Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Iraqi troops dead

So 49 of the recently "trained" Iraqi forces were killed execution-style the other day. This gives me a lot of faith that their training was executed pretty well (sorry for the sarcasm there). But for real, the message that this has to send is that the insurgents are strong. Stronger than we may have thought, perhaps, and certainly stronger than the trained Iraqis.

I just read this article, which was a bit surprising to me. In it, Prime Minister Allawi blamed the US-led coalition for the massacre. I'd thought that Allawi would hesitate to be so critical of the US, but he certainly hasn't been. More than showing some nuance to the Prime Minister's position, though, I think that this shows that we can't go on deluding ourselves anymore. The situation in Iraq is far from sunny, as the conservatives would seem to like to claim (just turn on FOX News sometime, and they'll tell you about how the media overrepresents the bad things that happen). I've thought that for a long time, but part of Bush's claim was that Iraqi forces were being trained to take over for the coalition forces. This makes that argument moot, in my humble opinion, since these Iraqi forces were hardly effective in stopping the insurgents.

It frustrates me just a little bit that I'm making an argument that amounts to "things aren't as great in Iraq as they say." It's ridiculous for me just to type that, but Bush keeps saying that "freedom is on the march," talking about how good things are for the Iraqis now, so this kind of stuff has got to be brought up.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Fox News Part II

Just a quick one here. I was watching DaySide with Linda Vester on FOX News today, and they had a little discussion about how nasty the negative campaigning is this election season. They then went on to talk about a few examples of local ads that we may not have seen, but that were terrible. I expected to see one from each side, as Linda had used the term "fair and balanced" herself earlier in the show, but alas, I was to be disappointed. There was one advertisement about Democratic allegations of Republican voter suppression of minorities. It was a bad ad, to be sure, and didn't really deserve a place in the political forum. But the other advertisement was a negative advertisement by Democrats against a Republican congresswoman where it depicted, among other things, her stealing a watch from a corpse. Terrible advertisement, of course, and again, not deserving of a spot in the public discourse; but you couldn't help but leave the program with the impression that Republicans are being unfairly discriminated against by Democrats, and that they haven't put out any nasty ads themselves. Love it.


Bush & the draft?

Now that you've read the title, let me begin with a caveat. I don't think that another Bush administration would necessitate a draft. With that said, though, I've got a few things on my mind that worry me, in that regard.

Conservatives charge that it's only been liberals who have brought up the draft in this election year, and only as a cheap political trick. I'll admit that that's mostly true; the part that I disagree with is the implications behind the words "cheap political trick." I've been paying a hell of a lot of attention to everything going on in the election this year, as I haven't in years past, and what I've seen is this: Kerry has stated his plan to expand the Armed Forces so that we don't have to rely so much on reservists, and so that we can have reserve forces again, barring any kind of unforeseen necessity for them. I haven't heard the same type of plan from the Bush team. It's been commonly acknowledged, seems to me, that the troops are stretched pretty thin now, even though they have performed quite well. I've heard from Bush that he will not reinstate the draft, but I haven't heard his alternate plan.

I agree that the draft was brought up by Democrats, but I think that it's a legitimate thing to think about. In the absence of a clear alternative, and facing what seems like the possibility of an extended occupation of Iraq, what other thought are people supposed to have than that the draft is a possibility? Both candidates have charged that they are the best way to avoid a draft, but that's just posturing, trying to get the young vote. CNN's got an article on it here.

But there's bigger issues going on here. One is that Bush has long criticized Kerry's "strategy of retreat" in Iraq, but he recently said this: there will be no longtime troops in Iraq. That seems like the beginning of talking about withdrawl of troops, at least without having to "flip-flop" and say that it's part of his strategy. It's just his prediction at this point, but it gives Bush the added bonus of getting to seem like his administration is going to start getting out of Iraq. Especially as polls indicate increasing uneasiness about the war.

Here's the other thing I want to talk about, though. People haven't had to make any real sacrifice for this "war." I'm not talking about the troops, because we've lost over 1100 of them now. Of course that's a sacrifice. But beyond them, the average person in the United States hasn't had to give up anything. They get to express the righteous indignation of a nation at war, and then their taxes go down. Lord forbid we should have to surrender more of our money to support a cause which is so "right." I can't remember exactly where off the top of my head, but I recently read that support of the Iraq war goes down drastically, in the same poll, when the respondents are asked if they would feel the same way if their child were in the war, or if they had to make a personal sacrifice in any way.

People alive during World War II were all making sacrifices for their country. Everyone mobilized to help the war effort, and everyone had the right to feel good about themselves, because everyone was helping. But now we've got a whole class of people who feel good about themselves for just agreeing with the war. There is no sacrifice in our country. We are not a "nation at war." This has not come home to us, I think, and until it does, we've got a bunch of blowhards talking about the rightness of the liberation of Iraq without having to think about what they'd be willing to give to liberate the people of Iraq.


Monday, October 18, 2004

(Un) Fair and Balanced

So here's something interesting. I was watching television this afternoon, and I turned to FOX News, because I love watching Dayside with Linda Vester (it makes me chuckle and shake my head), but the programming was pre-empted by a Bush campaign speech right here in New Jersey. FOX covered the speech for about 50 minutes (so far as I saw), and then cut it off when it was getting toward wrapping up. They then "interviewed" former U.N. ambassador Dick Holbrooke about the speech. The "interview" basically consisted of a pretty blonde lady quoting Bush's speech in the guise of asking questions, and Holbrooke called her out on it.

The interesting part, though, came when Kerry's speech came on, just about five minutes later. FOX understandably didn't feel the need to cover the opening platitudes of Kerry thanking the town of Tampa for hosting him, etc. They took a quick commercial break at that point, and so I turned to CNN and MSNBC, which were both also covering the speech. After a while, I turned back to FOX, and I saw that they had preempted Kerry's speech for a program about electronic voting machines in Florida. Kerry was still speaking about taxes and health care on CNN and MSNBC (in an admirable attempt, I think, to keep at least some of the public debate on his own terms), but FOX deemed it not important enough to cover.

I watched some more of the speech upstairs and then turned it off and checked in on my roommate, who was watching it downstairs. He was a bit incredulous that FOX had cut to commercial in the middle of the speech, as he just noticed (he'd been watching CNN also). We stayed on FOX until the end of the commercial, and instead of returning to Kerry's speech, they cut to a special report on the latest tribe member to be voted off of Survivor, complete with an in-studio interview.

Now this isn't a rant about the primacy of entertainment over the important issues that news channels should be covering, though there's a case to be made for that. Nor is it a case about how terrible reality television and our obsession with it can be, though there's certainly a case to be made for that. No, what really stuck in my craw was that FOX chose to cover Bush's speech nearly in its entirety, but cut Kerry off after a fairly short time. Both were campaign speeches, and FOX seemingly declared its own political endorsement loud and clear by letting everyone know that while Bush deserved a lot of coverage, Kerry isn't quite as important as an exclusive interview with the latest dude to get voted off of Survivor.

Ridiculous, huh?


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Voting for Kerry Is a Sin

I'm a little late with posting this one, as it was covered in the debate on Wednesday, but it came back into my mind and I thought I'd vent on it a little bit. As reported in this article, there have been a couple of outspoken Catholic bishops in the United States who have called on their flocks, telling them that the issue of abortion forces them not to vote for Senator Kerry. They claim that abortion is a "foundational issue," and that since Senator Kerry supports the right of a woman to choose, there is only one way that a true Catholic can vote with a clear conscience. They go so far as to say that a vote for Kerry would have to be taken to confession before receiving communion (this is not even to mention the church officials that were trying to deny Kerry the right to take communion).

This is just sick, frankly, and it makes me sick with religion at large, even though this is just one facet of one part of one faith. There is a clear separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." So there's some ways to interpret that, right? Some would view it as an entire separation of church and state. I'd like to think about the people who don't, though. What's implicit in it, no matter how you view it, is this: churches are free to practice however they wish, but the state can't choose one and claim it as the United States' official religion. It's where you go from there that's the problem. People who would like church and state to be absolutely separate see this as creating two different public spheres which should not interact with one another. But it doesn't necessarily state that in the amendment.

I feel like the people who would like more religion in the public sphere can make a valid argument based on the wording of the amendment, though I don't like it very much. The amendment clearly states that the state may not do anything respecting an establishment of religion, but it does not say that an establishment of religion may not try to influence the state. In fact, if you look on, people also have the right "to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Now here's where the truly sticky part comes in. Redress of grievances, huh? Grievances are inherently subjective things. What may offend one may be completely fine to another, but that doesn't inhibit the right of the offended to petition for a redress of those perceived grievances. People have the right to request redress for grievances, and people have the right to assemble in/as religious institutions; as such, it seems that people have the right to assemble and, as a religious institution, request redress for grievances.

So what? Well, it seems to me, much as I don't like it, that the first amendment guarantees that the Congress won't explicitly favor one religion over another; but the amendment doesn't stop any religion from getting involved in public affairs where they feel that there is an issue to address, a wrong to be righted. As a purely constitutional argument, I think that the bishops who have spoken out against Kerry are entirely within bounds, as they're entirely within bounds to try to influence the government to outlaw abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage. The Catholic church sees those issues as grievances with which it has taken offense, and it is exercising its first amendment right to request redress for those grievances.

But is it right? I'm not saying that it's always wrong to go against the will of the people, because I happen to agree that sometimes the government needs to step in, lay the smack down, and say, "Enough is enough." Slavery, civil rights, gay marriage (hopefully before too long), etc. These are issues (excluding the last for now) on which the government had to make unpopular decisions because they realized that it was the right thing to do. They knew that eventually people would come around, and that in the meantime, sadly, they could not necessarily be trusted to be left to their own devices. Such misplaced trust would have resulted in the violation of Constitutional rights for other citizens of the country, and that could not be tolerated.

Is it right for these bishops to discourage voters from voting their conscience? Is it right for them to encourage more of the blind following that earns them criticism and rebuke all the time? Is it right for them to place a single issue at the forefront and ignore all others? My answer to all of those questions is a resounding "NO!" I'm not a very religious person; I have, in fact, struggled for years with my own beliefs, and I'm still not sure where I stand. But the more of this kind of thing I see, the less I'm inclined to want to align myself with anything close to it. Religion can be a great thing for people if they let it. It can be comforting, it can be beautiful, and as a complement to your own conscience and views, it can give you the feeling that there's something more out there that you're a part of, and that comforts a lot of people. The only problem is that many people don't want to view religion as a complement to their own conscience and views. Many people think that religion should dominate every facet of their lives. Their consciences don't matter, and their unfettered views don't matter either; if it's what some dude tells them God wants, then that's what it is.

I'm a little disheartened by the fact that the question of faith was so prominent in the third Presidential Debate; I'm a little more disheartened by the fact that Kerry seemed to feel that he had to pander and tell the world that his faith is important in every decision he makes. It may be true, but what's wrong with having a strong conscience instead of a strong external guiding hand?


Friday, October 15, 2004

The ongoing Sinclair Saga

So, as you may all know, the chair of the FCC has recently said that they won't do anything to block the Sinclair Broadcast Group from airing Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the anti-Kerry movie from the SBV boys. There's a CNN article about it here. But here's the thing. Guess who the chairman of the FCC happens to be? None other than Michael Powell, son of George W. Bush's Secretary of State! I'm not a detractor of Colin Powell; I like the guy, in fact. But might there be a slight conflict of interest going on at the FCC because of this? I feel like the answer speaks for itself.

In related news, the Kerry campaign is now demanding equal time on the Sinclair stations in an attempt to at least get their side heard. Since the FCC has refused to do anything about this, the campaign has had no choice but to attempt to play ball with Sinclair. But they're not going to play by Sinclair's rules and submit Senator Kerry to a silly interview with the Sinclair people; they're looking to air their own 45-minute spot on the Sinclair affiliates directly after the SBV movie.

I don't like it. I don't like any of it. I don't like that a person related to the Bush campaign has the ultimate say in whether the FCC is going to do anything about this travesty, but there's nothing to do about that. I don't like that the Kerry campaign has to respond, but the Kerry campaign has to respond. There's nothing to do about that, either.



Stewart on Crossfire UPDATE!!

Hey, y'all. I just found the rush transcript for the Stewart Crossfire appearance. Here it is.

EDIT (3:26 pm, 10/16/04): Here's an outstanding article on Stewart's appearance, courtesy of MTV.com.


Jon Stewart on Crossfire

I think I just saw what was one of the most simultaneously wonderful, horrifying, jaw-dropping, amazing telecasts I've seen in recent memory. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show (as y'all already know, I'm sure), appeared on CNN's Crossfire today at 4:30 pm EST, alongside hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. As you should know, I'm a huge fan of The Daily Show, and I think that (as has been said all over the place) Jon Stewart is one of the most influential media figures in the current presidential campaign. That's a lot to say for a fake news man.

Thing is, though, when I say it, I mean it. I think that a lot of the "mainstream" media, like Bill O'Reilly and the dudes on Crossfire, are willing to acknowledge Stewart and The Daily Show as influential, they view it as a pretty sad state of affairs. Bill O'Reilly's comments on the stoned slackers seemed intended to minimize the audience of The Daily Show, though O'Reilly effectively apologized for his remarks later, claiming (and I believe him) that he intended the remarks in jest. Apologies notwithstanding, though, there's an undercurrent that if a "news" show like The Daily Show can be so popular, then its audience must be on something. My own personal opinion is that Stewart and his writers and correspondents on Comedy Central offer a lot of biting insight into the absurdity that's present in the system. People don't just like it because it's funny. They like it because it's relevant.

But I digress. As I said, Stewart appeared on Crossfire today, between Begala and Carlson, and he took aim directly at the U.S. media and their political coverage. Surprisingly enough, he took aim specifically at Crossfire, the show on which he was appearing. He talked about such shows as Crossfire, Hardball, and "I'm Gonna Kick Your Ass" as being dishonest when they claimed to be offering actual debate. His target was the sorry state of American discourse, which lets "partisan hackery" pass as honest debate. Begala and Carlson were both a bit taken aback and were at pains to interrupt Stewart to defend themselves. They defended their own show, of course, and they defended the spin-meisters who appear on television all the time as people who honestly believe what they're saying. Stewart took aim at the type of system that would allow there to be a place called "Spin Alley"--or as he titled it, "Deception Lane"--to be the first place to which the media turns after such events as the Presidential Debates. Again, Begala and Carlson were quick to claim that spin is not deception, but rather perception. Carlson made a couple of cracks about how Stewart is more fun on his own show, and Stewart responded by saying that Carlson is as big a dick on his own show as on any show.

Barbs aside, Jon Stewart has a point, and it's sad that personalities in the "mainstream" media look to him as a sort of pet; as someone to have on their show to be funny. He came down hard on an issue that he obviously feels quite strongly about, and the Crossfire hosts didn't quite know how to handle it. In a system where it's hard to look in any direction without hearing cries of bias, and of partisan politics, is it that surprising that there's some resentment at a talking head show which ends up being "guy spouting the Democratic agenda vs. guy spouting the Republican agenda"? Kerry & Bush have rallies every day, and if I wanted to listen to somebody talk about how many jobs were lost under Bush, I'd listen to Kerry; if I wanted to listen to somebody talk about Kerry's Senate record, I'd listen to Bush. (In his defense, Tucker Carlson is more nuanced than the standard Republican mouthpieces)

Jon Stewart was saying that, in his opinion, such partisan back-and-forth sessions are not in any way helpful to America. Honest debate would be helpful; that being the type of debate in which one side can concede good points made by the other. But what we have are shows like Crossfire, which are shouting sessions that leave no room for rationality and honesty. Again, they're "partisan hackery," as Stewart put it, and we've got enough of that everywhere else.

As for the shots traded by Carlson and Stewart at the end of the show, I feel like Jon Stewart is tired of being minimalized. He's now commonly accepted as one of the most (if not the most) influential personality in the media today, but he can't get a fair shake when he appears in any other corner of that media in which he's so influential. Personally, I'd feel a little pissed off, too, if I had something intelligent to say, and I was only met with, "I thought you were going to be funnier." It may have been out of line for Stewart to call Carlson "a dick" on national television; but let's remember that it was perfectly fine for Dick Cheney to tell Pat Leahy to go f*ck himself.

I think that the state of the media is atrocious at this point, if only because of its sheer volume. We've got three national cable channels (CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews) that are dedicated to news 24 hours a day. They've got to have something to talk about, but as I see it, there's not enough news (especially now, when it's all dominated by the presidential campaign) to fill 72 hours a day, in addition to all of the news programs on all of the other channels, without getting ridiculous, which they indubitably have.



Thursday, October 14, 2004

Master Debaters

I've got two things to relate from last night, both tangentially related to one another. First things first, I went to my first local political meeting. The Cranford Democratic Committee had a young lawyer named Michael Shapiro come in to speak. He's a lawyer for the Kerry campaign, and Johan, Oliver and I had seen the event advertised in the newspaper, so we decided to check it out. The glimpse that I gained into politics, both local and national, was amazing. But more than the insight into either the local or the national level was the insight into the cooperation and friction between the two, at least within the Democratic party.

Shapiro didn't really have very much to say, aside from, "Yay Kerry, vote Kerry, get your friends to vote Kerry!" He was well-spoken, but there was not much more than that. The other man to speak was George MacDonough, long-time Cranford resident, who's running for town council (he was defeated by 16 votes last time). He was well-spoken and articulate, and he got my vote, at least. But the fascinating thing relates to the fact that Jersey's not a swing state anymore. What I learned last night is that the Kerry campaign has put all of its money into the swing states, and none anywhere else. None. That's right, a lawyer for the Kerry campaign had to buy his Kerry/Edwards pin from the internet. Lots of the people at the meeting were indignant about the lack of lawn signs and bumper stickers, but there's literally a couple of thousand dollars in the Democratic campaign in Jersey, all in the form of contributions from elected officials in the state. For a state where the polls were showing a dead heat just a few weeks ago, the campaign doesn't seem (to my mind, anyway) to be paying nearly enough attention.

The other thing that's been infuriating me lately can be seen here. It's insane for Lynne Cheney to react as ridiculously as she has to Kerry's mention of her daughter in last night's debate. Mary Cheney is an out-of-the-closet lesbian. That's a well-known fact, and she's been active in politics concerning that fact. Kerry's point was not meant as a dig. Kerry's point was that we cannot all think of this as an issue that does not involve us. This is not a faceless issue. This is an issue that involves the immediate family of the running mate of the man who's trying to discriminate so readily against the homosexuals in the population. Thing is, the homosexuals can't be seen as "them" when they're part of our family.

The Republicans seem to be getting more than a little desperate here. Desperate to distract from the war in Iraq, desperate to distract from domestic issues, desperate to distract from their own plans. The only thing that they seem to be entirely resolute on is the fact that John Kerry is an insensitive liar who extended the stays of POWs in Vietnam and would give up our security to other countries in a global test to fight the more sensitive war on terror to reduce it to a nuisance. The debates have shown clearly, if nothing else, that John Kerry is not the man that they've made him out to be. He's strong, he's resolute, and most importantly, he's presidential. He has a bearing that Bush could never hope to have. Bush's folksy charm worked in 2000 because he was running against a boring, self-righteous, supercilious, smug-looking jackoff (pardon my language, for all the Gore fans, but let's just face it). When he's running against a guy with good speaking skills, a good bearing, and a good control of the facts, simple charm can only get him so far. I think that's been Kerry's real victory in these debates. People have gotten to see him as he really is, not just as the Republicans have portrayed him.

More later, I'm sure.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Reversal of Fortune

I just caught a pretty good flick last night, called Reversal of Fortune. It's about the Claus von Bulow case of the early '80s. I hadn't known much about it, but apparently the von Bulow trial was a very high profile affair in which Claus was accused of attempting to murder his wife, Sunny (who remains in a coma to this day, after almost 25 years).

Von Bulow was played by Jeremy Irons, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. Ron Silver (now a Bush activist, interestingly enough) played Alan Dershowitz, who some of you might remember as part of O.J. Simpson's "dream team" of lawyers in another high-profile wife murder case. Anyway, the point here is the the movie's worth watching. Irons' performance is outstanding, and the movie is quite ballsy in its ending, not wrapping things up in a nice little bow.

Anyway, this has been my token post about something not related to politics for the next few weeks. I'm sure after the debate tonight I'll have something to rant about. See you then!


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Colorado Jones & the Case of the Electoral College

Colorado has on its ballot this year a controversial new measure that would retroactively (read: this year) dole out its 9 electoral votes proportionally, based on the popular vote. In 47 other states, electoral votes are a winner-take-all affair. Whoever wins the popular vote wins 100% of the electoral votes for that state (and hence we have the possibility of a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote). The two states that already don't have a winner-take-all system are Maine and Nebraska, though they do things a bit differently than Colorado is proposing. In Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote in the state at large gets the two Senatorial electoral votes. The remaining electoral votes (2 in Maine, 3 in Nebraska) are decided based on plurality in each voting district. This method does not eliminate the chance for discrepancy in popular and electoral votes, but then again, neither does Colorado's.

FreeRepublic, the self-described conservative news site, has an article on the controversy here. Basically, there is a lot of popular support for the measure, but there's a lot of conservatives (including governor Bill Owens) who oppose it. That's perfectly understandable, seeing as how Colorado has typically been a "red state," pretty firmly in the camp of the Republicans. This measure would only stand to help the Democrats, it seems.

Personally, though it'd help Kerry and he's my candidate of choice, I'm torn about the issue. I don't feel like this sort of measure would necessarily help anything. I've been going over and over the electoral college in my head for some time, and what I've come up with is that it's really a brilliantly designed little institution to balance states' representation with federal representation. It's a little bothersome that there can be a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote, and it's a little bothersome that it's happened in 4 of our presidential elections (three of which were the only three times that a direct descendant of a former president was elected president), but I think that some form of it is a necessary thing. I like Maine's and Nebraska's systems better than Colorado's proposed system, because they give some precedence to the states' rights, but they don't go far enough. In my mind, the way to go would be give the two votes per state to the candidate with the plurality of the popular vote there, but then to divide the rest up entirely proportionally. Not just by whole numbers, but completely. If there were 1 electoral vote left and Kerry got 48%, Bush got 50%, and Nader got 2%, then Kerry would get .48 electoral votes, Bush would get 2.5, and Nader would get .02. That would be a fair balance to me.

Lemme know whatcha'll think. Maybe I'm just retarded.


Sinclair, part II

There's an article on CNN that details the Democrats' probe into the Sinclair fiasco. It's a very interesting situation, all told, because of all the implicit issues and emotions that it taps into. There's the Vietnam memories, along with everyone who's still resentful of the anti-Vietnam movement. As I understand it, that indignation is justified, as many protestors did not bother to distinguish between the war and the troops fighting it. But that does not mean that now, since we've been blessed with hindsight, we can exonerate all of the troops who may or may not have committed acts which deserve to be condemned. Just because we know now that protestors were wrong to spit on veterans and call them baby-killers does not mean that those who actually did kill children should get off the hook. The thing that I don't get is that it seemed to have been commonly accepted knowledge before this year that these things happened in Vietnam. It was an ugly chapter of our past, one that we'd rather not look at too deeply, but one that had been talked about in books and movies for the last 30 years. It seems to me that this latest diatribe about the atrocities in Vietnam is entirely politically motivated. These men, brave and heroic though they may have been in Vietnam, would not be telling their stories today if John Kerry were not running for President.

Another issue which is tapped by this controversy is that of the ever-present cries of liberal media bias. I recently read two books on the subject. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernie Goldberg was a poorly written vendetta against Dan Rather. It really failed to convincingly make the case that there was a liberal bias in the media, and sometimes Goldberg didn't seem to remember what argument he was trying to make. In contrast, What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News by Eric Alterman advances a cogent and well-researched argument for there having been at times no liberal bias in the media, and at other times (the 2000 election, for example) an anti-liberal bias in the media. Treatment of Al Gore ring any bells? This is not to say that there's not an argument to be made on both sides; I just mean to say that if the conservatives are going to get someone to cry about a liberal media bias, they should get someone to do a better job than Goldberg did. Anyway, the point is that the conservatives are trying to justify the showing of this Sinclair movie by saying that they have been treated unfairly in the media and haven't complained about it. Ken Mehlman, manager of Bush's re-election campaign, was quoted on CNN saying, "We had ("Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary creator) Michael Moore, we had CBS, which they had false documents. Having experienced over the course of a number of years what I consider to be a media bias in some cases I'm not in the business of dealing with filing complaints against media organizations." There you have it, folks. Their best argument is that there has been an anti-Bush documentary that people had to pay money to see, and that there was a big high-profile scandal in which CBSNews carelessly didn't check its sources. Priceless.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I'll be back later.


The Sinclair Fraudcast Group

So I don't know if this is going to be a political thing all the time, but politics is certainly what's on my mind right now, and it probably will be for the next three weeks at least.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, a large conservative media conglomerate, has decided to run Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal on all of their television networks. The movie was put together by the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth, and its aim is to declare John Kerry unfit to be the commander-in-chief of the United States of America. So what's the big deal?

The SBVs are a 527 group, which is a campaign classification for political action groups unaffiliated with official campaigns. MoveOn.org is a 527 group on the other side of the aisle, stumping against Bush. Both groups have been paying lots of money to run extensive advertisements on television advancing their positions. Sinclair is poised, at this point, to preempt prime-time television on more than 60 affiliates to give the SBVs a free 90 minute spot. These affiliates don't have a choice about whether or not to run the SBV movie, and there are as yet no plans to run a counterbalancing anti-Bush or pro-Kerry movie, though such movies do indeed exist. Sinclair has made overtures toward Kerry, asking him to agree to an interview with them to go along with the movie, but Kerry's camp hasn't accepted the offer. Wisely, might I add.

What the Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing is wrong, and it's wrong for a number of reasons. Let's remember that this is the media conglomerate which refused to air the episode of Nightline when the names of the Iraq war dead were being read, dismissing it as liberal propaganda. The hypocrisy evident in comparing that incident to the current situation speaks volumes for itself.

Sure, Kerry's been invited to do an interview with the Broadcast Group, but to what avail? It's a no-win situation for the senator, seems to me. If he doesn't respond, all of the infighting starts in the Democratic party about Kerry not sticking up for himself strongly enough. If he does respond, all of a sudden he's allowed his opposition to frame the debate for a couple of days when time is precious and not on anyone's side.

The last travesty of this whole thing is that Mark Hyman, executive vice president of Sinclair, has accused the networks and the Democratic National Committee of acting like a bunch of "holocaust deniers" for not giving the SBVs more time to speak their minds. To liken a dispute over John Kerry's military service to the debate over whether or not six million Jews were killed in World War II is atrocious.

I happen to think that Senator Kerry should not do the interview. He needs to stay focused and on message, and he needs to make sure that he's allowed to frame his own side of the debate in the coming three weeks. The economy and the war in Iraq are too important for the senator to allow something this petty to bog him down. Besides, the SBVs are old news. They blew their load months ago in their TV commercials. They didn't get the press then, and for good reason. Their claims fly in the face of the military record, as well as in the face of the men who served right next to Kerry, on his boat.

Conservatives like to crow at anyone who criticizes the SBVs, saying that they're decorated veterans, and as such they've earned the right to speak. Some even go so far as to demonize those who would call the SBVs liars, for the same reason. But how, then, can it be okay for them to call Kerry (a decorated veteran, remember) a liar? The fact is that the SBVs are proud and, in many cases, decorated veterans, and they do have the right to speak their minds (though that right is accorded them by the Constitution, not by their status as veterans). We just have to keep in mind that their claims are, for the most part, unverifiable personal attacks.

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully, to write about something else. This felt good.