bush opposition?

It seems to us that the media that gives these folks so much free face time and column inches might push the story a bit further to help viewers and readers put this dispute in context. Alas, what a little pushing of our own unearths is that far from disinterested parties, the activists who claim to speak for all 9/11 families are in fact subsidiaries of established anti-Bush forces--political entities committed to defeating the President this fall. We guess transparency only applies to the business world.

Consider the benignly named September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. The group has been loudly protesting Mr. Bush's ads, organizing a rally for "victims' families and firefighters" to condemn the President's "offensive exploitation" of September 11. Peaceful Tomorrows says its goal is to "turn our grief into action for peace." In the Washington Post's coverage this group is "nonpartisan." If so, nonpartisan has lost its meaning.

But still the press is inordinately troubled that President Bush has angered this small minority.

The head of the Republican Party angered 9/11 families again yesterday by saying only a "small segment ... who are very anti-war" objected to President Bush's use of Ground Zero scenes in his reelection ads.

No, not 9/11 families. A small minority (1%) of 9/11 families who have a coordinated left-wing agenda.

John Kerry:

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that."

Here's part of what Tony Blankley distills from this quote:

I am assuming that Mr. Kerry was referring to more or less democratic leaders. Surely he is not referring to former Haitian leader Aristide, various Middle East potentates or African dictators. As the leaders of Italy, Spain, Britain, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria have been strong allies of George Bush, one has to assume that he (Mr. Kerry) is referring to France's Chirac, Germany's Schroeder, Russia's Putin, Belgium's whoever, etc. Mr. Putin is far too smart to bad mouth the president. So Sen. Kerry must be referring to Chirac, Schroeder or some of their lesser Euro-running dog lackeys.

Although not strictly a "foreign leader", I'd also add Kofi Annan to the list. Funny, isn't it. These are the same countries (France, Germany, Russia) who chiefly opposed the war in Iraq. Funny also that these are the same countries who profited (to the tune of billions of dollars) from the Saddam regime and the completely fraudulent Oil for Food program. Just a coincidence, je suppose.

It seems to me that these two definitions are not mutually exclusive:

Democratic nominee-to-be John Kerry yesterday acknowledged flip-flopping on Yasser Arafat and says his view of the Palestinian leader has changed from "statesman" to "outlaw."